books books books

I HAVE a habit of acquiring books, far too many books, wherever I go.  I buy them for what’s in them, and I buy them for their covers often, and sometimes for just their titles.  My little room here is already overflowing with them.  And then last week I went to the Blossom book shop on Church street. Disaster.


blossom book store

It’s a used bookstore with three levels, books stacked from floor to ceiling.  I had to stop myself from buying a $6 weevil eaten 1923 copy of Dryden’s translation of Lucretius, with an art nouveau cover…ugh, I’m kicking myself for not getting it now just thinking about it.

There were stacks and stacks of books from the 1920’s, some moldy from decades of monsoon seasons, and shelves of books about music and movies.


candy: a great book, a great movie

I’m always on the lookout for books that deal with or represent the cross-cultural or intercultural relationship between India and the west, however obliquely.  Here’s a very bad and weird example of that, from the 1960’s.  It’s an “adult” book.  I have no idea.

I have a few books that I’m engrossed in right now.  One is “Conversational Kannada: A Micro-Wave Approach”


conversational kannada: a micro-wave approach

Kannada is the local language here.  It’s a Dravidian language spoken by many of the city’s inhabitants, although not most.  It’s tricky to get a handle on the language politics in South India.  I spent two years studying Hindi, then was told to switch to Tamil, and now I’m here, speaking English, trying to translate the Hindi (Hinglish, more accurately) spoken on MTV and wishing I’d had some Kannada language classes so I could speak to the people who have grown up in Bangalore and who I interact with on a daily basis. I have no idea why this is a “micro-wave approach,”  but I sure wish I could beam the whole thing into my brain via microwaves.


growing up in the knowledge society: living the IT dream in bangalore

This is another interesting book only published in India.  It’s an ethnography of IT workers in the late 1990s here in Bangalore.  The author spent a lot of time hanging out in cyber cafes with a group of young men in the IT field.  It’s interesting as a snapshot of the city a decade ago.  Things have changed with amazing rapidity since then.


neti neti not this not this

This is a beautiful, poetic novel by Anjum Hasan.  It’s about a young woman who moves from Shillong, in the northeast, to Bangalore, and about her life there working for a BPO company (business processing outsourcing).  I feel as though I’ve learned more about Bangalore and contemporary India reading this book than any of the academic books and articles I’ve been poring over the last months.  It reminds me about a conversation I was having with some friends here – basically we were answering the question, if you had to only read books out of one section of the library for the rest of your life, what section would that be? I said fiction. Paradoxically, there’s a strong knowledge about reality of things that one gets from reading fiction (and I’d say poetry, too) and not from other kinds of books.  I guess in a sense it’s a kind of a deeper emotional understanding of reality, and the possibilities of reality and of the future rather than a factual or analytical understanding of the state of things.

Published in: on November 8, 2009 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  

some thoughts on the indian independent music industry

I’m a month into my research now and it is, knock on wood, going really amazingly well.  This is wholly due to some really lovely and generous people who have given me their time, thoughts, connections, and long interviews over coffee.  Thanks especially to Gaurav, Aditya, Amrit, Ashish…and new acquaintances and friends who have been steering me in productive directions.  Because of them this research is taking shape in ways I couldn’t have previously anticipated but for which I am seriously grateful.

I came in with a general picture of how the rock music scene was operating here and slowly that picture is getting refined and filled in.  One of the things that is most notable to me now about the Indian rock music scene is the strength of independent industry that supports it.  This industry includes smaller-scale promoters and largely independent venue owners, digital media mavens with their blogs, online radio stations and online music magazines: collectively they have  a force  and a momentum that seems to me to be keeping rock on the up and up despite its lack of support from the mainstream Indian music industry.

There is a very interesting post from Arjun, founder of the website Indiecision, about the Nokia Music Connects conference, which collected the mainstream music industry bigwigs to discuss rock in India.  At a certain point, reading about the proceedings, one begins to wonder – does Indian rock need the input of the mainstream industry?  There’s going to be a convention in Bombay in a couple of weeks – called Unconvention, it collects independent music workers to discuss and debate pathways forward for independent musicians.  I’ll be there and will post about it.

Although I’m talking about an “independent” and a “mainstream” music industry, these are simplified ways of discussing groups that are not necessarily opposed  but are interestingly entangled networks of people involved in different ways with making popular music in India. I have a tendency to take an anti-corporate stance by reflex, but the picture here is more complicated than that…

Published in: on November 5, 2009 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment