Poonam Srivastava

2 poems by Poonam Srivastava

Poem for Steve CannonLove you madlyprofessor you act so badly mr. tribes your heart is lovely steve cannon when you are talking about dreams or Diane or whats wrong with this picture. You see more than the age of the screen can ever hope to share or friend deeper than any book and we both know books that can friend deep deep deep. as you move to the next space the next place the next trace of your brilliance to sparkle upon me and everyone lucky enough to know you, know this: love you madly.
Poonam Srivastava 2014
Remembering Gabriel Garcia Marques
Gabriel!Garcia!
Marquez!"It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams."Now pursue your dreams in other realms

still feed us as the dead parents an insomniac child

Now nestle in my heart with Jayne Cortez and my dad

and tell me stories from the other side, a one i am for

imagining, for muzing, for shading this one.

It's not true people stop living when they die; they stop

living when they are no longer remembered.

Gabriel.

You will live longer than a hundred years. Of solitude you

set the travel maps, of dreams you drew the portraits.

Colombia is crying and so am I. You lived rich you lived

awake and dreamt hard. The words thank you for your

handling. The world thanks you for your time. Now

whisper something in my ear. You will not die whilst

I live.

It's not true people stop living when they die; they stop

living when they are no longer remembered.

 
Poonam Srivastava 2014

Towards a Post War Language

Towards a Post War Language

by Poonam Srivistava

The time has come        The people said

To talk of other things.         Not of kings and crowns

Of wealth and boundries                     But of life.

It is time to say this loudly                And In every tongue,

Damn the Damners who damn things up

Who hurt the flow so they can       Grow big bellies on the bloody bodies  Of Enemies, perhaps red, perhaps towelheads.

Its time to Damn the Damners who Damn things up.

Blow things up.              Decimate children, people and planet.

Time now to state

We take your language of war        We lay it down by the banks of the              River of Humanity.

We wash your dirty words of collataral damage,                  Of civilian, military, peace zone, strike zone, victory, defeat,

                 Troop, military base, international threat...

We wash your twisted construct of logic       The  "We are Right and They are Wrong" The "Our way is worth the killing and the dying"          The "Our guns protect our peace protect our children                  Our way of life"

We wash all these lies              In the River of humanity                   And lift the Dams of War

Damnation now to the Damners.

While your war empoverishes us        While your saving graces and bailouts are          Reserved for the big powers of war

The people awaken and take back their voice.       Your words and constructs will be             Absorbed into earth's rich soil

Broken down by carbon and phosphorous                 Reduced to primal sound.        Set free to swim and fly like fish and dove.

Bearing life's pain and pleasure                      Without the extra carry on burden of war.

A new language will birth of the released sounds.

Will wander from the hearts and souls to   Bury deep within our one earth's magma core.  The volcanic heat taking us to rich red rock formation       That freely stand for all life                      For all souls to echo voices against.

Damn the damners whose time is up

To cede to planetary peace        Now no more wage slavery             Debt chains holding us back from        Our true roles as creators all                   Pleasure and pain no longer linked to            Your war machine of invisible slavery.

Our world without war is born

Imagine it.     Visualize it.       It is so.                          Not by making things right.              Not by might over fright.            By the river of humanity                                      As it washes its ears clean of the lies.

Turns its ears over to the loved ones             Turns away from the fear and fearmongerers      That damn us and our homes.

No longer will we feed our truth as grist for the war machine.            Now we work and play for creation of beauty and art

And in the natural pains and pleasures of the cycle of birth and death     The 24 hours of the day      The biorhythm that connects us

We will damn the damners

And free the language of love.

The language of peace.

The langage of humanity post war.

Freedom from their corporate lust.

Freedom from the consumerist diet we have assumed.

Freedom from lies of us and them and words with no meanings like democracy and socialism.

Within the new construct we will build a new economy and a new world

Damn the damners they cannot damn us with our powerful tongues now,

We are in tune with the language of love.

© Poonam Srivastava

Slumdog Millionaire or Danny Boyle Lets His Dogs Out.

Review by poonam srivastava

Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire has won the hearts of so many. It has carried away Golden Globes, Oscars, and other prizes. The movie is a supposed feel good love story. I saw a horrific series of images of torture and extreme human degradation with no real explanations of their genesis or any real transformation of the characters or the situation, interspersed with greed and violence centered on the  desire to accumulate great wealth. The international applause seems to be mostly from those ignorant of the plot subject. This movie appears to me a contemporary case of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Any one with a sense of story will have to suspend that in order to enjoy Slumdog. The hero, a boy named Jamal, and his brother, Salim, flee their devastated slum home along with girl, Latika, from their urban slum due to Hindu violence. The hero and the girl are in love. The three are somehow spun into a version of the three musketeers as they adventure into the jungle that is Mumbai. They are bonded by a nearly deadly Pinnochio-esque experience with a beggar mafia. The brothers lose the girl but save each other. Then when they go to find the girl again, suddenly Salim, the older (and darker) brother shoos off Jamal, the younger (lighter and more ethical one) with the same gun he had used to free her. (What?) (There seems to be an internalized racism here.) The character of Latika is stereotypical of a western idea of the poor suffering third world woman. She has no agency in this role. Latika, despite the energy the child actor brought to the screen becomes a commodity traded by men. However, her virginity is proclaimed as intact at the moment the brothers rescue her. Short lived as that rescue may be. Then when Jamal infiltrates the house of her captor to steal her away, she is concerned not with Jamal’s life but with the material means of their escape. “What will we live on?” she says. “Love.” he says. That is basically the insipid level of dialogue that is maintained through the film. Boyle and the people responsible for making this film had a wealth of strong women characters in other Indian films (Spices for example) and right in the slums they shot in. Apparently they weren’t looking. I can say that I have been in the company of the women of India that till fields and break the stones for the roads by hands and they are not Latika. The timing of the movie was painfully slow. We are subjected to an hour, or so it certainly feels, of an insipid flashback. The story starts at the point where the hero, Jamal, is taken from the television studio into police custody. We are immediately assaulted with images of electrocution and water torture akin to Guantanamo Bay. His crime, winning where others have lost, at a television game show hardly matches the level of suffering. It is unclear who called the police in. India is rife with police corruption, with payoffs, based on personal power. Dragging uninspired dialogue, "How would a chai walla know the answer to that?", accompany the torture and are woven with scenes of great shock from a violent and impoverished childhood. Boy falls into shit hole. Boy gets hit in the head with a book. Boy runs with friends from cops carrying sticks. All this to show what? The way out of the slums is a television game show? The child actors are the only bright spots in the film. They come on the screen there is a breath of fresh air. The constant expression of confusion and humility that the teen/adult Jamal carries through the entire film, the constant expression of rage that Salim carries, and the constant look of subjugation and sultry sexiness that the grown up Latika assumes is in stark contrast to the moving faces of these three child actors. The scenes with the children in Hindi with subtitle carry us through a reality that is harsh. Their resilient smiles point to the ineffable human spirit. We believe them. Then suddenly they are teenagers talking in English to tourists. Jamal eventually finds work in a call center as a lowly tea server. There he answers the manager’s questions on British trivia and thus trumps the callers who are groomed in accents and culture of the first world they serve. The manager smiles. She knows he is knowledgeable and intelligent. Why then are we to trust that it is sheer mad luck that the game show questions are simply coincidence to his life experience? He has fools luck. Hurray. Dumb slumdog, gets lucky. Wins million, gets girl. Hurray! Well, perhaps the public unfamiliar with India may forgive Slumdog for its many errors in plot and point. However, as one well versed in the subcontinent I have serious issues. The staging of the devastation of Jamal's childhood home as a result of Hindu / Muslim riots is my first sticking point. Shantytowns in Mumbai tend more often than not to be run over by corporate greed and conveniences rather than religious riots. In fact it is the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation that recently demolished the homes of the actual slum residing child actors due to the demands of construction. Of course Danny Boyle did not know this. He knew nothing of India that is why he was eager to take on the project according to an interview he gave at Telluride Film Festival fall of 2008. Also, why did the script choose to give the main character a strictly Muslim identity? The book Q and A on which the film is based strove to blur the religious element by having it's hero named Ram Mohammad Thomas. Are the makers of Slumdog trying to once again, in the spirit of the East India Tea Company, pit Muslim against Hindu? Award. Dev Patel who played the adult Jamal, says this in an interview to Screencrave: (about a)  “slum called Tal Aviv, which has got a population of 2 million and still growing. Coming from London, I had this stupid preconceived notion, a stereotype of what a slum would be... The day I woke up to go on this location scout, I thought, damn its gonna be a bloody hard day, I’m gonna be depressed. And I was so glad to be proved wrong.... When they’re there, all you get is an overwhelming sense of community. They call them slums, but they are colonies. Everyone knows everyone and they’re all working together in unison, like one molecule, like on cell. I remember there was this kid walking down the slum, he had this vest on, licking an icelolly and it’s all dripping down his top and there’s a group of three burly men. And one guy saw the boy and picked him up, put him next to him, and pulled out a handkerchief, cleaned him up, and pushed him along back on his journey. And I was like wow. In London you can’t do that. Here they all look after each other. He didn’t know that kid.” My experience with the Indian poor is absolutely in synch with Dev Patel’s observations expressed above. One does not find the community, cooperative vibe in the slum portrayed by Slumdog. No the kids are like dogs. They run wild and have no nurturing or oversight. The people are cruel and fight for survival. Dog eat dog. Only the sensationalist elements, the dirt, the chaos and violence, are strung together visually with a hot sound track. Poverty porn. No wonder the many protests in India over the film. The words stupid and preconceived seemed to stick in my brain. Mr. Boyle and company had an opportunity to show the real face of Indian poverty and disenfranchisement as well as the resilience of human spirit, the specifically Indian face of poverty with it’s amazing entrepreneurial industrial cooperation that battles the very real concrete chronic systemic forces profiting from its continued existence.  Instead they offered us two hours of stupid preconceived cliché. Feel good? Not me. Even the happy ending was a huge disappointment. Bollywood was reduced to Broadway. The screen filled with finger snapping blandly dressed cast-members. Two streams of people parted and floated neatly away in trains. Where were the costume changes, the dancing in the rain, the juxtaposition of the Eiffel Tower after the village scene, the mandatory peeking from behind pillar or tree, and the heaving heavy breasts  that define Bollywood? Slumdog Millionaire is a glorification of mediocrity and consumer culture. As a member of the audience I suffered. As a human being I suffered even more.

Poonam Srivastava

Hardcover: 288 pages Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (April 22, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1416562591

ISBN-13: 978-1416562597 Murder in India. It’s about time.

Review by Poonam Srivastava The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga is as rare amongst novels set in India as its namesake is in the world of animals. Winner of the Booker Mann Award, Adiga’s first novel takes the format of seven letters written by the main character, Balram Halvai to Wen Jibaou, visiting Chinese premier. These seven chapters, seven late night confessions, illuminate the journey of a desperate village boy from his birth into servitude to manhood in the midst of big city modernity and Bangalore. The   conversational voice of the main character spins the tale quickly and with much emotion but little sentimentality.

I leaned out from the edge of the fort in the direction of my village—and then I did something too disgusting to describe to you.

Well actually I spat. Again and again. And then, whistling and humming, I went back down the hill.

Eight months later, I slit Mr. Ashok’s throat.

What separates White Tiger is a sparseness of writing. The tale is poignant and can be read on many levels but one is not necessarily confined to a SubAltern Studies class merely by picking up the book. Still Adiga certainly does tackle modern India’s distinct schizophrenia, a country split in two: the Darkness and the Light. The Darkness is where our hero hails from and where he was fated to remain. An uncanny awareness of his place in the world allows him to exceed his peers, tea servers to become a driver, and a shocking capacity to act alone, to be a maverick, leads him to escape the Darkness and the consequences of his crime completely.

The story is told from the perspective of our killer/entrepreneur and in his own words. Many Indian reviewers have taken issue with the words in his mouth. Which Indian half-baked driver would know to say that assess are being kissed, they want to know. Which Indian ex-village boy would know to conjecture that the Light of modern India shines mainly on the coasts and it’s the rivers that demark the Darkness?

My problem with the book is that though many characters are evoked and are not developed. In my experience to live in India as a lone wolf is something near impossible. The radical Maoist group known as the Naxalite is evoked but not developed. I can believe that our hero has the luxury of freedom due to his job changes, which distance him from family and direct supervision. It’s his very isolation that empowers him to go where no Indian from the Dark or the Light has gone before. At least not in literature. However there seems to need be more force to push him to where he eventually does go, to the murder of his boss and to placing his entire family’s necks on the chopping block. I wanted to know more of this unique creature’s inner life. Yes he suffered and yes he’s sensitive (finding inspiration in architect and poetry), but what really is his trigger?

Our hero, unbelievable perhaps, is definitely desirable. If a Balram Halvai does not exist, we sure want him to. His closeness with his parents, his shock at his father’s ugly death and his likeness to his “crazy” mother, dead before the book begins, does give us some sense of his uniqueness and therefore the possibility of his trajectory. Also when faced with the social forces of conformity that are the Indian family and the class / caste system (referred to as the rooster coop) it takes a fiercely independent personality to shake off the determined role and be their own person. Perhaps it takes a certain psychosis to deal with a psychotic country.

Adiga has written a book of hope. He has fleshed out the country’s problems without much sorrowful lament.  In a world market where India and China are hailed as the next economic giants he exposes truths that have been buried or made exotic too long. Adiga’s book is a book that appeals to the hearts of people of Indian origin everywhere who are appalled at the treatment of some in India by others. It is also a book that finally shows how trapped even the rich are by their family pressures. Though the Haves in India do have it all, including the Have Nots, they too must obey. This book puts them on notice. The White Tiger is a step in the right direction. The next step would be a book by a writer who is a Balram Halvai, or his brother or sister, in her own voice. Until then, Adiga speaks with humor and heartfelt admiration for the masses that continue their mainly silent struggle in the veins and muscles and sewer pipes of the economic giant that is India.

The White Tiger is a fun read. The comic nature of the play between the influence of the west, and economic participation in the world of global markets, and the stranglehold of ancient privilidge dominates. At one point Balram’s employers bond over the fun they have at Balram’s pronunciation of the word pizza. Their fun ends when they themselves find they are not in agreement.  At another point Balram sneaks into the malls that are gaurded against his type simply by wearing full shoes and a T-shirt with very little writing. Then there is the scene behind the mall where four men are defecating in an open sewer and Balram squats next to them to vent about his boss/master’s demands that he take the rap for a homicide committed by his mistress. This scatological scene, with four men laughing deliriously in the solidarity of the oppressed, takes place directly behind one of those monuments to modernity of glass and steel and climate control.

You don’t have to know a lot about India to enjoy this book. However if you do, then you might pick up on several symbolisms. For one, the names of our hero: Balram is given that name by a school teacher. In myth, Balram is the Serpant of Shiva in his incarnation as Krisna’s brother. Krisna was the defender of the downtrodden. Also, he goes on to be christened White Tiger, an endangered and fierce predator.  Then when our hero has killed his enslaver and become his own man he takes the name Ashok Sharma. Sharma is a Brahmin name. That is the highest caste. Ashok is the name of the peace-loving emperor who embraced the philosophies of Bhudda. Bihar is one of the poorest states with one of the lowest literacy rates.

It interests me as a U.S. born person of Indian descent, who visits India on a regular basis, that the subject of servants finally be addressed in literature from this perspective. The Indian elite is moaning that this book is not a fair representation, that it glorifies the increasing trend of violent crimes perpetrated by servants on their bosses. Never does the Indian elite acknowledge, however, that in the twenty first century Indian servants are the closest beings to slaves on a institutional level on our endangered planet. When I visited a family in Gurgaon, the Delhi suburb that becomes the home of White Tiger’s main characters, I was told that the poor are weighing down progress. They are uneducable. How would you take someone from prehistory to modernity was the argument.

As this book suggests, if you don’t, they just might take matters into their own hands.

I recommend this book to everyone.