Writing Into the Dark

This was the title of a writing workshop at Esalen that I took last week from poet Patrice Vecchione. Esalen is an interesting place — all about hippie capitalism. It was started by two Stanford grads in the ’60s and now it has 10,000 paying visitors a year. A long time before that it was Esselen Native land. There are natural sulphur springs on a cliff above the Pacific that are amazing. I was the darkest person around for all three days I was there.

Patrice was a great teacher, and I was glad to have time to soak and write poems, and I learned a lot from her about creating a safe environment while teaching. One evening we walked out into the night. Afterward we came back to the Little House (really it was called that!), and I wrote this poem.

Writing Into the Dark

The search party goes out at night
with headlamps & eyes in their toes
climbing the cloud-stroked hill,
fanning out around the stones.

One carries a Smith & Wesson.
One has the map of the territory
inscribed inside the brain. Everyone here
has had sex, love, maybe more than once

on the way to this destined task.
Passing the licorice fields,
the drunkards’ ball,
they persist to the edge of the land.

The one who knows the mission best
reads out the master’s orders. When
the wild loon calls, they begin
the hunt for song, for words

to meet that cry.

—Minal Hajratwala


OK, the Smith & Wesson was a flashlight.

Here is a picture of me in the Esalen garden, pulling cabbages out of their cozy bed at the end of the growing season. This photo was taken by another student in my class who asked permission because she was documenting the whole class. That was cool with me. Other people I didn’t know walked by and took my picture because they were excited by “all the color.” Really they did.

Writing From the Chakras, Sept 15-Nov 10, online class

NOTE: Enrollment for this class has ended, but it’s not too late for you! Please email me if you’d like to receive a note when the next course enrollment opens, or if you’d like to work your way through the class materials as an independent student.


Writing from the Chakras

An Online Writing Workshop

Sept. 15 – Nov. 10, 2011

with Minal Hajratwala

Are you ready to jumpstart your writing and discover new, exciting sources to fuel your creativity? Writing from the Chakras is a body-based writing system that leads to fast, energized, powerful, breakthrough writing. In this 8-week online course, we will tap into the seven levels of human experience that make up rich, versatile writing. Whether you want to write ancestral memory or science fiction … a high-impact fight scene for your action movie screenplay (root chakra! survival!) … or a moment of epiphany in your subtle and elegant short story (crown chakra all the way!) … this workshop will offer a plethora of tools and play to make your writing come alive. Fun creativity exercises, tools for engaging mind/body/soul in our writing, and work that heals trauma and busts through blocks: Join the journey. Isn’t it time to get in touch with the most powerful possibilities in your creative work?

(image by Izolda Trakhtenberg)

This online workshop is suitable for all levels of writers, from beginning to experienced, and you can join from anywhere in the solar system. You will have the opportunity to share work and receive feedback in a supportive, vibrant, temporary community. The focus is on generating new work and developing robust creative skills in order to free your writing to take a great leap forward.

All genres and genders are welcome.

Fee: $215 US, 4500rs India.

Dates: We start September 15 and finish November 10, 2011.

Registration: Pay $215 by PayPal to hajratwala {at} gmail {dot} com to reserve your space.

Questions? Please scroll down for Frequently Asked Questions, or email me.

About the Instructor

Minal Hajratwala is the author of Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages to Five Continents (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), which has been called “incomparable” by Alice Walker and “searingly honest” by the Washington Post. The book won a Pen USA Award, an Asian American Writers Workshop Award, a Lambda Literary Award, a California Book Award (Silver, Nonfiction), and was shortlisted for the Saroyan International Writing Prize. She spent seven years researching and writing the book, traveling the world to interview more than seventy-five members of her extended family.

Ms. Hajratwala was a 2010-2011 Fulbright Senior Research Scholar based in India, researching a novel while also writing poems about the unicorns of the 5,000-year-old Indus Valley civilization. She is the editor of The Queer Ink Anthology: Contemporary LGBT Stories of India, forthcoming in 2012 from Queer Ink Publishing. Her creative work has received recognition and support from the Sundance Institute, the Jon Sims Center for the Arts, the SerpentSource Foundation, and the Hedgebrook writing retreat for women, where she has served on the Alumnae Leadership Council. Her one-woman show, “Avatars: Gods for a New Millennium,” was commissioned by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco for World AIDS Day in 1999.

As a journalist, she worked at the San Jose Mercury News from 1992 to 2000 as an editor, reporter, and the newspaper’s first reader representative (ombudsperson). She was a National Arts Journalism Program fellow at Columbia University in 2000-01. She is a graduate of Stanford University.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. How do I sign up for Writing from the Chakras?


The quickest way:

Via PayPal.com, submit a payment of $215 to hajratwala {at} gmail {dot} com. You can use Paypal funds or a credit card. You’ll get a confirmation from PayPal immediately, and a welcome email from me by Sept. 10.

If you’ve never used PayPal, don’t worry. It’s easy, takes about 3 minutes, and you don’t even need to set up an account. Grab your credit or debit card, then just follow these simple steps:

• Go to www.paypal.com

• Click on “Send Money”

• In the box that says, “Send Money Now,” enter the amount $215. Under “My payment is for,” choose the option that says “Buying Something.” (This means that I pay the PayPal fee, not you.) Click Continue.

• Under TO, enter hajratwala@gmail.com. Under FROM, enter your email address. Click Continue.

• Enter your credit/debit card info and follow the directions to finish. That’s it!

Other good ways:

If you prefer to mail a check, ask me for my address.

Or send your owl / passenger pigeon / unicorn. Please do not pay in leprechaun money, though.

Payment is due in full before your first class, unless… scroll to the bottom of this FAQ.

Q. I’m on the east coast — I understand that it’s online; is there any kind of group interaction? Do you have to be in the Bay Area to participate? Are there specific days/times when we must sign on?

A. You can take this course from anywhere if you have access to your email once a week.

The course will be largely self-paced; you post your work and you comment on others’ work on your own time. All of the weekly homework (or, as I like to call it, home play!) will be on your own time.

Live interaction will be optional, via 3 webinars (web seminars). We’ll work out the times for these webinars based on who’s in the workshop. Everyone registered for the course will have access to recorded versions of the sessions, so you can always catch up later.

Q. Is yoga a requirement?

A. No. We’ll explore a cornucopia of ways to tune into the energies of the physical/metaphysical body. Some of those might be about things to try in the context of your own physical practice — whether that’s yoga or dance, reiki, skateboarding, walking the dog, ec. All of the ‘assignments’ are optional so if it doesn’t work for you, choose something else; you’ll get plenty of choices each week.

(If you happen to be in San Francisco, Oakland, or Chicago, bonus news: I’ve taught Writing from the Chakras with yoga instructors who teach regularly in those cities. In case you’re looking for a yoga class to complement our chakra work, I’d be delighted to refer you to a teacher who is familiar with the concepts we’ll explore here. Again, not a requirement at all, just a bonus!)

Q. What are the dates? Can I get a sneak preview of the syllabus? How much time should I allot?

The assignments are flexible and each week, you’ll be given a choice of things to do. You’ll probably want to allot at least 1 hour a week. If you got excited and did everything on the list, you might spend up to 4 hours a week — or even more, if you decide to write write write!

Wednesday online course ‘assignments’ go out:

Sept. 15: Intro plus (1) The Root Chakra

Sept. 22: (2) The Sexy Chakra

Sept. 29: (3) The Power Chakra

Oct. 6: (4) The Heart

(We will take two weeks with the heart. This is an opportunity to take a breather, explore deeper, and catch up.)

Oct. 20: (5) The Throat

Oct. 27: (6) The Third Eye

Nov. 3: (7) The Crown

Nov. 10: Integration & Celebration

Weekend webinar tentative dates*:

(*We’ll schedule these sessions once I know everyone’s time zones. The sessions will be recorded, too, so if you miss them, you can always catch up later.)

Sept. 24 or 25

Building a Strong Foundation: Writing from the Lower 3 Chakras

Fight scenes, sex scenes, power struggles, ancestor work, our deepest dramas.

Oct. 15 or 16

Manifesting in the World: Writing from Heart, Throat, Hands

Are you really saying what you want to say? Dive in, unblock, and get to the truth of the matter.

Nov. 5 or 6

Connecting to Source: Writing from the Third Eye and Crown; Integrating the Energy Spine

Vision and transcendence, writing that flies off the page and into the ether, the future, alternate universes and beyond.

Q. How will the online course work? What technology do I need?

A. At the beginning of the course, I’ll send you a syllabus and welcome document that will include technical details, logins, etc.

In brief:

A google group will be our main tool for communicating with each other. (You do not necessarily need a gmail address or google profile for this.)

I’ll host 3-4 webinars (that’s web seminars) to cover key concepts and share what we’re all learning. These are optional. You can use a regular land or mobile phone to dial in, or you can log in via computer.

The tech basics you will need are:

• An email address.

• A computer with access to email once a week.

Optional tech:

• A gmail address for accessing the full features of google groups. (We won’t be using Google+, so you can use a pseudonym, in case you’re worried about that.)

• A phone, or a computer with audio or video capability, to dial into the webinars.

Q. Can I take one session at a time? What if I’m going to be away part of the time?

A. Each lesson will build on the previous ones. We’ll be sharing work and creating a temporary community. So, in order to keep it safe for everyone and manageable for me, there will be no drop-ins.

If you are going to be away for some of this time, don’t worry. This is a self-paced class, so you can always catch up on the exercises you’ve missed. Or you can just skip them and go back later, after the class finishes.

Q. I just saw this and it’s already past Sept. 15! Can I still join and catch up?

A. Before Sept. 24, yes. You’ll have a little catching up to do but it should be fine. After Sept. 24, please email me at hajratwala gmail com.

Q. What level of anonymity will there be?

A. The group will be together as a google group, and you’ll post your own writing and give feedback as whatever email address you use for that. It’s absolutely fine with me if you want to create an alter ego for the purpose of this workshop. We’ll also lay down some ground rules which will include not discussing or sharing anyone’s work outside the workshop.

Q. How many students do you expect or will you cap?

A. I’m really not sure, right now I’m open! If it gets too big or unwieldy, I’ll probably split it into two smaller “sections” rather than close it off. Since I don’t know when I’ll have the time to teach this way again, I’m reluctant to say no to anyone who’s ready and willing to move into this work now.

Q. Is there any provision for people with financial hardship?

A. Yes. Times are tough, right? Instead of paying the full registration fee up front, if you need to, you can make payments on the following schedule:

$55 due Sept. 15 or before your first class

$55 due Oct. 1

$55 due Oct. 15

$50 due Oct. 31

Please note that when you sign up, you are committing to the whole course, so this is not a way to “try out” the class and hedge your bets! I trust you to honor your commitment. You can pay via PayPal or, if you prefer, you can mail 4 checks to me, postdated, and I will cash them on the appropriate date.

Q. Are you accepting international students?

Yes. If you are based in India and have limited finances, you can apply for a special reduced rate of 4,500 rupees, which is about half the US student rate. Please contact me at hajratwala {at} gmail {dot} com for payment options if you cannot access PayPal.

Other countries, the course fee is $215 US. Please contact me for payment options if you cannot access PayPal or if you have a question about currency conversion. Thanks!

Q. My question is not answered here.

A. No problem. Ask me at hajratwala {at} gmail {dot} com .

Pondering online writing workshops (2nd post)

Thanks everyone for the quick feedback on my two ideas for online writing workshops!

I just did some thinking and calculating about the prep time and reading time that it would take me to really do this. And guess what — I think I initially lowballed myself.

The Book Proposal Master Class would definitely be more time in terms of reading and providing individual feedback, so I’m thinking that would end up being about $400 for the 8-week course. That still seems reasonable compared to other US-based writing classes — a lot of people charge that for just a weekend — and presumably you would eventually reap a return on that investment when your book sells. 🙂 What do you think?

For Writing From the Chakras, I think could stay affordable at around $25 a class, which adds up to $200 for 8 weeks. I would want people to commit to the whole course, but with a payment plan option, since a couple of people said paying class-by-class would be easier than coming up with a big amount up front. I hope that’s still in the ballpark for people who wanted that one? Or is that just too much?

I think I need to write up a better description of that one, too. It has a New Age woo-woo feel to it, which totally works for some of us, but it’s also a super practical approach that lets me tap into different levels of writing. It’s about developing skills to write everything from a high-impact fight scene for your action movie screenplay (root chakra! survival!), to a moment of epiphany in your subtle and elegant short story (crown chakra all the way!). I can see people writing everything from ancestral memory to science fiction in this class.

Also to clarify — I don’t think I’d prescribe any *particular* physical practice for the Chakras class. Rather, I’d offer a range of suggestions for ways to experience the energies of the physical/metaphysical body and tap into that. Some of those might be about things to try in the context of your own yoga or other physical practice, IF that’s something you want to try, but it wouldn’t be a requirement.

I’m still thinking about some of the other things people are asking. How will it work? Which online platform will I use? Hmm, great questions!

I think most of the work would happen via an email from me and individual assignments being turned in / shared back. That way you can work in your own time zone without being tied to a particular time of day. But probably a “live” session at least once in a while would also be helpful and important.

So friends, help me here — have you taken online classes before, if so what combo of technologies worked best, how did it end up feeling? Anyone got an inside scoop on hot new tech tools for this kind of thing?

Mary Anne showed me what Google Plus looks like, and the “hangout” function does seem like it would be cool for a writing discussion. But I’m wary of Google’s nonconsensual record on privacy and its issue about people having to use their real names.

Skype has a videoconference function that apparently works well, with a text chat sidebar for people whose connections are too slow or who don’t want to video. That might be good.

And even Facebook now has a group chat function (text only). If you’re already on Facebook, maybe that’s easiest? Or would it be too distracting, since the rest of your Facebook would also be active at the same time?

Thoughts, ideas, feedback?

Anyway thanks everyone for the enthusiasm and interest! My brain is now brimming with fun writing exercises and curriculum ideas for both classes. I think I’ll work on the course descriptions and throw them up in the next few days.

Gay, Indian, etc.

Had a really lovely event at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco last night. They’re doing a whole month on India so I’m hoping to go see my friend Vini speak on August 23 (she’s awesome, who wants to go with me?). And then I have my own talk on Thursday, August 25 (I’m awesome, click here to buy your tickets now! heh!). Here’s the description of my talk:

India and Her Fragments:
Migrations from Old to New Worlds

The story of India’s 30-million-and-growing worldwide diaspora is reshaping trade, identity and culture all around the globe. Fresh from a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship in India, Hajratwala will speak on what Americans need to know today about the rapidly changing country to which nearly 2 million Americans trace their roots. Hajratwala will draw from the seven years of research that led to her nonfiction book, Leaving India, winner of a California Book Award (Silver) and three other literary awards.

I always love speaking at the Commonwealth Club because, having listened to their public radio broadcasts for years, I love watching someone (in this case the charming Julian Chang) pound the gavel that begins and ends each session. Yes, my name is Minal and I am a public radio geek.

Last night’s event was cool. I’d just flown into SFO the day before so it was great to jump right in — a panel discussion on being gay & Indian. The Sexy Grammarian showed up with her sexy wife, the panel was packed with longtime friends from my old Trikone organizing days, and the audience of about 50 was enthusiastic and articulate.

I got a chance to talk about some trends in the LGBT movement as I’ve observed it in India and to plug the upcoming anthology I’m editing for Queer Ink. Apparently the discussion will be broadcast on Diya TV and KQED radio sometime soon, so I’ll post the links when they go up.

There were some really nice, enthusiastic folks in the audience who were totally sweet to me. I sold a couple of books. One young man had driven up all the way from LA to see me speak and get a signed book! Totally made my night.

All in all, a lovely re-entry to my favorite city in the world.

Rakesh Modi, Devesh Khatu, Julian Chang, Dipti Ghosh, and me ...
photo by Helen Lin Billuni

Want me to teach an online writing workshop?

Landed! And, coming off my adventures in the Midwest, I’m considering teaching an online workshop. Folks have been asking about it for a while now, and now that I’m not planning to travel too much for the next few months, I think I could put it together. On the flight back to SFO today, I thought of a couple of ideas. Would love to hear feedback, thoughts:

• Idea #1:

    Book Proposal master class

8 weeks (or 10?) in which you get your nonfiction book proposal done. I guide you through each section, give regular assignments, offer feedback, and we workshop with the class. We’d start in Week 1 with honing your book idea, and by Week 8 you’d have a solid draft of your book proposal and a clear direction for what you need to do next and shopping for agents/publishers.

• Idea #2:

    Writing for the Chakras

8 weeks — 1 week per chakra with a wrapup session. This is a body-based writing system that, in my experience, leads to fast, energized, powerful, breakthrough writing. It’d be suitable for anyone who wants to integrate a physical (yoga, etc) practice with a writing practice, wants to jumpstart their writing/a particular writing project, or just wants to experiment with a lot of fun creativity exercises and energetic work. Breaking through blocks and healing trauma is a natural outcome of this work, and I would envision this as a more process-oriented course that allows you to get in touch with the most powerful possibilities in your creative work.

I think I could start a course around Sept 6 and run it through early November. I’d have to figure out how many students and at what rate would make it a fair expenditure of my time. I’m thinking something like $20 a week at the low end of a sliding scale would be affordable, maybe?

So, what do you think? Would you take a class like either of these? How much would you pay? How much ‘homework’ or time per week would you want to dedicate to such a class? What would be the most useful or exciting aspects that would make it worthwhile for you?

By the way, both these ideas came directly out of my mini Midwest “tour” last week. I was reminded of how much I love talking to writers about writing! I love telling people the scary, exhilarating truth that their ideas are amazing and that they can do it.

In Detroit I did a marathon of one-on-one sessions at the Asian American Journalists Association convention, with super smart journalists whose book ideas just blew me away. Some of the writers were working in straight journalism, some in other genres (one genius young woman sweetly asked, “Is it ok to talk to you about creative writing?” Yes!). In each session, I felt great about the way I was able to help people clarify their ideas, find the strongest thread, and clearly see the next step in their process.

In Chicago I had a coaching session the next day with a client who’s done simply amazing work since the last time I spoke with her. I could see the energetic shift in her body. I also taught Writing from the Chakras, the second time I’ve taught this class in collaboration with a yoga teacher, and I swear at least a couple of the students walked out of the room glowing.

Now… off to shower, maybe catch a nap, and enjoy my first Mum-made meal in 10 months!


PS: Had some more thoughts based on feedback to this post. Click here for update!

San Francisco!

Dear hometown,

I missed you. What wonderful adventures I’ve had in our time apart. I’m so happy to be coming back. I don’t know yet if it’s a visit or more; what I know is that I’ll be with you from August 16 to November 26, and then we’ll just have to see.

Meanwhile, we have some fabulous dates planned. And I have so many stories to tell you. I’m sure you do, too. I can’t wait, baby!


Upcoming San Francisco events

Weds 8/17 Panel discussion on Being LGBT & Indian
(San Francisco, Commonwealth Club forum)

Thur 8/25 Lecture on India and Her Fragments: Migrations from Old to New Worlds
(San Francisco, Commonwealth Club main speakers series)

Sun 8/28 The Unicorn & The Seeker: readings from my new work created in India
(San Francisco Women’s Building, as part of the 3rd i Queer Eye film & performance festival)

Please come; I’d love to see you. For all the details, please check out my Events page.

Back to the Midwest

Detroit & Chicago writers: Do you want to write, learn, breathe? Why not schedule an individual coaching session with me? To see what you get, click here. And then, if you want to meet, just email me. It’s easy, and I do expect my time to fill up fast, so book your slot early!

Individual coaching appointments available:
Detroit: August 12-13, 2011
Chicago: August 14-15, 2011

Yes, I’m heading out of India — hard to believe 9 months have gone by so quickly. I’m swinging through the Midwest to visit family and friends and do some events on my way back to California.

My public events on this trip are as follows:

8/12 Detroit: How to Write and Publish Your First Book, panel at the Asian American Journalists Association annual convention

8/14 Chicago: Writing from the Chakras, a yoga and creative writing workshop (no experience necessary!)

I’d love to see you, please come by! For all the details, please check out my events page.

I’ve also got upcoming fun stuff in San Francisco in August. And in Chicago, I may be doing a house party/fundraiser for the writers organization DesiLit. Stay tuned!

Hope to see you!

Happy Birthday to Me!

I remember when 40 seemed so far off, as if everything I ever wanted to do in my life would have to be done by then. I still meet people (young people, I could say now in a granny voice!) for whom 40 is the goalpost, not the center line.

I love my life. I am more free than I have ever been, more sure of myself and my work, more honest every day. My body is stronger and I am more in it, less prone to disassociation and overt or covert methods of self-harm. My mind is clearer and the tools I have to work with it — writing, yoga, meditation, intimacy — feel more and more potent. I am more grateful for the world every day, despite its problems and injustices. I am in awe of the brave, powerful work of the people I meet, whose commitment to learning and creating change might waver but, collectively, gives me great faith. I am bowled over, humbled, by the creativity with which we respond to the conditions of our time.

I have been thinking that the opposite of black-and-white thinking is not shades of grey, but the whole rainbow. I don’t feel jaded or cynical, most of the time. I feel new, and in love with the magic, the full spectrum, the unnameable things that make up our glittering, daring world.

If all goes well I have maybe another 40 years ahead of me, in this precious life. I have no fear for the future, nor do I have regret. I’m excited. As far as I can tell, I have not wasted a minute of the past four decades. Although I have been confused, fatigued, lost, cruel, and full of rage or sorrow, I have also been loving and beloved, ecstatic, brave, triumphant, generous, and occasionally wise. I have found life wildly satisfying, well beyond any plans or goals I might have set for myself early in life. I could not, at 15 or 20 or 25, have imagined these blessings.

I have ideas for the years ahead, but I want to hold them lightly. Projects, metaphors, directions to lean into — one step at a time, one doorway at a time — yes. But as for serious life goals, a big plan, a bucket list? Whoever has planned my life so far has done an awesome job. I’ll leave it to Her.

Me, I’m making no plans.

Thanks to Gina LaRoche for sending me this photo of a sculptural creature designed for the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show.

Amina and Me, Part II

(Read Part I, “A Thousand Sighs: Memoir of a Hoax,” here.)

Last week, I posted about my brief interaction with Tom MacMaster, the man who posed as “A Gay Girl in Damascus.” Today, my publicist at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt forwarded me the following email from someone purporting to be Mr. MacMaster. (I have deleted my publicist’s name from the correspondence.)

—– Original Message —–
From: Tom MacMaster (thomasjmacmaster@gmail.com)
To: (name deleted)
Sent: Tue Jun 21 01:50:34 2011
Subject: Minal Hajratwala

Dear (name deleted),

I am contacting you regarding a client of yours, Minal Hajratwala. On her website, she has posted information regarding me as well as copyrighted materials. Please advise her to remove all of these forthwith as, otherwise, I will be seeking legal action against her.

Tom MacMaster

My reply:

Dear Mr. MacMaster,

Since you have my email address, as is clear from your earlier email to me as “Amina,” you are welcome to correspond with me directly and say anything that you wish to say to me. My email address is also available through my website, which is where I am guessing you found my publicist’s email address in the first place, so the purpose of sending her this email is rather obscure to me.

I am sharing your email via my blog and with a few of journalists who have been covering your story. I will also be encouraging others to mirror my original blog post, including the PDF, in case for some reason my site needs to be taken down. In case a legal defense is needed, I feel quite confident that the blogosphere will volunteer its assistance.


Minal Hajratwala

I received an immediate response via email:

from Tom MacMaster thomasjmacmaster@gmail.com
to Minal Hajratwala
cc (name deleted)
date Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 8:37 PM
subject Re: Fw: Minal Hajratwala

Dear Minal Hajratwala,
Please note that the Amina Arraf gmail account has been destroyed as well as all correspondence sent there. I am currently in conversations with an attorney here as to potential libel cases as well as potential copyright violations.

I do not wish to start a flame war with you. I am not seeking further publicity, positive or negative, and wish you no ill. Hence, my request to delete those materials so as to avoid potential legal troubles for both of us.

Tom MacMaster

For the moment I think I’ll refrain from further commentary; if this is indeed Mr. MacMaster, I have a feeling others will say everything that needs to be said about this. 🙂

I’m also open to the possibility that this is not from him, but from someone who is so irritated with him that they want to keep the story alive and make him look even worse than he does.

Want to help?

Here again is the PDF of the memoir draft that “Amina” had sent me, if anyone would like to upload it to their own site: A-Thousand-Sighs-Part-I.

All are welcome to mirror/repost my original blog post, in which I talk about how this suddenly newsworthy document first came to me, and share my impressions of it.

Legal advice, media query, something else? Please do feel free to comment below or contact me.


Post amended to add:

As I was writing this post, I realized that the original damascusgaygirl.blogspot.com blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus” has been taken down, which makes it difficult for anyone to see the level of deceit we’re talking about here. I was just sent a zip archive of that blog, which seems to include everything except the last two entries (in which Tom MacMaster came out as, and then apologized for, Amina). I believe strongly that the blog as it appeared remains an important part of the public dialogue. For that reason, with the permission of the person who sent it to me, I am posting the zip archive. Click here to download it..

I’ve been told it’s a good idea to have multiple mirror sites in case this one gets taken down. That’s why I’m asking people to feel free to upload any of these files to public sites or your own blogs. (Thanks to those who have already done so; see links in the comments below.) I’m not on a vendetta here, and in fact I’ve been far less involved in this issue than many other people. At this point I simply think it’s important to keep the public record public, and to live with your own mistakes — rather than trying to cover them up or to blame other people for pointing them out.

Today I moved

Goodbye, apartment

Reading my favorite beatnik Punjabi’s blog made me think of the ziplocs Rivka brought me this morning. She has moved continents twice and knew exactly where to buy them in the neighborhood (next to Twinkle at Kemps Corner, in case you need some too) so she volunteered to get some and bring them to me. This was so incredibly helpful that I felt moved by her generosity.

This is only symbolic of many other people helping me — S bringing her car from a distant suburb and agreeing to store several suitcases for me, V carrying a load up three flights of stairs, various people offering guestrooms and leads on apartments and so on.

Rivka brought 15 ziplocs each in 3 sizes:
• small for opened bottles of toiletries
• medium for some more of that kind of stuff — so boring I don’t even remember what it is
• large for packing clothes and papers to keep them from molding in the monsoon

This last was the most interesting to me, because new, and possibly futile.

I had lots of bags left over and felt greedy about giving them up, in case I need them again. So for now I am wealthy in ziplocs.

My moving-out and moving-on was rather sudden, precipitated by my landlord nonconsensually moving in with me and refusing to commit to a leaving date. Because of several complex factors (including whiskey, cocaine, entitlement, verbal diarrhea, and patriarchy) I did not wish to be his flatmate so I have been staying at yet another generous friend’s place while she has been out of town for the past several weeks. She is coming back, plus eventually it becomes ridiculous to pay rent for non-habitation, so I decided to stop clinging to the idea of what that place could have been for me, realize it was not actually being that, and leave.

It was kind of a tough decision but now that it’s done, I feel a sense of freedom and excitement and readiness to make another transition — I have just 7 more weeks in India, for now, so life is about to start moving very fast.

On Friday I will go to Bangalore … also a rather quick decision and a great one. It feels like an awesome time to embrace spontaneity. I am totally a planner and list-maker, so although from the outside it might look like I do big things suddenly, actually usually I do tons of planning ahead. Not so right now.

I suspect the monsoon as well as the phenomenon of three eclipses within six weeks (last one coming up July 1) is contributing to my newfound semi-recklessness.

At the beginning of the rains I tried to not go out in the rain. It seemed wise since the lane that I could see from the window was like a little creek. However after three solid days of rain I had to reconsider that practice.

One evening after I talked with my landlord I had a lot of excess energy — too much even to channel into using all my new Hindi curse words — so I went for a brisk walk and got caught in a suddenly squall and got absolutely drenched and walked more and waded through puddles and stopped to eat momos and a brownie and walked back and it was rather wonderful. When I came in, I washed my feet.

Today was terribly hot and sticky while we were moving stuff, but not raining, which was lucky; but then it did rain suddenly; but then it stopped.

Wisdom O The Day: Trying to avoid the monsoon while it is actually happening is silly.

Someone told me this is actually pre-monsoon. “This is nothing yet,” she said. Other people had told the same about the summer heat — “This is nothing yet” — but then it didn’t get hotter. Now I hear it was a very mild summer: “That was nothing.” I am not sure what to make of all these narratives of nothingness.

I’m not sure this weather metaphor can really stretch any further but it is interesting to think about my calendar in terms of certain and uncertain periods right now.

• go to Bangalore June 24
• ??? back in Mumbai — stay with friends
• leave India August 7
• speak in Detroit to journalists about how to get a book published on August 12
• ??? do a fundraising event for DesiLit in Chicago ???
• speak at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco on August 25 (my talk: “India and Her Fragments: Migrations from Old to New Worlds”)
• ??? 2 ½ months of some stuff ??? Work, apply for grants, write, ???
• return to India November 26
• ???

I suspect very interesting things will happen in the ??? periods. They always do.

Salla — who, as my temporary roommate obviously chosen by destiny, has witnessed all my decision-making contortions — always smiles very sweetly and says, “Yes, why not?” Then she says something very smart and insightful that helps me see what I’m doing or need to do.

The other night we watched a video of Judith Butler’s lecture on anarchism and Israel, and drank rum with nimbu paani, and looked at Google Maps Street View, zooming in on the closeups of her mum standing in the driveway of their home in Finland and of the apartment where I lived in San Francisco with my red Firebird parked in front of it.

I made a spreadsheet that shows me where I will be sleeping each night for the next 7 weeks. The dates I still need to confirm are marked in yellow. I named the document Monsoon Tour.xls.

Tomorrow I will pick up Nandi’s key and visit with her over lunch, go with Salla to her tailor to get my fabrics from Kutch stitched, and have Lata come over to give me a massage and a manicure and pedicure.

All is well or, as the theme song for “3 Idiots” has it, Aal Izz Well.