Working With What You Got

“If you have an idea, just think it

If you have one eye, just blink it,

If you have a drop of rum, just drink it,

Working with what you got.”

–So-Called, Sleepover

This album has been my workout song for my last week in India, launching my book, and inspiring as it is, not to say catchy, it also seems anthemic of all my experiences here, however superficial (but then, aren’t anthems superficial by definition?):

-our kids, climbing to temple-tops, standing in queues, sitting on the laps of strangers who love them, vomiting in the back of a TaTa van every few days as we careered from one town to another, adding to the Dali-esque traffic snarls

-the Pondicherry beggars, two old men, one bald, one lame, to whom we gave bananas and peanuts on the last day, as they sat on the curb, their walking sticks laid aside, debating and laughing uproariously

-the families of four on motorcycles, traveling home for Pongal holidays and back again with their kiddos and luggage sticking out in all directions

-my dear relations coming out en masse to fill the small venues in Chennai and Bangalore where my book was launched, bringing flowers and gifts and pats on the back

-the Indian media, not having received the book, mostly still managing to ask good questions about the crash, while others asked why on earth it took me five years to write the book, why I’m dredging up tragedies of 30 years ago, and what genre it is (and, when I was baffled, looking at me as though I don’t know what a genre is)

-the girls who insist you to buy their necklaces and sticker-sheets because they are hungry, and then, when you give them money, want to chat

-my dad and greatest promoter meeting a woman by chance at our B&B who turns out to be a fan of my first novel

-my husband, who understood the traffic: “It’s like water, it flows into every gap.”

-Mr. Sankar, together with his wife Chandra, convening a soiree at his art-filled home, with chardonnay and Chennai literary personages, including V. Sriram, a historian, and Gowri Ramnarayan, a playwright

-the cows, having been decked out for Mattu Pongal, now permitted again to roam the streets, eating garbage and lying placidly on highway meridiens

-the woman with grotesque elephantiasis who gave us a radiant smile when we paid her for sitting in the street all day by the Madurai temple, her leg exposed.


“If you got one leg just shake it,

If you don’t want to smile just fake it,

If you got one potato, bake it,

Working with what you got!”



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