Waking up to silence

I wake up to boom, boom, boom. It is five thirty, maybe five.  I rub my face, my stubbled chin. And then speakers blare. Someone is singing. My first thought is, No, wait this is not possible. No one, no one sings this early in the morning. Has someone bought a new karaoke set?

Yes, it is Diwali. Kids are up. Kids are always up when there is excitement in the air: favourite uncle arriving from the States (imagine the goodies); a cricket match to be played (the pride of winning), Holi around the corner (colours, oh so many colours), and of course Diwali. Gathering their friends, they’ve come armed with crackers, each louder than the last one. I push my in-ear headphones even further down into my ears – realising there is wax to be cleaned out – attempting unsuccessfully to stub out the sounds ruining my Sunday morning, my lovely, most cherished Sunday morning.

Someone is singing. Actually, a few are. I can make out both male and female voices singing popular Hindi and Marathi songs. Why? Why do all our festivals involve screwing it up for others? Why the loudspeakers? Why this need to involve everyone in this madness that is Hindu festivals?

Are these singers daft for coming from wherever they are coming from and agreeing to sing at five thirty? Are they paid well? If they are, how much? How much should they be paid for ruining someone’s morning siesta? Don’t they understand the value of a precious weekend? Don’t they like weekends themselves? How are they able to sing so early in the morning? When did they warm up their vocal chords? Did they wrap scarves around their neck when they travelled over here? What kind of a car did they use? Did they roll up their windows to escape the cool breeze? Did their husbands or wives or mums wake them up at four thirty to tell them, ‘Listen, it is time for you to leave. I will make tea. Would you like to eat something?’ Did they eat anything? Or were they too nervous to think of something as banal as eating? Did they wake up in comfortable beds or a worn down mattress? Or did the pressure of singing in the morning keep them tossing the entire night? How are they singing with bombs going on in the background? How are they focussing? Do they feel they are at the border entertaining troops while the enemy is attacking, taking advantage of this distraction?

The kids are now playing cricket, squabbling over who gets to bowl or bat first. They are done with the crackers. Do they have more at home? For evening? Did their parents encourage them? ‘Go out and spread the joy. Wake up a few people, it’s OK, really.’ Will these kids grow up to be strong men with healthy calves and toned arms on the account of playing so much cricket? Or will they with age and the routine that is life, grow a big belly and lose their hair that they are so careless towards now? They seem happy. Who wouldn’t be with no school to attend, no sour teachers to look at?

The singers are going at it like their life depends on it and that if they stop, they will never get to sing again. Do they have families to take care of? How many shows do they do in a month? How do they take care of their voices? Do they practice at home? With a harmounium or a tanpura? Do they have affairs with other singers in their little crew? Are they fans of Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd. Rafi? Do they have pictures and cassettes and CDs of their favourite artists at home? As they sing, some priest screams into a microphone from a temple nearby and a mullah yells into his own microphone from a mosque somewhere. In winters, beautiful winters, sound travels further. I know this, I studied science, well, OK I Googled, and Google never lies. And all these three sounds are now creating a horrible harmony.

When did this happen? When did we become a culture of loudness? Or were we always like this? Just a little while ago we had the Ganesh festival. There were displays, in every corner of the city, showing the Elephant God in all his glory. That is fine. However, there was music. Loud music. Film music. Sometimes religious lyrics in the tune of film music. Actually, almost all of them. And it seems the Elephant God enjoys them because he hasn’t done squat about it. And during the last day, the day of the immersion, they are the loudest. For what joy? The festivities go on way past twelve in the night with everyone dancing and chanting the lord’s name, but mostly dancing to the beats of Shiela ki jawani and Munni badnam hui. Before that, Gokulashtami. And when you go on roads where there are processions with drums and cymbals, and when you drive past them, you can tell that your heart is about to pop out of your mouth any minute. And before that it was something else.  And throughout the year, weddings; weddings that make full use of orchestra bands and firecrackers. Where do they get the stocks from in the middle of the year? As though overbearing noise would somehow dull the pain parents of the bride feel at seeing their daughter leave their house or plug the huge financial gap this wedding is going to leave them with. What’s with this announcement? Some idiot is getting married. What has that got to do with me? With anyone? Celebrate, sure, but why the noise?

There is something wrong. Yes, we have always been loud, but I have a feeling our loudness quotient has skyrocketed in these last few years. Maybe because that’s what sells. Look at our politicians, especially the recent contenders for prime-ministership. It is quite clear from the way they are screaming about each other’s achievements or making promises about a great future if we elect them, that there is zero substance or credibility in their words. Nada, nadir, naught. I might even go with the none-of-the-above option this year.

I think it all comes to having a little sensitivity. Sure, add a little empathy. OK, throw in some commonsense. How hard is it to cultivate these things? Shouldn’t these things be inbuilt, come pre-packaged? Yes, you can upgrade over the years, but they are part of the basic package. How can you sit in the balcony of your apartment at three in the morning, with lots of people, and argue, at the top of your voice, about some shit that has nothing to do with the others in the building? Or does that come easy to you? This behaviour? Is someone overreacting when they wait and wait for them to shut up, and when they don’t, politely say, ‘Shhh’ from their window to see if these boisterous people get the hint, and when they don’t, go up to their house and knock, mind you, still knock (they could’ve rung the bell), and tell them, when they reluctantly open the door, calmly, that you have an office to go to in the morning and are trying to catch a wink, so can they please keep it down, a tad?

Or is it wrong for someone to go out and ask rudely, yes rudely, ‘Who is this?’ because for the past half an hour this someone has been honking non-stop, trying to get someone’s attention. And when you did, he said, ‘Aggarwal,’ and for a minute you were amused, because who gives out their real name when the tone of the one asking is menacing? Or so you think.

Isn’t it time we understood the importance of peace and quiet and silence? I read somewhere that our ears never sleep. They are always open for business, they listen in on everything, even when we are out cold, they are constantly working. Isn’t it fair we give them some rest? Isn’t it time we tone it down a tad? How will be an India without its usual cacophony? How will be an India that followed rules? What if we made an attempt to keep the decibel levels down, way down, for once? What if we honked less, kept loudspeaker and stereo volumes down, spoke softly, kept our televisions low?


Original Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthijs/

How nice it would be to not be woken up by the harsh sounds of the tempo that brings milk before dawn? Appreciated, but hey, come on. When they would stack their plastic crates gently on top of each other instead of throwing them carelessly. When the maid would press your doorbell with just the right amount of pressure and not try to make a crater with her index finger?

Won’t it be nice to wake up to silence? Someday I hope I do.


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Be A Man, Do The Right Thing

The incident that happened in Guwahati, in the middle of the road, reeks of so many things. It speaks volumes about us as a society, about what we’ve turned into. The men who decided to grab and claw and squeeze and yank that teenage girl, whose only ‘fault’, perhaps, was visiting a pub, were all given birth to by women. They dragged her, stripped her in public, pulled her hair and molested her in full public view, while passers-by stood and watched.

Why did we stand and watch? Why did we let this happen? Because we’re afraid of being bashed by the mob? Because we don’t really give a f*ck? Because, hey, it wasn’t our daughter, sister, or girlfriend? Or because we felt titillated by a young woman being shamed in that fashion? Answer these questions. Think about it. The answer will reveal the kind of person you are.

Read the rest of the piece here: http://www.mensxp.com/special-features/today/6993-be-a-man-do-the-right-thing.html

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Raymond Carver and me

Suspend belief for a moment. Imagine Raymond Carver didn’t succumb to lung cancer in 1988 and is still walking and writing among us. He’d be ten days off turning 74 and likely would have continued to shape the modern short story, solidifying himself even further as one of last century’s most important writers. And now imagine, upon hearing about Sincere Forms of Flattery, he agreed to do an interview with Indian writer, Kailash Srinivasan, who idolises Carver and his creative genius and chose Carver as his author for SFOF. Imagine, imagine, imagine.

We think the interview would have done a little something like this…


I’m sitting on this yellow couch, in this otherwise sparse room, waiting for Raymond Carver, and frankly, hyperventilating. Then all of a sudden he walks in, like an elephant, unperturbed and towering over everything in the room, including me, in a flannel shirt and khakis. His feet are bare. I tell him almost immediately that he looks a bit like Sean Connery, and he says, “That’s nice, thank you.”

I feel like giggling and weeping at the same time. I can feel it rising up to my throat, like vomit, and if I don’t vocalise it, it will manifest itself in some way or the other, so I blurt it out.

Me: Will you please adopt me, please?

Carver: I have always been broke. I still am. Think about it.

Me: Please, please, please teach me how to write like you. Will you? Please say yes. Yes?

Carver: (Laughs) Why would you want that? I want you to write like you, not like me. Would you rather be known as Carver Junior or Kailash Srinivasan? I like your name. Sounds intellectual. Wish I had a name like that.

Me: Would you tell me what you think of this story I wrote?

Carver: (Puts his glasses on, glances through). Cut these words in the opening paragraph, these in the middle and at the end.

Me: But it’s only 1000 words long anyway. It’s down to five hundred now.

Carver: But now, it pierces the heart with more force.

Me: Do you think I should take to drinking, work crap jobs, become a young dad, and go broke to write better?

Carver: (Laughs, again) There were these long periods of time when I did not write any fiction. How I wish I had those years back now! If I hadn’t turned to the bottle in that time, I might’ve been richer, possibly, and might’ve had a much larger volume of work.

Me: Where do you get your stories from? From your own life?

Carver: None of my stories have actually happened, but there’s always something said to me, or that I heard or witnessed, which, if it stays with me, becomes a starting point for a story. Stories can’t come out of thin air, they’re mostly referential. Everything we write has a small part of us in it.

Me: I am only allowed to ask you five questions, so I’ll have to leave now. I don’t want to.

Carver: Well, you can always email them to me. You can, of course, hang around. I can make you a Tuna sandwich, if you like. I promise not to answer any more of your questions, but I will tell you a thing or two about writing short stories.

I fall at his feet, crying, “Yes, of course I will. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t. And thank you, thank you so much for talking to me.” Then we talked of the time when he published his first story, Pastoral, and how he and his wife had driven around town with the letter of acceptance in his hands. And how that letter had given their lives some much-needed validation.


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This is going to be truly EPIC! Just wait for May 23rd, 2012.

A Big Life

Currently I am knee deep, with a very dear friend and collaborator, Sandi Sieger, in creating an anthology, Sincere Forms of Flattery. It is to be the first e-book for our little ‘love project’ O&S Publishing, which we started at the beginning of the year. I want to tell you a little bit about O&S and our first project, now that its launch date is looming and it is getting truly exciting.

Originally, Sincere Forms of Flattery was going to be pitched to publishing houses as a print volume but then we changed our minds and in doing so, opened up a whole new world of possibilities. We figured we’d give this e-publishing lark a crack. It would mean we could publish it when we wanted to, how we wanted to and have it be globally available from the word go. E-publishing was something we could do on…

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Them Pretentious Basterds – April 2012 Issue

Them Pretentious Basterds is a brilliant, razor-sharp, online quarterly literary magazine that believes that “good writing and good art can come from anywhere.” They intend this magazine to “showcase high quality fiction, poetry and art from India.” This edition features one of my stories, Deo Volente.
What the editors said about the story: “We enjoyed the story’s tongue-in-cheek narrative, its well-meaning-but-more-than-a-little confused characters, and the best of all, the way you have converted a mundane activity into a cross between light comedy and a suspense thriller (Not quite, but enough of the genre’s trademark style in there to make us smile).”
From the editors of Them Pretentious Basterds
“Dear Reader,
We present the Teal issue of Them Pretentious Basterds magazine. Loud, uncut and in your face, the magazine features the work of 12 writers from India you wish you had heard about. This edition contains dystopic suicide bars, smoking sadhus, some repentance, and some reprieve. Mix in ball point pen illustrations, comic book art and photography, and it’s one heady cocktail of fiction, poetry and art. Click on the link below to earn authentic karma points. Go on, surprise yourself.


The Editors
Them Pretentious Basterds”

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Book Reviews: Urban Shots Love Collection

Book Reviews: Urban Shots Love Collection. Click on the links to read more :

http://crispingcanary.blogspot.in/2012/03/urban-shots-book-review.html “I enjoyed Kailash Srinivasan’s ‘High Time’ because of the dialogues primarily. Natural, funny and effortless…”

http://aspoonfullofworld.blogspot.in/2012/03/urban-shots-book-review.html – “Kailash Srinivasan’s a little off beat ‘High Time‘ humored me especially because of its South Indian stereotypes…”

http://flashnewstoday.com/index.php/urban-shots-the-love-collection/ – “High Time – hilarious play of words and expressions that turn the tables…”

http://prats.co.in/urban-shots-the-love-collection/ – “High Time (Kailash Srinivasan) – A beautiful story which will leave you in the fits of laughter”

http://dfuse.in/reviews-all/book-reviews/review-urban-shots-love-collection/ “High Time, Kailash Srinivasan, for its use of humour and sarcasm”

http://momofrs.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/book-review-urban-shots-the-love-collection/ “High Time brings its giggles and smiles.

http://twinklingtinawrites.blogspot.in/2012/03/book-review-urban-shots-love-collection.html   “Some other stories worth commenting are ‘High Time’ by Kailash Srinivasan”

http://www.bookchums.com/book/urban-shots-the-love-collection/9789381626474/MzE0MjA=.html# – “Kailash Srinivasan’s ‘High Time’ is a pleasant humorous take on the prelude to arranged marriage.”



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So so so excited about this project! 😀

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