Conversations in Dust
20 most recent entries

Date:2007-01-24 00:34
Subject:Anecdotes from the City: 16

You'll never guess what arrived by mail. Minus the gold bracelet and cash, all remembered contents from the stolen purse. Even my keys and contact lenses.
I've blocked the sender's mailing address for privacy reasons; obviously, I'll reply directly with thanks. In the meantime, admire the stunning acts of kindness from total strangers. It reminds me why life's worth living, even in the midst of crazy panic.

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Date:2006-12-24 15:23
Subject:Of a tree and its shadow in Central Park

First steps.

2 more behind the cut...
Read more...Collapse )
Not enough colour, I think?

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Date:2006-12-17 09:16

I'll be in NYC from this evening, till Wednesday morning. I have a bunch of constraints involving embassies and consulates during the day on Monday and Tuesday, but if you're still reading this and around, ping or call me! :)

Date:2006-12-03 09:51
Subject:Letter meme

Letter meme - Comment and I'll give you a letter; then you have to list 10 things you love that begin with that letter. After, post this in your blog, and give out some letters of your own. Let me know if you want a letter. (meme and description via kitty_tape).

N!Collapse )

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Date:2006-11-05 01:10
Subject:Late linking: South Asian identity, Orhan Pamuk, magician movies

(but hopefully some of it is still interesting! :)

* On Sepia Mutiny, Amardeep asks an awesome question: If “South Asian” exists mainly in the imagination of the diaspora, does that make it less meaningful?
From personal experience, I can say that identified as South Asian only @ Stanford, and definitely primarily before the Stanford India Association came into being my senior year. Before that, for example, a one-time roomate (and all-time great friend) was Pakistani: all through the loud and entertaining India-Pakistani arguments, we were drawn together from a shared cultural shock. The fluctuation, however, primarily true for those of us who travelled half a world to be at Stanford; I could probably argue that the others always had a South Asian identity in focus.
Any one else have a story to share, or other thoughts? (Feel free to suggest a protected post :)

* At the Middle Stage, Chandrahas Choudhury wrote a wonderful review of My Name is Red, arguably Orhan Pamuk's best book yet, this year's Nobel Prize winner for Literature. I loved the book; it was one of those few that made me forget the internet, and I might have considered writing something, but not after this. :) This guy writes the sort of reviews that make me stop writing them, sort of like a conversation with history, and with the literary threads of the past and the present, topped off with close textual analysis.

* On his own blog, Amardeep Singh discusses the Illusionist and the Prestige. I haven't seen the first, but I've seen The Prestige. It was not one of the movies I've enjoyed the most, though it was very good -- I was very disturbed and on the edge all through, because the movie seemed to making a game out of life, about who hurts or dies next. Magic turned into this power struggle where no ethical boundary was too great to sacrifice for the glory of winning, to show the best illusion possible. Anyway, I liked his discussion; his comments about illusions and illusions of illusions, and modernity and postmodernity make me wonder how and why we're so willing fluctuate between worlds.

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Date:2006-10-19 23:10
Subject:Anecdotes from the City: 15

Central Park: a few photos
Fair warning: story-free writing, too tired to write essays...

I lived two blocks from Central Park West, which meant that no matter how little I got to go inside, I couldn't forget its presence. It didn't hurt that every Saturday, it hosted several farmer's markets, where I shopped for basil and photographs and sometimes bread, or that most of the days, I took the B/C line that ran along under Central Park West. Hearing too many horror stories meant that I rarely wandered into the park after sunset, and I rarely got back before sunset. Just in case you ever need it, though, say, if you decide to eat your lunch from Le Pain Quotidien inside Central Park, staying within sight of Central Park South's ritzy-glitzy hotels, there is wireless around... :P ("Who, me?! I don't open laptops inside parks!" ;) )

A first set of photos from a ramble.

Pigeons! You hear about the NYC pigeons everywhere, but I didn't feel like photographing them until I went into Central Park. Out in the city, they catch my eye no more than pigeons on Kuwaiti concrete :P

<td>This is what they usually look like... </td>

<td>But then they decided to turn into a semi-circle :) </td>

<td>They hopped around a little more, maybe trying to form a circle... :) Then they gave up and flew away. </td>

This is "The Upper East Side of Woody Allen", I overheard a stately old gentleman in grey wool suit telling his friends. It's also 72nd and Fifth Avenue whose buildings you're seeing -- if you went seven blocks east, that would be the site of last Wednesday's air-crash. (Just so you know, though, seven blocks east (seven avenue blocks) is also like 1/3 - 1/2 of Manhattan's width, so it's actually pretty far.)

I think the second picture (intentionally made larger) is more interesting, from a photo point-of-view -- even though it doesn't represent "The Upper East Side of Woody Allen". Comments? :) (On the photos, as well as "The Upper East Side of...")

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Date:2006-10-15 13:39
Subject:Anecdotes from the City: 14

Castles and Fairy-tales

What did the hylaean and I do in the American Museum of Natural History? We sat a windowsill drinking coffee and tea, took pictures of castles, and talked of fairy-tales :)

Photo comment: This picture isn't the best one I've ever taken, but I'm hoping one of you photographers out there can help (cdtwigg? missytas? Anyone else?) This was a part of the museum, and its reflection in the mosaic near the window. Read more...Collapse )

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Date:2006-10-13 23:45
Subject:more poetry: Gathering Courage

Gathering Courage

spin around the click-wheel'd 'pod
forty couplets to the monkey god
tenderness of her rich voice, swelling
the familiarity of each cadence telling
of mothers and daughters, of grandma's ambrosia
they tell us -- you would move mountains
Will you move me? I cannot move.

Can you hear me? I cannot move.

But wait -- this time -- is Hanuman missing?
her jubilant ending, but i get no healing.
I listen again, chanting each line's ending
but is it only the wind i'm hearing feeling?
Whose voice is this? Whose laugh is this?
Is it only the wind to who i'm talking?


If that's all that's right here listening,
standing, roaring, laughing, flying.
then I'll blow soft, soft to the wind.
I'll ask the wind to take my tale,
ask that his son send me strength.

Dear Vaayu, ask your son.
Tell him I'm lying flat in a field
flat on a bed of red gold green
Tell him I'm watching little pinpricks
in midnight blue that's turning black

Dear Vaayu, tell your son
tell him, please, I cannot move.
Dear Vaayu, ask your son,
ask him as you blow your way
ask your son to send me strength.

Hindu references:
Hanuman: god of strength, also the monkey god. wikipedia.
Vaayu: god of wind, Hanuman's father. More wikipedia.
40 couplets = Hanuman Chalisa, a very famous 40 couplet poem to Hanuman. Even more wikipedia

Sorry about the scare factor; I'm really okay. I just love the poem: I rarely write in meter -- even meter that keeps changing, because I can't sustain it through a whole poem, and I tend to fluff up the poem with unnecessary words, making it lose the raw edge. It feels so much like immiscible's poetry (especially the first stanza, which is the one I like best), which I love, but can't write. :) I think she likes this meter too, yes? :)

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Date:2006-10-08 11:44
Subject:Transit advertisements

Didn't get pictures, but seen near the Secaucus train station, after we crossed the river.

An advertisement for [news company], handful of words over the whole full-sized billboard. Quoting:
"Gain a few pounds"

Cultural vacuum. Didn't American health officials tell everyone they should be losing pounds?

Another advertisement for [news company], covering a whole billboard with only two words, quoting:

More cultural vacuum. I know India and everything that qualifies as Indian exotica is hot in American popular culture right now, but how does making rupees fit in? The Indian economy has a good reputation inspite of all the outsourcing tension? Rather puzzled.

Update: Whoa, cdtwigg gets pop culture and advertising alright!!

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Date:2006-10-07 16:07
Subject:more poetry: Soho Afternoon

[The wording/rhythm isn't quite completely there, but the timing is so impeccable, I'm stopping by Starbucks just to post it anyway! Not like I'm ever going to get around to fixing it anyway. But, hah, I'm so easily amused. And yes, I finally figured out how to upload pictures on the dell]

SoHo Afternoon

lower manhattan, an upscale salon
tender raw skin tortured by gentle brown hands
with a razor sharp thread.
over the speakers, fused with heavy drums and electric guitars
a kali shloka plays.
gracious goddess, forgive me,
but neither the heavy irony
nor the extreme suitability
is lost on me.

off stylish broadway, a dusty alley
crumpled old books tumble in every colour shape size
at a dollar book fair.
too sore to rifle through books i cannot carry,
i chase boxes with a camera.
gentle people, indulge me,
neither the heavy irony
nor the extreme suitability
is lost on me.


Kali: Hindu goddess of destruction, wikipedia. Also, a couple more pics from the book fair here

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Date:2006-10-06 21:37
Subject:Anecdotes from the City: 13

Incidental stories: the Times Square Jamba Juice, and the Triceratops

I did want the next post to be something substantial, one of many compelling stories I have to tell about New York City but... sigh. So little time, so much work, so many stories. Never fear, they'll continue even after I've returned home (heh, were those collective groans I heard? :) In the meantime, some truly incidental anecdotes.

The Jamba Juice in Times Square, and Times Square...Collapse )

Triceratops!!Collapse )

Hah, so much for trying to be short. This one took two train journeys, so you'd better appreciate it!

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Date:2006-10-03 10:06
Subject:Don't Ever Travel With Me: Part ?!

(I can't even keep track of numbers for this series!)

What happens when the craziest commuter station in the world shuts down for a couple of hours during rush hour?

I don't know, but the NYC/NJ local news probably does. What I do know, though, are the ripples we felt down along the midtown line: No trains into or out of New York Penn until about 9am from around Summit. The trains up to Hoboken delayed by 25-30 minutes.

What they told us: an Amtrak train in New York Penn "pulled down a cable", causing New York Penn Station and "all of the lines in Northern Jersey" to lose power for about 2 hours. All trains in the station were stuck in the station, and all trains enroute were stuck exactly where they were at that precise moment. Some cable that must have been. :) It sounded like a scene out of a thriller to me. Except, of course, it's boring to be inside a thriller when you're not the hero -- or even a sidekick.

I wonder what New York Penn -- which is a total zoo at the best of times -- was like. The mini-chaos down in suburbia was impressive: staid-looking tempers kept flaring up -- and those that didn't kept joking about things like finally having a reason for a 3+ hour laptop battery, finally draining it over a commute for a change, finally being on the local news -- which only caused more tempers to flare. :) The stations looked full, rather than empty for a change. :) When they finally got a New York train down, they sent down another train from Hoboken simultaneously, and made us all switch trains halfway in a rather non-obvious manner for a rather non-obvious reason (and of course, even more tempers flared :)

As for me, I continue to be a fatalist. I woke 5 minutes too late to make the 8.37 train -- the last train with the shuttle -- which should have caused me to miss the 8.29 train as well. But the 8.29 comes from -- you guessed it -- New York Penn. The 8.10 came at 8.57, and I didn't have to walk 35 minutes into work! (Though I'm not sure I got in much earlier than I would have had I walked, since the shuttle just took really, really long. And I'm not sure what those on the 8.29 train are doing, especially since the regular shuttle vanished, and this guy says this is his last run.)

I'm just not sure the other passengers appreciated my singing in celebration when I figured it out. Even though it was very soft, melodious, and a lovely S.D. Burman piece: Thandi Hawayein (it was his 100th birthday a few days ago, I think) And it's just too bad I missed breakfast.

This entry brought to you courtesy of a very long shuttle tour of the greenery-filled garden state. If I'd been 5 minutes earlier, sigh. But I'm sick, double sigh.

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Date:2006-09-29 21:47
Subject:the revenge of the cat

(aka, idiot question of the day)

How does one get a cat out of one's room? All these three weeks, I've been really, really careful to keep the door closed when I leave. I was so close to missing the train this morning, I must have forgotten. And now the cat's on my bed. And it won't leave and makes miaowing noises -- with its sharp teeth glistening in its open-mouthed miaows -- when I approach it and make faint shooing noises.

Obviously, I'm not going to sleep anytime early tonight, because obviously, I intend to wash the sheets before I sleep on them. I'm already sick, and I'm seeing strange rashes. Perhaps this is my karma for the time when I accidentally slammed the doors around its head.

And no, I wasn't aware of the cat when I decided to live here.

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Date:2006-09-28 21:22
Subject:Anecdotes from the City: 12

[No, I'm not actually in the City, and this didn't happen today. But since I'm procrastinating on work with my ipod...]

Chronicles of the Transit: 1*
*[With thanks to ashleyruth for the suggestion of a title: I've expanded it to Transit, to include other transit stories as well :)]

One Friday night, around midnight, I heard a man sing at the Times Square station, on the uptown 1/2/3 platform. That's not unusual in itself, the Times Square station is huge (it goes across a whole avenue block) and there are many, many, 2-3 people concerts (for lack of a better word) going on at any time of the evening. Asian pop, rock, country/folk, classical... And for that matter, it isn't unusual to the Times Square station either -- performing groups routinely sing at platforms or board subway cars and sing there, often with the addition of a dance routine.

But this man was remarkable, he had one of the most amazing voices I'd ever heard -- for those of you who've been made to hear Michele Bernard or Le Primitifs du Futur four times in a row inside an enclosed car, his voice was of that quality, but trust me, it sounds so much more gorgeous live. That rich tonality, that power, that depth, that easy-flowing modulation -- all that that any aspiring singer strives to achieve all their life and almost never does.

He sang a song (in a European language) that reminded me strongly of a song I have, La Torinese, by La Ciapa Rusa, from the Putumayo Presents Italian Odyssey album. I think it was in the same 6/4 time, too. In all that noise on the platform, he didn't even need a microphone. It still reverbrated inside the station, enhanced by the echoes, and drowned out only by the blasts of the incoming trains. And he sang without a trace of self-consciousness -- no play, no drama, nothing -- absorbed in the music, the way it is when all that matters is the music. I was mesmerized. I walked up closer, dropped a couple of bills, noticed he looked East European. Then my train arrived and I ran away to it, jostled along by all the teenagers who'd decided to party out at Virgin Megastore.

I went back to look for him the same time the next night, but as these things happen, he was gone. I went back the next weekend too, but he was totally gone. And I wished I'd stayed a little longer, given him a little more money. Just think of stark sadness -- here was this guy with one of the most beautiful voices imaginable, and he was singing songs in a subway station for pennies, while ... pop stars with beautiful faces earn millions just because of beautiful packaging.

It's depressing, but I guess it's the way the world is.

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Date:2006-09-23 21:40
Subject:Analyzing Rahman's music

A Marathi composer analyzes Rahman's music, via DesiPundit. It's a long read, but totally interesting. And besides the analysis, there's total flashback value to remembering Rahman's music over the years, what's stayed, what's gone, and what's new.

Quoting and remarking on passages of interestCollapse )

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Date:2006-09-23 13:01
Subject:indulging in poetry: music

[Well, it sounds good on a train full of noisy undergrads, when combined with cold-induced headaches and medication]


When each note speaks
but only for itself.
When each note dissolves
but only into another.

What if each note raises a ghost?

Ghosts spring out of the coffins
glide in through the paneling
cling on to the railings,
rising from waves of pain.
Sitar strings raging
to the sruti of rain.
Dusk to dawn.

Then the sun rises, the words
dissolve, like mirages
allusive illusive elusive
I'm holding on to water.
Rainbows dissolve with dew drops.
Is this truth?
Was there a trial?
This voice is silenced.
But the ghostly jury has not asked for
what the world does ask.
There was no accusation,
where then a trial?

Someday I'll hear music again.
Each note standing still
in perfect position.
Holding strong
linking neighbours
and nothing else.
She will be music.
Nothing more,
but nothing less.
Someday the sruti will not be pain.

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Date:2006-09-21 22:46
Subject:Garden State

No one told me that gardens were full of animals.

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Date:2006-09-19 21:22
Subject:And the New York train leaves me behind...

Simon and Garfunkel have a song called Bleecker Street! As anyone I've dragged through it -- physically or verbally -- will remember, it's one of the streets I really, totally love in New York City. (just like any good visitor wannabe-bohemian ;)) And man, it cost $30 to rent a room on Bleecker Street in their time?! It's $3000 now. $30 won't even buy you two square feet -- and I might not fit into one square foot ;)

Even now, when I take the New York train back from work, I get sad when it leaves me behind at Millburn. That I'm not going to all the way to New-York-Penn-Station. To the craziest commuter station in the world (or perhaps second, after Grand Central?) To neon lights and burger stalls right outside of Madison Square Garden, and the Empire State Building peeking out in between the buildings on 7th Avenue. And ten blocks up, to the craziness of Times Square. They say that any true New Yorker avoids 42nd to 48th Street on 7th Avenue, as far as humanly possible. For me, though, breathing in two minutes of neon-glo is enough to drive away any remnants of depression that pop up. :)

About the only time I'm happy about the change is when I wake up at 7.30am instead of 6am -- now I catch my 8 hours of sleep a day in a bed, rather than dividing it between the subway, the train, and Penn Station.

I especially miss the food in New York City -- even just from a functional point of view. What New Jersey badly needs is a Subway. Preferably one within walking distance of the various portions of Jersey I touch in the course of a weekday. And preferably one where they leave my subs uncut if I ask ;) Seriously, though, I'm unable to find fast, acceptable (read: non-pizza) food around me that I can pick up and eat quickly. It's all restaurants, ice-cream parlours, and the odd pizza place.

I keep saying I'm going to make a collection of advertisements: good, bad, ugly, given the time I spend in transit with a camera.  I have a picture of this, will have upload to it when I get to a more convenient location. In the meantime, for your amusement, here it is: an advertisement for PNC Bank, at the Summit station:

If train A leaves the station at 2:00pm, and train B leaves the station at 3.30pm, how is it that Americans pay to get their own money out of an ATM?
Doesn't make sense? Neither does paying ATM fees.

Doesn't make sense? Neither does it for me.
This entry brought to you courtesy of the transit time from Madison to Millburn, plus a 5-minute wait at the station. Heh, this way I have a way to force myself to stop rambling nonsense.

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Date:2006-09-16 12:13

Nothing beats walking home in the rain, on the grass, without an umbrella or hiking boots, in the half-hour before sunset, listening to Simon and Garfunkel on the ipod. Nothing. And their Sound of Silence? (YouTube) Now that's a song that's totally about NYC. The references, the metaphors, and its theme... Not like I needed more ways to remember the City.

And oh, man, the internet @ home woes are getting to the point of being miserable. It's raining all the time, too. If I'd had internet last night, that's when this would have been posted.

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Date:2006-09-07 23:02
Subject:A Subway story

(alas, not the long and insightful one I promised, but a short and (hopefully!) entertaining one instead! :)

In addition to my Starbucks story, I have a Subway story now. The Craig Street Subway knows me as the vegetarian girl who doesn't trust their knives. :P

Me, um, I... hmm. :)

I just asked them not cut my sub for the better part of 2 years. I never told them why, but they guessed (of course, how hard is it? :), and joke about it every time I go there:
"You don't trust our knives? That's okay, I don't trust them either! [laugh]
*I* only cut vegetarian stuff with the green knife, but I can't say that about anyone else!"

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