Tag Archives: Kingston

The Chapbook that never was

Final product.

Final product.

Chapbooks are not easy to make.

And, my final project for Carolyn Smart’s poetry workshop class was just that. A chapbook.

I knew what I wanted. My barenaked face, sans makeup (except mascara), as the cover.

The title would be “For Sale” borrowed from the first line of the first poem.

And, my name.

And, it would be fancy, a 4X6 in hardcover, bound in red cloth.

Hah. Impossible. For a 12 page chapbook, it was très impossible.

Credit: Chloe Sobel Photography.

Credit: Chloe Sobel Photography.

For the photo, I hunted down the fantastic Chloe Sobel from my creative writing class last term. Her expertise lay in feminist retellings of fairytales. And, portraiture.

After scheduling and rescheduling, we managed to meet outside in the windy cold (there was snow on the ground, and her reflector almost flew away, twice), get my clothes partially off for the barenaked feel, and clicked a few for my cover.

Next, the layout.

I begged my fantastic sister to help out with her artsy skills, and although she tried, due to time crunch (on my part), it was just not what I had pictured in my head.

So, I visited the printing services on campus with my ideas. They shot it down. We don’t do the kind of binding you want, they said. It just cannot be done.

I went to Staples next, but with similar results.

And just when I thought all was lost, and I would probably have to print those pages out myself, and staple them together in a shoddy manner (sewing and glue guns were out of question. Mostly, due to lack of a single artistic bone in my body.), I thought why not. Let me see if there are any binding services in Kingston.

The nearest to my location was DigiGraphics, and so I called them. The kind Elizabeth Clark there suggested, very gently, that perhaps I should reconsider the binding. Saddle binding could work you know, she said. It wouldn’t be fancy, but we could work with it.

So, I let them.

Final cover, courtesy of DigiGraphics, Kingston.

Final cover, courtesy of DigiGraphics, Kingston.

And voila. I had my chapbook.

It was slightly different from what I had initially imagined. But it was a real thing.

And, it was all mine.

The chapbook contains seven of my poems (four of which have been workshopped in the poetry class and some of which have been published online) and only exists as a single copy. It was, as I mentioned, made only for the purpose of my final creative writing project. At the moment, I do not have any plans of having any more copies published.

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Filed under photography, poetry, Writing about writing

So, now I am a photographer. Le-git.

“So, now you are a photographer,” said my mom, when I called her to tell her the news. As if winning a contest of some sort adds to my credibility of being a photographer.

“Yeah… I guess so.” I said with casual nonchalance.

Flashback to end Feb:

Friend: Hey, there is a photography contest at Queen’s. You should enter something.

Me: When is the deadline?

Friend: Today! I just got the email.

Me: Forward, please?

It was a Monday and I had so much lined up. There was my class at 10am. Then, a meeting with a student. And then, those books I had to hunt down at the library for a presentation I was doing on campus the following week (on Bollywood Item Girls, which is a whole other story by itself)… I wasn’t even sure if I would have the time to send anything in by their 11:59 pm deadline.

But I did. Five minutes before the clock struck 12. Me, the last-minuter. Living life on the edge.

The contest, organized by Queen’s University International Centre, was in its 5th year. Open to both undergraduate and graduate students, the demand was for “international” photos. We could submit a maximum of 2 images in 2 different categories.

A week after the submission, while I was in Edmonton for a conference, I got an email. Congratulations, it said. From 250 photo submissions, both of my photographs had made it in.

While “Fervour” won second place in the “People and Culture” category, “Together, we can” won first place in the “Critical Global Issues” one.

A bit about the photos:

Fervour (Varanasi, India):

"Fervour," Varanasi, India.

“Fervour,” Varanasi, India.

Taken at the evening prayers on the riverbanks of Ganges in the city of Varanasi, this photo of a young priest in the midst of his daily prayers, along with many other priests, is a regular occurrence. However, it was the look of devotion on his face, even amidst the rituals, that I had to capture a photograph of that expression.

Together, we can (Kolkata, India):

"Together, we can," Kolkata, India

“Together, we can,” Kolkata, India

While on a photowalk with a local photography club, “Kolkata Weekend Shoots,” I found myself in the largest wholesale market in Kolkata, also known as “Kolay Market”. While leaving the claustrophobic ambiance of the market, my attention was arrested by the shouts of these four men who were struggling to carry a huge load on their heads. I was both amazed and paralyzed by the sight.

The photo represents the hardships of the working class in Kolkata.

Today at their Gala exhibition/event, I got a bunch of gift certificates (read: m-o-n-e-y) and huge blown up versions of my winning photos. I have to admit it. The blown up versions have me most excited about winning this contest. If you are a student and an aspiring photographer in Canada, you know it’s goddamn expensive to blow up your photos.

So, am I a photographer?

Yeah, I guess so. (I am just doing what I do best. The duck-water thing.)

If you happen to be in Kingston, Ontario, check out the photos (along with other winning photos) at the Queen’s University International Centre on the Queen’s campus. They will be displayed (along with their descriptions) for the next two weeks.

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Filed under anecdote, photography

Breakfast with Teju* (Cole)

Teju Cole, author of Open City (2011)

*Because we are on a first name basis now. 

Yes, it’s true. I had breakfast with Teju Cole.

But of course, like every life changing event (because yes, it is indeed a life changing event for an aspiring writer to have a meal with a world famous writer), this one had a series of causalities that led up to it.

For one, I happened to be in Kingston this year because I am a student at Queen’s University.

Two, I am at Queen’s because I decided to do a second Master’s. I mean, how many people do you know who willingly signs up for a second Master’s? Exactly.

Three, I am friends with Bilan Hashi, whom I had met with as a consequence of her being a student in my program at Queen’s.

Four, Teju Cole happened to be in Kingston this particular year for the Kingston Writers Fest.

And five, both Teju Cole and Bilan happen to follow each other on Twitter.

Of course, Bilan may have never actually messaged Mr. Cole to meet with aspiring writers like herself and her friends (like me) if one of her acquaintances hadn’t done the same with Junot Diaz. Which had worked. Because not all famous writers were stuck up people and actually cared about meeting other writers-in-progress. Hmmm. Who knew?

So, this was the morning of 27th September. Bilan and I are in the lobby of Holiday Inn on the waterfront. We have a breakfast appointment. With Teju Cole.

It’s 9:30. We are on time. I haven’t had more than an hour’s sleep the night before on account of Foucault but had dragged myself out of bed at 8:00 because you didn’t miss these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities unless you were stupid.

We are contemplating whether to approach the lady at the reception, who is eyeing us suspiciously anyway, when the elevator doors open and Bilan goes, “There he is!”

Teju is all smiles.

There is a round of hellos and handshaking and introductions.

We are about to head into the hotel restaurant when we are stopped by none other than Michael Ondaatje.

Was that a sharp intake of breath? Hold on. There’s more to come.

“Teju. We are leaving at ten,” he says. He is talking of their drive to Toronto that morning. Teju leaves on a plane to New York later that day.

“Ten? Can we leave at 10:10? Or, 10:15? I was going to have breakfast with my friends,” and here, Teju introduces us, “Sanchari and Bilan”.

We shake hands with Mr. Ondaatje (while slightly in awe, if I may add).

“You can have 10:20,” Mr. Ondaatje smiles.

We walk into the restaurant, take our seats, and order coffee and breakfast. While Bilan goes for pancakes and I for a garden omelette with fries, Teju settles for a croissant.

The conversation is organic. We discuss our research interests. Bilan talks of her experience of living the underground life in Jeddah, to which Teju makes up a first line of a possible short story where the narrator finds herself snorting coke with a mother of three in Jeddah. We laugh. He shows us Variations on the Body by Michel Serres, a book he is reading at the moment. He tells us about how he quit his doctoral degree halfway through just to finish his novel. We talk of (Jhumpa) Lahiri, who he’s friends with, and whom I admire.

Then he follows me on Twitter right in front of me. And soon, the half an hour is up and I have forgotten the questions I had planned to ask him. He had not at all been what I had expected. Friendly but not superficial. Intellectual without being pretentious.

Before we can protest, he has paid for our breakfast and scampered away with an impish smile.

For a few seconds, Bilan and I are in a daze.

We solemnly agree that yes, we can now successfully cross ‘having breakfast with Teju Cole’ off of our bucket lists. Like it’s no big deal. Yup, none at all.

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