Tag Archives: globalization

Friends down memory lane

It is in the thirties that we want friends. In the forties we know they won’t save us any more than love did. ―F. Scott Fitzgerald

We sit around a huge bed covered in a thick, rough, cotton fabric next to huge windows overlooking wide expanses of this city of asbestos roofs, open dumpsters, pretty apartment buildings with AC’s hanging off the walls and rickshaws and BMW’s parked next to each other spanning a vista that looks almost pretty in the bright sunlight if you had the eyes to see it.

We’re still sitting in a circle, almost happy, almost young, almost twenty.

Some of us (who can) look over our shoulders in a familiar gesture to see if auntie (one of our mothers) is at the door to supervise us. But she has become too old now and retires to her room in the afternoons.

At first, we start talking like we always did whenever we met for the past ten to twenty years, since the steady decline of opportunities in the city and this age of globalization showered it’s bounties upon some of us and catapulted us to various parts of the globe.

Other schools, other cities, other jobs, other husbands, other children, other friends, other neighbours, other colleagues, other languages and other ways of life while some continued here in the city, swaying with the pull of distant lands or staying steadily rooted, yet none being able to ignore the loss and gain of bonds in our new and changed world. Continue reading Friends down memory lane

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Home on the Interweb

At the end of play or at the end of work, when the sun is rising in the wee hours of the day or when the sun is going down, when you pull the curtains on prying eyes at last or when you display your exploits in their splendour on the wall to envious eyes, you want to return home.

Home is where work gets done, or no work gets done at all, where a thousand voices descend on you the moment you enter the door or where you sit still in solitude deep in thought. It is where you are thankful for today or you wait for a hopeful tomorrow or you sit and wonder if this is all there is where one day fades into the next quite silently with indistinguishable footsteps where not even a mouse clicks in the dark.

When you stare into the distance of a blue river or a blank screen from your window or when you spot a poster on the wall (of paper or pixel) next door, you float up and down memory lane or look into the crystal ball of time from your couch at home.

Home has the old and the familiar box from where you shake out a dusty album or it houses the kaleidoscope of friends and relatives, living or dead, floating down a timeline at the click of a mouse, as though they were all there in your living room sipping tea and munching sugary biscuits this afternoon. [Such as when a pop-up floats about a sidebar and says “Say Happy Birthday to S today” when you know that that smiling S left both the world of humans and Netpeople three years ago and left her profile active to haunt us forever every year on this very day.]

Thoughts of homelessness spring to mind as you get away from home for home in another part of the world on a huge airplane. You look down from the window at the familiar skyscrapers and trees and river fading into the billowing clouds.

When you’ve moved many times, between home here and home there, so many homes are scattered in different places that there is no getting away from home although there is no living at home without all those other homes knocking at your door always to come home.

Continue reading Home on the Interweb

Time

As I wake up this morning with the harsh beeps of the phone alarm, I notice that time has changed. Even though the clockface says 6 am, it’s not. 6 am morning last week is 6 am night today here in New York.

The river is inky black outside, the lights are still twinkling on the bank, the boats that are criss-crossing the river are sparkling on the dark water like jewels.

The morning ferry is one of the boats that is crossing the river, distinct by its two rows of jewel-like lights that I’ve come to know like a diamond-studded brooch on black silk.

The ferry doesn’t start until morning. So is it morning already?
Continue reading Time

Magic spaces in a globalized world

IMG_5267The sky lit up with a million iridescent fragments last night lighting up the dark surface of the Hudson and the hundreds of boats that had gathered there to watch the July 4th fireworks in reddish, whitish and bluish hues. There were crowds all along the edges of the water, on the piers facing Manhattan from the Jersey side, on the boardwalks and on the tops of buildings. Continue reading Magic spaces in a globalized world

Digital Writing and Diversity of Audience

internet users around the world
internet users around the world (Photo credit: Septem Trionis)

In my early days of blogging, I was often overwhelmed by a sense of wonder at how far my writing traveled. When I saw the names of all those countries listed on the stats page about where people were reading my blog from and sending me heartwarming comments, I was amazed. I expressed my new-found wonder in a post called My Blog Audience where many readers shared similar feelings about their writing.

 As I progressed with my blog through the months, I got more and more used to the fact that while it was my day, my reader could be reading at night. While it was summer where I was, my reader could be shaking off snow from his boots somewhere. While the country I was in might be at peace or engaged in a distant war, my reader might be not be in such fortunate circumstances.

Getting used to the novelty of an experience is inevitable but it can be very dangerous for one’s writing. Leaving aside other considerations where a sense of wonder aids the writing process in today’s digital age, failure to remember the diversity of your readers and their backgrounds can take away important nuances from your writing and prevent it from reaching its potential for readers.

But here is a paradox. As a writer you must be comfortable showing who you are or where you’re coming from or what your own concerns are because there is nothing so boring as a colourless, generic piece of writing. The writer’s identity remains important in digital spaces while the potential reader’s identity needs to be given more of a free range than earlier in our digital age.
Continue reading Digital Writing and Diversity of Audience

When clothes travel

The new clothes I brought over from India last week, like many of the other times I travelled, are sitting on a shelf, carefully folded. So did my embroidered sandals sit in their boxes for the entire previous year from when I brought them over from a Kolhapuri emporium. I basked in the knowledge that they were there, a piece of home tucked away in the closet.

When clothes travel over vast distances, they give rise to many phenomena, including fusion in the fashion of the times. But sometimes they also do strange things to people.

A professor in college I suddenly remember, for example.

Even in the Calcutta summers, when the concrete outside our college building grew so hot that even a drop of water disappeared immediately as it fell on the ground and the street dogs curled up in shady corners of the canteen to rest and no one shooed them away, our professor was always dressed impeccably. Dark trousers, full sleeved shirt, tie tightly in place and big black boots.

The staff room for the professors was relatively cool, shielded from the heat by thick walls of the famous building built in the British era.  Everything  else was engulfed by the sweltering heat in the afternoons. Even the railings of the verandah (that you had to walk across to reach the English Honours classrooms where we students waited) were like superheated rakes in the scorching sun.

No matter what the weather, which was mostly very hot and humid, our “Sir” was always dressed the same even as we sat in out thinnest cotton salwar kameezes under the noisy fan listening to his exposition of the wild storms in Riders to the Sea. I half expected him to vaporize inside the contraption of boots and shirt and trousers one day but he never did.

Sometimes he would tell us stories about his time in England at Oxford or Cambridge, about how he rode a horse in Hyde Park in the early mornings while people watched him admiringly. There were other younger  “England-returned” professors in the department, but they had dropped the tie and embraced the open shoes and sometimes appeared in cotton Punjabis on hot days, but our professor  never did.

Many years later I was reminded of “Sir” when I had a similar (but reverse) experience in the New Jersey cold. It was at a gathering on the occasion of Saraswati Puja, the annual festival in honour of the Goddess of Learning all Bengalis take very seriously. Continue reading When clothes travel

Bottledworder is back

Delhi airport
The Delhi International terminal was amazing.

The long trip to Calcutta is over and I am back in New York. It’s difficult to believe that one can be in the midst of the scorching heat of the sun one day and so much snow the next. In both places, people will smile and say you haven’t seen the scorching sun/ real heavy snow if you think this is it!
Continue reading Bottledworder is back

Global Indians: Distance and the World

When I was a child in Calcutta in the late 80’s and early 90’s, we didn’t have the internet. When we wanted to see the world, we looked at a big globe which belonged to my brother. We would  twirl it round and round and look at all the countries separated by blue oceans and black lines, coloured in different colours and marked in little letters.

It would give us a thrill to check out countries that we had never discovered before. We looked at the antipodes that were the furthest from where we were and tell each other that it was night there while it was day here. That seemed so strange. Many of my friends’ favourite game was a rapid fire round of naming countries when you had to respond by naming the capital city.
Continue reading Global Indians: Distance and the World

What gifts to buy in a global culture?

I’ve been looking for gifts for the past few days for my impending visit to India from New York. And I’ve been looking in vain.

Last year I bought some bottles of perfume with people’s names on them –unfortunately not mine but say Calvin Klein’s or Elizabeth Arden’s or even Justin Bieber’s.  Sometimes they were not names but only initials. They appeared everywhere–clothes, shoes, leather handbags–with shiny tags that said CK, MC, AB, CD, EF, GH or something else.

I suppose that in the realm of gift-giving, even if there was some confusion as to who had given the gift, there would be no confusion as to whose idea it was. Calvin Klein’s.

But on my way, at my long layover in Dubai, I realized the folly of carrying these several bottles of unnecessary fluids and leather bags (yet so necessary for the human condition) over long distances.

Dubai airport was a great, wide, beautiful, wonderful mall which happened to also have airplanes. And it was newer and more sparkling than any mall in New Jersey or Florida.
Continue reading What gifts to buy in a global culture?

Durga Puja, Fall, Kashful and the city

বাংলা: কাশফুল
Kashphool. The real deal. via Zemanta. বাংলা: কাশফুল (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got out of my apartment building yesterday and there they were. A bunch of dried, white grass flowers framed by concrete next to a stern sign that read : “Private. Do not trespass.”

Kashful. Or its distant cousin has bloomed in Jersey City. Fall has touched even the concrete.

Kashphool
Kashphool in Jersey City? The World Trade Center is across the river. Photo credit: Bottledworder

Kashphool? Or Kashful? How do you approximate from Bengali? Wikipedia tells me it’s called Kans grass in English, a grass native to South Asia. (“Kans grass”! Sounds strange. Not much better than Saccharum spontaneum, apparently its scientific name.)

This Kashphool in Jersey City is different from the ones at home in India.
Continue reading Durga Puja, Fall, Kashful and the city

Blog, language and the global audience

It was a rainy day yesterday. Gray sky as dark as slate, a gray river with boats in muted colours stuck solid on the gray, opaque water of the Hudson in the low light. The air smelt of wet vegetation. The balcony railing had drops of water clinging from it. I breathed in the fresh air  and I thought, ahhh, a muri, telebhaja kind of day.

Oh wait. I’ll have to translate that.

A puffed-rice and assorted-vegetables-dipped-in-batter and deep fried kind of day.

I smiled. Continue reading Blog, language and the global audience

Why I don’t read literature in the global age

njoy! 4get wastin tym @ lit class LOL!

I was looking to widen my horizons through reading literature recently and look what I found outside the book!

An animated world map
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A stretched world that’s already shrunk so small that I don’t know where to look to expand my mind anymore.

I saw people in Washington Square Park yesterday eating South Indian dosas wrapped like a Mexican burrito from a street vendor  and I read in the news that they got 3G on top of mount Everest at last.
Continue reading Why I don’t read literature in the global age

Facebook, old photographs and memories

Throughout the history of time there’s been Facebook. At first, in ancient societies, photographs were used in human social networking only to identify people. But evidence has been found that many denizens of those older cultures preferred other markers in the space for profile pictures to identify themselves  as a flower, a celebrity or a cartoon character that they thought represented them.

In the initial days of Facebook, people were scared of revealing themselves.

And then, a time came when everybody started sharing pictures. Those inhibitions started receding slowly, much like the slow ebbing of a wave on the beach.  Perhaps teenagers who are on Facebook nowadays can’t even remember those days.

But I can. I can remember that day on the beach.

That’s because an old photograph has resurfaced on Facebook.
Continue reading Facebook, old photographs and memories

My Blog Audience

Perhaps it’s because I’m still new to blogging that I haven’t lost the sense of wonder yet. It’s summer here and things are kind of nice late at night.

I was sitting at my computer in a room with a big glass window. The city skyline was spread out in front of me glittering like a long necklace across the empty river.
Continue reading My Blog Audience