Well-known member
how can something like that be wrong? you could be wrong about the reasons for it but its a simple operation to gauge the level of shit in the streets


bandz ahoy
THEY TELL THE STORY of the Sikh who, returning to India after many years, sat down among his suitcases on the Bombay docks and wept. He had forgotten what Indian poverty was like. It is an Indian story, in its arrangement of figure and properties, its melo-drama, its pathos. It is Indian above all in its attitude to poverty as something which, thought about from time to time in the midst of other preoccupations, releases the sweetest of emotions. This is poverty, our especial poverty, and how sad it is! Poverty not as an urge to anger or improving action, but poverty as an inexhaustible source of tears, an exercise of the purest sensibility. ‘They became so poor that year,’ the beloved Hindi novelist Premchand writes, ‘that even beggars left their door empty-handed.’ That, indeed, is our poverty: not the fact of beggary, but that beggars should have to go from our doors empty-handed. This is our poverty, which in a hundred Indian short stories in all the Indian languages drives the pretty girl to prostitution to pay the family’s medical bills.

India is the poorest country in the world. Therefore, to see its poverty is to make an observation of no value; a thousand new-comers to the country before you have seen and said as you. And not only newcomers. Our own sons and daughters, when they return from Europe and America, have spoken in your very words. Do not think that your anger and contempt are marks of your sensitivity. You might have seen more: the smiles on the faces of the begging children, that domestic group among the pavement sleepers waking in the cool Bombay morning, father, mother and baby in a trinity of love, so self-contained that they are as private as if walls had separated them from you: it is your gaze that violates them, your sense of outrage that outrages them. You might have seen the boy sweeping his area of pavement, spreading his mat, lying down; exhaustion and undernourishment are in his tiny body and shrunken face, but lying flat on his back, oblivious of you and the thousands who walk past in the lane between sleepers’ mats and house walls bright with advertisements and election slogans, oblivious of the warm, overbreathed air, he plays with fatigued concentration with a tiny pistol in blue plastic. It is your surprise, your anger that denies him humanity. But wait. Stay six months. The winter will bring fresh visitors. Their talk will also be of poverty; they too will show their anger. You will agree; but deep down there will be annoyance; it will seem to you then, too, that they are seeing only the obvious; and it will not please you to find your sensibility so accurately parodied.

Ten months later I was to revisit Bombay and to wonder at my hysteria. It was cooler, and in the crowded courtyards of Colaba there were Christmas decorations, illuminated stars hanging out of windows against the black sky. It was my eye that had changed. I had seen Indian villages: the narrow, broken lanes with green slime in the gutters, the choked back-to-back mud houses, the jumble of filth and food and animals and people, the baby in the dust, swollen-bellied, black with flies, but wearing its good-luck amulet. I had seen the starved child defecating at the roadside while the mangy dog waited to eat the excrement. I had seen the physique of the people of Andhra, which had suggested the possibility of an evolution downwards, wasted body to wasted body, Nature mocking herself, incapable of remission. Compassion and pity did not answer; they were refinements of hope. Fear was what I felt. Contempt was what I had to fight against; to give way to that was to abandon the self I had known. Perhaps in the end it was fatigue that overcame me. For abruptly, in the midst of hysteria, there occurred periods of calm, in which I found that I had grown to separate myself from what I saw, to separate the pleasant from the unpleasant, the whole circular sky ablaze at sunset from the peasants diminished by its glory, the beauty of brassware and silk from the thin wrists that held them up for display, the ruins from the child defecating among them, to separate things from men. I had learned too that escape was always possible, that in every Indian town there was a corner of comparative order and cleanliness in which one could recover and cherish one’s self-respect. In India the easiest and most necessary thing to ignore was the most obvious. Which no doubt was why, in spite of all that I had read about the country, nothing had prepared me for it.

But in the beginning the obvious was overwhelming, and there was the knowledge that there was no ship to run back to, as there had been at Alexandria, Port Sudan, Djibouti, Karachi. It was new to me then that the obvious could be separated from the pleasant, from the areas of self-respect and self-love. Marine Drive, Malabar Hill, the lights of the city at night from Kamala Nehru Park, the Parsi Towers of Silence: these are what the tourist brochures put forward as Bombay, and these were the things we were taken to see on three successive days by three kind persons. They built up a dread of what was not shown, that other city where lived the hundreds of thousands who poured in a white stream in and out of Churchgate Station as though hurrying to and from an endless football match. This was the city that presently revealed itself, in the broad, choked and endless main roads of suburbs, a chaos of shops, tall tenements, decaying balconies, electric wires and advertisements, the film posters that seemed to derive from a cooler and more luscious world, cooler and more luscious than the film posters of England and America, promising a greater gaiety, an ampler breast and hip, a more fruitful womb. And the courtyards behind the main streets: the heat heightened, at night the sense of outdoors destroyed, the air holding on its stillness the odours of mingled filth, the windows not showing as oblongs of light but revealing lines, clothes, furniture, boxes and suggesting an occupation of more than floor space. On the roads northwards, the cool redbrick factories set in gardens: Middlesex it might have been, but not attached to these factories any semi-detached or terrace houses, but that shanty town, that rubbish dump. And, inevitably, the prostitutes, the ‘gay girls’ of the Indian newspapers. But where, in these warrens where three brothels might be in one building and not all the sandal-oil perfumes of Lucknow could hide the stench of gutters and latrines, was the gaiety? Lust, like compassion, was a refinement of hope. Before this one felt only the fragility of one’s own sexual impulses. One hesitated to probe, to imagine; one concentrated on one’s own revulsion. Men with clubs stood guard at the entrances. Protecting whom from what? In the dim, stinking corridors sat expressionless women, very old, very dirty, shrivelled almost to futility; and already one had the feeling that people were negligible: these were the sweepers, the servants of the gay girls of the Bombay poor, doubtless lucky because employed: a frightening glimpse of India’s ever receding degrees of degradation.

Degrees of degradation, because gradually one discovers that in spite of its appearance of chaos, in spite of all the bustling white-clad crowds which by their number would appear to defy or to make worthless any attempt at categorization, this degradation is charted, as the Indian landscape itself which, from the train no more than a jumble of tiny irregularly shaped fields, private follies of which no official organization would take cognizance, has yet been measured and surveyed and sketched and remains recorded in all its absurdity in the various collectorates, where the title deeds, wrapped in red cloth or yellow cloth, rise in bundles from floor to ceiling. This is the result of an English endeavour answering the Indian need: definition, distinction. To define is to begin to separate oneself, to assure oneself of one’s position, to be withdrawn from the chaos that India always threatens, the abyss at whose edge the sweeper of the gay girl sits. A special type of hat or turban, a way of cutting the beard or a way of not cutting the beard, the Western-style suit or the unreliable politicians’ khadi, the caste mark of the Kashmiri Hindu or Madras brahmin: this gives proof of one’s community, one’s worth as a man, one’s function, as the title deed in the collectorate gives proof of one’s ownership of part of the earth.

The prompting is universal, but the Indian practice is purely of India. ‘And do thy duty, even if it be humble, rather than another’s, even if it be great. To die in one’s duty is life: to live in another’s is death.’ This is the Gita, preaching degree fifteen hundred years before Shakespeare’s Ulysses, preaching it today. And the man who makes the dingy bed in the hotel room will be affronted if he is asked to sweep the gritty floor. The clerk will not bring you a glass of water even if you faint. The architecture student will consider it a degradation to make drawings, to be a mere draughtsman. And Ramnath, the stenographer, so designated on the triangular block of wood that stands on his desk, will refuse to type out what he has taken down in shorthand.


Well-known member
My brother went to India and a few other places recently and apparently my mum keeps ringing him up and demanding he get tested for parasites because he swam in the Ganges.


Void Dweller
yeah the music one. talking about the most boring obvious people like frank sinatra etc. his LRB essays are always fucking awful too.
was thinking about that the other day, how after a certain point old music critics always seem to return to these same very, you would think, worn-out reference points. "his new book connects the dots from sam cooke to john lennon to the sex pistols" etc. maybe there's sort of a circular aspect to it. you spend your career exploring obscure tangents and championing nascent scenes and eventually come out thinking, no, forget all that, the truly important musicians are the ones i saw on tv when i was a kid.


Well-known member
the reverse of that is the record collector disease we've discussed on here before where you've purchased every funk record ever made so then you start getting into Vietnamese funk and Anatolian disco with ever diminishing returns.


Void Dweller
the former could partly be in reaction to the latter. i certainly understand the feeling of taking in the endless sprawl of vaguely interesting content and wanting to go back to having just a few things to endlessly pore over and argue about. the problem is now no one can agree on what to center. so you have to resort to the most entrenched reference points.


Well-known member
Degrees of degradation, because gradually
I wonder if he knows the etymology here.

From PIE root gredh-, “to walk” or “step,” we get Latin gradus and gressus—thus aggress, centrigrade, congress, degrade and degree and digression, grade and gradual and graduate, ingredient and ingress, progress and regress and retrograde and tardigrade—all species of stepping.

Aggress is an approaching step. A regress is a returning step, as progress is a forward step. To digress is to step in a direction away from the direct or appointed course. A congress is a stepping and meeting together.

An egress is a stepping out and exiting, as an ingress is a stepping in and entering. To transgress is to take a step which goes beyond, passes a boundary.

Tardigrade is a slow stepping. To walk plantigrade is to walk on the whole of the foot, including the sole and heel; to walk digitigrade is to walk on ones toes, with heel raised.

To degrade is to knock someone down a step, as an upgrade promotes one up a step. A grade, or degree, is a step itself, a single stage of progress in an ascending hierarchy. A graduate is one who has successfully taken a step along.
A gradation is an orderly succession of such steps.

Centigrade is a measuring system of 100 steps. An ingredient is “that which steps into” a mixture.


Well-known member
Holy crap ... Two sentences in to an Iain Sinclair film review and I'm already lost.
Some real bangers tho—

Great Britain, that drifting, off-Europe aircraft carrier is tolerated as a generator of exploitable myths: Dracula, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter and the runic menagerie of J. R. R. Tolkien.

The true church is an island protected by steel-grey railings

The gents lavatory, the last gasp of Victorian charity, a benevolent reconstruction that followed in the wake of the Ripper murders, is now a subterranean wine bar... Georgian façades are retained, like cosmetic masks, to dress the latest land-grab piracy. The arch from Aldgate priory, close to where the body of Kate Eddowes was found in Mitre Square, is preserved - as a conversation piece, inside the offices of the Swiss Reinsurance Co.

An opium-smoking, absinthe-tippling Shoreditch dude who dreams the crimes.

The small set, hung with a woman's entrails, is no more than a literal cutting room - film for flesh