th Anniversary Special
August- September 2013
Learning to Heed Our Senses
Editor in Chief: Pritha Kejriwal Managing Editor: Maitreyi Kandoi Senior Editor: Sayan Bhattacharya Web Editor: Shubham Nag Sub Editor: Nidhi Dugar Kundalia Roving Editor: Mukherjee P. Feature Writers: Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Rimi B. Chatterjee, Saswat Pattanayak, Poornima Joshi, Manash Bhattacharjee, Dipa Sinha, Nitesh Mohanty, Koli Mitra, Sthira Bhattacharya, Raksha Bihani Columnists: Amit Sengupta, Thomas Crowley, Rohit Roy, Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal, Deepa Bhasthi, Neel Adhikari Art Director: Soumik Lahiri Marketing Manager: Priyanka Khandelia Asstnt Manager (Marketing): Souvik Sen Finance Executives: Dibyendu Chakraborty, Vishal K Thakur Head - Logistics: Arindam Sarkar Printed at: CDC Printers Pvt Ltd, Tangra Industrial Estate - II (Bengal Pottery), 45 Radhanath Chowdhury Road, Kolkata - 700 015. Distribution: IBH Books & Magazines Distributors Pvt. Ltd. Phone # 022 4049 7401 /02 Email: email@example.com A. H. Wheeler & Co. Pvt. Ltd. Phone # 91-532-2261385-8 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Vol 4 Issues 05 & 06 Aug-Sept 2013 For subscription queries: Write to email@example.com For advertising, write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org For marketing alliances, write to us at: email@example.com Owned, printed and published by Pritha Kejriwal on behalf of Ink Publications Pvt Ltd. Printed at CDC Printers Pvt Ltd and published from Kolkata. Ink Publications Pvt Ltd is not responsible for the statements and opinions expressed by authors in their articles/writeups published in ‘Kindle’. ‘Kindle’ does not take any responsibility for returning unsolicited publishing material.
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ll we have to believe is our senses: the tools we use to perceive the world, our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted.” – Neil Gaiman There has been a long standing debate on the ethics of bio-genetics. Habermas, while speaking in Marburg some years ago warned of a loss of understanding of ourselves and our environment as a result of bio-genetic manipulation, whereby we shall start to understand our ‘natural dispositions’ as mediated; we shall start looking at ourselves as objects that can be tweaked or manipulated, and hence as essentially contingent beings. After inventing the robot head Morgui, which contained all the five senses, used to investigate sensor data fusion, Kevin Warwick, a cybernetics scientist went on to transplant a chip in his own hand, turning himself into the first cyborg, whose nervous system was interfaced directly with a computer. He thus became the first person, whose five senses were being bypassed by a machine. In 2002, the New York Times magazine reported that scientists had created the rat-bots, whereby, the brains of laboratory rats were wired to a tiny radio – controlled backpack and scientists were able to control
the movements of the rats, making them turn in any direction they wished, even taking over their instinctive fears and making them scurry through tight pipes, climb trees or run across brightly lit spaces without a trace of hesitation. Juxtaposing might not be the right word here, rather, if we transpose this idea of manipulation–from our internal environments to our external environments, (though fundamentally, they are seamlessly connected, but just for the purpose of making a point), the ethical issues related to the ways we are manipulating our ‘natural’ environmental matrix are perhaps similar. Just like the rats, we think of our actions as voluntary ones, unaware of the invisible chip planted in our environments controlling us – directly interfacing with our five senses. Marshall Mcluhan, in his interview to Playboy in 1960 had said, “The world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum where everybody gets the message all the time. A princess gets married in England and — boom boom boom! — we all hear about it; an earthquake in North Africa; a Hollywood star gets drunk — away go the drums again.” In the same interview he also said, “Because all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in
him and transform his environment. Such an extension is an intensification, an amplification of an organ, sense or function, and whenever it takes place, the central nervous system appears to institute a self-protective numbing of the affected area, insulating and anesthetizing it from conscious awareness of what’s happening to it.” The noises that surround us today are way more deafening than the beating of tribal drums…the images are way too bright and have a blinding effect and everything else more than numbs our senses. Just how complicated is this problem of losing our senses or having them lie to us? The dialectics are inevitable. Are these problems of biological reductionism or capitalist/economic reductionism? Do we curtail the advances of science and technology? Do we curtail all sounds, all images – to gain a sense of autonomy and moral dignity? But in doing so, would we be creating a greater divide between science and ethics? Would we be denying knowledge? Would we be denying our own reality? The passage of five years that we have traversed through the magazine, has been under-pinned by these very philosophical musings and ideas, where we have constantly tried to heed our senses, often re-inventing them – to redefine our notions of freedom, our notions of morality and responsibility, our ideas of agitating and educating… Hopefully, if at the end of it all, we could be that posthumous tape containing the sounds of the postman Mario’s island – “the waves washing ashore, the screaming of the seagulls, the church bells and at the end of the tape, the horrifying sound of nightsticks crashing against the onslaught of the crowds, instead of applauses... a screaming crowd and the terrible sound of gunshots”…a generation of readers could treat it as our final gesture of love and devotion – Mario’s tribute to his favourite poet Pablo Neruda.
About the installations on the cover: The Five Senses is a five canvas panel, site-specific installation created for the “What’s Love got to do with it” show in Columbia, SC in 2009 by the Artist. Each one of the paintings is designed based on playing cards, depicting on each corner of the paintings the different cultural influences of the male stereotype in the Southern United States; for instance each piece includes Roman numerals as well as Mayan numbers. When the panels are installed together, the curious viewer will be able to read the phrase “MAKES SENSE” on the upper and lower corners of each painting. Depicted males are not only from different races, but also show interest in their own bodies, smelling, pinching and wearing or holding symbols of sensuality. About the artist: Alejandro García-Lemos is a Colombian American visual artist based in Atlanta, Georgia (United States). He holds a Masters Degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Florida International University in Miami, Florida and a Bachelors Degree in Graphic Design from the School of Arts at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia. His work focuses on social issues, mostly on aspects of immigration, sexuality, biculturalism, religion and community. His works have been shown extensively in the South East of the United States. Alejandro is an active member of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC), based in San Antonio (TX) as well as the founder of Palmetto & LUNA a non-profit organization promoting Latino Arts and Cultures in South Carolina.
Pritha Kejriwal, Editor-in-Chief, Kindle Magazine firstname.lastname@example.org
Alejandro’s work has been featured in important academic journals such as Migration Letters (UK), Association of Latin American Art, The Gay and Lesbian Review (USA) and magazines such as El Aviso (TX) and Jasper Magazine (SC).
Amit Sengupta Nitesh Mohanty Nabanita Kanungo Rohit Roy Shamya Dasgupta
Illustration by Soumik Lahiri
Xray of a Fascist Why we cannot afford to forget and why we cannot move on? What Modi means for India? By Amit Sengupta
hose who have observed Narendra Modi have some revealing – and chilling – things to say about him.
Social scientist Ashis Nandy had interviewed Narendra Modi in the early 1990s. He came out of the interview shaken. In his own words:
comprising eminent former judges as members. There are also scores of eye-witness accounts, including those of women – such as Bilquis Bano and Zakia Jafri – who were victims of the state-sponsored violence. Zakia Jafri’s court petition and the arguments and evidence being presented with it point to a nexus between the Gujarat government and the so-called rioters and to the fact that the violent acts were planned with detailed precision. Several indicators point to Modi himself. The meeting of the top brass in the government one day before the state sponsored killings is a crucial indicator.
“More than a decade ago, when Narendra Modi was a nobody, a small-time RSS pracharak trying to make it as a smalltime BJP functionary, I had the privilege of interviewing him. . . . Modi, it gives me no pleasure to tell the readers, met virtually all the criteria that psychiatrists, psycho-analysts and psychologists had set up after years of empirical work Other documents describe in detail the organized carnage on the authoritarian personality. He had the same mix of and its aftermath in the tragic and inhuman mass refugee puritanical rigidity, narrowing of emotional life, massive camps. People were hacked and burned alive. Swords use of the ego defence of projection, denial and fear of his own ripped apart women’s stomachs. There were mass rapes passions combined with fantasies of violence – all set within and grotesque public spectacles the matrix of clear paranoid and of gang rapes. Kerosene-filled obsessive personality traits. I still match boxes were put inside What can you say about a remember the cool, measured tone children’s mouths. Ravaged in which he elaborated a theory woman eight months pregnant women and children were of cosmic conspiracy against India thrown alive into bonfires. All who begged to be spared? that painted every Muslim as a of this has been documented suspected traitor and a potential meticulously and extensively Her assailants instead slit terrorist. I came out of the by journalists, activists, lawyers, open her stomach, pulled out interview shaken and told Yagnik witnesses, officials, filmmakers, that, for the first time, I had met and others. her foetus and slaughtered it a textbook case of a fascist and a before her eyes. What can you One person to speak out prospective killer, perhaps even a was Harsh Mander, then future mass murderer.” say about a family of nineteen an IAS officer, who wrote Another social scientist, Shiv being killed by ﬂooding their in Outlook (March 19, 2002) Vishwanathan, recently called soon after the killings: house with water and then Narendra Modi an “uncivilized creature” on prime time TV. electrocuting them with high“ …I force myself to write a small He said he was sure of this term fraction of all that I heard and tension electricity? because he has done “ten years saw, because it is important that of investigations” on Gujarat. we all know. Or maybe also JD(U) leader Shivanand Tewari had earlier said that Modi’s because I need to share my own burdens. body language reeked of arrogance. He recently remarked (after Modi’s rather perverse and murderous ‘Kutte ka What can you say about a woman eight months pregnant Bachcha’ comment during an interview with Reuters) that who begged to be spared? Her assailants instead slit open her Modi should undergo “psycho analysis”. stomach, pulled out her foetus and slaughtered it before her eyes. What can you say about a family of nineteen being killed However, we needn’t rely on these impressions – based, as by flooding their house with water and then electrocuting they are, on body language and psychological profiling – to them with high-tension electricity? assess Modi’s character; we could simply look at the record of his conduct. What can you say? A small boy of six in Juhapara camp There are no less than 45 authenticated reports meticulously documenting the Gujarat carnage, which was statesponsored and masterminded at the highest level. The mass-scale violence was facilitated and executed by the Gujarat police and bureaucracy, including the top brass, and implemented on the ground by blood-thirsty mobs and gang-rapists of the Sangh Parivar, Modi’s ministers and Hindutva leaders. The documentation includes the NHRC report and the bulky volumes of the People’s Tribunal,
described how his mother and six brothers and sisters were battered to death before his eyes. He survived only because he fell unconscious, and was taken for dead. A family escaping from Naroda Patiya, one of the worst-hit settlements in Ahmedabad, spoke of losing a young woman and her three month old son, because a police constable directed her to `safety’ and she found herself instead surrounded by a mob which doused her with kerosene and set her and her baby on fire.
Last Day, Last Show by Nitesh Mohanty
“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, Their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities Bombay, at times, seems like a mythical archipelago reclaimed to form one make-believe island, where dreams and destinies collide every moment for more than a billion people. Within Bombay resides many Bombays, Mumbais, Bambais… Many guts, intestines, ribs, innards spill over onto each other to form the larger demon, whom we all love to hate. In one such corner resides a dream called “cinema”, a beautiful illusion, a reason of hope in a hopeless city. While some realise the dream and become part of the celluloid folklore, some are discarded, some lie on the periphery, some fade away into oblivion, some make way for bigger dreams. Such is the story of the single screen cinemas that dot the Falkland Road area of Bombay. It’s here the original ‘Play House’ was set, to entertain the war fatigued British troops, it’s around these lanes the early ‘theatres’ came about with the stage and spectacle, horses and elephants, lavnis and tamashas till the talkies descended upon with the glamour of sound. The Jew, Chinese, French and European consorts made way for the Nautch girls and the night song travelled from Bellasis Road towards the Keneddy Bridge. Along these bylanes, Manto encountered Sugandhi, Mammad Bhai and many other memorable characters, who brought alive his Bombay stories. Around the corner, one gets familiar with the reek that rose from Namdeo Dhasal’s raw, raging & carnal words that bled through his poetry. The space and its surroundings throb and ejaculate a strange kind of beauty, giving birth to chaos, unsettled like the tides of the Arabian Sea, strong like the stench of the endearing Bombay duck, heady like the perfume of attar, alluring like that garishly dressed whore across the street.
Anand Gandhi Deepa Bhasthi Sayan Bhattacharya Koli Mitra
The Theseus Tract
Illustration by Soumik Lahiri
That a ﬁlm based on a philosophical paradox can do so well that it keeps releasing in new cities every week is an event to be pagemarked. In this long chat, Anand Gandhi opens up new vistas for reading Ship of Theseus, talks about the evolution of beauty and freedom, fundamentalism, class, auditioning Spivak and lots more. By Sayan Bhattacharya.
I was reading somewhere that Bela Tarr’s Turin Horse inspired you to such an extent that you got his sound designer to do the sound for Ship of Theseus. In Turin Horse, the howling wind almost becomes a character in the film. When I’m viewing Ship of Theseus especially in the first story, the sounds of the streets are very important and then in the second story there’s a certain placidity. So could you elaborate on the sound of the film and what kind of a brief did you have for the sound? Just to kind of clarify something on the situation of the sound designer, what happened was, when my film went into post production and I was looking for a good sound designer to come on board, I had seen the Turin Horse towards the end of my edit, and I did not even imagine that I would be able to get to the sound designer of the Turin Horse because it was such a huge thing for me, the movie had such a great impact on me. What I had thought of was a film I had seen years ago, a film called Katalin Varga and I remember again in that film, the sound design was absolutely stupendous, it was just so beautiful and I remember not having liked the film on the whole. I saw a lot of flaws in the film but the film stayed with me because of the sound design that had a direct continuum with the sound design of the Turin Horse. It has that sense of howling wind, it has a sense of nature destroying, the wind destroying the atmosphere of the world and the characters were getting wiped off constantly by them and I remember the sound design of that movie very clearly. So I went online and looked up to see and that also seemed like a low budget film, it was a first feature film made by a group of young people who would be more accessible to me. So I went online to find the sound designer of Katalin Varga and I landed up on the page of the designer and it turned out to be a happy co-incidence that the same sound designer had also done the Turin Horse ( Gábor ifj. Erdélyi). So I thought let me take a shot at this and I sent him a mail and he replied immediately, he replied in an hour or something and then we talked over phone. So that’s how it started really. In Theseus the brief was firstly to create a world for the blind photographer which is not tautological, to not try to do something in the sound design that has already been done in the mise en scene ; so not kind of readdress that has already been addressed in the cinematography and acting. So that was the challenge to kind of do something that is in continuum with and at the same time not repetitive of what was being done in acting and cinematography; to create her world but not in an intrusive way, to have her view on the auditory atmosphere surrounding her but at the same
time, give it a certain pathological distance. So that was the long brief for my sound designer that I wanted it to be simulating her experience but only in a way of triggering it and not in a way of replicating it, not trying to imitate it.
So let’s accept that there is a certain economic system we are a part of and once we accept that, we talk about being a part of a cultural system and we can ﬁx the cultural system by economically making it viable. If we keep on expecting good culture to come for free and bad culture to be payable, then we’ll keep on living in this rat hole. So that is a discourse and hence the presumption that yes there are millions of people in this country who have the money to go to cafes and buy coffees that are worth 300 bucks and these people then complain about ﬁlms like Ship of Theseus because they have been acquainted with the idea that good culture can be downloaded on torrent and bad culture has to be paid for. The brief for the second story was to create increasingly a space which moved from spontaneous to design. The idea was to go towards a completely inner space because a spontaneous sound design is only a recreation of a certain kind of reality, a sound design that kind of mimics spontaneity. It just upholds the realisation of complete realism. But as we go ahead in the story, the sound design becomes more and more meditative and it becomes an invitation to go with him, so the sound design of the second half of the second story draws heavily upon 2 sounds – one is the sound of the wind mills, once he goes past the windmills, the sounds of the windmill almost kind of continues throughout the story. The second was the sound of the cave from the last shot of the film. That is a certain
that she’s moving through, this vast landscape that she’s walking through, she has a need to capture the entire essence of the landscape in one or two photographs and hence keep aiming for a great amount of content density per unit, great amount of condensification per image. And in that she invariably ends up creating beauty.
Yes… Because again she’s not sure of this theory herself, because this theory is my theory. I think if she were aware of this theory, she would be more confident that she’ll invariably end up creating great art.
But then again when we see the first point of conflict between her and her boyfriend, that’s over an image which is filled with details and she isn’t sure…
(Laughs)I didn’t indulge in that dialectics, you have to give me that. I didn’t make anyone around her give her this theory. I could have, I should have but I didn’t (laughs). I didn’t indulge in being dialectic or being didactic.
That’s the dialectics…
technology, either biological technology or mechanical technology or electronic technology. The difference between mechanical technology and electronic technology is that in mechanical technology you can see the parts but using the camera itself is technology at the end of the day. Using a walking stick is technology, to be able to locate the hindrances on the way, on the pavement, that’s technology that she’s using. So Denett puts this argument very nicely. He says if a beaver dam is a product of humiliation, then a Hoover dam is also a product of humiliation (Laughs) and if the spider web is a product of evolution then the World Wide Web is also the product of evolution. What about the question of affordability? See that is justified in this particular character because she as you can see from her environment, from her language, she comes from a certain social context , she comes from a certain economic background that allows her to extend herself using all these technologies available. It’s a privilege of course. If you see the film moves from the highly economically privileged to lesser and lesser economically privileged areas. There’s very clear movement in that respect. So there’s an economic story that’s in the backdrop of the film. The kind of individual problems in the film are also moving from first world to developing world. It’s such a personal problem to begin with “Ki aapka problem kya hai ki aap achhe photographs nahi kheench rahi ho?” (Laughs). Now that’s a very economically privileged problem. The amount of privilege you need to have in your life for that to be the central problem of your life is huge! (Laughs). Yes... so your became your actor…
No no, my casting director didn’t become my actor. She wasn’t here to be the casting director, she was just helping me with some bits of casting. She was like kind of assisting me, helping me. She’s a young filmmaker from Egypt. She had come here to work and help, visit the country etc. So to incorporate her into your text, what kind of changes did you have to introduce in your original text?
But you made the audience think… Yes it triggered off this conversation and hopefully after seeing the film some neuroscientist would say “oh here!” (laughs). We see her using a lot of enabling technology, so I was just wondering wouldn’t the whole process be more organic had we seen her without such high end aids? See, I think it is all technology at the end of the day. What we use ourselves and what we use outside of ourselves is all
Not too many because the original text I had written keeping in mind an expatriate. So I had in mind either a Hungarian actress or a German actress or an American actress etc. I was looking at actresses everywhere for this part. And given the fact that she’s from a different country, obviously she would be viewing her surroundings through the prism of a different culture and that could possibly complicate her photographic text as well… Yes exactly…I wanted that and I also wanted to kind of explain the economic background that she’s coming from. In the second story, there’s this satirical vein where we see
The angry hiss of the oil, the clanking bangles against stainless steel, the memories and the complex emotions and politics that food brings upâ€Ś By Deepa Bhasthi.
ome stereotypes can be endearing, wouldn’t you say? In the way that filter coffee immediately brings to mind mustachioed dhoti clad men sipping copious amounts of this milky, sugary concoction out of stainless steel glasses – tumblers, as the old worlders prefer it be called – stereotypes best let us be contextualized, identified in the national milieu. Never mind that it leads to caricature and cliché. When you grow up with the clichés, you stock up nostalgia to look back upon. The rain will always remind me of the cold and of winds that wail like a banshee in the hills; literature will always remind me of grandfather’s collection of Tolstoys and Pushkins in old teakwood bookcases; lunch will always remind me of the sound of Amma’s gold bangles when they clanked against the spice box she opened, like my own magician, to conjure up a different ‘this’ and ‘that’ every day.
passed on to the daughters when they built their own kitchens. With your Amma’s blessings and some good luck, you bought a new one and infused it with your own mix of spices; some secrets were not meant to be passed on. Just like the tightly guarded secrets of those all-male teams of cooks– hired to cater at weddings, death anniversaries, house-warming ceremonies, and pujas – always remain with the cooks. Many such cooks in small towns even have a cult following, though the fans are not encouraged to watch over their shoulders. The secret of a signature rasam ought not to be replicated by the housewives. Children, chasing each other around their large cauldrons were a little better tolerated; their culinary secrets were safe with the noisy lot. The cooks had to work their way through a flow chart of processes to feed 10-20 menu items to 200, 250 or a 1000 people.
The Spice Box is always round, sometimes aluminum, often, in stereotypical middle class style, stainless steel. There is always another lid inside, to keep the unopened plastic packets of lesser used spices – bay leaves, nutmeg, maybe cinnamon sticks. Beneath that are seven small bowls arranged to fit in neatly. Covered by this inner lid and then shut in tight by the outer lid, these bowls brew in their own smells. Mustard seeds have a bowl for themselves, so do coriander seeds, cloves, fenugreek, white lentils, black pepper and cumin. Pale green pods of cardamom might get some space too. If they do, they will soon pucker up, open an inch and take over the box with an intoxicating fragrance. Maybe that was why Amma put them away separately. Not that the rest of the spices behaved any better. Maybe they had a pattern, because every time the box was opened, the smell of one spice would strike first, for a bit second, before it all became mixed and confusing again.
The accident of birth into a religion that looks at your lineage and thrusts upon you a caste and sub-caste also determines what you eat and how you eat. More so at community functions, like weddings, there are strict rules
The moment Amma started making lunch or dinner, the Spice Box would come out, rather ceremoniously, I would think, as if they knew of their important place in the scheme of things. I couldn’t be bothered by the process of cooking back then, but watching the process as if it were theatre. Food to me, still, sounds of the Spice Box – Amma’s bangles, catching the glint of the light as she brought the ensemble out; the spluttering mustard, cantankerous and almost impatient; the angry hiss of the oil when the chillies dropped in, the cackle they all made together in the large dollop of coconut oil, not unlike ‘Abracadabra’ in another language. When I think of memories, I think of how the chillies in the angry oil, indignant at the intrusion upon their selves, nevertheless allowed a fragrance that I can only describe as the smell of childhood. Like my own mistress of spices, the aftertaste of a blend of these, of shreds of coconut seeping into succulent pieces of tubers or roots or other vegetables, remind me of the performance Amma unwittingly staged every time I sat myself down in her kitchen. *** My aunts have had Spice Boxes as well. These were not
Food to me, still, sounds of the Spice Box – Amma’s bangles, catching the glint of the light as she brought the ensemble out; the spluttering mustard, cantankerous and almost impatient; the angry hiss of the oil when the chillies dropped in, the cackle they all made together in the large dollop of coconut oil, not unlike ‘Abracadabra’ in another language. to be followed. The caste that I happened to be born into followed these rules to the letter. It is still considered an affront to the sanctity of Brahminism not to do so. And so, at weddings and functions I had to sit on the floor, in neat rows with others of my community, waiting patiently till all the vegetables, chutneys, the payasa, etc. filled up the edges of a green plantain leaf (the best sections of the leaf reserved for this group: the upper-caste diners). The dishes had to be served in a particular order, a particular curry came out behind the sweet dish, in the middle of the meal; a mix up there would be a great failure on the part of the host. The texture and feel of each curry, whether the sambhar left a fragrance on your fingertips, whether the papad was crisp enough – these merits divided the traditional/authentic/ success from the modern/fusion/failure of the meal. The helpers– nannies, drivers, estate workers, cleaning ladies – were relegated to a distant end of the room. Like an afterthought. After everyone else ate, they would be served
A recent news report says that India has lost 20 percent of its languages. Is it our collective apathy or a pregiven in a globalised world? Yet this very world is throwing up new dimensions of communication, interpersonal engagements and self expression. A walk through transience. By Sayan Bhattacharya.
February, 2010 saw most newspapers in India carry a small anchor story… the death of an 85 year old woman. People die everyday and with them die a part of their histories, secrets, desires, memories. But this death was absolute because with it died a way of life, a race, an entire language. Boa Senior, the last surviving member of the Bo tribe which had inhabited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for 65000 years. Today she lives on only through the museum of recordings made by linguist, Anvita Abbi. In one such recording, Boa in her child like voice sings, the translation of which reads prosaically: The earth is shaking As the tree falls With a great thud 65000 years of loves, trades, births, deaths, passions reduced to a few recordings frozen for posterity. Who can fill the fissures, the slippages, the losses in translation? And what
about the authenticity of a lived reality? For, authenticity in this context is not the “authentic Chinese food” or the “authentic Lebanese cuisine” that the mushrooming cafes and restaurants offer, that bring in the international dining experience for you. Throw in a few gilded frames and sell Salade Verte and you have the Parisian experience a few blocks away from the garish temple, dot the city with shawarma counters and you get Lebanon in every bite or eat scones in a room decked with paintings of Enid Blytonesque characters and you have the quaint English village right next door beside the slimming centre and the jewellery store. And these country tour capsules become the new must visit sites for both the city dwellers as well as tourists till the next dining experience seduces you to a ‘new country’. Some manage to hold on in the market, some others adjust the menu (say, introducing paneer or making a sauce more spicy) while others languish
Mint Plaza, set up in San Francisco in 2007, was consciously designed to host art exhibitions, theatre, cafes and conversations
and shut shop. The tourists keep flitting from one capsule to the next. Marc Augé in his luminous Non Places: An Introduction To Super Modernity coined the phrase “non place” by which he meant those places of transience that do not hold enough significance to be referred to as places. These homogenized places of “circulation, consumption and communication” that reside outside of class, history and identity where travellers come, collide into each other and then walk into their respective worlds or possibilities of worlds. For instance, the international hotel chains, airports, super markets that offer you a Utopian bubble of development and economic growth. To extend this theory, aren’t these new cafes, eateries non places too? As I walk into these new restaurants, order a crepe and soft jazz plays in the background with loud conversations about mean machinations of the mother in law in the foreground (at the next table) and then later as I walk back into my century old decrepit home that may not survive beyond a decade, I
wonder about these multiple worlds we inhabit… the local, the global, the glocal that feed into and off each other. So what happens to emotions in these transitory worlds? Can they thrive amid the entry-exit rigmarole? Think Lost in Translation where Bob and Charlotte forge a bond precisely because of such a setting. The American Bob, the actor feeling lost when he fails to grasp the instructions of his Japanese director while his marriage back home is going downhill and the young Charlotte feeling lost in her hotel room while her husband is on assignment. And they meet, strike up conversations through karaoke bars, sushi joints and their bond grows through a series of cardboard cut outs (somewhat like our international eateries) of Japan and then they depart whispering into each other’s ears. Perhaps they will again meet back home in new circumstances, perhaps the changed circumstances will not revive their magic and hence they will never meet. But a journey of emotions will be
Thomas Crowley Sreedeep Sampurna Chattarji
Death of a River
Photographs Sreedeep Text Kamalini Mukherjee
The boats huddled on the sand reflect the river that once was. Located on the other side of the Okhla barrage, which cordons off the supply of river water to the other side, here it lies, as a tragic remnant of a distant past.
Illustration by Soumik Lahiri
from Sampurna Chattarjiâ€™s Dirty Love (Penguin, March 2013)
Dipa Sinha Shubham Nag Neel Adhikari
Food: Too much? Maybe, too little
A country that lags behind even Bangladesh in mortality rates also witnesses staunch opposition to food security. Why should food be a black and white issue? Writes Dipa Sinha. Illustration by Vagmi Raghava
fter four years of discussion around a National Food Security Act, the Bill was hurriedly passed as an Ordinance by the Cabinet (later ratified by the President of India) this July. The response to the Ordinance has been mixed. On one side, we see Congress governments such as in Delhi and Rajasthan rushing to identify beneficiaries and put systems in place in the shortest time possible so that they can begin to implement the provisions of the Ordinance any which way and reap electoral benefits when they face Assembly elections in a few months time. On the other, there is a loud voice in the media that continues to argue that not only is the NFSO a waste of resources as large leakages in any government programme are inevitable (contrary to all evidence of a revival of the PDS and decreasing leakages over the last ten years) but also that there is no need for such an intervention because there are not many people who are hungry and in need of the Act in the first place. In this din, there are also some voices of activists and academics who have been campaigning and researching this legislation for years, which are trying to bring some sanity to the debate. They have been trying to point out the need for a comprehensive legislation in the face of widespread hunger and malnutrition in the country. They have also been arguing that the expenditure required to meet the entitlements promised under the Ordinance is well within the realm of possibility and must in fact be seen as an investment in contributing to a healthy and productive population. Why is it that there is no protest when thousands of crores of revenue are forgone to help the corporate sector; but just as the government even announces an intention to do something for the poor we see all kinds of forces coming together to build arguments against it? Some have said that there is no hunger at all, definitely not to the extent that it requires such a massive programme. Others, that such a large investment would destroy the economy. Do we need a Food Security Legislation? The TV channel Times Now had a scroll; which was repeatedly also read out by its lead anchor, that only 2% of India’s population is hungry. And so, what is the need for such an expansive programme as the Public Distribution System (PDS) (which provides subsidised foodgrains) and an Ordinance to legalise it? This is a misleading figure based on a faulty question in the NSS surveys. Most people do not even respond to the question. The costs of the NFSO have been highly inflated by different economists who then argue how it will ruin the economy (for e.g. see Surjit Bhalla
in the Indian Express). The additional expenditure on the food subsidy is about Rs. 25,000 crores (0.25% of the GDP) which we can surely afford considering that the country has been witnessing decent growth rates. To address the fiscal deficit, what is needed is to improve the revenue of the government. India after all has one of the lowest tax-GDP ratios in the world. There is also a lot of scope to improve revenue collection, within the existing tax regime. Some columnists have suggested that it is the activists and those working on rights-based legislations who are destroying the economy by asking for more and more ‘rights’. “We`ll keep caring for poor people until our money totally runs out, the nation gets bankrupt, inflation is out of control and there are no more jobs” (sic) says Chetan Bhagat in an article in the Times of India (‘Pro-poor or propoverty?’ 12 July 2013). “Personally, I would like a Right to Pork Vindaloo. And since it’s best to have a balanced diet, we will need a Right to a Three-Course Meal” (sic) says Manas Chakravarty while mocking the NFSO in his article in the Hindustan Times (‘A cocktail of rights’, July 14, 2013). In a country where every second child is malnourished and almost 70% of women are anaemic, if this is not reflective of middle class apathy then what is? Let us look at some other statistics. In their book, An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions, Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen show how India is lagging behind Bangladesh in many of its human development indicators even though Bangladesh has a per capita income that is around half that of India’s. The infant mortality rate in India is 47 deaths per 1000 births, whereas it is 37 in Bangladesh. The female literacy rate for those in the 15-24 age group in Bangladesh is 78% while it is 74% in India. While 55% of households in India practise open defecation due to lack of sanitation facilities, only 8.4% in Bangladesh are faced with a similar situation. A recent field survey in Madhya Pradesh that I was a part of, showed that people’s diets largely consist of cereals with very little access to pulses, oil, vegetables, milk etc. While there is a decline in poverty ratios, the NSS surveys have also been showing falling calorie consumption amongst most classes, including the poor. About 60% of the poor’s monthly expenditure is on food, leaving them with very little for other necessities. In such a context, schemes such as the PDS and school meals can make a very meaningful contribution to poor’s lives. For instance, children who barely saw an egg in a couple of months are now getting to eat two or three eggs a week under the mid day meal scheme
No Dope. No Hope? To view doping as an ethical crisis of sportspeople is to miss the woods for the trees. In these times of multibillion dollar sports industries, what we need is a new paradigm to analyse a growing menace. Views Shubham Nag.
Banksy’s interpretation of Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal.
the British Journal of Sports Medicine conducted a similar research, but on non-athletes. 2% said “Yes”. What makes athletes trade their lives for gold medals? The creed of the Olympics states: “The important thing in the games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing is not conquering, but fighting well.” As noble a goal as this sounds, it has little to do with the dark reality of the dungeon of modern sports.After all, the modern Olympics have been developed around the ancient Greek ideal of eudaimonia – to have a well-lived and flourishing life. In modern sports, where athletes are heavily financially rewarded for winning at virtually every level of elite competition, where second place is treated as the “first loser”, where a coach’s job security is directly related to his team’s success, not on whether the players are simply “fighting well” or not, the reality paints a frightening picture where athletes turn into self-destructive monsters, only to obtain a competitive edge and enhance performance at all costs.
We are on a spiritual drug called Sports, which turns us into narcissistic maniacs who hallucinate, through the body of athletes, on being ‘Higher. Faster. Stronger.’ But why are we fascinated by the world of ‘elite’ sports? “This is my body and I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it and study it, tweak it, listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I am on. What am I on? I’m on my bike busting my ass six hours a day. What are you on?” -Lance Armstrong, Nike TV Commercial, 2001
n the 1980s, a researcher by the name of Bob Goldman interviewed a cohort of elite Olympic athletes on the issue of doping.One of the questions was: “If you were given a performance enhancing substance and you would not be caught and win, would you take it?” 98% of the athletes blatantly responded “Yes”. The more chilling question was: “If you were given a performance enhancing substance and you would not be caught, win all competitions for 5 years, then die, would you take it?”More than 50% said “Yes”. He repeated the same survey a decade later, and the results didn’t change. More recently in 2009,
In this commercial dated more than a decade back, the now ‘tainted’ Lance raised probably the most important question on modern sports. We are on a spiritual drug called Sports, which turns us into narcissistic maniacs who hallucinate, through the body of athletes, on being ‘Higher. Faster. Stronger.’ But why are we fascinated by the world of ‘elite’ sports? As famous anthropologist, Clifford Geertz tells us through his study of the Balinese cock fighting culture, the owners of the cocks have a deep identification with their animals (yes, with their cocks) and “in identifying with his cock, the Balinese man is identifying not only with his ideal self, or even his penis, but also, and at the same time, with what he most fears, hates, and ambivalence being what it is, is fascinated by- the powers of darkness.” The Balinese cockfight is, as Geertz puts it, a way of playing with fire without getting burned. He also notes that higher the status of participants in the cockfight, the ‘deeper’ the cockfight is perceived to be, and the ‘deeper’
Poornima Joshi Manash Bhattacharjee Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal Jai Arjun Singh Sharanya Manivannan Nidhi Dugar Kundalia Arko Datto
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The Don’t-Touchists “How does a Hindu in his asylum of don’t-touchism survive the lunacy of his self-proclaimed holiness?” By Manash Bhattacharjee.
t was the high priest of Hindu revivalism in the late nineteenth century, Vivekananda, who, however, in a rare outburst of critical honesty, wrote: “We are neither Vedantists, most of us now, nor Pauranics nor Tantrics. We are just ‘Don’t-touchists’… Our God is in the cooking-pot, and our religion is, ‘Don’t touch me, I am holy.’ If this goes on for another century, every one of us will be in a lunatic asylum.” The Hindus haven’t deterred in their mission to turn the
country into a lunatic asylum, but they certainly aren’t lunatics who are out of control. Rather, they are lunatics in control of social and political life in India. The lunacy of the Hindus is a rational lunacy. The management of social rules is based upon the politics of segregation which is ruthlessly controlled by upper-caste Hindus. They have rationalized this (caste) system at two levels: an ideological principle of segregation set up by scriptural and historical validation as well as a working system of exploitative norms where this principle of segregation is put into practice in everyday
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Touch of steel How do the senses operate in a conďŹ‚ict zone? By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
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A Kashmiri craftsman works on a carpet loom in Magam, near Srinagar. Courtesy: REUTERS
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Aarhus lives out its days in the northern realms of Denmark. Dark days reign supreme here. Melancholia wreaks havoc on the mental state of its inhabitants. Couples huddle together, seeking warmth amidst cold winds. Spring brings respite.And then comes summer, and the denizens break free.
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Aarhus: Portrait of a City
by Arko Datto
Before the end of day when winter would once again rule lives in the north.This work is a psychological exploration of the city through the changing weatherscapes and how the dreary climate influences the moods of the city.
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And we look back...
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Our interview with Noam Chomsky, taken in March 2011. By Saswat Pattanayak
Prof Chomsky, where do you locate the contours of the current crisis in Egypt, Tunisia and rest of the Middle East? The source of the crisis in the Arab world goes back very far and it’s similar to what we find in the formerly colonized world. Actually it was expressed rather clearly in the 1950’s by President Eisenhower and his staff. He was holding an internal discussion which has been declassified since. Eisenhower asked his staff why there is, what he called a “campaign of hatred” against us in the Arab world. Not among the governments, which are more or less docile, but among the people. And the National Security Council, which is the major planning body, produced a memorandum on this topic. It said that there is a perception in the Arab world that the United States supports harsh vicious dictators, blocks democracy and development; and we do this because we want to maintain control over their resources - in this case, energy. And went on to say that the perception is fairly accurate and furthermore that, that’s what we should be doing. The basic principle holds not just for the Arab world. It was expressed rather succinctly during the period of the recent spectacular uprising in Egypt by Marwan Muasher. He is a former high Jordanian official who is now the head of research in the Middle East for the Carnegie Endowment. He said there is a prevailing doctrine which is that as long as people are quiet, passive, controlled, there is no problem. We do whatever we like. Maybe they hate us, but it doesn’t matter, because we can do what we like. That’s a principle that holds in Arab world, in India, it holds domestically in the United States; its a standard principle of domination. Of course, sometimes the people break the chains and then you have to make adjustments. What’s happening in Egypt right now is a dramatic, but not untypical example. There has been case after case where the United States and other imperial powers before have been compelled to abandon support for the favored dictator because he could no longer be sustained. So there is a standard gameplan now being applied in Egypt. You support the dictator as long as possible by adopting the Muasher Doctrine. Everything is quiet, so no problem. When the dictator can no longer be sustained, you sort of push him aside, issue Reagan proclamations of your love for democracy and freedom and proceed to try to reestablish as much as you can of the former system. And that’s what we see happening right now in Egypt, and as I said, it happens over and over again. Do you foresee a similar uprising in India? Or, what in
your views is holding India back? Let’s take India. First of all, there is a major uprising. Large parts of India are in flames. The tribal areas are essentially in revolt. Large part of Indian Army is involved trying to suppress them. So you see a parallel between the insurgencies? Hmm… I think the real question in India would be ... I mean there has been, you know, this famous shining India. Its true for a segment of population. India is so huge, so its a substantial sector. On the other hand, probably threequarters of the population are left out. The number of billionaires is rising about as fast as the number of peasant suicides. And the analogous question to Egypt would be not so much what’s happening in the tribal areas, I think, as what about the hundreds of millions of people who are suffering severely. Absolutely. There’s a huge class gap. There is an enormous class gap. India’s dramatic, in fact. If suffering in South Asia is... The gap is growing now... It’s growing and it’s the worst in the world. Has been for a long time. If you look at the Human Development Index of the United Nations, the last time I looked, India was about 120th or something like that at the beginning of the socalled reforms 20 years ago. Now the quality has fallen further down. Well, now the question is how long will these huge numbers of people be passive and apathetic so their concerns can be dismissed. Prof Chomsky, Arundhati Roy was pressed with sedition charges for speaking on Kashmiri people’s right to selfdetermination. What is your take on self-determination, especially in the context of Kashmir? First I should say that Arundhati Roy should be greatly honored in India as a symbol of what could be great about the country. The fact that she is being charged with Sedition is utter outrage. And the anger and hatred that’s being organized against her is a real disgrace. But that’s Arundhati Roy, a marvelous person.
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2013 Prof. Noam Chomsky, through a very brief window over email, spoke to Pritha Kejriwal, looking back at some of the comments he made in the previous interview, and shedding some light on what the future might hold for us… Prof Chomsky, the last time you spoke to us, the ArabSpring was just unfolding and you had said, it was the people’s response to a corrupt, authoritarian pro-Western regime, which was tacitly supported by the United States. In the wake of the current developments in Egypt, with Morsi being overthrown by the army, and the streets filled up with protestors both for and against the ousted president, what do you make of the current situation? In Egypt and Tunisia, the two main centres, the situation is in flux. In both countries, the best organised sector was the Islamists, and they took power in elections after the dictators were overthrown. In both countries, particularly Egypt, there has been strong popular protest against the way they exercised power, in Egypt leading to a military coup overthrowing the government, with substantial popular backing, but many divisions, including the “third square” group that includes many of those who launched the initial uprising and who oppose both the military coup and the Muslim Brotherhood who it overthrew. Meanwhile the economy is in chaos, and it is unclear what will happen next. In Tunisia the Islamist government is hanging on. Situation is different in the other countries, quite different in fact, too complex to review. In Egypt and Tunisia there have been substantial gains, but nothing like what the Tahrir Square activists had hoped for – not yet, at least. Very recently you lambasted Slavoj Zizek without mincing any words. However, here’s what he wrote the nature of the different global protests unfolding across the world and I quote, “What unites the protests, for all their multifariousness, is that they are all reactions against different facets of capitalist globalisation. The general tendency of today’s global capitalism is towards further expansion of the market, creeping enclosure of public space, reduction of public services (healthcare, education, culture), and increasingly authoritarian political power. It is in this context that Greeks are protesting against the rule of international financial
capital and their own corrupt and inefficient state, which is less and less able to provide basic social services. It is in this context too that Turks are protesting against the commercialisation of public space and against religious authoritarianism; that Egyptians are protesting against a regime supported by the Western powers; that Iranians are protesting against corruption and religious fundamentalism, and so on. None of these protests can be reduced to a single issue. They all deal with a specific combination of at least two issues, one economic ( from corruption to inefficiency to capitalism itself ), the other politico-ideological ( from the demand for democracy to the demand that conventional multi-party democracy be overthrown).” Prof Chomsky, would you agree with him or is there any other way you join all these dots? Actually, I said almost nothing about him, a few words in response to a query. These comments are partially accurate, and insofar as they are, not particularly controversial. Your message at the end of our last interview was, “No one should be looking to anyone for guidance and advice. Basically, you can figure out the answers. The important ones will come from the people themselves”. But it somehow feels like we are really struggling hard for the answers and not getting any…because, so many of these protests, revolutions etc have failed to culminate in their true original goals. So in this debate of ‘theory’ vs. ‘practice’ where do you stand? Are we fundamentally not sure what we should be actually fighting and struggling for? Or is this the only process of social change? There is no debate that I know of between theory and practice. That’s an illusion. When there are theories with any substance, then everyone is interested in them and happy to employ them. But we should not confuse empty verbiage with substantive theory. Not only are we not sure, but there are many different conceptions of how the world should be changed, how
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Published on Aug 14, 2013