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  • Writer's pictureKuzhali Manickavel

some people talk about you, like they know all about you

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

Many years ago, when I was a little youth, our local librarian said she would give a free sticker to any kid who told her a good joke. This is a riddle that one kid told her.

Q- Why was the man blind?

A- Because he had no eyes.

That kid got a sticker. I think maybe she should have got two stickers. I don’t know why I still remember this riddle.

Anyway, I have a story in the new issue of Pratilipi called Six Things We Found During the Autopsy. Sometimes when I watch shows like CSI and they do those autopsies, I feel like I would be a really good forensic scientist because I am sure that I would be the one to notice the massive head injury that everyone else can’t see.

Have you heard of Jay Smooth? I love Jay Smooth very much. Why because means he makes videos like this.

This clip made me think of two things. One, it made me think of how much I love Jay Smooth. Two, it made me think of how talking about fiction sometimes feels like you’re talking about racism, especially when the fiction has this very special ingredient in it called the “Other”. Racism and the “Other” are the same in many ways. Why because means

• People are not really sure what’s going on with either of these things but they are scared of them anyway • people say weird shit either knowingly or unknowingly in relation to these things • people get really upset when you call them out on this weird shit • subsequent dialogues after calling out on weird shit quickly ceases to be about what was actually said and becomes all about everything else.

Imma be honest, I have no idea what the “Other” is. I think it refers to people that are all collectively strange because their nationalities, sexualities, abilities, religions etc. are different from your own. This makes them all weird and all the same also. Also, the “Other” sometimes seems to magically excuse all sorts of things which would otherwise be labeled bad writing (I’ve already ranted about this before so I’m not going to rant about it again. Ok, I’ll just give one example and that’s it). For example, a one-dimensional character sometimes ceases to be one-dimensional and magically becomes the most amazing thing ever if you say that the character is of some kind of superexotic ethnicity or differently-abled or as many different “Other” qualities as you can fit together in one character.

The “Other” sometimes has a cookie factor. This happens because you write about the “Other” and it’s just so totally removed from what you are that it must have been super-hard for you to write and we just can’t believe you wrote about it and you’re still alive and the dirty natives didn’t eat you so here’s a cookie. These are called “Other” cookies.

Sometimes though, people will refuse to give you any cookies. You know what happens to these people? They get hit with mad KalariNinja skillz that will kill their face. They are MAD skillz I tell you. MAD!!

Because I like cookies, I am planning on writing about the “Other” in my forthcoming epic novel called ‘All These Bitches Is My Sons’. I have been smart enough to learn from the mad KalariNinja skillz that have killed my face so many times in the past. I share these KalariNinja skillz with you so that you can also use them to kill other people in the face also when they say your writing is crap.

KalariNinja Skillz # 1-‘I Love Indian Food’

This is an incredibly common move but of such highly-developed KalariNinja skillz that it’s more like a con and The Racist Questioner will not understand what has happened until afterwards when they realize their brain is missing.

How It Works- You cleverly deflect any criticism of what you wrote by professing great love for aspects of the “Other” which are completely unrelated to what you have actually written.


Racist Questioner – Why are all the Japanese people in your story either samurais or geishas?

You- “Well I just LOVE sushi.”

Extra Notes- It helps enormously if you stretch the conversation to talk about other things you love about Japanese cuisine or how much you admire the fact that the Japanese have such nice straight black hair.

Lesson Learned- You can defend or justify bad writing by loving aspects of the “Other” like sushi or tortillas or Braille.

KalariNinja Skillz # 2- My Best Friend Is Indian

This is also a very common move but lacks the subtlety of the previous one. While the previous method is more a slow kill, this move shuts everything down in such a way that all The Racist Questioner can do is go home and never come back again.

How It Works- You cleverly deflect any criticism of what you wrote by claiming kinship with the “Other”.


Racist Questioner- Why do all the Indians in your story talk like they are four years old? Like even when the adults talk amongst themselves or even think, they sound like they are 4 years old. Wouldn’t a grown person thinking to themselves have some kind of coherency or does that not happen with people who don’t speak English?”

You- I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation. My best friend is Indian, for God’s sake! If anyone would know about Indians, that person would be me. I mean, my best friend is Indian! For God’s sake! How can you even ask me something like that? My best friend is Indian! Is your best friend an Indian?

Racist Questioner- No

Failure to have an Indian friend is certainly racist but apart from that, it’s just handy to have one around because they are good at fixing computers and doing math. It’s also a lot easier to have an Indian friend if you live in India.

Lesson Learned- You can defend or justify bad writing by claiming kinship with the “Other” as a best friend, next door neighbor, pre-school teacher, servant, cousin twice-removed or if your greatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreat uncle was four-thirtysevenths “Other”.

KalariNinja Skillz # 3 – I am Differently-Abled And I Approve This Message!

This one is similar to the previous move though it attacks from a completely different angle. Quick as you can say ‘Bob’s Your Uncle!’, which is a weird thing that English people say sometimes, the conversation becomes all about what a terrible person you are in a matter of seconds. While KalariNinja Skillz # 2 is more like a swift kick to the gonads, KalariNinja Skillz # 3 is like a series of hard and fast punches to the same area.


Racist Questioner- It seems to me that the only reason the people in wheelchairs were in your story was because they were in wheelchairs.

You- Oh yeah? Well a disabled person just mailed me and told me he LOVED this story! He said it was the most realistic fiction he ever read about people in wheelchairs and it was the best story he ever read in his life. My story made him cry and wish he wasn’t disabled! Do you want to talk to him?”

Racist Questioner- What?

You- I’ll give you his phone number. Ask him what he thought of my story. Ask him to send you a picture of him in his wheelchair, reading my story and liking my story. Like have him do a thumbs-up or something. If he’s not too disabled to do that, I mean.”

Racist Questioner- I don’t-

You- What’s your problem, you don’t like phoning disabled people? You think they’re too dumb to talk on the phone? Well, you know what? Just because they’re not normal like the rest of us doesn’t give you the license to be rude, you Nazi racist!”

This is such an epic move because other people will probably start beating your racist ass also. They won’t really know why they are beating your racist ass, but this is often what happens when people see/hear the word ‘racist’ and ‘Nazi’ used in such close quarters.

Lesson Learned- You can defend or justify bad writing by presenting evidence that certified members of the “Other” have approved the writing as A-Ok! The more “Other” they are, the more justified and righteous your writing becomes.

KalariNinja Skillz # 4 Realness

This is much more organic than the other skillz and relies on carefully calculated usage of the word ‘real’. Like KalariNinja Skillz # 1, it bears a striking resemblance to a con but it’s like one of those cons where the other person knows they are being conned but they aren’t sure how so they can’t do anything about it.

How It Works- You cleverly deflect any criticism of what you wrote by claiming that whatever you wrote about in relation to the “Other” is “real” although what exactly you mean by “real” is debatable. It has been my experience that much of this realness has the same quality of real as reality television. I can attest personally to the success of this method as I have had epic win by claiming to be an expert on “real” Canadian culture among my peers in my current South Indian locale.


Racist Questioner- Your entire story seems to be about poor-caste people. I didn’t even know there was a caste like that.

You- Many people don’t because they are really not aware of the realities of these real lives. That’s what my piece is really about, the reality of the real lives of these real people who really exist.

Racist Questioner- All they do is wish they were rich. Like, that’s ALL they do. All of them. All the time. For the whole story.

You- Well that’s the reality of all poor-caste people. ALL of them.

Racist Questioner- But don’t they-

You- They’re POOR! POOR! POOR! POOR! That’s the reality! That’s the real thing here.

Racist Questioner- And you know this because-

You- I used to drive past this group of poor-caste people everyday and that gave me a real in-depth look into the reality of their real lives.

Racist Questioner- -From your car window.

You- It was the most real realness of reality of the real that I ever experienced.


Racist Questioner- So wh-

You- Real!

Racist Questioner- I just-

You- Real!

Racist Questioner- I-

You- Real Real Real! Real!

Racist Questioner- Ok.

Extra Notes- Instead of focusing on whatever that Racist Questioner is asking you, concentrate your energies on creative constructions of the word ‘real’. Some effective words are ‘realiscious’ to describe your prose use and ‘realgasm’ to describe that feeling peeps will get when they read your really real work.

KalariNinja Skillz # 5 – The Lord/ My Muse/ My Chair Told Me To Write This And That Makes Everything OK

This is the deadliest of all KalariNinja skillz and as with all powerful things, it must only be used sparingly or its power will dwindle and die. This skillz is the ultimate cockblock and when I say cockblock, I mean cutting the cock off, putting it in a box and sending it by sea mail to the bottom of the sea. Because when you start writing crap because a God or a Muse or a character in the story or a unicorn told you to, what can the Racist Questioner do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The blame for the bad writing has been neatly shifted from the writer onto to the very capable shoulders of a supernatural and often magical being. Which is a bit like a kid breaking a window and blaming it on their imaginary friend. For some reason, this doesn’t work when you’re a kid but is incredibly effective when you’re an adult writer.


Racist Questioner- Why are all the serial killers in your story gay and how exactly did they ‘homosexual’ people to death?

You- Well my Muse just DEMANDED it.

Racist Questioner- So this is all your Muse’s fault and has nothing to do with you.

You- Absolutely nothing! My Muse writes through me, I am a humble vessel of divine writing. Racist Questioner- Your Muse has very poor character delineation skills.

You- My Muse said to tell you that you better shut your mouth lest the hand of the Almighty Muse fall on thee and smite thy face until it is dead, verily, verily.

Because it would be awkward to just end the post there, I end it with the song My Lovely Horse from the show Father Ted. I like this song very much.



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