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  • Writer's pictureKuzhali Manickavel

These Are The Daves I Know I Know

Updated: May 1, 2023

Hai everybody!! Welcome to my blog!! Yay!!

First, a big thanks to everyone who helped/gave input on putting this together.

I would like to dedicate my very first blog post to something I hope to do on a somewhat regular basis- These Are The Daves I Know I Know. Inspired by a song from my youth, Daves are people I don’t know very well but I know them a little and I think they’re neat. So I ask them questions and they answer, sometimes they lie but what can you do.

Our very first Dave is Rashmi Devadasan. Along with Rakesh Khanna, who is her husband and Kaveri Lalchand who is not her husband, they run the publishing company known as Blaft. Rashmi is neat because she makes movies and her middle name is Ruth. She has worked in the Tamil movie industry for 35040 days and is part of the Podimaas Kavarchi Pachai Killis, an army/band of wandering poets who will work on poems on any subject for cash down payment, one installment only. They also do ninja style stalking on alternate Mondays and leap years, in case anyone is interested.

km- Why Blaft? Why couldn’t you name your publishing company something more Indian like Verdant Monsoon Tales from Under the Coconut Tree or Indus Elephant Press?

rd- They were already taken! We had considered “Blushing Crimson Brocade”, or was it “Blushing Crimson Barcode”? And another option was “Fresh Indo Tumeric Press” and oh yeah, “Fragrant Saffron Routes Ink”. We were sitting by the Kathipara junction nursing a flat tyre, when we heard this sound vibrating through the monsoon laden dusk. The sound became a word, and the word was, er, Blaft.

km- Do you like the song Don’t Touch My Ghaghariya Rangarasiya? Don’t tell lies.

rd- We love and embrace all music and all songs. Though Naaka Mukka has been the ruler of all things musical for some time now.

(km- Don’t Touch My Ghaghariya Rangarasiya!!! I love this song. I can’t tell you how much I love this song because I love it so much.)

km- What are the things you don’t like about Indian writing today?

rd- System Alert-sorry we are unable to access the data, shutting down …blip

(km- sorry, that was a very suicidal question.)

km- Where do you think the term ‘sidey’ comes from?

rd- From Chennai, but today it is a pan-urban Indian English adjective most commonly used to describe a certain set of males, sometimes females also.

(km- I heard it was a term used to describe the ‘side’ dancers in movies who always looked very unhealthy and sad like they just wanted to go home and die)

km- I think it’s neat that in some parts of our beloved country, the term ‘fully without’ means completely naked. I used it in this story. This is not a question, it’s just a plug for my story. This is also a plug for Rashmi’s stop motion clip which you can see here (it’s in Tamil but it’s pretty to look at because it has large talking chicken leg and a salt shaker walking through beautiful night forest dotted with fiber optic treelets that look like electric blue broccoli under shiny paper moonlight which makes the heart feel somewhat. Also they repeatedly refer to Juliet as Soolee and there is a plastic pink unicorn type thing and some gender switching happens later on I think.)

km- Will the Great Indian Vampire movie only be made if it is about poor vampires? Why do so many Indian books/movies that are marketed to the rest of the world seem to be somewhat fetishized representations of our poor and if someone brings this up, why do people say ‘oh my god, you’re so mean to poor people’?

rd- Maybe, from a purely marketing pint of view, that is what sells. The West is comfortable with these images and this kind of content, because that is what has been selling for all this time: history, exotica, erotica, middle–class angst, sagas of immigration to the West, the hardships of cultural adjustment, second generation immigrant identity, and no-holds-barred abject poverty. If we ask why, we are accused of wanting to cover up Indian reality, gloss it over, as these are the topics that represent the true nature of the country. Also it seems like when people say ‘the rest of the world’ in this debate they’re always talking about the US and the UK. In other Asian countries, in African cities with a large Indian diaspora, I think people are more clued in and aware of the different facets of this country.

km- Living in Singara Chennai, you are well aware of the nasal clusterfuck known as the Cooum River, which I like to think of as a good friend whose body is decomposing and also spewing out toxic rotten eggs at the same time. Some years ago I vaguely remember some kind of harmful waste (nuclear? toxic? exotic?) was accidentally dropped into the Cooum and then they pulled it out again and then they dropped it in again and then they pulled it out. The Cooum is apparently the city’s biggest sewer and 80% more polluted than treated sewage, which is pretty special. And coupled with the fact that there was nuclear-toxic-exotic-waste in it at some point, I think there are mutant things growing down there. What do you think is at the bottom of the Cooum?

rd- Madras Mutant Virgin Maidens, who, a hundred years ago, jumped to their watery graves for love, defying arranged marriages. These daring dead lasses lie preserved by the chemical soup of the last century, entombed in sludge-covered pods made from matted, solidified hair and the bodies of the river shrimp that live and breed in the slimy, glutinous riverbed. The maidens will arise in the year 2012 in the month of Margazhi, on the night of a full moon. The Cooum will boil like a boiling pot and the pods will shoot up like stones from a hundred demon-possessed catapults. They will burst open in mid-air and the MMVMs will take to the sky hissing and steaming like a battalion of Diwali-Offer Prestige pressure cookers. These unearthly maidens, it is told, will be terrifying to gaze upon, yet they will be curvaceous, clad in sand-caked pattu saris, and bedecked in temple jewellery from their crowns to their toes. Their fingernails will shoot bolts of current and if they are angered, their breath will create hurricanes. The only thing they fear are keerai vadais.

(km- I am also very scared of keerai vadais)

** Rakesh Khanna also wanted to answer this question.

I used to live in Nungambakkam really close to the Cooum. I would walk on a bridge over the Cooum several times every day to a pottikadai on the other side to get a coffee and a cigarette. I was on this kick of reading a lot of evolutionary biology back then, too, Dawkins and Ernst Mayr and Stephen Jay Gould and E.O.Wilson and stuff, so I actually spent a lot of time thinking about the mutant things growing in the river.

It’s pretty amazing how much stuff actually survives there. It’s very green. There are a lot of plants and snails and dragonflies and bats. I saw a water snake once. People let their buffalos wade in it. Of course, it’s also clogged with plastic and human shit and weird chemicals and it smells horrible. Once I saw a big pile of circuit boards and wiring sticking out of the mud.

There was this big debate a while ago in evolutionary biology about “punctuated equilibrium”, which is the theory that evolution proceeds in fits and starts, rather than steady gradual change. Human civilization is really recent and sudden, in evolutionary time, and I don’t think anybody understands very well how our drastic changes to the environment will play out in the grand scheme. It’s generally agreed that we are causing a mass extinction event, but no one’s very sure whether it’ll show up in the fossil record 100 million years from now as a little minor blip or a catastrophic Permian-Triassic style wipeout. I guess a lot depends on what happens in the next few centuries; the human population of the earth has gone from 3 billion to 7 billion in my lifetime, and if that rate keeps up, I suppose life is pretty fucked. Anyway, I think places like the Cooum River—and Buckingham Canal near my new place in Neelankarai, which is even more polluted and disgusting—are probably right now acting as cradles for the evolution of new species that may eventually replace the ones we’re destroying.

Another place I’m really interested in is the Pacific Trash Vortex, which is an area in the Pacific Ocean roughly the size of South India that’s full of floating plastic. It all winds up there because of ocean currents, this thing called the North Pacific Gyre. I keep wondering if some organism will evolve there that can eat polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride. I guess there are people trying to build organisms like that, too, but I think it would be far cooler if something could evolve on its own in the Trash Vortex or Buckingham Canal or the Cooum. Maybe a plastophagic life form will arise from the bottom of the Cooum that can somehow use the discarded circuitry and e-waste to become superintelligent and then slowly take over the planet and enslave humanity and force us to live in grimy underground work camps producing polymers for it to eat. That would be awesome Darwinian karma.

(km- well that’s something to look forward to.)

km- If you were to recommend five books to someone who wasn’t familiar with Indian writing in English, which books would you recommend and why?

rd- 1) Swami and Friends by R.K.Naryanan- why ? because it is simply pure, without any gyaan, pretense, natural and you can relate to it no matter what age you are or where you are from.

2) Jalebi Curls by Niveditha Subramaniam, illustrated by Kavita Singh Kale- a wonderful children’s story about a Maharajah who likes …

(km- who likes what, dots?)

3) Nagraj: Skin Shedder (Raj Comics)- a great home spun super Hero he is simply the best better than all the rest…he has super serpentine killer cool powers

4) Nagraj: Alter Ego (Raj Comics) same as above for ‘why’?

5) Your book- Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings because it is a great collection of stories of people that you have met/ could have met /are going to meet who talk and think in everyday normal spoken Indian English and who are in situations that are both real and sometimes magically altered states of that reality. In a nut shell – the writing is quite Dhool!

(km- aw……)

km- What are the things you miss most about Old Skool India? And by Old Skool I mean the days when there was only one television channel, people drank Gold Spot and ice cream usually meant pista or tyootee-frootee.

rd- TV serials like’ Nukkad’, shows like ‘Oliyam Oliyam’ but is it still on though on DD? I do not have TV so cannot confirm, miss Barbapapa. In Chennai, the pre-flyover parts of the city. Also miss the sight of little girls from the age of 6 to 12 in frilly hauckoba and hand-embroidered dresses.Today lots of well meaning parents dress their 3-year-olds in the clothes Ash wore in ‘Dhoom 2’ or maybe I am fashion dinosaur. And as hard core lover of eatables I miss the days when restaurants in Chennai did not have to claim that their menu represents ‘fusion food’, by the by is there any ‘fission food’? Or is that the next episode, I guess I am also a foodie dinosaur. But honestly ‘Manuchurian Prawns Masala Dosai with mildly spiced date and lemon grass chutney’????? (yes I committed a chinna hyperbole, but not far from the truth ya not far from the truth)

(km- I miss watching Sharon Prabhakar sing English songs on DD. One time I watched her singing I Hate Myself For Loving You and she was running around in a circle on the “stage”, pumping her fists in the air, round and round and round Sharon Prabhakar went. I miss that. I also miss Superhit Muqabla)

km- You make movies and that is very awesome. Let us consider this scenario. I sell off my eggs, my blood, my skin and all my internal organs and give you all the money. This doesn’t amount to much but luckily you also find 100 million American dollars lying in the middle of the road one day. With all this money and the nine rupees forty seven paisa you get from my consolidated body parts, what kind of movie would you make? rd- ‘Madras Mutant Virgin Maidens’ and ‘Rise of the Madras Mutant Virgin Maidens’, two bilingual epics. And I would make ‘Aatha Naan Pass Aiyata’ a comedy that starts in Tuticorin and ends in Jo-burg.

(km- I thought you’d at least thank me for the body parts and money and stuff but whatever.)


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