Long-form Indian writing- Digest 001

In my last post I outlined that Longform writing on the web has found a new life thanks to apps like Readability, Instapaper and Longreads. My interest lies in finding indian writings that are long from and bring to focus my immediate surrounding. Every week I will present that weeks finds, and hopefully this list will grow as time passes.

Mumbai: Cities within

Sanjay Sipahimalani (SanSip on twitter) hosts a book-review carnival with around 10 recent books that are written about Mumbai.

It’s a chemical romance that begins and ends with the word “Bombay”, where all manner of depravity arising out of addiction is on parade. When the novel moves on from the Seventies in tracing the decline in the characters’ lives, you find an elegy for an earlier time: “Already now there were times when he could feel it slipping away, a way of life vanishing as he watched, the pipes, the oil lamps layered with years of black residue, the conversations that a man would begin and lose interest in, all the rituals that he revered and obeyed, all disappearing.”

He goes on to review Tajmahal Foxtrot, The Extras, Behind The Beautiful Forevers and more books.

A few God Doctors

Dilip D’Souza (DeathEndsFun on twitter)  takes us to the Ganiyari in rural Chattisgarh to a unique hospital. Here, around the year for close to a decade passionate Doctors from AIIMS and other top medical colleges work. The hospital is owned and run by a collective of locals, not by the activists who began the hospital. Some of my mentors and personal heroes work or have worked in this hospital, and so it was a delight to find a lovely long article on it.

As they work, the doctors keep up their steady discussion about what to do next, what drugs to give her. I know the two senior men especially, have years of training and experience to call upon. Even so, the impression they give is of addressing the situation not with jaded formulae from medical school, but with fresh minds, thinking on their feet. While their calm professionalism is impressive and reassuring. I cannot help a quick thought about the difficulty JSS has in attracting talent.

Conditions in Ganiyari are hard, the pressure is relentless. Nearly every day throws up fresh crises that interfere with plans for meetings, training programmes, or documentation. The pressures of their work often travel home with them, and there are the usual issues to think about; of the kids’ schooling, and indeed of life itself in this dusty backwater of India. These doctors gave up the chance of high-profile urban careers to come here, to work like this. And when they respond to this poisoning emergency, you can see why.
Hard work it might be, but it is greatly fulfilling too, working among the people who need their care the most.


Some you choose, some life chooses

Shubhra Gupta invites us into her home and tells us about her son who is autistic and what autism means to them. Reality is grim and gritty, and yet, humans find reasons to rejoice. She wrote this in the context of the World Autism Day.

We coast on little joys. He is a powerful swimmer, a fish in the water. We put him on a horse in the nearby stables a few years ago. A few weeks ago, I saw him trot, minus the stable lad, who has always had to accompany him till now; he sat upright, smiling widely, having a blast.

He has learnt to be very clear about his needs: not a silly burger, a pizza, okay? And he is on the whole, despite the now occasional meltdowns, a sunny, cheerful child. When he says a new word, it is celebration time. When he turns around and says good night, without having to be prompted. Or when he waves bye, and races off for his evening out. Little things, but for us, huge steps.

In our sobering moments, we are forced to introspect—what has all this meant for us as people, as professionals, as a couple. There is, of course, the cumulative wear and tear of bad-hair days. Sometimes just a few horrible seconds can be enough to wipe off the strength to face a working day.

Introspective confession of a silently fiddling worker ant

Dr.Swarna Rajagopalan (swarraj on twitter)about her journey as a worker ant in the world of politics and policy

And then at some point, something changed. The world became grey. Daily news became miniscule data points on longer-term perspectives. Outrage faded into observation. Opinion was replaced by study. I guess one way to look at it is that I became an academic. I do have strongly held values, but they became somewhat meta-political. What I am trying to say is they held in a place that was above the daily world of petitions and polemics.
The grey universe of the worker ant is strangely similar to that of Nero, who fiddled while Rome burnt.

The Language of High Art

Deepanjana Pal (dpanjana on twitter) discovers a new app that decodes the mystifying gobbledygook that comprises most curatorial notes in our biggest art exhibitions.

The Wall Text:

Art for Bose is a site of contest between context, subtext and pretext. Rather than passively see Banana: Braque, Warhol and Beyond, the viewer is encouraged to encounter the works and engage in the dialectics that inform Bose’s praxis. Bose’s work is part of numerous prestigious, international collections and thanks are extended to the following for their generosity….

Translated for the Critic:

Has thesaurus and isn’t afraid to use it. Photographs, paintings, sculpture and installation. Either the artist has studied abroad or has hired a postgraduate student to write wall text. Can use phrases from wall text if writing a review. Postmodern wanker.

Also featuring translations for Artist, Critic, Gallerist, Aficionado, Collector and Random visitor.


I hope you munch on these over the weekend.

Mail me at uberschizo at gmail with your favorite long-form writing from an indian author or tag me in your tweets on twitter. I am uberschizo on twitter.