The Furies By Suzy McKee Charnas

A New Kind Of Happiness – No, Really!

Around five years ago, in a tiny bookshop on Fergusson College Road in Pune, I found a new kind of happiness I didn’t even know existed. I was waiting for someone, killing time, and saw a sign: “All books Rs. 30 each”. That’s the only reason I went inside the shop. And found The Furies by Suzy McKee Charnas. It said $22.95 on the dust jacket; I paid Rs 30 for the massive hardback. And it’s the only copy of this book that I’ve ever seen.

I read this feminist allegory, spellbound, on a train. For those hours I felt like a berserker. I exhilaratingly, uninhibitedly wanted to kill every man on the train and crow over his body, held back by no rational argument. It was happy, uncomplicated bloodlust.

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Girls Hostel 2: the Long Story



Written for Yahoo Originals. The original, slightly 
different version appeared here.

I started living in a girls’ hostel after working as a journalist for two years. When I worked I’d had a house, a pancard, a non-SBI bank account, a gas connection, a fridge, a life(ish) and most importantly a thoroughly co-ed social life. Suddenly, by some monstrous twist of fate, I arrived in JNU to study history. Studying was the best alibi I could think of to avoid working life. I also thought it might give me time to deal with personal crisis. My reasons for joining the hostel were utilitarian. I wanted to live cheaply and avoid asshole landlords in Delhi. I was not, by even the most generous account, a very adventurous or adaptive person.

In my head, the hostel was a bi-weekly dormitory, not home. I didn’t know much about girls’ hostels. There was the story of Sundari the female dog that bit all men that came near the girls’ hostel in CIEFL, Hyderabad. I thought girls’ hostels as some of sort of patriarchy imposed zenana, an antiquated institution that had no business existing in this Era Of Progress. I also, I’m ashamed to admit now, thought it was a place one goes to without volition, only if all else fails. I thought my social life was too fluid, too “queer”, to really imagine living somewhere where men were not allowed. A girls’ hostel felt like a an unnecessary return to the gratingly firm ground of gender and sex. Of course, I couldn’t have been more wrong about what was in store for me.

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One Fateful Weekend In A Girls Hostel

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I’ve been kicked out of my girls hostel for the last three months. I feel both existentially dislodged and relieved. I’m not sure when I’ll get back in. I’d been in and out to get my things, but I hadn’t stayed a night. I had to pull myself away; rip out the bandaid swiftly. I live elsewhere now and I’m trying to process what I miss and what I don’t.

I don’t miss the feeling of of being surrounded by budding academics who talk too much about their teachers, their work and their departments. Students conjugally bound to academic disciplines begin to lack the power to self-narrativise. Everyone chit-chats about the desultory circumstances that surround us (cats, grades, and mess food) and internal lives malinger unaired. Why construct a backstory and a personality when the world is offering the chance to research, publish and teach about not-you. For the rest of your life.

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“Showing Up” for the Muse, à la Gilbert, or: Gods Help Us

Have been reading Derrick Jensen’s “Dreams”, after “A Language Older Than Words”. He writes more in this book on the value of seeing life everywhere we look, and not just in humans. His  dreamgiver and muse are examples (not to mention animals, plants, fungi, rocks and stars).

I’m all in favour of the dreamgiver. Didn’t she just give me a dream where a flash mob was doing weird dances to attract cattle and thereby hustle them?

A muse, however, is a different matter. Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame is convinced that you have to show up every day, whether your muse does or not, and that gives her (the muse) the impression that you’re going to stick around. Gilbert is pretty sure she wants to separate a person from their creativity, and perform rituals in order to unite the two every day in the Sacred Work. Read More…

Panther Panchali

(Title Credit: Joshua Muyiwa)

I was reading this beautiful Nora Roberts book recently (there are non-beautiful ones, hard though it is to admit) in which the heroine encounters a panther as a child and becomes fascinated with panthers to the extent that she tracks them and pursues encounters with them all her life on the pretext of a career in wildlife conservation (but really, you know, she’s just looking for cheap thrills, thinks the reader jealously). The antagonist – can’t have chick lit without an antagonist, even if internal – wants to kill these same panthers, of course, because they stand for the heroine’s wild indomitable heart. But while all these undercurrents and connotations are happening in the reader’s (my) head, one is explicitly lectured about the usual “we encroached on their habitat, so they’re encroaching on ours” sort of thing.

All this is mere preamble to the shocking news I’m about to tell you (meaning you already read it in the paper last month while I was still reading the previous month’s newspapers before using them to dispose of, er, feminine waste): Read More…

In Which We Can’t Say “Ineffable”

The first phase of the monsoon (as meteorologists say) was a failure. We didn’t invoke the rain gods enough, apparently. And now they’re angry. They’ve cleaned out the dirt aggregated in our potholes, and we need to replace our sandals – wait, let’s face it, I wear floaters, the most deglam kind – before we slip and land face down in mud with our spines split open for the crows to feed on. Not that any health-conscious crow will want the antibiotic- and maida-pumped sack of skin that is me. It makes my head ache to think about the monsoon. This rain can’t possibly mean anything, because it’s already everything it needs to be. Monsoon is what meaning wants to be when it grows up and gets a life. You can just picture all the little teenage Meanings telling each other in college: “I just need three Os and an S to graduate.” Read More…

In Which We (Don’t) Run for Deer Life

I was listening to a Kabir poem (sung by Kumar Gandharva) recently – I know, I know, I shouldn’t have gone to that school as a kid, but it’s too late, now they’ve implanted Substance in my mind. It addresses the listener as a deer and tells her to graze with discrimination (literally, go to your Twitter account and unfollow that tweeter you’ve always wanted to unfollow). The listener’s told cryptically to graze in the first and second forests, but not in the third forest. Now, the internet tells me that the first forest represents the spiritual realm, the second forest the intellect, and the third forest the physical reality that we experience through our senses.

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In Which We Have Mars Attacks

In my family we hated traffic rule violators in (I discovered much, much later after being properly socialized) an especially intense way, a popular nerdy joke being that people who drove in the wrong direction (on either one-ways or two-ways) were like minority charge carriers, sort of electrons (or lack thereof) that carry around the minority charge in a semiconductor diode.

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In Which We Pigeon Out of Everything

The poshest mall I’ve seen in the city (excluding Whitefield for a minute) is Meenakshi on Bannerghatta Road, and I was impressed until I was told firmly that Orion Mall in Yesvantpur was much posher (guess what, I looked up the comparative and superlative forms of “posh” to make sure this was a grammatically posh piece of writing).

I haven’t actually been there yet, being of the firm opinion that if you want to get to any end of Bengaluru nowadays, you need to have been born there. But I read recently that one of the interesting things about Orion is the parakeet colony near it. Apparently thousands of parakeets live in a green patch near Orion mall, and the BBMP is now trying to ensure it stays that way.

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