An extract from the text presented by the writers of Trickster City
, about writing and the city, on the occassion of the launch of their book.
Chiselling ones writing through ones own experience, memories and perspectives, we encountered questions. To move ahead without thinking these questions through was impossible. And so we asked ourselves:
Can every day be accounted for?
Can every moment be recalled and narrated?
Does every passing moment get absorbed in our past?
Every space is somewhat like a story. A story told over many pages. And there are those pages too, which get folded at the edges, and so, when they are turned, they either wrap and silence many pages, or open out several new pages. Time is revealed, or gets concealed in this way. And along with it, many people too.
This is the threshold at which we realised that – to write is to keep active a sense of the force of life. This sense is for the writer, for the one who is being written about, and also for the thoughts and visions that unfold when one writes.
Read the entire text (download a pdf) from here
Trickster City is an important book as it documents, in some detail, the death of a certain kind of activism and resistance – a politics of public demonstrations, mass rallies and legal notices. Disputes over land, housing and private ownership have a rich legal history in post-Independence India, where the state has wide powers to appropriate private land and resources for what it deems as the greater public good...
Trickster City’s greatest strength is its refusal to adopt the question-answer, problem-solution format beloved to activists and development workers. The writers engage with the state and its institutions as one would a wealthy, yet cantankerous, old aunt: someone who could conceivably be a source of support and assistance, and occasionally is. But most of the time, she frustrates one’s endeavours, disrupts the best laid plans and will, in all likelihood, outlive us all.
Extracted from a review of "Trickster City: Writings from the belly of the metropolis"
, Penguin (India), 2010, by Azra Tabassum, Jaanu Nagar, Lakhmi Chand Kohli, Rakesh Khairalia, Yashoda Singh, Kiran Verma, Suraj Rai, Neelofar, Kulwinder Kaur, Shamsher Ali, Babli Rai, Ankur Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Love Anand, Nasreen, Rabiya Quraishy, Sunita Nishad, Saifuddin, Arish Qureshi, Tripan Kumar; Translated from hindi by Shveta Sarda.
Read the entire text by Aman Sethi here
Read more about Trickster City here
A page from an old diary feels like "a wet currency note that has been dried on a hot surface," a mini-story all by itself. A list of the dishes at a fancy wedding reception ends with: "An entire table just for glasses of water." Some of us might have picked a glass up from just such a table, but never thought of it as an entire table.
The following piece of virtuoso writing does not say a word about policemen, but ends up saying reams by describing the effect of a few policemen walking down a lane: "Young men retreated into their houses. Men covered their card games with bedsheets. Autorickshaw drivers moved their three-wheelers to the side. Everything abated." All this is not to imply that the book works only at the level of detail. There are stories here that Chekov would have been happy to write. Some of the book’s most powerful and revelatory writing is in the sections describing a colony’s eviction and resettlement: the air of dread in the days leading up to the eviction; the almost surreal experience of demolition; the all-important need to prove one’s existence through documents; the starting afresh on a desolate tract of land. These are narrated with humour, anger, irony, and empathy but never self-pity.
Extracted from a review of "Trickster City: Writings from the belly of the metropolis", Penguin (India), 2010, by Azra Tabassum, Jaanu Nagar, Lakhmi Chand Kohli, Rakesh Khairalia, Yashoda Singh, Kiran Verma, Suraj Rai, Neelofar, Kulwinder Kaur, Shamsher Ali, Babli Rai, Ankur Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Love Anand, Nasreen, Rabiya Quraishy, Sunita Nishad, Saifuddin, Arish Qureshi, Tripan Kumar; Translated from hindi by Shveta Sarda.
from "On fragile ground"
by Srinath Perur in The Deccan Herald
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When one dwells in a place, one also abides by the ideas that are accepted in that place as being ideal for living. We even think of our future from within the mesh of these ideas. What seems to be at stake here is a consensus, arrived at over a long duration, about what should be sustained as the basis according to which life ought to be led. When a dwelling that has existed for a long time is broken, it is not only their homes that people are evicted out of. Demolition threatens people by scraping at the very foundations they have built their entire lives on.
It was after the demolition of many homes that some people found a place to live in, in Ghevra. The demolition of ones house leaves one steeped in many difficulties. In some ways, the energy mustered by different people to take care of their daily needs after a demolition, becomes a new basis on which to start constructing life afresh in a new place.
These needs include food, water, electricity, roads, means of transport, ways of earning a living, a house, a toilet. But there are some things which have more to do with ones heart and with a search for inner peace and self confidence, which also need an externalisation and a form. Such as: a mosque to offer namaz, a gurudwara to listen to guruwani, a church to find some peace of mind, a temple to pray in. These find their own place amidst the jostle of the everyday.
And they have in Ghevra too.
The daily journey to Ghevra has now become a pleasant one for me, but as I approach the turn that leads into Ghevra I can see, children in their school uniforms, restlessly crossing the road. Trying to get back to their homes, they call out to any richshaw driving past, "Bhaiyya, please take us along!" After four passengers have filled a single rickshaw, they climb in, standing in the space that is leftover between them. When the rickshaws don't slow down to take them in, they run along them and hang from the edges, uninvited. Sometimes they get together in small groups and plead with the drivers of trucks that carry mud, but which are empty, and travel homewards in them, joking with one another. Some travel without permission, clinging to the ladders and handles on the water tanks on their way to Ghevra, sometimes getting a beating from the drivers for it. One day I saw a water tank on its way to Ghevra. A boy hung on to it, even though at the back of the vehicle was painted the line: Don't hang from me, or I'll throw you off!
What makes someone silent, and when? It's so hard to understand this. Sometimes people are fearful of teams of government officials, and at other times it is the officials who get frightened by the thought of what people might do. What makes government officials fearful?
That day, DTC buses had arrived in Ghevra and left from there all morning according to their usual routine. The weather was clear, people smiled, and two lines of chalk powder ran along the edges of the road leading into Ghevra. Two white lines, running along the road, turning as the road bends. Our story too, takes a turn along one such bend. The driver of the DTC bus, route number 949, alights from the bus and asks a shopkeeper, "What's going on here?" Folding a betel leaf, the shopkeeper replies, "The Toilet is about to be inaugurated. The MLA is coming to Ghevra."
Evening was descending. The sun mellowed the red glow that it had cast over the sky. The DTC bus stood at one edge of the road, the board announcing where all it would go pasted on its forehead. Passengers climbed into it, and finding seats they could sit on, sighed with relief. Those already seated repeated for any who climbed in after them, where the bus was headed towards.
A TATA Sumo drove up the road. The words, "Government of India" were printed on its front. Two loudspeakers were fixed on top of it. A sound emerged from them.
The day dissolved amidst the clutter of "bring this", "buy that". No time to be still and talk. No respite. Evening softly descended upon the accumulations of the day. Bulbs hanging from the poles lining the street lit up, spreading a white glow. Lights shone out into the darkness from the houses made with rolled out bamboo mats. Grass that had sprouted on the unpaved lanes looked thick in the dark. I'm inside. Noises and sounds from the neighbouring houses are so close that they seem to be rising from the dark corners inside my own room. It's my first night in Ghevra.