cover3-1It has been way too long!  But I do have the best excuse. I was busy writing…and a few other things! So much has happened this past one year and I feel much gratitude. I turned into Alice and fell down the poetry-filled rabbit hole. I founded a literary press with two other fabulous poets, organized poetry events, conducted a poetry internship, participated in  litfests and other literary events (as an author), conducted a panel, did a workshop and along the way made so many wonderful friends. My book, Geography of Tongues, came out in December 2013 and this has enriched my life in so many ways. Thank you one and all for being part of this journey in one way or another! More journeys beckon. Those wishing to explore my verse, can order it from: Amazon.in (India) and Amazon.com (USA).  

Happy reading!


The other day a friend remarked that I could cross TEDx talk off my bucket list. I don’t have a bucket list, but I smiled and said ‘Yep.’ As a child I was very social and had absolutely no fear of meeting and talking to people. Once, when I was a pre-teen, my aunt asked me to sing a Hindi song while we were riding a crowded bus in London… and I did. ‘Imagine you are auditioning for a part in a Hindi film,’ she said. ‘Pretend you are sad and disillusioned with your life.’ I pretended, staring into space, past puzzled British citizens, as I belted out ‘Mere Zindigi Ne Mujh Pe (ehsaan kya kiya hai)’. How naive children are! Fast forward almost thirty years later and I still love meeting and being with people. But a talk? That too a TEDx talk? I don’t think so. TEDx speakers were innovators, changers, and inventors, whereas I was just a poet. ‘We want to hear more about poetry,’ I was told.  And so there I was, on a lovely spring March evening, on a stage marked with a big red dot, a giant bindi, if you will, and a carefully curated crowd, as the bindi on my own forehead pulsated.  I was nervous, my legs ready to become one with the ground, and yet I managed to talk for almost 18 minutes. I wanted people to fall in love with poetry the way I had, to embrace its power and feel its strength in encapsulating human experience within a few lines.

Did I succeed? You be the judge. The talk just became available on youtube this week. I’m just grateful for the experience to share what I love. Enjoy!

The (Great) Indian Poetry Project-An Update

The (Great) Indian Poetry Project

All good things take time. As many of you know, the (Great) Indian poetry project is very ambitious in scope, with a big online component. With hundreds of modern Indian poets come thousands of poems, and through those poems,  a powerful, multi-hued history of Modern India and its people. We are painstakingly collecting all the information of these wonderful poets and promise you an online archive like no other. We thank all of you for your support and patience so far. From June onwards, we will be introducing profiles, reviews, and interviews.

Another component of The (Great) Indian Poetry Project is a specialized press that will introduce new poetic voices through the publication of their first books. With two other talented poets, Minal Hajratwala and Ellen Kombiyil, we have formed The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective and our first offering will be out later this summer.

We are also collaborating with another poet…

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I know it’s a little to late to say happy new year. Instead, I wish you all a life in full bloom! I can’t believe this is my first post in 2013, but there you have it. My life in poetry/writing has taken such a fantastic turn and I have been busy discovering, learning and implementing. In many ways, 2013 is turning out to be a landmark year and I am so grateful for those that are part of this journey. There is so much to do and to read and to learn. Where do I begin…

Right before the advent of the new New Year, I finished my first poetry collection, ‘Geography of Tongues.’ It feels fantastic. In many ways, it is a synthesis of the past twenty years of my journey as a poet. Twenty years? Yep, you read right. I’m not that old, and yet I don’t think I was ready to bring my words out into the world any sooner. Completing a manuscript and getting it ready for publishing really puts things into perspective. Once it is front of you: edited, formatted and all set to print, you realize that your body of work is an entity of its own. It is so much like pregnancy and birth. You plant the seed, then feed and nurture it, but once you release it into the world, it no longer belongs to you fully. Once my book is out there, a little droplet, in this universe of words, it will merge with the words and experience of others and morph into something else.

I would love to share my process and will do so in another post, as it deserves its own space. Geography of Tongues is slated to come out by the end of this summer. Will keep you all updated.

I have also been redesigning/redefining THE (GREAT) INDIAN POETRY PROJECT. After doing a small test launch, I realized how extensive this project is.  We are in the process of building a strong team and an online platform that is easy to use. The question of how to archive poetry is definitely not an easy one. However, asking this very question has set me on a journey that is nothing less than thrilling. It has turned me into an excavator of words, and through that the unearthing of histories and lives 🙂

In the midst of all of this, I have joined forces with two more talented poets, Minal Hajratwala and Ellen Kombiyil, to form a poetry collective, where we will be primarily publishing the first books of Indian poets. This has been a dream of mine for so long and I am really excited about opening a bigger dialogue on Indian poetry, through the introduction of new/fresh voices. We have aptly named it,’ THE (GREAT) INDIAN POETRY COLLECTIVE.’

I also had the honor of giving a TEDx talk on Why Poetry Matters, this March, in Bangalore, and was thrilled to be able to share my love for poetry, while being part of a greater dialogue on innovation in India, with some incredible people. Links to follow soon!

There’s more brewing on the back burner (all things poetry), which I hope to share with you all soon. Will be blogging more regularly and hope to hear from others.

Until then, keep writing till your fingers turn blue!


THE BOOKWALLAH Travelling Library

What happens when six talented writers journey 2000 Km across India by train? Check out THE BOOKWALLAH  to find out.  As part of a pre-event sponsored by The Bangalore Literary Festival, THE BOOKWALLAH brings to namma Bengaluru three Indian writers-poet Sudeep Sen, literary critic and novelist Chandrahas Choudhury and poet & writer Annie Zaidi, along with Australian novelists Michelle De Kretser, Kirsty Murray and journalist/media personality Benjamin Law.

These writers bring with them a unique travelling library, housed in handmade Kangaroo leather trunks that convert into bookcases, aiming to forge connections and glean/share stories.

The first day’s events, at the Bangalore International Centre, Domlur, were a marriage of poetry and prose, with Chandrahas Choudhury illustrating “Ten Ways the Novel Can Change Your Life” with beautiful excerpts from the novels of Chekov, Mo Yan, Orhan Pamuk and more. Next, poet Sudeep Sen, in his lilting voice, read from his newly launched anthology, ‘The Harper Collin Book of English Poetry’ as well as other poems of his. Add to this the commentary of one of Bangalore’s first Rockstars, the endearing Ranjon Ghoshal, whose colorful words, clothes and beard, made the night a most lovely one!

Also check out the bookshop, set up by Comma365. How many books did I buy? Don’t ask, don’t tell!

To learn about THE BOOKWALLAH’s upcoming events, visit THE BOOKWALLAH events page.


Dear Friends,

I really feel strongly about our newspapers being more kid-friendly and appropriate for the general public. I was taken aback by Ashley Tellis’s article in last Sunday’s edition of DNA, which I found VERY inappropriate for a national daily newspaper. I have no personal issues with Mr. Tellis’s politics or his activism. But I feel very strongly that he needs to be aware of his audience. There are blogs and alternate media that have just as big an audience as a national newspaper. Articles from our daily newspapers are often read out in school classrooms. Obviously, this article would not be one of them. Anyway, please read the article, and if you feel the same, do write to the editor to voice your displeasure, at: inbox@dnaindia.net

Dear Editors of DNA,
This is to inform you that my family, along with several others, are shocked and surprised at the content published in last week’s Sunday edition and may be terminating our subscriptions.
Initially, many of us switched over from Times of India to DNA, because we felt DNA had more integrity and wasn’t gimmicky, in terms of publishing racy pictures, etc. However, Ashley Tellis’s article, ‘The Bad Sex Award goes to Indian Men.’ was in very poor taste and not at all fitting for a daily newspaper that caters to the general public, including children. My children read the Sunday edition and the last thing one would want their child to read is a sexually explicit rant (that too by an unhappy and cynical man). As a trained journalist, one has to ask whether this article was even read by your editors and whether DNA has any censorship protocols in place. I would like to make clear that I am a strong supporter of gay rights and found this article very insulting to gay Indian men as well. Tellis’s generalizations and graphic descriptions do nothing to create awareness of the struggles and challenges of the gay Indian community. The topic in this article could have been addressed with much more dignity and class.
I am so disappointed that DNA could stoop to this level. It really had the potential to become one of India’s foremost newspapers.
I would appreciate an explanation as to how DNA feels this sexually explicit article is appropriate for their Sunday edition and why they felt no need to censor the contents, although they censored the word ‘fuck’ in it. I think your younger readers deserve an apology and that you should have a warning in the beginning of such articles that content may be inappropriate for ages 18 and younger. Nevertheless, you have lost quite a few readers/supporters because of this, myself included.
Shikha Malaviya


We have been subscribing to DNA (Daily News & Analysis) for almost a year now and have been satisfied with it, for the most part, despite its political leanings towards the BJP. Times of India had too much gratuitous oomph in the form of risque pictures (although Times of India’s Crest edition has redeemed their reputation significantly.) and I was looking for something that was crisp and creative. DNA initially gave me that impression. I always enjoy their Sunday Mag section, because it gives me something to think about, whether they be opinions or book reviews. I might not agree with everything, but that’s what freedom of expression is all about. And then enters Grumpy Gay Indian Man who doesn’t seem to like society in general. I know, on the one hand BJP and then Gay rights? Well, that’s the beauty of Indian democracy and I love that DNA has no qualms in representing a spectrum. However, I was quite disturbed by what I read in the October 7th issue, in an article by the ever controversial and outspoken Ashley Tellis. I had a problem with Tellis’s strong views in the past regarding Jeet Thayil’s Booker Prize nomination and blogged about it  This time, Ashley’s ire is targeted at gay Indian men, in a piece called ‘The Bad sex award goes to Indian Men.’

In the first paragraph, Ashley Tellis says:
‘One of the best-kept secrets about gay life in India is that almost all gay sex here is lousy. I have to report that I have never had decent sex here, and I don’t think I ever will. Apart from the fact that Indians in general are lousy at sex and have all sorts of weird hang-ups about it, gay sex here has a particular set of sicknesses associated with it. So, Indian men who want to and do have gay sex also have no qualms about being disgusted by it and doing it badly. Culture legitimises that.

The subsequent paragraphs go into graphic detail about gay Indian men and their sex practices

Now if this article appeared in OUT magazine or in Trikone, I’d have read it and said fine. But the Sunday newspaper which my children flip through? I’ve never seen an article like this in The Hindu, The Times of India or Indian Express. Which makes me wonder what is DNA’s agenda? What tone are they trying to set. Every paper has an agenda. I went to journalism school, I read Noam Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent. All media persons would agree that a newspaper has an agenda. But something here just doesn’t seem right. I’ve lived in two of the most gay friendly cities in the world and had vocal gay/lesbian professors/friends, but have never seen this type of bitterness/disdain for their society and people. Which brings me to the question, ‘What is Ashley Tellis’s agenda?’ Is this all just a publicity stunt for both the DNA and Ashley Tellis? After all, I’m talking about him and I’m sure others are too. To balance the spectrum, I’ve never even seen an article on heterosexual sex like this in the Sunday newspaper. Trust me, my reaction would be exactly the same.

Could I be overreacting? Am I a prude? Read the article and tell me what you think? Would you want your children reading this in the Sunday paper? Obviously, if I don’t like it, I can stop reading it, which is probably what I will do. I’m giving my DNA subscription till the end of this month.

All those in passionate pursuit of preserving the good old Sunday Newspaper, say aye!


Jaipur Literary Festival, 2011.

Yes Folks, it’s that time of year again. Literary festivals are popping up like wild mushrooms all over India and the next few months offer a cornucopia of events for the literary inclined. The Kovalam Literary Festival (KLF) kicked off the season last week, with an event in Delhi and a weekend litfest in Kovalam, Kerala. Poet, writer and Booker Nominee Jeet Thayil was the star attraction at the Delhi event, in conversation with Aleph Books founder and writer David Davidar. Close on the heels of KLF are Literature Live in Bombay (OCT 31-NOV 4), The Poetry with Prakriti Festival in Chennai (slated to be in early December), The Bangalore Literature Festival (DEC 7-9), The Goa Arts and Literature festival (DEC 13-17), Mumbai Fully Booked, a Times of India initiative (slated for December), The Hyderabad Literary Festival (JAN 18-20, 2013) and the grandest of them all, The Jaipur Literature Festival (JAN 24-28, 2013). Those who can’t make it for any of the above or who haven’t quite got their fill, can get a taste of more literary action at Mumbai’s most popular arts event, The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (FEB 2-10, 2012).

I hope to attend three of these events at least, especially the granddaddy of them all-The Jaipur Literature festival. Hope to see some of you there as well. I’ll be the one wearing magenta 😉



100 TPC Cairo

Art presents the opportunity to influence change in the global social, environmental and political landscape. Poetry, very specifically, can gather people together for issues affecting the world. As a genre it forms an ideal creative outlet while allowing room for expression without the limits of overly rigid rules.”

Am very excited about how the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event is shaping up here in Bangalore. In the process, I have come across so many talented and warm-hearted people, committed to the arts.  Apart from the conventional poetry reading, we will have poetry enacted in the style of image theatre, a reading of a lyric essay and some music too. Check out our line up at:


We’ve been getting some press coverage too:
An article in yesterday’s issue of The Hindu, by Jessu John, explains how 100 Thousand Poets for Change is creating ripples all over the world. In India, events are being held in BangaloreNew Delhi and Pune.


Narmada Valley villagers protest illegal dam water levels

There are days when things hit you, one after the other, and you wonder what is the world coming to? You feel grateful for all that you have and feel sheepish for ever complaining. Are we ever really free, you wonder, after seeing the pitted and swollen soles of a woman who has been standing chin deep in water for 15 days, to protest the illegal rising of a dam that will wash away her village.

A villager’s feet after standing 15 days in water

Are we really ever free, you wonder, after seeing a cartoonist getting arrested for drawing a  caricature of government corruption.

The caricature that got cartoonist Aseem Trivedi arrested

Are we ever really free, as body after body lie down, in silent protest of a new nuclear power plant, that will bring with it the threat of radiation.

The pictures are heart breaking, but I post them to bring perspective in our own lives. Perhaps we will be moved to take a break from our usual routines and find a way to help those whose very existence are under constant threat.