#GetLit: Arundhati Roy & Artwork by Political Prisoners

#GetLit

I published my book review for Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness earlier this week and if you haven’t checked it out, head on over here. It’s one of those books that you fully appreciate days after reading it, with the big picture getting clearer as days go by. It is a love letter too, an ode to hijras, mothers, freedom fighters, to Kashmir. The world will thank you for reading Roy’s newest book, so you best get on it.

I have been working on it for roughly 10 years. That was when I started putting down things which are in this book right now.

An Interview with Arundhati Roy (The Slate Book Review)

She knows everything from the frighteningly euphemistic military terminology of the region (informers are “cats” and so on) to the natural landscape of “herons, cormorants, plovers, lapwings,” and the “walnut groves, the saffron fields, the apple, almond and cherry orchards.” She looks into homes, into bomb sites, into graveyards, into torture centers, into the “glassy, inscrutable” lakes. And she reveals for us the shattered psychology of Kashmiris who have been fighting the Indian Army and also occasionally collaborating with it.

Arundhati Roy’s Return to the Form That Made Her Famous (NYT Book Review)

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Much of what Roy wrote in the book about the Kashmiris’ struggle for independence and self-determination reminded me of the lumad people. The lumad are the indigenous communities in the southern part of the Philippines, which has been under martial law for about two months now.

If you’re in the Bay Area next week or know of friends in the area, join me at the opening of an exhibit of artwork by Filipino political prisoners to raise funds for victims of martial law in the country.

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The woman in the flyer above is none other than lumad leader, the fierce Bai Bibiyaon Bigkayan Likay. For more on women lumad leaders, check out this post I wrote about them.

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When the external world is teeming with bullsh*t and horrendous stuff (read: MAGAnomics, Trumpism), I usually find solace by going within.

This week marked the return of one of Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s 21-day meditation experience, and I’ve been all over it. The theme for the next 21 days is Desire & Destiny and after only a week of doing it I’m noticing the way I respond to things, and how I’m more receptive to the world around me.

Today’s mantra was Om Bhavam Namah (I am absolute existence. I am a field of all positbility) — it’s not too late to sign up!

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And since we’re talking about internal worlds, here’s one from the archives: The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer.

I think that everything important in my life has not come through my mind, but through my spirit or my being or my heart. Everything I trust, whether it’s the people I love or the values I cherish or the places that have moved me, have come at some much deeper level than the mind. And I sometimes think the mind makes lots of complications over what is a much more beautiful and transparent encounter with the world.

The Difference Between Making a Living and Making a Life, with Pico Iyer

Book Reviews, Soul + Spirit

I first heard of Pico Iyer through Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being, where he discussed the art of stillness. In the interview, Krista asked him how his life has been as an intellectual. Having been educated at Eton, Harvard and Oxford, Pico responded:

I think that everything important in my life has not come through my mind, but through my spirit or my being or my heart. Everything I trust, whether it’s the people I love or the values I cherish or the places that have moved me, have come at some much deeper level than the mind. And I sometimes think the mind makes lots of complications over what is a much more beautiful and transparent encounter with the world.


In many ways, this interview and Pico’s words were deeply imprinted in my consciousness because he opened up language and a way of thinking that speaks to the spirit. As someone who has been traveling at a young age, the travel writer and essayist’s work charts the kinds of roads worth traveling to.

I’ve always held a kind of reverence for traveling, as I’ve written in a book review of Adam Gopnik’s and Alain de Botton’s. I even gushed about the intersections of travel and literature in a previous post, as a fictional character who owned a book barge traveled through the French countryside.

As I listened to the interview, Pico revealed a truth that many wanderers and travelers share: that one travels not to move around, but in order to be moved.

This was clearest to me as I drove through the deserts of Arizona, gazed at the expanse of the Grand Canyon. It was the intimation of my inner life that I sought in these landscapes, away from the grind, the daily sleepwalking of life (as Pico referred to it).

In his book The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, he writes about the necessity of sitting quietly, doing nothing, going nowhere. While he doesn’t subscribe to any religious affiliation, his work and his words echo the depth of spirituality. Much more, he proposes a turn away from the constant notifications and updates we’ve come to see as integral parts of our lives.

One could start just by taking a few minutes out of every day to sit quietly and do nothing, letting what moves one rise to the surface. One could take a few days out of every season to go on retreat or enjoy a long walk in the wilderness, recalling what lies deeper than the moment or the self. One could even, as [Leonard] Cohen was doing, try to find a life in which stage sets and performances disappear and one is reminded, at a level deeper than all words, how making a living and making a life sometimes point in opposite directions.