Monday, April 23, 2007

City of Fear Online

Looking for City of Fear? Try here...


The reading

That is Bijoy on the left, reading, while I try to look as composed as I can!!!
Pic: Kevin Antao

I could hear my voice shake as soon as I switched on the mike for the reading of City of Fear on Sunday April 22, at Crossword, Mithakhali. I knew exactly how I wanted to introduce the book. I had rehearsed it a thousand times in my head. And yet, my voice was shaking as if I had not rehearsed at all. I felt as if someone was putting a lid on my voice and I had to fight him away so that I am heard. I had to be heard. I had dreamt of this moment so many times that none of my many invisible demons were going to shut out my voice now.
Fortunately I managed to fight of the demons, thanks also to Bijoy Shivram, a friend who agreed to read portions of the book for me. My demons can try to shut out my voice, but they can have no effect on Bijoy!
I started by telling the audience that I was majorly offended by a scene in Aparna Sen's movie Mr and Mrs Iyer. There is this part where rioters enter a bus scouting for Muslims to kill and randomly pull down pants of passengers to check if they are circumcised. One man gives away the identity of an old Muslim couple because he was Jewish, circumcised and there was no way in hell that he would have been able to explain to the rioters that he was not Muslim. This was his way of distracting them away from him. If I was in his place, I don't think I would have given away the identity of the old couple, I told the audience. And that I had been put in the same situation in 2002.
Bijoy went on to read some rather sensitive parts of the book, including the part in which I have a conversation with a friend and lose my top after uses the term 'circumcision' as an insult, while referring to Muslims.
The packed audience listened silently as we ended with the part where a woman was stripped and murdered close to home on March 24, 2002. And I am still wondering why no one wanted to ask questions at the end of it all...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Time Out, Everybody!

By the way, if you are in Mumbai and if you have read City of Fear and like it, it may not be a bad idea to pick up a copy of the latest Time Out magazine. I have something to say about the book there...

Reading of City of Fear

This is just to let you know that I am having the first reading of City of Fear this Sunday, April 22. It's at Crossword Mithakhali at 11.30 am. My close friend Bijoy Shivram, who is a Bharatnatyam dancer and a graphic designer, will be reading portions from the book, while I will talk about what inspired me to write City of Fear. What Bijoy will read will hopefully provoke an interesting debate about the book and the questions it raises. So, if you are interested, you know where to be!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Staying sane in times of madness

How does a mad family remain sane when it is surrounded by madness? What are the mad things it does to remain sane when Hindus and Muslims collide with each other in one of the worst communal riots in India’s recent history? I can't claim to have found all the answers, but I can tell you that we survived. A little scarred perhaps, but alive. That is the City of Fear in less than 100 words.

City of Fear tries to document the unique emotional landscape of those very turbulent times – How family members responded to each other while houses collapsed around them and the Godhra riots turned many streets of Ahmedabad into battlefields… How friends respond to each other, especially those with whom you had ideological differences… How strangers and acquaintances respond…

Because it all changed during those two years.

Friends whose strong Hindutva leanings you laughed off earlier, now stare at you in the face like an angry monster. You wonder how you can be friends with a monster. Acquaintances, who could not have cared less about your religion, now wonder whether Jews are closer to Muslims or Christians. And, for the first time, you are afraid to tell them that you have a lot in common with Muslims.

Primarily, City of Fear is the story of how mother and I decided to leave our home of more than 20 years because we lived in an area where Hindus and Muslims live very close to each other; where mobs clash with each other almost every day. Tired of living in a locality that is constantly on the edge, we decided to move to an apartment in a locality that has no violence.

As we began discarding many of the objects collected in our large bungalow over the years, the past suddenly jumped out at us. Through objects lying concealed in different corners of the house we had to face up to old girlfriends, dead relatives and unfulfilled desires in love letters, drawings, guitar strings, and tuning forks.