3/27/17

Poems | Rebecca Vedavathy

Sitaphalmandi Railway Station, MMTS
Source : http://indiarailinfo.com/station/map/sitafalmandi-stpd/2325


Sitaphalmandi, Hyderabad

II

The city rolled out
like a warm aloo paratha
over a hunch-
backed flyover's
rolling pin traffic
cassava no electricity
while the rain drawn
pavement stood
an impressionist
Monet: Love's
gluten-fed dishevelled
hair, a squall-borne
thoroughfare of rolled
down shutters spoken
in jeera tongue and
forgotten letters.

I

Sari, moon and lamppost
soften the sun-dried
edge of a sleepy
flyover. Clouds memorize
the scene. Night, the artist
with an eraser in
hand shimmies with
the wind. You are the navel
of every metaphor, my body
creates. Under the flyover
the fireflies perched on an
ice cream stick sing for rain.

III

Sitaphal will come again
sitting on the hip of the bridge
Sitaphal will come again
sporting Monsoon's paperback ridge
Sitaphal will come again
riding the spine of translation
Sitaphal will come again
growing grass with no citation
the fruit coils its fly-swatting
bazaari tongue around
pan-vendors, shoe-menders,
silver-dealers, money-lenders
this italicized neck, sweet-laden
stations its heavy head, nuptial bed
inside creamy white custard apples that
come again and again, again.

3/18/17

Poems | Gayatri Majumdar

Aurangabad, 
February 2017 





Photos by  Gayatri Majumdar


1.

There’s a strange light throbbing
flashing –
beyond the neon light
of the hotel room
silhouetted by trees
the red light strobes
to the beat of my heart.

Bodhisattvas wait 
outside
their begging bowls 
gathering dust and rain water.

On the train ride
the costly Baggit peeps out
of the cheaper mirror-worked 
Kutchi sling bag.
I possess both; disown both.
The thing within will always pinch your soul.

Everything white
inside the hotel room
– the walls, sheets, split A/C,
coffee cups and cigarette.

How did you do it?
Guide me home –
from shore to shore
across subways filled with stench
up to the caves of Tiruvanamalai
down Churchgate B-Road right opposite Sydhenam?

Blowing smoke and censuring,
right on time every time
like when you waited to die
on a perfect basanta morning
lest I stumble or miss the bus?

Now following footsteps of Bodhisattvas
I arrive
in an accidental space.
To think I’ve looked for love
and some loose change
in a boundary-less universe.

As you lay wasted somewhere
on the debri
of an outer star and restless night,
a single sweat swelling  
your holy temple 
in an erotic kind of way.

Past endless lands 
of onions and cotton fields
Bodhisattvas walk
to bring color and succor 
to some forgotten hills
and moon-lit hoardings.

We come the longest way
to tomorrow;
carry the torch in our eyes
and a few cheap metaphors
in our pockets.

2.

Then we babble,
say they know nothin’
‘bout consciousness and other realms,
you know with their
constant chatter and suspect demeanour.

And the wavelets rise and fall
thoughts, desires and lives
dissolving then into an oceanspread.

3.

Am in love with a man
several centuries old;
and as I walk down these stony paths
those centuries flash past my eye
erasing my very existence.
It’ll take me a few centuries to get there,
but am willing to wait.

You took several of my breadths away
when you held my face
and gasping I looked up
at the divine ochres and blues of your face –

Bodhisattvas and apsaras in white
hidden in ancient caves
protectors of truth and light
from some very dark forces
in some very darker spaces.

Earlier our bus driver in khaki & Ray Ban
briefed us in his
unstitched English.
All through the ride
he turned reckless corners
at breakneck speed
to loud 90s Bollywood music,
to help us reach our destination sooner
and to make the ride, well, enjoyable naturally.

In Cave 16, or was it 10,
a Thai monk with elaborate tattoos,
flashed his laser light 
to study the floor 
for any telltale signs of miracles and satoris
where Bodhisattvas meditative sat
eating their meager meals
at the Lord’s feet –
So much beauty in 
so little, it hurts;
in next to nothingness
conquering the unlit
defying fear
brave soldiers of the believers.

Many more Bodhisattvas 
in long silver beards
sit on plastic chairs
waiting for their chai
outside shops piled with tyres
on long Sunday evenings
discussing flat tyres
and the price of onions.

I photograph large goddesses 
guarding themselves and the rear chamber
with weapons 
and their bejeweled nakedness.

Consciousness then comes easy
away from ravages of distorted beliefs
and loud traffic noise
as I count birds and flowers
and the change
I hand over to the man selling plastic souvenirs.

At the entrance to the same cave,
the goddesses’ breasts defaced.

The world fell with a thud,
but noiselessly
as I stumbled falling
in the dark
at the feet of the man
I love.

And the bored and tired
couple said, “how many
more steps? The caves
are all the bloody same.”
Just when I thought I finally arrived
I lost my head
when the guide snatched at my cell phone
accusing Me of wrongdoing!!

This life was never mine,
never will be again.
I should have left my self
eons ago
before the light caused heartburns.

4.

Time used to be
a random man
I waited for 
day after day
blood draining my face.

Time ran away with her,
I got the consolation prize
and several unborn babies.

I whirled with time
showed him a step or two.

Americans filmed the acoustics of 
one of the caves
to the chants of
“Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ. . .
Buddham Sharanam Gachchami . . .” 
reverberating across the cosmos.

And the yellow Buddha on the cushion cover
in utter silence gazed
at time drunk sprawled on the floor.

Shivaji, our guide and auto driver,
says he’s a Buddhist; 
he wears a large yellow tilak 
and insists we visit Aurangazeb’s grave.

5.

Meanwhile, elsewhere consciousness 
comes with a price
in a heartbroken city;
it’s never easy to remain balanced
on the debri of lost glories
on Park Street.

But balance we must;
dodging stars, mini buses and stranger planets,
cross flyovers across timezones
and try to not get killed
by a massive Supernova called Sophiya,
her fuchsia headlights and purple fairy-lights
playing a game of hopscotch 
in another dolphin’s dream. 

3/13/17

Poems | John D Robinson

 Artwork : Nandalal Bose
Source : Juliet Reynolds


Friday & Saturday

Margot is 79 years old and she’s
uninhibited and is having sex
with the local low-life and
perverts and they’re robbing
her blind;
Helen is 61 and she’s
drinking too much and next
week she’s going to be
street-homeless and she will
die soon;
Kate is 53 and off the streets
for tonight and in a safe
place;

we visited the city, we were
relaxed together and smoked
beneath a canvas shelter as
the rain raced down;
Denise lives in a
derelict building, no water,
no electric, she is 80;
James is 3 and he will never
see his parents again and he
will never know why and
no one else has an answer;
a tsunami hit New Zealand,
I read some more of
‘Farrago Soup’ by
Doug Draime;
we watched a film together;
I drank some wine and
wrote some poems
appreciating the fact that I’m
a lucky son of a bitch
and then I went to bed.



On a Daily Basis

She put her 14 month old baby
girl into the bathtub and then
returned to the kitchen to
carry on drinking cider and
smoking joints;
2 or 3 hours later,
remembering,
she found her baby drowned,
dead;
she was sentenced to 7 years,
she expressed great remorse,
revealed herself openly,
it had been an awful day and
she’d drank cider and smoked
some joints of hash
which was, she said,
‘Something she did on a daily
basis with never a problem’



Rock 'n Roll Breakfast

Today at Ed’s diner
we breakfasted on
Presley
Cash
Fats
courtesy of a table-
top silver-coin-
swallowing juke-box;
I sang along and you
smiled, we smiled at
one another and then
you sang along,
later somebody
selected Berrys’
‘Johhny Be Goode,’
Holly’s ‘Peggy Sue’;
 we filled our mouths
with eggs and hash-
browns
and mushrooms and
sausages and
fried tomatoes and
sipped at our coffee
as Little Richard
Bill Hailey
Ed Cochran
and
Jerry Lee-Lewis
filled our ears
at 8a.m.



The Onlookers

Roy had boasted that he was
meeting the very popular
Jessica and that she was
going to give him a blow-job;
‘Bollocks’ we said ‘That’s
bullshit’
‘Okay’ he said ‘Come and
see it for yourselves’
and 6 or 7 of us 15 and 16
year old non-believing
friends of his accepted
his invite;
‘Just don’t fuck about,
keep quiet and out of
sight, okay?’ he said
seriously; we all nodded
our heads;
Jessica was an unfortunate
skinny looking soul with a
big nose and clumsily
over applied make-up;
her best feature
was her lovely brown
hair which fell beyond
her ass;
and the gang of us were
looking down from atop a
grassy bank and we looked
as she went to work
and Roy looked up
grinning and giving us the
thumbs up
and we began laughing and
and applauding
and she moved away,
coughing and spluttering
and looked up at us and
she began to cry and
ran away sobbing loudly;
Roy zipped up and
shouted that we were a
‘Bunch of lousy fucks’
our laughter and
applause increased,
smothering any pity
we may have had for
the poor girl.


The Bully

The bastard thrust his face
an inch from mine
and literally spat
‘The best part of you
Robinson dripped down
the legs of your
whore-mother’
there was only one
come-back I had;
‘Yes Corporal’
he stepped back
trying to suppress a
grin but failed and
then moved in real
close and whispered
‘You keep the fuck
outa my way Robinson’
I nodded my head,
he turned and walked
away;
I was just 16 years old,
several weeks into a
military career
and this asshole was 10
years senior and a 5 year
veteran infantryman;
he was a cunt and his
name was Ferguson.

3/9/17

Poems | Syamantakshobhan Basu

Photo : LeeLa


Junebug,
Three days into the sixth month of the year,
The heat gives us no respite.
Sometimes the days are longer,
Stretching interminably, melting into one another,
Like our faces melt in the dazzling slow
Sunset.

The mornings, however, are different, Junebug.
Quietly tingling in our blood,
The mornings turn everything into exactly that shade
Of yellow that we pick out when writing
Love letters to childhood sweethearts.
The nights, too, are peaceful, though
Always promising to bring down a storm,
And never delivering.
The breeze plays about our cheeks and
Whispers laughing secrets into our ears;
Secrets that we remember to ourselves and smile
When the scorching Sun God Tyrant of Heaven
Threatens to unravel our being in
His rage.

Junebug,
The year flows away
And the calender strips slowly, unable to bear the heat,
Each page restlessly torn away from the whole.
The green grass smells of a slightly sweet burning,
Soothed by the early morning dew.
This summer is worse than the others, Junebug.
Send me endless love and laughter,
Letters on icy strips,
Sign me burning kisses on hail.
Write me cold winters, and read me never-ending
Snow.


Michel Foucault Dances in Discos

Michel Foucault dances like a squat skeleton
Through the streets of the city at night.
He pretends that no one sees him do it, but
He doesn't know my binoculars are trained on him,
Through a circular hole in my window.
A hole in my lens, a hole in his meaning
A hole in the very Order of Things.

When the world goes to sleep,
Michel Foucault abandons discourse,
And dances in gaudy discos
Till both his feet fall off.


Ikea

When the world is burning
And you're talking about Ikea,
Don't be surprised if the flames
Get in through the glass shutters
And consume every last piece
of your furniture.



Poems | Salil Chaturvedi

Photo : LeeLa

Udaipur, October 2016

The moist edge of the city
black scum
from the five-star hotel
brings in nutrients
into tall reeds   thorny acacia bushes     date palms    
spot-billed ducks   crakes     snipes     and stilts
the hills in the distance
        dry scrub
egrets flash whitely amongst the red algal bloom
 a family of whistling ducks winds its way through
    the water hyacinth
a purple heron loiters in the shadows
of a dying tree



Permission

On Divar island
rain water
in the plastic
pouch over the lock
that seals the premises

blades of grass
lean their heads
through the metallic gate

two bumblebees
curve into the courtyard

a platoon of ants
explores the cracks
in the driveway’s moss mosaic

a red spider
pulls gossamer
from the gate 
to a monsoon shrub

a grey-blue butterfly
closes and opens its wings
on the edge of the board

that promises 
dire consequences
to those who enter
without permission



Shaalmali

ISIS has begun killing
disabled children
with lethal injections

The barbets
have been screaming
all morning

There are new leaves
on the Shaalmali


Hey, She’s Awake

Friday night, the naked lady sits in my apartment
Thick grasses around her pudendum
Dark weeds in her armpits
Lizards in her hair

I’m hungry, she says
Slapping her stomach
Caked with what looks like dried blood

I can hear the hungry rumble
For no reason I think of sinkholes
I notice the blood-dripping lions tattooed on her breasts

I’m hungry, she says
Haven’t eaten in a while
The last snack I had was when, in nineteen forty seven?

But now I really want to eat
I mean a full meal
And I don’t care what you give me

Cooked, uncooked, stir-fried or roasted
Sons or daughters
Husbands or wives
Brothers or sisters
I’ll have them all

Oh, I could easily eat an entire generation
Munch through the bones of your friends
Eat the muscles of your enemies
It’s all the same
It’s blood I like
Can’t wait to put my tongue through your eye 
sockets

Give up your body, give it to me

I run out of the apartment
Half-crazed into the night, shouting
Bharat Mata ki Jai
Bharat Mata ki Jai



Ascent of the Asclepias

          less than an hour's drive to the east
          and there it is:     milkweed!

        perennial hardy erect evergreen
          weedy plant of wastelands
            ruderals and roadsides

flower stem bark root!

           “mix the latex with camel's pellets
            to reduce swelling and joint pain;
         take one or two flowers with water to cure fever
         (but not during Chaitra or Vaisakh);
 mix the latex with sand
    and ingest to cure a snakebite;
          
     smoke the powder of dried leaves
in a chillum to cure asthma”

            and if you're lucky you'll find out
                 that silence doesn't mean quiet
           silence means being filled with the noise
of your own lavender self



hey listen,

the crickets have started singing the songs of our death
the spoonbills have arrived
do you ever get that nature-heart-stick-lollipop feeling?
they are using bulldozers to have a conversation with the rice fields
you don't really know a place till you've seen it in moonlight
inside the stunned oceans are echoing the sounds of terrifying liquid screams
if i could choose between fresh thoughts and fresh leaves i'd choose fresh leaves
take off your clothes and tell me about angels, goddesses
and other cosmic beings living inside you
the tv is on too loud

Poems | Megan Dhakshini

Photo : Megan Dhakshini 

Crash

Poetic Creature;
She wore star-lined eyes.
Her pockets,
Filled with raindrops,
crescent moons and whispers.

Goddamn Goddess;
She’d tether you to her hips,
curve her lips,
sing of sins, whims,
what-ifs.

If you wanted to, you could
crash into love.
Every jagged shard and
molten dust of you
would wear star-lines.

Poetic Creature;
Goddamn Goddess;
Woman.



Alpha

Eyes. That command open
minds, hearts, legs,
lips. That dictate whims,
wants, needs, no's,
strings. That pull back
from curves, thrusts, tears,
sins. That weigh down on his
stride, heart, mind
Eyes. That will make you sigh.



1.


As the cautious dawn crept in
And found her in a sorry heap
Every why swirled sadly
In a salty puddle at her feet

2.


In my dreams You
are different.
Like the pockets of
secrets that hide
within the pleats of
my curtains.
A gust of wind;
The secrets are mine,
and then they are not.


3/2/17

TSC Interviews| Madam Odillard (The Beat Hotel)

Aletta Andre and Abhimanyu Kumar

A view of the street which leads to the Beat Hotel / Photo : Aletta Andre

Aletta Andre: Are you from Paris? 

Madam Odillard: Yes.

AA: You were born in Paris?

MO: Yes, I was.

AA: Is this your family’s property?

MO: No, I bought it. But I did not know it was a hotel so famous when I bought it. 

Abhimanyu Kumar: When you bought it, it was already in existence (as the Beat Hotel)? 

MO: Someone bought it in 1968 and renovated it. I came in 1980. I could not have run a hotel like that! 

(Before the start of the formal interview, she spoke of how she too renovated the Hotel and did away with the hole-in-the-floor latrines, and the stairs to construct a lift) 


A photo Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky in the lobby of Beat Hotel/Photo : Abhimanyu Kumar

AK: How did you come to know of the Hotel’s existence?

MO: By chance. I lost my job. I was in the east of France. The whole east district was working with iron and steel. Steel works left for south of France. The industry moved and everyone was fired. My parents were living in Paris. I walked alone in the streets and I did not know what to do. (One day) I met a lady in a hotel, Hotel Odeon, it is still there. 

I asked her, “To run a hotel, it is difficult?” She said, “No, if you can manage people, you can do it.” Two weeks later, I came back and (I was) walking in the same street, I don’t know why, because my parents lived in another part of Paris, but I was walking here… (In the Latin Quarter – Ed) 

AK: It was in 1980?

MO: It was in 1979. I saw the same woman standing in the doorway and she asked me if I was the one she met two weeks ago. I said yes. She said, “Come in and have a cup of coffee. I have someone who wants to sell a hotel. You can speak with him.” I went in, had a cup of coffee. And the man said, “Look, if you want to see what a hotel is, I can take you around. And he took me to the worst hotel in Paris!” (chuckles again)

AA: Was it this hotel…?

MO: No, no, no, no, no! Because he did not know me, he wanted to see who I was…

AA: Yeah, how you would respond…

MO: So he took me around a few hotels, the worst ones…

AK: Why were they worst?

MO: They were dirty. (Exhales) With girls!

AA: After seeing that, you still wanted to run a hotel…?

MO: (Laughs) So, after months, he said,“Ok, you know how to count, you know how to speak, so I am going to show you a better hotel.”

AK: This man was like an agent?

MO: Yes, he was an agent, dealing in hotels. He had contacts. So I took out a map and I said,“I want a hotel in this part, or that part, I don’t want to go where the brothels are”; I wanted to come this way, to the south of Paris. We started to look around and when we came here, I said,“I want this one.”

AK: The Beat Hotel?

MO: Yes. 

AK: How did it look and why did you…

MO: Dirty! I will show a picture of what it looked like, I have a picture. Voila… (Shows a picture of the wallpaper in those day) The flowers (on the wallpaper) were grey, and brown… I said, “Look, I like the location and I think in my mind, I can make something of that.” And I kept the name like the previous owners who bought it from Madam Rachou. 

AK: So you are the third owner?

MO: Yes. 

AA: Why were they selling it? 

MO: Because they wanted to retire. 

AK: How long did they have it? 

MO: About ten years…So, I did not have any money; I went to see my mother-in-law, to ask her if she would sell an apartment so she can give(some) money…I (also) had three friends who said, “Look, you lost your job, you are crying. If you make a business, I will put money with you.”  When you are fired, you feel five years older, you think you are nothing. So, in my mind I said, if they put money in something I want to do, I am worth something….

AA: If other people trust you…

MO:  First, my husband did not want to tell his mother I wanted money (laughs). So for one month, we did not say anything. (Laughs again) At the end of the month, I prepared my luggage, and opened the door of the lift and I started to pull my luggage and I heard a voice behind me say, “Look, you can type the papers (of authorization)”. She was giving me the power to sell it. So, I pulled my luggage back from the lift…it is true! (laughs) I typed the papers of authorization…

AA: Your husband had a job?

MO: Yes. For three years, he stayed in the east… I bought the hotel, I started alone here…

AA: He was supporting you? 

MO: Yes, and he would come every week, on weekend, with paint, and he was painting the rooms and the stairs, just so we would forget about the dirt (guffaws). It was really dirty!

A mural of William Burroughs in the same street as the Beat Hotel/ Photo : Aletta Andre

AK: And they were regular visitors, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and others…?

MO: They were there at the time, they were coming all the time …

AA/AK: Until when/How often did they come ?

MO: Pouf! Every month! (Reminisces) My husband did not speak any English at all. (Once) Allen Ginsberg came and said, "I have a lecture at the Pompidou Centre"... Have you heard of it?

AK: Yes, they just had a Beat Retrospective.

MO: Did you go there? 

AK: No, I just came so I missed it. 

MO: You could have seen me 20 years ago, in a picture … I went and saw the exhibition, (there was) the scroll (on which) Kerouac wrote (On the Road), I saw Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs in Tangiers, on New Year…There was a screen and I  saw a girl crossing the street, (near) the Beat Hotel. She had the same coat I had! I looked and said – That’s me! 

(Everyone laughs)

AK: This was in the exhibition? 

MO: Yes! Yes! 

AA: When you started, did you know these writers used to come here? 

MO: When I started to renovate, somebody pushed the door and said (voice drops), "Where did he sleep?" I said – "Who? Danton, Voltaire, (must be) a Frenchman you know (I thought)…Montaigne, Victor Hugo, I don’t know! He said – (almost whispering) Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs…"

AK: So Burroughs also used to come here? 

MO: Yeah…(laughs) So I said I really don’t know. So he started to tell me the story.  He made this book (points to the copy of Beat Hotel). Banal, Gris Banal…

AA:The editor …

MO: Then I met Harold Chapman (whose photographs of the Beats in Paris are collected in the book Beat Hotel - Ed) when he came and lived here. They were living for months here because they could cook in rooms. You can understand the smell and the dirt, whoo! 

AK: They came I think till until their deaths? 

MO: Yeah.  


Madam Odillard/ Photo: Aletta Andre

AK:I know that Ginsberg died in ‘97. Did they give you trouble? 

MO: No. When I came in, they were old.

AA: I did not know they came so often to Paris? 

MO: Yes, they did not need a passport, they could have the drugs and the owner here Madam Rachou was paying the (voice drops) …

AK:She was the second owner ?

MO: Yeah. She was paying the police …

AK: So this could continue …

(MO laughs.)

AA: So she was supporting them…

MO: When they could not pay, she was cooking for them. They were like children to her. 

AK: Who did you like best? 

MO: Allen Ginsberg was nice, Gregory Corso was nice. Look…

AK: (Corso) was quite wild they say…


The postcard that Ginsberg sent to Madam Odillard/ Photo: Aletta Andre


Ginsberg's photo makes up the front part of the postcard/ Photo: Aletta Andre


MO: They were all wild! Allen Ginsberg sent me this postcard…(shows it

AA: Did you speak English from before they were coming? 

MO: Yes. 

AK: But you said your husband did not speak English. 

MO: No. And we went to a lecture (where) Allen Ginsberg put us  at the first rank. I could not understand anything and my husband was worse. My husband was ready to divorce me! And we were in the first rank so we could not move!

AK: Did Burroughs not have a reputation for being difficult? 

MO: Burroughs was more pretentious. He was the one with money in fact. He was friends with the police…that was his job. He was putting the people together, keeping them quiet. 

AK: He took charge when he was here? 

MO: Voila! 

AK: They listened to him because he was elder …

MO: Yes. And when you needed a shower, you had to buy your key. And when you had the key, you invited all your friends to shower.  

AK :So the sexuality was quite in-your-face? 

MO : O Oui!   They were gays, you know. Look, Gregory Corso wrote this (shows the hotel’s reception book) 

A bluebird alights
Upon a yellow chain
Spring is here.

(Sotto Voce )Blue and yellow make green…

AK : Right. 

MO :Ah, you see! 

AK : Alchemy it’s called, in fact. 

(MO starts to read from a note in the reception book, by Corso but stops, missing her reading glasses.)

MO: “Dear old Beat Hotel, bonne nuit, with once rats from the cellar to the street. So were we, poets, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso, Orlovsky, Gysin… The sun…” Well, I don’t  have reading glasses.

AK : I can read…(starting from where she left) “The sun was as bright for us poets as for the rats. Now, forty years later, the rats are gone. And so are we. What was a no-star hotel has become a four-star hotel. My attic room tho changed still shows the St.Chapelle …”

MO : That’s the church behind.

AK : …Back I am, 1997. First came here 1957. 40 years ago. Bless all, Gregory Corso.” 

MO: I show you something which is really something. One day, I was at the door and a girl came and said,“I was there with Gregory Corso”. And look what she writes: “Hey Gregory, remember me? Sorry for what I have done to you.”

AK : What was her name? 

MO: I don’t know…here, (first name not audible on tape) Dora. 

AK: He had a great affair with a woman called Hope Savage so I was wondering if she appeared…

MO: He had so many (laughs). Go on…

AK/AA: (Reading from the note by Ms. Dora) “But regrets are no good. If you  pass by here again, please contact me”(the note is followed by an address)

MO: She even gives the code!

AA: So she left a message for him in your book.

MO: Oui, oui!

AK: (Still reading) “I had a wonderful time with you. Unforgettable!”

MO: Unforgettable, ah!

(Everyone laughs)

MO:But she never came back. 

AA: When did you last renovate the hotel? 

MO: From 1980’s, I started to clean it. I put nice paper on the wall. But you know what? People were pulling my paper! Because they were painting, there were designs on the wall…You know, I had a gallery from New York coming, and they said, “if you find a nice picture, we will buy the wall.” I said,“I am not going to sell you one of my walls!”

AA: How many rooms are there? 

MO: 19. At that time, there were 35. 

AK: Then what happened? You had to demolish some of them?

MO: Because they were so small…some of them did not have any lights. No windows. 

AA: Now all the rooms have bathrooms also.

MO: And when you were using too much electricity, Madam Rachou used to cut it. And in the reception, it was a bar. 

AK: That has closed now? 

MO: Oui. There was no name. William Burroughs started to call it the Beat Hotel. 


The Dream Machine/ Photo: Aletta Andre
AK: Kerouac never came?

MO: Oui, he came and for one night, he slept in Allen Ginsberg’s room. 

(Points to a corner in the room) You see that machine? 

AK: Is it the Dream Machine? 

MO: Yes. It is used in psychiatry and epilepsy (treatment). And some doctors come here and look at it. 

This is the original machine. Now it is more complex. They modernized the machine but the basis is this. And it is working. You have epilepsy? 

AK: I don’t. 

MO: (Puts it on) Close your eyes… (Whirring motion starts) You feel good? We don’t! (Stops it) The box came from China. We saw the box and saw a telephone number in New York. We called the number and asked what it was for. The man said, we are producing the machine in mass but I want you to have the first one. 

AK: And Brion Gysin had ordered it? 

MO: He made it! He made it in his room. 

AK: He was a painter…

MO: He was everything, he was painting, and he was cutting up pictures… books…

AA: And do you get a lot of visitors these days interested in the history of the hotel?

MO: Yes, that’s why we put pictures in (the lobby of) the hotel. Harold Chapman took these photos… He is too old now, lives in England... Have you been to New York?

In New York, there is Chelsea Hotel and there is a bookshop in San Francisco (The City Lights).  

(Madam Odillard is interrupted at this point by a staff member of the hotel with a housekeeping concern and the interview also comes to an end). 


Plaque at the entry of the Beat Hotel / Photo : Abhimanyu Singh