Archive for January, 2011

Jan
159

Notes from the Apeejay Kolkata Lit Fest

I attended the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival this past weekend–a bit of a warm-up to Jaipur. I have to say it wasn’t quite like any literature festival I’ve ever attended, well maybe the closest thing to it was the Aspen Literature Festival that I attended a few years ago. When I went, the theme was South Asia and my aunt hooked up Premasoul, a band Robin plays with, to provide the music. I got to meet Salman Rushdie and heard some drunk older ladies talking about whether Rushdie was sexy or not. This year the theme is the Middle East. Similar to Aspen, the Apeejay Festival appears to be organized and run by a coterie of rich ladies that brought a surprising element of glam to book events–Apeejay is one of those mega-families that runs a billion industries and runs the fancy Park Hotel. Of course, my idea of a literature festival comes from Litquake, which is exciting and fancy in it’s own San Francisco way, but that mostly means standing room in crowded bars. And my last experience in Kolkata, as I recently detailed, was a reading in a small room with a tea break and a gift of Bengali sweets—already a great step up from readings in SF. So, imagine my surprise when I went to see Shailja Patel—a San Francisco writing community friend and contributor to Indivisible with an amazing new book called Migritude—kick off the festival on a panel on migration at the shiny Rabindranath Tagore Center. Then later that evening, an event on Pakistani writing at The Park featured a Sufi singer—as well as an amazing (free!) dinner buffet with extensive dessert and free drinks. Robin showed up in a sweatshirt and jeans and we seemed totally under-dressed around the older ladies in their fancy saris and jewels. I think the average age for the event was around 55! How fascinating. The crowd seemed decidedly younger for a panel on the City as Muse on Saturday night—and it was a full house for a panel on Indian film back at the ICCR on Sunday. I thought I’d share some choice quotes and ideas from the panels I attended.

Migrations, Connections and Identities: Performance, political history, and migrant journeys

Professor Saugatha Bose, director of the South Asia Institute at Harvard University and the author—most recently—of A Hundred Horizons: the Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire (Harvard University Press: 2006), traced Tagore’s “global oceanic voyage” during World War I through Southeast Asia then to Japan and then onto the West Coast of North America, then again in 1927 when he traveled to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and then finally to the Middle East, where he connected with the writing of Hafiz and shared a meal in a Bedouin tent in Iraq. Bose pointed out some of Tagore’s famous works that came from this period, including a poem and a song. This very-distinguished historian gave a soul-stirring rendition of one of Tagore’s songs in the middle of his presentation. I wonder if he always does this or if it was a special moment for Kolkata? Totally charming.

• “There is an openly fascist climate against immigrants in Italy. The textile trade of Florence is entirely supplied by labor from China, yet these people are completely invisible in Italian culture—nobody has any mental image of Chinese people in Italy, or North Africans in Italy, yet they are there. The ways in which these people are made invisible but their labor is presented as the best of Italy—Italy design. The parallel lines of this visibility and invisibility is really the nexus of where my work comes from. {Our jobs as artists and poets] is to show the underside of the tapestry.” — Shailja Patel on her own poetic connectivity of migrant communities.

An Evening in Karachi: Pakistani Writers in Conversation

• This was definitely the most inspiring and informative session for me as a fiction writer—I really enjoyed both Shehryar Fazli’s work and Nighat Gandhi’s as well. Fahzli’s book Invitation is described on the back as “Karachi Noir” and I’ve been interested in South Asian noir for quite some time now. The passages he read were tinged with an edge of danger and forbidding and I am especially interested in journey towards complicity that the main character, a Pakistani returnee from Paris in the tumultuous 1970s, will go through. Gandhi’s short stories cut right to the bone of personal relations, and, again, I’m really excited to read the stories in the collection Ghalib at Dusk, which span across three cities: Karachi, Allahabad and Ahmedabad.

• Gandhi, who is a trained psychologist, is also writing a non-fiction book about love and sexuality in the lives of Muslim women, which sounds fantastic. Westland publisher Renuka Chatterjee insisted on setting up the questions in a way that hailed Fazli’s work as political and Gandhi’s work as a-political. But Gandhi gave a great answer.

Chatterjee: I know that you’ve said you steer clear of overtly political writing, but there is politics of gender here, politics of class – can you talk a little about your concerns as a writer?

Gandhi: I think my primary concern as a writer is to be a good writer, and to write from the heart, and if in the process of that writing, something transformative happens, then it happens. Very often, it happens for me, if it happens for the reader, then I consider myself fortunate…. To be pigeonholed into one identity, really does the disservice to the writer. I consider myself a feminist writer, I am a muslim, I am a Buddhist, I am a woman, I am a mother—all of these aspects do come into my writing. Whether any writing is political or not, maybe overtly the story [I read from], is not, but we are talking about migration, displacement, being a refugee, are those not political statements. And we are talking about love, which infuses all those identites and dislocations that we are being faced with.

• Later, Gandhi also spoke about how in her experience Pakistan is a rich, complex place that can’t be described just in terms of fundamentalism:

“No matter how many shrines the Taliban bomb, the plurality of Pakistan is not going to die. It’s about time we looked at the wonderful traditions that are alive [in Pakistan]. As a writer, I’m doing that. I’m not concerned with what the fundamentalists are doing. I’m wondering why the media is concerned with only what they are saying and not looking into these wonderful living traditions. Why is it that we only talk about beards and veiled women when it comes to Islam. It is also up to us, what we chose to focus on.” – Nighat Gandhi

City As Muse

There was a crowded panel discussing the role of the city in literature and arts, with some exciting people on it.

Manishankar Mukherjee, one of Kolkata’s most beloved writers, opened the panel with a charming grab-bag of literary tidbits about the city, saying: “We still call Calcutta the literary capitol of India. I don’t know why but we do…. Kolkata pampers the poet. Who does not know that every 2nd Bengali living in this city is a poet? That is statistically based.”

Zak O’yeah, a scandanavian mystery and travel writer, pointed out that there needs to be more literary tourism in India–and I couldn’t agree more. I mean, there’s so much to see besides the Tagore stuff — it would make an interesting book. (Hmmmm…)

Nandita Palchoudhuri asked: “What makes an artist chose a specific city? Is it familiarity or something else?” This was a pointed question for me at this moment since Kolkata has been figuring as a major muse to both Robin and I.

• Moderator Bachi Karkaria talked about Rajarhat or NewTown — a futuristic new Northern section/suburb of Kolkata — becoming the center of the city in a few years, which most people would consider horrifying. This made me wonder when arts will start coming out of that space, the suburban, futuristic space, like it has in America, especially with novels like The Ice Storm and movies like American Beauty.

Our Films … Their Films: Indian cinema then and now

• Over all this discussion was kindof a downer. The main thrust of the discussion was that the Golden Age of cinema in India is gone and now it is all based on raising money and marketing.

• Director Suman Mukhopadhyay said: “Today what is called “independent cinema” is not actually independent, it is part of a huge market… Altogether the money and the market and the media is dictating what kind of film you’re going to make. And if you are not following the “rules” as a filmmaker, then you are marginalized, and that marginalization means there is no system to get people to see your films.” But as Mukhopadhyay was talking, all I could think about was my friend Q and how his latest film GANDU has created something of a revolution in Indian media and internationally, and he and his team refuse to follow any of the rules and are using new technologies to their limits. He should have been on this panel.

Nasreen Munni Kabir said some great things about the way Bollywood films are received internationally, and how the perceived popularity abroad isn’t quite what everyone thinks it is:

“What intrigues [Western audiences] the most is the popularity of the stars and and the massive audience for Hindi films. It is the audience that interests them, more than the films. It is the number of people who love the movie stars, rather than sitting through a Sharuk Khan film or a Salman Khan film. It is the repuation … once I said to a friend of mine that Indian films have a wider audience now and he said, do you mean a “whiter” audience. I think that is the key question, in Africa, in the Middle East and much of the developing world, Indian films have been loved since the 50s, but I am very embarrassed to say that most Indian producers and Indian journalists never to any stories about Tunisian fans but they will do something about Polish fans.” – Kabir

Samit Basu was the most charming and up-beat person on the panel and the one I was most excited to see, especially since this was a Literature festival. Basu is the author of several books, along with a comic book writer, and now a script writer. I just finished his first book The Simoquin Prophecies (which was totally amazing, especially to read a sci fi/fantasy book where the characters aren’t only white and/or western–but I’ll do a longer review later) and he kind of represented the new ideas and the future of film making.

“A few months after my first book was published Chetan Bhagat published his first novel, which was the equivalent of the first big Bollywood blockbuster of Indians writing in English. In England it is said that each person believes he or she has a book within himself or herself, this was not the case in India at all, but now we’ve come to a situation in the world of publishing, where people don’t feel like they need to be educated in literature, A, which I wasn’t either, but they don’t feel like they need to be readers either or even have a working knowledge of English to write a book. We’ve reached the point where anyone can write a book … Making films is far more complicated. But in the future the technology will help you get it out there …. Your friends will fund the project, the camera will do most of the work and the internet will distribute it for you.” – Samit Basu

Now to quote the great poet Jay-Z: “I’m on to the next one, on to the next …”

Jan
2

The “Colonial Hangover” Debate and the Case of Missing American Women Writers

I’m heading to the Jaipur Literature Festival this week and am immensely excited and a little scared that it will be totally overwhelming—like a completely disorganized AWP with elephants and people literally trampling you in order to get their book signed by JK Rowling. (Okay, good, reports say that she is no longer coming—Indians are crazy for their Harry Potter.)

There’s been a debate flaring after political writer Hartosh Singh Bal of Open Magazine said that British writer William Dalrymple’s prominent role in Indian letters reeks of a colonial hangover. Bal’s controversial thesis is basically this: “How did a White man, young, irreverent and likeable in his first and by far most readable India book, The City of Djinns, become the pompous arbiter of literary merit in India?” Dalrymple responded with a fiery letter to Open addressed to Bal, accusing the writer of blatant racism and making comparisons to Indian writers living in the West.

If anyone was to suggest that Amit Chaudhuri shouldn’t judge the Booker Prize, or direct Britain’s leading creative writing course, because he was too Bengali, or that Salman Rushdie should not be president of PEN as he was of Kashmiri Muslim origin, it would be regarded as blatantly racist.

Open also ran a response by Bal saying that Dalrymple missed his point and obviously didn’t understand the concept of racism.

The equivalent of what I said would be the claim that ‘the fact that Amit Chaudhuri, a Bengali, judges the Booker Prize’ says something about the British literary scene. Of course, it does: it says something positive about a literary arena that had long been marked by exclusion. In the same way, I have claimed that William’s centrality (whether in Jaipur or otherwise), especially considering how he defines himself, says something about the Indian literary scene, except here it says something negative because the Indian and British literary scenes are not equivalent. The Indian literary scene is marked by a clear sense of inferiority to the British scene, and continues to be beholden to it. For this very reason William becomes a symbol of what is wrong with our literary life. This shouldn’t be difficult to understand. A Black man of Kenyan parentage as President of the US is not the symbolic equivalent of a White man of American parentage (one whose CV focuses only on his achievements in the US) becoming President of Kenya.

I thought Bal’s article was pretty accurate, especially because I’ve had the same wary feeling about Dalrymple for many years, even though I very much admire his writing and as an outsider to India myself, understand the urge to try to digest and process the country. I have also very much noticed “the constant need for British approval,” that Bal writes about, when it comes to literature here in India.

Mostly I’ve noticed it as a lack of interest in most American writing, save a few popular writers and Indian American writers. It seems like literary fiction by non-South Asian American women is almost non-existent in India, with Candace Bushnell being a big draw at the Jaipur Festival, but otherwise almost no American women writers. Checking the speakers list, I found three non-South Asian American women, the most exciting of which is Suheir Hammad. Though I’m excited about the focus on desi writers, I think the lack of other American women writers of color means that their voices are very much discounted in the literary pantheon here. Meanwhile, Junot Diaz, Jay McInerney and Richard Ford are on a panel discussing “The Crisis of American Fiction” with Martin Amis. I’m getting a clear message that American writing isn’t getting any respect here.

We’ll see how the “colonial hangover” debate affects the festival, and I’ll definitely do some investigation into the invisibility of American women writers.

Jan
3

Re-launching My Literary Life in Kolkata

As I’ve mentioned, my aspirations for a literary life are flourishing here in Kolkata, whether by intention, sheer luck or just the poetic climate, I’m not sure. My first few weeks in this city were spent preparing for an amazing reading hosted by an experimental Bengali poetry magazine called Kaurab. Founded in 1970, Kaurab has been doing fascinating work–both at a language and craft level and in terms of artistic community, and has recently become transnational in the last decade. One of Kaurabs co-founders, Aryanil Mukherjee, was probably the final poet we confirmed for Indivisible, and along with being a fellow Bengali—Aryanil happens to live in 45 minutes from where I grew up in Southwest Ohio with his family. Aryanil and I had exchanged a few emails in the last few months of anthology production madness, but then I got to know him a bit better when we read together at the wonderful Bon Mot/ley Reading Series in Cincinnati, which was hosted by blogger, academic and poet Kristi Maxwell. In the Fall, Aryanil came to read at the Indivisible event at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and we got to chat for some time before having a wonderful dinner with writers Brian Roley and Cathy Wagner, along with professor Nalin Jayasena. At that time, I told Aryanil-Da I was coming to Kolkata and it would be wonderful if he could connect me to a writing community and help set up a reading for Indivisible. He said it was no problem and he would certainly connect me. I had no idea how amazingly fertile the connections would be!

PathraLekha Publishing House

Preparing for the Indivisible reading, for which I translated section 1 of “Angerfish” — a beautiful poem by Minal Hajratwala, included: the exquisite task of bending over words with a fellow poet and wrestling meaning from language; sitting in the tiny, crowded office of Patralekha Press — one of the most successful small poetry journals on the scene — as the publisher decided on cover images for some of the 50 books he will put out at the upcoming Kolkata Book Fair; drinking notoriously bad coffee in the famous Coffee House, where I was informed that reading poetry would be just too pretentious; and struggling to understand a poem read to me in Bengali, my brain grasping at the words I know, as though they were lifelines tossed from a passing boat. What a wonderful way to get to know a place. It was like healing balm for a lost writer—streets and streets and streets lined with books. Yet at the same time it is semi-torturous—like standing on the shore of a deep blue ocean that stretches towards the horizon, it’s warm waters lapping against my feet, but I cannot swim. I mentioned to Aritra, my friend and guide, that I felt like Pablo Neruda, who was obsessed with the ocean, but unable to submerge himself in the sea until much later in life. I have made a goal to read and write in Bengali before I die.

The Kaurab reading was held at Jibanananda Das Hall at The Bangla Academy at Rabindra Sadan – a major arts complex. I decided to wear an embroidered sari and a big red bindi to show off my Bengali-ness, though when I showed up the rest of the Kaurab crowd were dressed as most people dress for literary events in San Francisco—jeans and semi-nice tops. I must have looked like a little girl playing dress up to them, which is pretty accurate. The most exciting part of the night was the introduction of Indivisible by Calcutta University English Professor Santanu Majumdar. It was a first for the book, since usually it’s just ourselves talking about it and it was lovely. Here’s a video:

Indivisible South Asian Poetry Anthology as Exile Literature from Neelanjana Banerjee on Vimeo.

Afterwards, I talked about the anthology, read some poems from it and also read some of my own work—including my translation of Minal’s poem and one of the only poems I have ever written in Bengali —which even though it has the sophistication of a poem written by an 11-year-old—got a rousing round of applause. I also read my poems about Radha and Calamity Jane, a poem based on The Little Mermaid. The reading also had several amazing readings from poets like Subhro Bandhopadhyay, who writes in the voice of undocumented Bengali workers in Spain, and Shankar Lahiry, who translated some of his beautiful work into English just for me, and then Barin Ghosal—whose work I didn’t totally understand in Bengali, but who lead a great discussion afterwards about words not needing to have meaning. Then Minal read her work about beauty queens and unicorns, two mythical creatures who go surprisingly well together.

There was a dedicated discussion session for each poet so they could discuss their work! I’ve never seen such a thing and the questions I got were some of the best and most difficult questions I’ve received in all my Indivisible reading events–questions about how Indivisible fits into the larger canon of American writing, how the South Asian poets of this generation compare to the Bengali poets writing now, about which is more important expression or communication. In fact, I wanted to share one with you here – one that I answered quite badly and thought that this would be a good space to re-answer it. (Very rough Bengali subtitles.)

Kaurab Indivisible Reading: Tough Question from Neelanjana Banerjee on Vimeo.

I fumbled the answer, but have been thinking about the question ever since. The audience member intimated that my poems were dependent on legends and philosophy, but take those away and what do we have of any of the humanities? Take for instance the popular and critically acclaimed art exhibit I saw recently about the Mahabharata–this exhibit was powerful because the artist dug inside these universal characters and found his own expressions of modern anguish. I am also of Angela Carter’s work retelling not only fairy tales, but also portraits of the famous and infamous. In his introduction to her collected stories, Salman Rushdie says: “Carter wears her influences openly, for she is their deconstructionist, their saboteur. She takes what we know, and having broken it, puts it together in her own spiky, courteous way… She opens an old story for us, like an egg, and finds the new story, the now-story, we want to hear, within.” I think the possibilities for this deconstruction are even more possible within poetry, where the constrains of narrative are left behind and philosophy or legend or religion or science can be broken down to words and sounds and images. I’m not sure I attain this with my work, but it is the inspiration behind the attempt.

I get another chance to read from Indivisible on January 29th at 4 p.m., when Robin and Bansuri player Eric Fraser will accompany me at the Kolkata Book Festival in the American Center’s auditorium at the Milan Mela. Come and ask me more hard-hitting questions. (I certainly wish my co-editors Summi Kaipa and Pireeni Sundaralingam could be with me for some of these events in India. Miss you guys.)

Jan
139

Books, Movies, Art, Music, TV: A Report-Back

After many years of resisting, I’ve finally sunk my teeth into Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a 12-week course for recovering your artistic self. The daily morning notes and other weekly tasks have been surprisingly helpful in removing the inner obstacles (fear, self-doubt, etc) to writing. This week, Ms Cameron threw me a curve ball with a week of reading deprivation! The horror! But I have stuck to it for five days and it felt like a good way to start the year. Since I haven’t been reading, I thought I’d report back on some of the books, movies and other experiences I’ve had.

Cutting For Stone: I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since I interviewed Dr. Abraham Verghese briefly for an article I was writing about the prevelance of Asian American doctor writers. I remember my father loving his seminal memoir, My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story, about life as a small town AIDS doctor in the South. I was absolutely enraptured by Dr. Verghese’s speaking voice over the phone. Kind of a silly reason to want to read a person’s book, but – in any case – it was the last purchase I made on my Kindle before boarding the plane to India. The novel is absolutely epic in scope, concerning the mysterious birth of twins, Marion and Shiva, to a nun (who dies in childbirth) at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After the gory opening scene, the novel follows the life of the twins and their cobbled-together family of adopted doctor parents Ghosh and Hema, South Indian doctors who have come to work at the hospital, neighbors, hospital workers, servants—and eventually their long-dissappeared father. Some of Eithiopia’s political turmoil is thrown in, which makes for some tense and dramatic scenes, as well as unrequited love and finally, a journey of exile to America. I’ve been tossing around the idea of a novel, or at least a set of stories, set in a hospital and the glorious amount of medical detail in this book made me think I could never do it without the medical training of a doctor, but it is gripping and Verghese puts you inside the minds of the medically inclined and sometimes un-inclined with such precision, that you understand the profession for much more than it’s usual glories. Verghese, who himself was raised in Eithopia, inhabits the landscape with such fervor that I immediately wanted to go and see the flowers blooming after the rainy season and taste real fiery wot as it would be served in a roadside bar. Cutting for Stone reminded me of a novel’s expansive possibilities.

Just Another Love Story (Aarekti Premer Golpo): I am an unabashed snob when it comes to Indian cinema, turning my nose up at most Bollywood has to offer. Introducing people to Bengali film is one of my favorite things to do. So, when a few non-Bengali friends ended up wanting to go see a film on New Year’s, I thought that this movie might be a crowd-pleaser. Luckily, I was right. Directed by Kaushik Ganguly and staring director Rituparno Ghosh (one of my favorite Bengali filmmakers), the film is the first to openly address homosexual relationships since same-sex relations were decriminalized in India, but it was also very much about the art, power and difficulty of storytelling–and, of course, that tricky bitch known as love. The film follows director Abhiroop (Ghosh) and his crew as they come from New Delhi to Kolkata to make a documentary about the famous folk theater performer Chapal Bhaduri, one of the first openly gay actors in this scene. Bhaduri, played by the actual Bhaduri, was famous for his performances of women’s roles. When controversy causes the film to relocate to the countryside, the story splits into two narrative streams: the modern day tale of the film—which includes Abhiroop’s relationship with his cinematographer (played by the hot Indraneil Sengupta), who is married, and then Bhaduri’s life as he relates it, which is played as a period piece featuring all the same actors. The acting is suberb and Ghosh does an incredible, incredible job as the young Bhaduri. In fact all the actors give extremely nuanced performances in both of their roles, giving complexity to the film and really putting an emphasis on storytelling. The film raises questions like: Why do we—as artists—tell the stories that we do? What do we owe our subjects? What are the dangers of using your subjects to exorcise your own personal demons? Anyway, a really inspiring film that I hope will get some kind of distribution internationally.

Maner Manush: Ever since first getting to Kolkata I noticed the billboards for this movie, translated roughly to Soul Mate. They were everywhere and the image of a robed holy man walking along a river caught my attention. Then I learned that it was the story of famous Baul singer Lalan Fakir, who wrote hundreds of songs in the Baul tradition and influenced the Tagore family. The film actually structurally stems from Lalan Fakir’s interaction with Rabindranath’s brother Jyotirindranath, and the films goes back and forth between a day-long discussion the two men have about Lalan Fakir’s life and beliefs, interspersed with flashbacks to his life. (This is actually the movie we were trying to go see on New Year’s, as we heard the music was incredible and I hang with a bunch of musicians. Not all of the screenings of this film are subtitled though, so Robin and I finally went to see it at Nandan—a center for film, who unfortunately refused to screen Aarekti Premer Golpo, even though it was okayed by the national and state censors.) The actors who played the young and middle-aged Lalan were great, bringing a sense of joy and gravity to the role of this famous wandering singer, but—as ignorant foreigners—Robin and I did not get a very clear sense of the Baul tradition, which came off as being primarily about Hindu-Muslim togetherness and seemed to have a semi-misogynistic sexual gratification system where woman were treated mostly as possessions, though sexual practices were freer. Later, a friend schooled us and let us know that what we saw was a serious mainstreaming of Lalan Fakir’s mythology–and that a real film depicting Baul philosophy, especially when it comes to sexuality, would be way too much for middle class Bongs (slang for Bengali community) to handle So, I’m really glad we saw the film and now are starting to learn more about this amazing tradition, but hope to get some more clarity on Lalan Fakir and the Baul tradition through more reading and enlightening conversations.

“His Mahabharata”, art show by Ganesh Pyne at CIMA: I saw a pretty amazing art show by 73-year-old artist Ganesh Pyne, which featured pared down interpretations of the Hindu epic the Mahabharata, using crayon and tempara paints. Pyne has been obsessed with the epic since his childhood and the best thing about the show were his meditations on some of the lesser characters, who I have also often been interested in, including Eklava and Abhimundu. Pyne’s Mahabharata is not a kind, beautiful or happy one—in fact, it isn’t even very noble. It is mostly full f anguish and pain. (The gallery where the painting was shown was nicely appointed and next to this amazing Radha Krishna Temple which I thought was absolutely beautiful. I am not a big one for temples, but I went in and wandered around for 20 minutes and even considered giving money. Later, I found out it was made by the Birla indistrialist family, so it kind of seemed like a corporate temple or something – like going to a Hilton Church. Now, I feel dirty for having liked it so much.)

Concert featuring Rimpa Siva, Ajoy Chakravorty and Swapan Chadhuri: I also went to the Birla Mandir concert hall (next to the temple) to see a concert in dedication to a local music teacher who was turning 60. The show started with the stellar Rimpa Siva, a female tabla viruoso, who has been playing since being a child and literally blew the top of my head off with her fireworks. Being a lowly unstudied, untrained audience member, Rimpa’s speed, sweetness and fun had me absolutely entranced. She also rocks the flouncy tabla hair (must be long enough for flipping around, but not long enough to get in the face too much) and manly Panjabi style man’s kurta. Okay, maybe I have a bit of a crush? Then came the vocalist Ajoy Chakraboty whose ethereal singing allowed me to drift off into the world of a writing project I am working on where I am looking for the surreal in India as viewed through Lynch’s Twin Peaks. And then of course, the impeccable Swapan-ji—whose humbleness lays the foundation for some absolutely mind-blowing compositions. More concerts to come!

Lost: We also finally finished the television series Lost, which I think we started back in March. I was a champion of the show all the way, even through most of the final season, but I lost my enthusiasm a bit when the origin episode about Jacob and the Smoke Monster was so poorly executed—not to mention the overt Christian mythology and references. Then the ending seemed like a big fat consolation, without really answering questions. Anyway, I still think it is a great act of storytelling and character development, and even though there definitely seemed to be a white man hero complex–I thought they gave us some great diverse characters: especially Sayeed, Jin and Sun. What magic will you do next, Mr. Abrams?