Wednesday, December 31, 2008
MY SECOND RESPONSE TO THE RESPONSE OF THIS LETTER: basically the recipient just saw western education as brain-washing and narrow
Friday, December 19, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
By Roger Cohen
Since visiting Cuba a few weeks ago, I've been thinking about the visual assault on our lives. Climb in a New York taxi these days and a TV comes on with its bombardment of news and ads. It's become passé to gaze out the window, watch the sunlight on a wall, a child's smile, the city breathing.
In Havana, I'd spend long hours contemplating a single street. Nothing — not a brand, an advertisement or a neon sign — distracted me from the city's sunlit surrender to time passing. At a colossal price, Fidel Castro's pursuit of socialism has forged a unique aesthetic, freed from agitation, caught in a haunting equilibrium of stillness and decay.
Such empty spaces, away from the assault of marketing, beyond every form of message (e-mail, text, twitter), erode in the modern world, to the point that silence provokes a why-am-I-not-in-demand anxiety. Technology induces ever more subtle forms of addiction, to products, but also to agitation itself. The global mall reproduces itself, its bright and air-conditioned sterility extinguishing every distinctive germ.
Paris, of course, has resisted homogenization. It's still Paris, with its strong Haussmannian arteries, its parks of satisfying geometry, its islands pointing their prows toward the solemn bridges, its gilt and gravel, its zinc-roofed maids' rooms arrayed atop the city as if deposited by some magician who stole in at night.
It's still a place where temptation exists only to be yielded to and where time stops to guard forever an image in the heart. All young lovers should have a row in the Tuileries in order to make up on the Pont Neuf.
Yet, for all its enduring seductiveness, Paris has ceased to be the city that I knew. The modern world has sucked out some essence, leaving a film-set perfection hollowed out behind the five-story facades. The past has been anaesthetized. It has been packaged. It now seems less a part of the city's fabric than it is a kitschy gimmick as easily reproduced as a Lautrec poster.
I know, in middle age the business of life is less about doing things for the first than for the last time. It is easy to feel a twinge of regret. Those briny oysters, the glistening mackerel on their bed of ice at the Rue Mouffetard, the drowsy emptied city in August, the unctuousness of a Beef Bourguignon: these things can be experienced for the first time only once.
So what I experience in Paris is less what is before me than the memory it provokes of the city in 1975. Memories, as Apollinaire noted, are like the sound of hunters' horns fading in the wind. Still, they linger. The town looks much the same, if prettified. What has changed has changed from within.
At dinner with people I'd known back then, I was grappling with this elusive feeling when my friend lit a match. It was a Russian match acquired in Belgrade and so did not conform to current European Union nanny-state standards. The flame jumped. The sulfur whiff was pungent. A real match!
Then it came to me: what Paris had lost to modernity was its pungency. Gone was the acrid Gitane-Gauloise pall of any self-respecting café. Gone was the garlic whiff of the early-morning Metro to the Place d'Italie. Gone were the mineral mid-morning Sauvignons Blancs downed bar-side by red-eyed men.
Gone were the horse butchers and the tripe restaurants in the 12th arrondissement. Gone (replaced by bad English) was the laconic snarl of Parisian greeting. Gone were the bad teeth, the yellowing moustaches, the hammering of artisans, the middle-aged prostitutes in doorways, the seat-less toilets on the stairs, and an entire group of people called the working class.
Gone, in short, was Paris in the glory of its squalor, in the time before anyone thought a Frenchman would accept a sandwich for lunch, or decreed that the great unwashed should inhabit the distant suburbs. The city has been sanitized.
But squalor connects. When you clean, when you favor hermetic sealing in the name of safety, you also disconnect people from one another. When on top of that you add layers of solipsistic technology, the isolation intensifies. In its preserved Gallic disguise, Paris is today no less a globalized city than New York.
Havana has also preserved its architecture — the wrought-iron balconies, the caryatids, the baroque flourishes — even if it is crumbling. What has been preserved with it, thanks to socialist economic disaster, is that very pungent texture Paris has lost to modernity.
The slugs of Havana Club rum in bars lit by fluorescent light, the dominos banged on street tables, the raucous conversations in high doorways, the whiff of puros, the beat through bad speakers of drums and maracas, the idle sensuality of Blackberry-free days: Cuba took me back decades to an era when time did not always demand to be put to use.
I thought I'd always have Paris. But Havana helped me see, by the flare of a Russian match, that mine is gone.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The Indian government finds itself in an impossible situation in Kashmir. The largest demonstrations in two decades in the valley have brought hundreds of thousands to the streets, calling for freedom. This surprising turn of events is a stark contrast to the relative calm and optimism in the area following the much-lauded 2002 local elections, coinciding with President Musharraf's commitment to control jihadist elements across the border. The current situation only demonstrates New Delhi's flawed strategy to an untenable situation, inevitably bound to become more difficult given the dormant frustrations and tensions in the region.
This past year was especially good for the valley, with record highs for tourism and economic activity. There were no outward signs that a flare up of this magnitude was on the horizon, let alone enormous, unprecedented, mostly non-violent calls for independence that have caught the Indian security forces off guard. Having been trained to fight an insurgency they now, quickly, are training for crowd control.
The spark that set off the crisis was a transfer of 92 acres of land for a Hindu pilgrimage. It is, of course, not the direct cause to the current conflict. The roots are much deeper. About a half a million soldiers pursue a few thousand militants, making Kashmir the most militarized zone in the world. Human rights violations have been rampant. Nobody has figured out how to deal with insurgencies mixed with terrorism, and the Indian state often finds itself stuck between doing nothing and doing too much. To make up for it, New Delhi - to their credit - focuses on appeasement through economic and political means.
No state, per capita, has received as much economic aid as Kashmir has, but to no avail. No state has experienced as much political autonomy either - in no small part due to a special constitutional provision dating back to Nehru. Elections in the region are promising but prominent Kashmiri leaders focus not on improving governance but rather on independence and an emphasis on Islam as a guiding force. Democracy has this illiberal underbelly, much like Hamas in Palestine and the Islamic parties of the northwestern frontier in Pakistan, which, though elected by the people, often work against the people's interest by promoting terrorism and repression.
So force is not working, neither is money or democracy. If Kashmiris had a right to self-determination they would very likely secede and/or join Pakistan. There is little doubt about that. But then again, so would other parts of India if given the choice. Besides Kashmir, secessionist problems existed in Punjab and currently one can make the case that Assam and Nagaland would be motivated by any loss to Indian territory. And these are just the overt cases. Since independence, a dialectical balance has constantly been in play between the center and peripheries. Concessions and compromises were always made; Hindi being a case in point, first being force taught to the South, to later being dropped after numerous protests. All this has led to greater decentralization and the rise of regionalist parties and the creation of new states, allowing for India to stay integral and united amidst tremendous diversity.
What has worked in other areas of India has not worked in Kashmir for a whole host of reasons none greater than the fact that Pakistan is right next door. Since independence three official wars have been fought, not to mention numerous skirmishes, with the insurgency being directly aided by the ISI; Pakistan's notorious intelligence agency. In fact, in the period 2002-2008, violence has gone down in no small part to Musharraf's commitment to control infiltration from jihadists. With Musharraf gone and Pakistan slowly slipping into chaos, Kashmir will be as vulnerable as ever. An independent Kashmir will bring Pakistan and its instability that much closer to India.
With the recent unilateral actions by the U.S. in Pakistan's tribal areas, with a possible fall-out between the two governments likely, the situation is getting trickier. India can be that missing piece that can add pressure from the LOC given Pakistan's current vulnerability. Recent deployment of 6 of its most capable warplanes to Kashmir precisely sends this message.
All this makes a Kashmiri state, or any redrawing of borders, extremely unviable. An independent Kashmir, or worse a Kashmir as part of Pakistan is not a possibility as far as Indian strategic and security interests are concerned. The implications for the region are too great. The point is moot whether Kashmiris are freedom fighters or terrorists. A supposed emerging super power will not be keen to show weakness and no secession or compromise will be made; already clear from Manmohan Singh's "no borders will be redrawn" statement. Further agitation will only serve to challenge his authority and with time, if continues, will only provoke more violence and ruthlessness.
That national elections are looming on the horizon doesn't help the situation. The BJP has a history of riding the waves of religious controversy to power. Further calls for freedom, or any threat of Kashmiri independence will make Kashmir be what Ayodha was in the 1995 elections: A rallying cry to unite Hindus against Muslims. BJP's 2004 strategy emphasizing economic growth and "Shining India" failed. They've wised up and know that people are motivated more by threats to security and more importantly threats to their identity. Hindu agitation in Jammu, with their own protests and economic blockade of the valley, is evidence enough that the times ahead with only get worse.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
I have seen many Truffaut films, and always felt him to be less intellectually potent though more heart-felt in his film making than his contemporaries in the New Wave. It was Godard that transcended the frontiers of the mind, body and soul through the power of his ideas. But Truffaut acquiesced to emotions, more so than others. Its as if he had less to prove and thus allowed for the camera to reveal his troubled childhood and prolonged adolescence through wayward images.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
I have taken up photography or rather stealing my loved ones pictures...some photos from some travels through the motherland. Don't you wish you were here? Wish you were here. I was thinking about India, I am always thinking about India. It was during a re-reading of thucydides, the part where T, says extreme situations bring out the extreme in people, when in the the athens - sparta war people take to sleeping in sacred temples and killing each other for food. The lesson being that our goodness is only a result of our circumstances. But India is an exception to this rule (as it is to many, many rules). It is a cruel place, with many hardships but somehow the people shine, shine on.
My love to you from here. I am starting to miss you.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
blog posts over the past 2 years.
Purposely unedited, with spelling mistakes, poor thought formation,
but to cleanse and show to my loyal following the roughness and energy
of some of the work. I am at heart a beatnik and the raw comes more
often from a deeper honesty that the editing can often kill.
But you have to know the rules to break them as kerouac said. well I
don't know if I know them, but by breaking them, I am that much closer
Enjoy it, or ignore it, but its for you and only you.
All my love to you.
PS - a big shout out to my loyal following in Romania.
will see the difference. I rush and do things too fast. Thats my
problem. i need to dedicate more time and not get emotionally upset
when things don't work my way. Things move only with hard work and
dedication done without attachment. Remember that. Just write then
give it a day and look over it and then you will see a big difference.
You can write those short stories....
How about on women. Cliche but women are universal. If I could
capture the many facets of women.
1. being a beautiful woman as a man
2. Monica Lucia, 35 year old fading beauty trying so hard to hold on
to life as it slips by
3. Renu bhabi , the beautiful widow frozen in time.
4. Isabel, the woman who loved too much
5. Raping a Nun.
letterman of my top ten concerns for humanity (I am aware that such a
framework is stupid but I want to entertain you, which I also realize
is dangerous, given you may be contented by the amusement value of
this exercise which would mask the capacity necessary to feel the true
discontent necessary to make change, in your life and in others)
- China. From their fish, to their global adventures in pursuit of
natural resources, to their dangerous quality of goods, and to their
eventual inevitable aggression. Before we pack our kids off to fight
them, wake up!
- middle east blah blah. Important but lets not get caught in a
hyponotic trance by the poetry of 9-11 and the jihad. China, asia
even is a far more important part of the world to come to terms with.
- The FARM bill. obesity, ethanol, high fructose corn syrup,
immigration, third world poverty all come colliding in big time in
- PHARM- med Complex, an 80 billion dollar a year industry.
America's make of 2 percent of the world yet consume 50 percent of
prescriptions. This is one of America's biggest exports. 10-20
percent of this usage is probably justified and a needed palliative,
but the problem is in the over-prescription and efficacy of medical
-. ok, global warming, but its more than just recycling. Stop
driving! Stop the Agricultural industrial complex. With its
pesticide run offs, antibiotic, hormone pumped meat and dairy. Not to
mention the cruelty to animals. Kill them but don't torture them.
- The internet. I know, the irony of it, but really, a better
assessment is needed to understand this medium. Currently it is
unquestioned good. We need to come to grips with its seductions and
powers. Google, GSM, facebook, there is a concern about privacy and
also a possibility that one day we will live in one big pod. American
high school reading rates also dropping, we need to do a conscious
assessment of what the digital age provides and what it takes.
There are more, but this is what is on my mind.
So what are you gonna do about it? I am uncomfortable with the
"professionalization" of activism and campaigns to save the world.
Its important but the first step has to be personal, individual, you
have to feel the gains in your life, from understanding this
Into the Wild - random ideas inspired by one of the most important American films to come out in a long time
Sean Penn's new film is profound on many levels.
Historically being based in 1991 after the fall of communism and the
end of history, no coincidence.
Pre SSRIs and all the mental health maddness. in this day and age
someone like him would be convinced that they were nuts or think they
were nuts and drug themselves up. Back then these did not exist.
Plays on the tradition of Thorueu, interesting to note that the Wild
was not hostile to him back then though we have gotten so faraway from
nature that it attacks and kiils us. In all of T's writing there is
not an element of a fear of surivival. American man at that time had
sufficient contact with nature in order to surivive. Penn's character
is saved by a bus, a piece of modernity in the jungle.
The idea of solitude in nature is a strange one. Striking that Penn's
character did not want to be around people. Can't take the American
out of the boy, individualism, alienation, go at it alone mentality.
The need to cut himself off from his family. It was what he
questioned least. It gave him the greatest sense of freedom. The
family, especially post 50s American family has been the greatest
source of destruction on children, with what they feed, the schools
they send you to, the stuff they buy you, the TV they make you watch.
you can be free unless you have no feelings for them. That radicalism
is needed nowadays, that no mercy, non sentimental way of living.
He is very clearly not a hippie in the limited sense of that word. he
does not want free love, does not want drugs, does not even want sex.
he doesn't care about any of those things. He is beyond that, not
interested, what he wants is a divine connection with the wild. Why?
What does it give him?
The modern world with all its trappings is absurd and frustrating,
especially for a 22 year old searching for the truth. That was where
I ws for a time. And i am still on that journey in many ways.
father sold dresses to black women. That they adored him and he
secretly them. Like all Indians, my father was a bit of a racist. In
that Archie Bunker, loving way. New York egged on his prejudices.
The city is surprisingly tolerant to expressing verbal bigotry,
probably explaining why we all get along so well. Because we express
just how we feel about jews, the chinese, gays, blacks. If you over
hear any real new york crowd of kids on a school yard, faggot and
don't jew me out are a accepted part of endearing yourself to someone.
Political correctness was invented by upper west side liberals who
went to columbia and NYU. The rest of us used language to express our
My father was also an anti-semite. Jew this and jew that. He got a
c+ in graduate school in a course taught by a jew. It was his only
non A grade, and he became convinced it was because of the jew. In
the the class there were also my father's other indian friends.
According to him they got c+'s as well. I heard that story millions
of times. I got strange chills reading Mein Kahph years later with
Hitler expressing similar dismay over a C he recieved by a jew that
turned him off painting. Jews should be careful with grades they
But my father loved Israeli jews, and the orthodox. He called them
real jews. Most of his interaction was at the falafel place on Jewel
aveneue, a hassidic enclave. Back then, there were not many options
for vegetarians when they wanted to eat out. My parents would eat
pizza or go for falafel. overtime these falafel joints became hindu
haunts. It was filled with yamacas, those hairy curls, turbans,
salwar kammezes, it was astounding how well we got along. I still
remember the warmth and friendliness of many of those people. They
would come sit next to my father and talk of india. Many had gone
there after their military service. India held a special place in
their heart for them.
Brando's spirit. He made me realize who i was: an actor and a
teacher. I couldn't believe that we got together but there he was,
standing by a window, over looking paris, asking me who I thought I
was. He did it with a sense of strenght, no nonsense directness, with
love and kindness.
I remembered this watching "The Ugly American" the other night, a
hallow film, made brighter and candid by Brando in the leading role.
He overpowers it with each move, perfectly doing what he always does:
be himself yet still convince you somehow of the role he plays. Its
as if brando is everything, takes on so many characters but what you
see, and what attracts you to him is his authencity. You know deep
down, he is always brando, and he winks and nods to you underneath
there but it doesn't take away from the character. He tells you to be
anything you want to be, as long as you know who you are and have a
strong foundation on that. Everything else is just play.
This modern world puts you between a rock and a hard place. It makes
you choose between your first born or your left arm. The calculus and
choices it imposes through its framework and rules is horrific. It
just wants you take the first step into the maze, and then its got
you. Take a drug, it makes you feel better, though now that you have
accepted this game, you have to work your way around the haphazard
science and the side effects. Try new ones, old ones don't work
anymore, keep uneasy, unstable, completely preoccupied with the state
of your health and mind.
Health, its the way to de-stabalize any resistance. How you gonna
fight george bush if you are sick? If we are not internally well, all
big changes are lost. Thats why they attack it, sickness is the basis
of domination in America. Their business is to make you sick and then
make you better. Providing solutions to the problems they created and
keep this cycle going. This is what is called economic growth and
progress folks. Wake up.
Always the lesser evil is justified in a world of such intense
suffering. Nothing is seen as being sacred, true, pure, the right
way. A good friend takes welbutrin to quit smoking, my expressing my
horror at such a choice is met with my not caring about how lung
cancer will end his life. My sister wants bariactric surgery, she is
obese and her diabetes is getting to her. Decisions decisions. I am
told I am an extremist and unrealistic. The day people stop saying
that about me, I know I will be doing something wrong. This world can
only be met with extremism and to be a realist is to be insane and
I met a great young woman, though a woman is a woman is a woman. Even
if they are activist revolutionaries. She doesn't believe in the
pursuit of happiness. And is not sure if anyone is happy. I felt so
sorry for her though she wanted to feel sorry for me. Its sickness
when we like feeling sorry for people. Patronizing, christian,
charitable, mind sickness.
If only you understood what its like to be alive, out in the wild.
But you are too scared to travel. To comfortable with your pain.
But these lame people, there only aim is to instill doubt in yourself.
Some doubt is healthy, but don't confuse doubt with fear.
I understand Neitzhe's frustration with people. We institutionalize
and justify weakness. We coddle people's problems, we take ourselves
way to seriously and fret when we have everything.
even if you got what you wanted, you would still be unhappy. Don't
you see that it has little to do with that? Our mind falls into
patterns and churns away good and bad.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Noteworthy GaboWorld Posts
- The Great NRI Novella
- American Girl
- I Dream Of Queens
- Greenwich Village original
- Film Review: Shoot the Piano Player
- I am American (Obama)
- Kashmir, India's Albatross
- Film Review: Ingmar Bergman
- Mayawati: Low caste Queen
- Passion Vs. Clockwork
- Heart of Darkness
- Italian Professors
- Break on Through
- Love, come back
- Albert Camus in Queens
- The Passions of Civilization
- Mumbai Terror
- Haiti Earthquake