Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Founder's Blues: Fundraising, the BYOI party!

That's what it is. Fundraising is a "Bring your own imagination" party. Little wonder then, that it must be one of the world's worst attended gatherings!

I can write up the invitation in any format you name. I can strategically deploy the words you currently love. I can break up my 'ask' into children's portions or lump them together to sound impressive. I can give you a multicoloured brochure or an academic's document full of jargon.

I can speak to your heart. I can orate to your conference hall. I can make you a jazzy powerpoint. If you gave me money, I could throw it down the drain to make an animated film about my funding needs. I could even write a song and sing it for you, with the refrain: Tum ek paisa de do, voh dus lakh dega! (Or, in tune with our current needs, tum 6 lakh de do, voh 60 crore dega!)

I can share my vision with you in the medium of your choice. Bur if you have no imagination, I have no cure for that but prayer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The treasure trove at Giri Stores, Mylapore

In my deeply ambivalent, often antagonistic, relationship with Madras/Chennai, shopping is something that usually has a positive cast.

And since I moved here, Giri Stores near the Kapaleeswarar Temple is one of the few places I really like to go to. It's full of surprises--things I never knew existed; things I never knew I was interested in; things I never knew I wanted.

It's also been a research mainstay. Since I moved here, I have done a little bit of work on Indian political ideas and in the absence of any decent research libraries, buy a lot of books. Mainstream bookstores don't carry the range of books on the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas, or on Indian philosophy, that you can find at Giri Stores or at the Motilal Banarasidas store nearby in Luz. There are also two stores off Royapettah High Road, but Giri Stores is so much fun!

You walk into the floor with all the pooja samagri, everything smells wonderful. And yes, you do want to buy all the dhoop and agarbatti immediately! One flight up into the mezzanine, you find the many kinds of metal things that live in pooja rooms--kuttu vilakkus of different sizes, kamakshi vilakkus, yantrams, kalashams, etc. The next flight up, they stock music and DVDs and not just religious stuff. I saw good old Dev Anand gazing out of the 'Asli Naqli' DVD package! Finally, they have a floor of books. I spent a lot of time and money there this morning, all in the name of research! I was able to find academic books as well as the tiny pocket-book size edition of something my mother asked for.

The basement may be the most blah part of the store--it's where they stock "gift items." From pocket-size pictures of various deities to those now-ubiquitous Chinese-made idols, it may be both the most contemporary and the most generally tasteless floor.

All in all, a place at which you can really spend a lot of time browsing with no agenda. And did I mention how good it smells? (Yes, I did also buy lots of incense as well.)

Check it out!

Monday, June 7, 2010

On the street where I live

(with apologies to Lerner and Lowe)

"I have often walked down this street before..."

and it's always littered with garbage and attended by a faint whiff of the open urinals that are the small streets leading us from here to the famous bazaar road that runs parallel to our street.

"But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before..."

There's no pavement here. Nor in in the streets that surround it. And in that famous bazaar, the pavement has been taken over by vendors, leaving no room to reach the shops from an auto that parks on the road.

"All at once am I, several storeys high..."

"Are there lilac trees in the heart of town?
Can you hear a lark in any other part of town?"

"Does enchantment pour out of every door?"

No, it's not just the street where I live.

"People stop and stare, they don't bother me."

There's nowhere else on earth I wouldn't rather be.

Let the time go by, they don't care if I, can't bear the stench of the street where I live...

And oh the-ghastly-feeling, just to know they never clean here.
The ooooo-verpowering reeling from the smell that may suddenly appear..

"People stop and stare, they don't bother me."
If it made a difference to how clean my street might be
I would bus them here, show them how it feels
to walk here, on this street where I live.