21 karan kaul, hot sodas, bartending while asian, syria's rebel librarians, the bald head billboard industry, the influencer whisperer

Happy Nowruz, happy spring equinox, happy Aries season to all. The advent of spring always brings with it equal measures of renewal and pre-birthday despair. Not being around anyone but my parents and a ruthlessly ambitious cat definitely exacerbates that this year. I thought about attending the social swirl around art week, the fair this month but I don’t think that’s the relationship I want to have to the art world any more, at least not here in Dubai.

This week’s images are from a 1904 collection called Kunstformen der Natur, and the diary from arts worker Karan Kaul. They explain: Karan (He/She/They) is currently trying to make their life converge as an arts facilitator in India. They like to spend time reading, writing and being in the company of their friends. This year, they have decided to read only queer novels, in the hope to make sense of their childhood gone by. 

spiky bois

The pathology of economics. Unlocking the mysteries of Long Covid. The whiteness conference. Poetry fills Tehran streets as residents adapt Nowruz to Corona. Why Covid-19 vaccines aren’t yet available to everyone. The lost year: what the pandemic cost teenagers. Inside Israel’s lucrative—and secretive—cybersurveillance industry. More Asian Americans are buying guns as protection from hate crimes. This is what anti-Asian hate looks like in the UK. BR Ambedkar: the Dalit hero of India. Who is afraid of race? Covid Kitchen. Where neoliberalism and authoritarianism meet. The myth of Haji Firuz: the racist contours of the Iranian minstrel. The pandemic makes me miss my cowboy hat. “What is your name?” “Azad!” How to build an artificial heart. They couldn’t go outside for years. Then Covid-19 trapped them again. Decolonising politics. Jeremy Atherton Lin - Kevin Brazil. 🔊Hum inqilab hain. Frank’s corpus.

glouglou & snackchat

Labels. Eating harissa in old Srinagar. Lo Foh Tong is the Cantonese soup that tastes like home. This memoir blends together recipes with sweet and sour memories of Shilong. How the British-Chinese takeaway took off. The Canary Islands connection. Discovering Stalin’s million dollar wine cellar. From sea to salted eggs. How to build a Chinese-American cookbook. Farm to table on stolen land. How NBA players are making wine more inclusive. This writer is tweeting everything Sylvia Plath ever ate. Eating at Tiretti Bazaar’s Sunday breakfast market. This spring, it’s time for a herby, saucy Green Goddess renaissance. Remembering America’s golden age of hot sodas. The dangers of bartending while Asian. In Japan, taxpayers enjoy gifts of fresh fruits and Wagyu steak. I ate nothing but hydrated powders for 3 days to see what the future tastes like. The challenges of writing restaurant reviews as a person of color. Pizza is survival. After apple picking.

villainy

The Tamil villain. Loans that hijack your phone are coming to India. Dr. Lecter, my name is Clarice Starling. The sound of evil. Hunting the men who kill women: Mexico’s femicide detective. A shooter in the hills. See no evil. For centuries, Nair and Syrian Christian feudals were partners in maintaining Kerala’s caste oppression. Wagnermania. John Muir in Native America. The wannabe food influencer wanted by the FBI. Beyond Goop and evil. The devil in my Dad. The rich versus the very, very rich: the Wentworth golf club rebellion. Cat and mouse. Bankspeak.

literature

Why on earth is someone stealing unpublished book manuscripts? The Xhosa literary revival. How crying on TikTok sells books. Want to borrow that e-book from the library? Sorry, Amazon won’t let you. Thulani Davis and the secret history of women writing album liner notes. Harlan Coben, suburban dad with 75 million books in print. Tips from the apocalypse. Children’s literature in the Gulf. An interview with Sci Hub’s Alexandra Elbakyan on the Delhi HC case. Fresh insight into Ghalib’s world. A dinner in France, 1973. The delicate art of fixing ancient Chinese books by hand. Hunting for books in the ruins: how Syria’s rebel librarians found hope. The people we know best. The country without a post office. Has Thomas Beckett’s treasured ‘little book’ been found? Women of the digests. @CountsAsWriting. Yarrow is yarrow.

☞\( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)☞ yeehaw

The rise of made-in China diplomacy. Can we learn anything from horses? Confessions of an influencer whisperer. Adoption moved to Facebook and a war began. Black women are transforming the world of Instagram mermaids. My Mom believes in QAnon. I’ve been trying to get her out. Why channel 37 doesn’t exist (and what it has to do with aliens). The case of the counterfeit eggs. With or without me, Florida will always be wonderfully, unrelentingly weird. How Hank the Cowdog made John R. Erickson king of the canine canon. $42 million, fake checks, and broken promises: how one teenager nearly forged his way into esports. The bald head billboard industry. The crow whisperer. The next frontier of the NFT gold rush: your tweets. How a tiny endangered species put a man in prison.

culture diary: karan kaul

monday

Passing through a passage in time, Bombay’s streets only became narrower and narrower. With buildings on both sides imposing themselves on my taxi, as it hurried back home—and I into my bed. 

I’m currently couch surfing in my friends’ apartment in Santacruz. This has been my home for the past month. I came here when my friend was caught in a moment of crisis and needed support to move out of the city. He left the house but I stayed put only to realise that the days ahead were to bring many emotional shifts to my life. 

Today I seem to be recovering from many of them; incidentally one just happens to be that I finally came out as gay to my father. Let no magazine covers featuring rich queer people tell you that we have come of age, because we really have not. Many of us continue to live estranged from our families — in some cases forcefully, and in cases like me—through the privilege of having a choice. 

After having spent one entire year of the pandemic with my mother, I realised how ashamed I had become of who I was. How I concealed my truth with grace, while keeping both my parents away from my queerness. Alas, in the year of the pandemic, the year that left us trapped with each other, I couldn’t be trapped within my own self. My body asked for more and I had to give it to her. 

Today as I was painting a mural in Worli, I saw my colleagues who I had grown to love, remembered the people in my life who had grown to love me and I knew that I was not alone anymore. Not today. At that moment, I dropped a message to my father. WhatsApp shows two blue ticks, but no response yet. I am wondering if I should follow up tomorrow. 

tuesday

My legs were hurting a lot today. I woke up in a rush after having slept late. Everyone seemed to have arrived at the wall earlier than I. We painted through the morning slowly in our own little spots. I was busy touching up the messy areas, which somehow took more time than usual. 

I am still listening to music I got addicted to during my trip to Delhi four days ago. Most of them are just trashy love songs, which uplift me from my unpleasant interaction with my ex-boyfriend back in Delhi. After entangling myself in him, we fought again and I parted ways with him in angst. It just hurts to see love being impossible, despite it existing in front of you. 

wednesday

I woke up late again — from a dream where I met poet Ocean Vuong. He is one of my favourite writers and dare I say, I do have a crush on him. In the dream we met somewhere remote and he looked at me as if he had known me for years. I do not remember much about the dream beyond the fact that our interaction was positive. 

I arrived at the wall late and kept my quiet while painting through till 12.30pm. It’s pleasant in the morning and it's easier to focus as the heat only strikes us by 4pm, which is when painting gets tough. Nitu and I went to Worli Koliwada to get a ladder from his house. Me carrying a ladder my lap, while he rode this bike, made me proud of who I had become so far. I was written off as a person who couldn’t do production intensive tasks. This only made me want to do them more, betray the people who thought I was sensitive or too femme to be found carrying ladders on my shoulders. This may seem trivial, but given my childhood, it is an achievement that I am proud of. 

Everyone at work 

We continued to paint till 7.30pm, after which we walked into a local bar. I drank two glasses of beer quietly while everyone else chatted. I wasn’t particularly feeling like joining the conversation. Especially when it involved people who I did not know. The bar was also very crowded for a pandemic, which made me feel stuffy. I was happy when we decided to leave. 

My father still hasn’t responded to my message. 

thursday

My father got his first dose of vaccination today in Singapore and he is already looking forward to coming back to India. I would see him after more than a year. The last time we met, it was January 2020. We had celebrated new years together. It was less of a celebration, more of a get together in Kolkata. Little did we know a pandemic would follow and we would not see each other for a while. Not that it made any difference to me. I would not have survived in a house with both my parents together. 

Ayesha with our paint cart, waiting for traffic to clear. 

I am worried to go back to my mother’s after I finish my mural because I do not want to confront her about my queerness. Home would no longer be the same and I am very scared as to what would everyday be like. She never hesitates to express her discomfort about the way I dress and how I look. She is extremely religious and for all you know I could be taken to a shaman. But maybe I am overthinking. 

In this paranoid mind, I texted most of my friends telling them I had come out to my dad and if there is a chance I may run away to them. Maybe this entire year could just disappear into this. I hope I just don’t. 

friday

A rare blue Bombay sky in the morning 

Shraddha and I take a taxi together from Santacruz towards Worli everyday. We barely talk to each other during the cab ride. While it could be because both of us are pretty shy for small talk, it could also just be the fatigue from the project. The physical and mental labour that goes into just painting an outdoor mural, in front of a busy street, during a pandemic, is uncalculated for. 

The atmosphere at the wall was pretty tense today as one of the members of the collective suffered through an almost fatal accident in Bangalore earlier this week. My colleagues are constantly on the edge thinking about her. I hope she gets better soon. 

I came back home at night and the touch of the bed made me fall into a sleep that I still do not want to wake up from. 

saturday

We finally finished the mural today! And right when I was finishing my last touch up a taxi driver stopped, grabbed his dick and asked me to get in his cab. I am not sure why this took me by surprise as it has happened to one of the other girls before and to myself several times in the past. But yet, it did have me shook and I regretted not shouting at him. 

After finishing the mural, we all travelled to Mumbai Central to grab a drink. I wanted to go back home because I had an important job application to finish. With shortage of money and no sign of what the future holds for me, I really thought it would be important for me to get this one right. However, everyone insisted I join them so I left with them. We drank a couple of beers, ate some pizza flavoured sandwich, and I did manage to finish writing a cover letter that I was proud of at the moment. 

It’s almost one year since the first lockdown was announced in India and Covid-19 cases seem to be increasing in the state of Maharashtra. Mumbai is particularly observing a spike too. However the city is still continuing to move at a momentum that it never seems to have lost. After this week, I really wonder if anything changed at all. 

sunday

This time last year, I got a tattoo in Tamil that said மழை, which means rain. The original word I wanted to have tattooed just had three extra letters ஆழி மழை, which specifically meant rain that falls onto the sea. A word that is used to denote the cyclical nature of time. I did not get it because I couldn’t trace the origin of that word when I was at the tattoo studio. 

A year later, with the same friend who I got this tattoo with, I decided to colour my hair. Back home in Santacruz, my friend Koshy came in to bleach my hair and colour it pink. I stayed out all afternoon to finish it, but to my impatience I washed my hair too quickly to feel the pink on my head — how it made my head feel rough and soft at the same time. Towards the end of the day, we ate some cake and drank a little bit of coffee. They left me with the hair colour, which I am going to apply later. 

Hair

In the evening, my friend/flatmate came back home with another friend. While my mind was tense with constantly being on the move and around people, I decided to still interact with her friend as I washed the dishes. Both of them were meeting for the first time since the first lockdown last year, but were so occupied with work that they kept working on their laptops until they were ready for dinner at 10pm. 

Despite of Covid-19 cases increasing in Mumbai, I feel like a trapeze artist who jumps from one swing to another. The city asks more from you everyday than you can give. I see young people like me sometimes lose more and more to it. I would never live in Mumbai. I say so now. 

featured creature: red-lipped batfish

The glamour—!


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