Saturday, November 9, 2013

South Asian Ensemble

Summer and Fall 2013 Vol 5 No. 3 & 4

The unprofitable work of literature

Rajesh Sharma   

The oldest memories with me include a balding and bespectacled old head reading a book held up by a hairy hand with cracked brown skin. A reflective grin spreads or shrinks, prompted by mysterious proceedings in the magic mirror in front.
Memory’s selection tool functions strangely.
            Sood Uncle. He ran a shop that never had more than… ten books? A banyan had grown in the shop’s forehead, hanging down like hair from aging eyebrows. Seven steps into the shop you faced darkness that tasted damp with the odor of rats’ droppings. I bought my first books, on credit to be paid by my mother’s brother, from Sood Uncle. My mother’s mother once confided to me that this Sood Uncle was a legendary kanjoos. Unlimitedly kanjoos, she said.
            Why did he run a book shop? I had never seen anyone other than himself there. Not even a departing buyer’s shadow. Did he do it to read the books he was supposed to sell? Was the shop a retreat from a hostile wife’s nagging intrusions? I remember my uncle and I stayed at his house for a week or so when he with his wife had to go to Bahrain to spend some time with their son. It was a bookless house, strictly and austerely bookless.
            In my memory he is the only book seller who actually read books. He must have made no profits in the business.

Writers have often noted the peculiar demand of their vocation. That they have to transact in used currency – the currency of words – and work on it to produce novelty. The work of literature consists largely – not entirely, though – in this. Yama, the teacher in Katha Upanishad, tells Nachiketa that immortal truth is produced by rubbing against each other, one upon the other, two pieces of (the oh-so-mortal, termite-loved) wood. For the sake of this truth, Nachiketa has spurned the offers of all wealth… all other wealth.
Perhaps here is one secret of literature’s immortality: the value that your labour’s work produces in the stuff, already available, of mundane exchange.
In this secret stands disclosed the indistinction, extremely demanding, between production and creation.
The indistinction, achieved as much as glimpsed, transfigures the nature of profit.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sasenarine Persaud's review of South Asian Ensemble

An extract from Sasenarine Persaud's review of South Asian Ensemble:
"Stories, excerpts, poems, essays, photography, paintings, reviews and interviews all go into making this eclectic publication. The contributions are not only by, or about, South Asians. The great strength of South Asian Ensemble is the translations from Indian languages."- Sasenarine Persaud's

Complete review here:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Complete Mukti - How to Read a Manmohanism

By Rajesh Sharma

'Complete Mukti' - Prime Minister Singh's hybrid phrase delivered from the Red Fort today, on 15 August 2013. 

Is it a symptom of neoliberal pathologies of exclusive developmentalism transplanted on the Indian soil from abroad? 

Does it say, despite 'their' silence, that we must now pick up a redesigned outfit of freedom - of freedom defined in and qualified by Western(ized) corporate terms? 

At the same time, the brand new Manmohanism validates the operations of the native religious-corporate complex - by reimagining 'Mukti' in terms of the entertainment and fashion ideology of completism. 

Recall Raymond's ad campaign: The Complete Man.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bradley Snowden Assange

Badri Raina

Bradley Snowden Assange, I say, for
You are one—born to protect
What was once proudly American;
Selfless beyond our tutored  

Even as all around us, the “best” hoard
Their lives and open their abuse
On behalf of the “patriotic” gun,
The corporate board, and the politics
That “god-fearing” red-necks use
To trample the world beneath
The ordained boot, romping from
One massacre to the other
Like proverbial bandicoot,
Snooping among “unalienable”
Privacies not just of those without
“manifest destiny,” but of those
That inhabit the “land of the free,”
You fling your soul like streak
Of light across the
Satanic gloom, thinking nothing
Of losing your life if, courting death,
You may illume to common sight
And knowledge the perfidies of those
That, pretending to maim and disfigure
On our behalf, fatten on the ruse.

Bradley Snowden Assange, in our trapped
Misery, the least we may do
Is to salute you, not just as martyrs
But harbingers of hope and apostles
Of truth, returning us to the lad
In the manger whom Herod, like
Our present-day tyrants, saw
As the mortal danger who had
Best be dead.

Not he, but the empire crumbled
As the force of innocence rumbled
Through earth and sky;
You beckon us to something similar
Even as we sneak or standby.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Trayvon Martin

By Badri Raina

You forgot your Biblical lessons,
Dear boy; God being Light, all
Good things are white;
And Satan being the prince
Of darkness, being born black
Is a hopeless mess.
Against such black vicissitudes
Was a just law found that said
To the white killer, “stand your ground.”
Only some sixty million of your forefathers
Were  murdered in the slave trade;
Too many more are still left
To be made dead. Sinners are those
That think racism is bad.
Only when non-white trash gathers
Into a common cause is racism racism;
Zimmerman is merely God’s own prism.
From the Fuhrer he remembered how
The Swastika was not racist emblem,
But Zarathustra’s  declaration
That only a chosen some
Had right over life, death, and the fun
Born of  extermination; thus
Zimmerman was only furthering
The  pure Aryan nation.
Watch Obama hold his thinking head,
Wondering how to balance
The claims of white power with
The  piquant tragedy of the dead.
Statecraft is a matter of great
Consideration of how to do
The bidding of the endowed
Without seeming to do so.
Dear Martin that art now in the
Netherworld, from the Netherworld
Itself must issue forth a new light
That bids adieu to the jaundiced ray
That makes difference between
Zimmerman and you, and bears
Promise to make mankind
All of one hue.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Gods above us

By Badri Raina

They had great faith in the gods
Dotting the hills and dales—
Those men and women who
Are now corpses.

Yet, not one among those that
Survived was heard to say
“The gods govern our conditions;
Not the government, not the builders,
Not the hoteliers, not the miners—
None of these are responsible, since
God willed it so.”

All of their moaning suggested
How unstuck they were with the gods
They believed in.
Of all the tangled flesh and bone
That lay mangled among the rubble,
One corpse stood out:

Bang in the sanctum sanctorum,
This young man, dead and askew,
Had open eyes full of consternation
Fixed searingly upon the god-in-chief.
It was as though in his moment
Of dying, his amazement at the deity’s
Uncaring repose was too much to hide.
He might have been thinking, “How
Could you let this happen?”

The bold accusation in his eyes,
Resentfully alive in his death,
Waits for answer.