Why you won't find me blogging* till this is all over

"Do bloggers, journalists, writers and activists really matter at a time like this? What do they do, except stand at the sidelines and comment? You know how we always believe that the media has the power to influence thought and progress? Does it matter? A bunch of intellectuals analysing situations while people die on the streets?"

- Mudra Mehta

Words. Mouth. Taken. Wise, young 'un, wise.

In case you need more news,

Orange Jammies was putting up a live twitter feed.

And Vinu went out the streets to take some snaps.

* Opinion posts, I should have clarified. Information will be posted if important.


Chicken/egg Scenarios #14

pappy, papa, appa, abba, baba.

mommy, mama, amma, maa.

Moral: The world is scrambled in more ways than we imagine.


For Brinda*, who wants more.

The recent inactivity has been due to a (regular) confluence of many events and thoughts.

Of observing the ever-increasing shrillness of the media, where advertisements pass for articles, and facts are but dead flowers to be thrown on the compost heap. Of reading books which focus more on what others have said before, than on anything they might have to proclaim themselves. Of questions that are the same, millennia after they were first asked. And whose answers are as myriad as they are unhelpful.

Of a worldscape so complex and swift that understanding and sanity are nothing but little islands. Of watching people deepening the grooves of the same paths that those before them have covered before, and not realising how cliched it all is.

Of dealing with language and words, and the inevitable wonder and frustration of doing so. Of how all we have left are trivial sub-plots of stories ancient - and how we excite ourselves when someone details them in a manner that is but nuanced from those before.

Of how all we do is react, and all we've ever done is react, and how 'creation' is such a misunderstood and misused word.

Of how nothing is new anymore, if it ever was; and how this itself is not new now.

Of dreaming, yet again, of a world that exists beyond silence.

* I'd point you to her blog, but she doesn't have one. Don't ask me.


"Real life is regularly running out of money, and then food. Real life is having no proper heating. Real life is physical. Give me books instead: give me the invisibility of the contents of books, the thoughts, the ideas, the images. Let me become part of a book; I'd give anything for that".

- Scarlett Thomas (The End of Mr. Y*)

* A little too-overblown mish-mash of language, philosophy, and the concept of existence in a style that perhaps most closely resembles Poe's more fantastical works. The arguments and counter-arguments, and the various works by other authors that it prompts one to? Great stuff. The actual plot? Ehhh.


Manual of Life - Alternative Definitions

n., That stage of your life where you cannot remember the last time you ate, bought, or even simply wanted a lollipop.

n., That stage of your life where you (conveniently) cannot remember the last time you ate, bought, or even simply wanted a lollipop, when questioned about the same while trying to pester someone into getting you one.


There are many things the world has to thank the British for - all those wondrous writers, all those creative musicians, all those manic comedians, the chip ("Britain's contribution to world cuisine"), those ubiqitious Victorian buildings that provide some sense of familiarity when visiting new countries that were part of Pax Britannia, and perhaps most importantly, Cheddar cheese.

Most of these have managed to spread to various parts of the world and have been welcomed with varying degrees of enthusiasm. But there is one 'invention' that has largely been restricted to these shores (and a couple of other countries).

The charity shop.

For those of you who've never been in one, it's quite simple - these are little stores run by a particular charitable organisation, and most often run by volunteers. So you have shops affiliated to Oxfam, or cancer organisations, or local groups that work with children, or autistic people, or the elderly. They almost exclusively rely on donations, and most of them stock the same kind of range - clothes, books, and knick-knacks. What each store specifically stocks varies quite a bit, depending on the area they're in and the kind of clientele that come into the shops. So while some may have a lot of clothes, others may focus more on books, while some pay more attention to CDs, DVDs and the like. And because the stuff is for sale, most of it is very good quality and often brand new or almost-new. And, obviously, much cheaper than anything you would find at a standard retail shop.

Which is why they're so popular. There's a certain endless fascination in wandering into these shops - particularly when you're not looking for something specific - and just browsing. You find all sorts of weird and delightful stuff, and the joys of trying to imagine who would have bought some of those things (and why they gave it away) is worth the effort alone. To me perhaps that's one of the most important things about them - the diversity and surprise they provide in an otherwise oh-too-standard shopping expedition. Unlike a normal retail outlet, you never quite know just what you'll find when you step into a charity shop, and that thrill of discovery when you find something so quirky you know you wouldn't find it on the High Street....well, let's just say it's like the best scavenger hunt you ever had as a kid, times ten.

Also, when you buy books at the rate I do, the prices help.

Anyways, that's all introduction. The real point of this post - and something that's been intriguing for some time now - is this:

Why hasn't this concept caught on in other countries?

I know the US has the Salvation Army, but even there charity shops aren't that common or popular, are they (I'm genuinely asking)? And I'm thinking of countries like India, where there are so many charities who rely purely on donations and fund-raising, and which is a nation of shops, but which have no comparable outlets. Ok, I know the WWF has a couple of shops, but that's about it.

I've had this discussion with several friends from home, and many of them argue that in a country like India, we don't really need such shops because their activities are covered through other means. For instance, because we have so many poor people, things like clothes and shoes can be given directly to those who need it, or to charities who accept and distribute them. And money, which is perhaps more immediate a need, can also be given in the same manner. So - they ask me - why should a charity go through the hassle of finding an appropriate location, getting people to run it, sorting through all the junk that people will inevitable thrust on them in order to find the 10% of really good stuff that can be put on sale - when instead they can just get the stuff and distribute it directly?

Fair point. But that's only for the poor isn't it? There are so many charities who require money - those that tend to people with physical disabilities, people with mental disorders, cancer patients, heart patients, etc - and who solely depend on fund-raising. Doesn't it make sense for such agencies, say the Cancer Patients Aid Association, to be able to generate funds through an outlet which sells good stuff that people donate.

Ah, but my friends always argue, which Indian would be seen going into such a shop and buying second-hand goods? The shame!

To which I say - poppycock.

Indians love a bargain. This is why places like Fashion Street exist. And if there was a shop that sold new or almost-new products, at half the price from a standard retailer, there would be throngs - throngs, I say - flocking to such a shop.

Besides, who said it has be clothes. I'm thinking books. We all bemoan the lack of good second-hand bookshops that offer a wider variety of titles than the current favourites stocked by those boring corporate chains. And there are so many of us that get rid of books, usually by giving them to a raddiwalla or some library where nobody will ever read them. So if there was a shop that stocked only books and music (like Oxfam Books, or BHF Books & Music), most of which were in mint-condition, and whose proceeds were going to charity, don't you think something like that would work in India? And if it would, why hasn't it been tried so far? Not even Oxfam, which has projects in India, has attempted something like this.

I, for one, am clueless as to the lack of them. You got any ideas?

And while I don't make too many long-term goals, if I ever do get back to India, this is something I want to try and introduce. For any charity. Because I just cannot believe that it wouldn't work. And, of course, doing some good while being surrounded by books - well, that's heaven, no?

Updated: I forgot to mention that many charity shops also sell their own range of new products, which they source from somewhere or get manufactured. This is an option too to consider for such a venture back home. Or, corporate gifting.

And it just occurs to me that to get around the problem of getting people to come and donate, the charities could always set up a system where people could give their details when they have stuff to donate, and volunteers can go around and sift/select items from their homes. This happens here in the case of some charities that accept furniture - they will happily come round and collect it, so that's one less hassle for you.


The more things change.....

Via Akshay, who while blogging about some unreported - and quirky - facets of the world around us, also takes some wonderful snaps (such as this, this, and this).


"Well, fuck me!"

He always said that. It was his thing. To have met him was to have heard him say it. With variations. Alternative stress-points, dramatised delivery, multiple exclamation points, the works.

After the initial shock/amusement, people just got used to it. They barely registered the actual words, but instead focused on trying to gauge the emotions that accompanied their expression.

Towards the end, he began saying it more frequently, and at the very last, that was the only thing he would say. It didn't matter if you bumped into him after months, or if you'd been seeing him every day, or if you were talking music, or discussing politics over dinner, or even just playing chess. That's all you would hear, those three words, again and again and again, the only notes emerging from the record as it wound down to its scratchy little end.

It was only later that they realised why.

Nobody ever had.


Manual of Life - Ways to get in touch with the 'Inner You' #19

Step 1.
Get a pair of really good ear plugs. Like the ones you get in the better airlines. Or, if you'd like something fancier, you can do as TR does.

Step 2.
Insert them aurally* till they're as soundproof as you can get.

Step 3.
Move to a quiet place.

Step 4.
Close your eyes and listen to your breathing till your heartbeats start to really start pounding one funky beat.

Step 5.
With one hand over your heart - Jump.

Wiiiiild stuff.

* I don't care if it's in the wrong context.


Bliss - eating condensed milk straight out of a tin.

Eccentricity - lathering it onto your toast.

Foolhardiness - adding it to your coffee instead of milk.

Ewwwwness - contemplating that scene if Brando had used it instead of butter.

Manual of Life - Alternative Definitions

n., Choosing not to finish reading the rest of a book-series that actually started off interestingly but faded somewhere down the line* - despite knowing that all the time you have already spent on following the series is effectively wasted, since you won't know how it all ended.

Sensibility - Giving up on a book that you started only because it seemed interesting, but wasn't.


The problem is, problems still are.