Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Embodying Venus

I HAVE A clear memory of the buttons – large, translucent-white plastic – and the teacher’s fingers unbuttoning the first one. She was shouting: ‘I’m going to take off your clothes! I’m going to strip you naked in front of everyone!’
The child’s maroon tunic, with those big buttons down the middle, hung down to her ankles. In our little township school, parents often bought uniforms three or four sizes too large so they’d last.
The teacher’s brows were riven with her frown, her eyes wide, her voice transformed by rage. Her flushed face was level with the child’s. And the child was howling.
I’ve forgotten what I, a senior prefect, was doing there and what the child was being punished for. Perhaps she was in the wrong uniform; we wore white on Saturdays. At any rate, it was not unusual. The boys especially were often beaten or subjected to threats like: ‘I’ll take your pants off if you... (insert any act of disobedience here).’ Still, twenty years later, I remember that howling kid. She was not stripped after all. A promise was extracted that the mistake, whatever it was, would not be repeated. But I do remember wondering why the child was so afraid. She’s so little, I thought, she must be bathed and dressed by other people. Why does she care if her clothes are taken off?
But the child did care. At three or four years old, she was aware that the taking off of her clothes was an act of public humiliation. And she was howling out her terrified little heart.
Read the rest of it here: https://griffithreview.com/articles/embodying-venus/

I had written this essay on bodies, shame, and the politics of nudity and it was published by the Griffith Review a year ago. It is now available online to read in full.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The new grapple

At 57 kilos, Sandeep Tomar is one of the slighter athletes in the akhada, but has earned respect by throwing Commonwealth Games gold medallist Amit Dahiya in the World Championship trials last year. Noticing his ears, I ask, “Did you have an accident or were you born this way?”

Other boys cackle while Dhaka, smiling a wattage of 30 years’experience in the sport, enlightens me: “Broken ears are a wrestler’s pride.”

The 55-year-old explains how broken blood vessels from hands or knees smashing into the side of a wrestler’s head harden into a sort of floret. Dhaka invites me to touch Sandeep’s ears, saying, “They’re hard now, like stone. But when the ears first break, you want to scream if they’re touched even by a strong breeze.”

This was a story I did for GQ India about wrestling, one of the most ancient sports in the world, and one of the most popular forms of public sporting entertainment in India even today. Read the rest of the article here: http://www.gqindia.com/get-smart/pop-culture/can-kushti-be-cool-again/

And here 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How we are powered

I've often wondered how we've managed to avoid thinking about power supply. I mean, electricity. As consumers, we like to buy everything we need, so we are not dependent on others and so that our lives and lifestyles are not so easily compromised. Yet, we are so reluctant to actually start owning and producing our own power, and embracing the freedom that that offers. So I wrote this short comic for Mint (June 11, 2016): http://mintonsunday.livemint.com/news/power/1.0.4019103157.html

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