Category Archives: Why?

A question of atrocities

Ashis Nandy’s recent allegedly anti-Dalit remark during a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival, which led to legal procedures against him, has begun an array of exchanges in his support as well as against him, in the media, academic and political circles. It is this attention given to this social psychologist writer’s remark due to his ‘eminent’ position in certain spheres that has escalated this incident to a controversy. To understand the various commentaries and to be able to take a stance on the issue, it is necessary to understand the order of events and excavate the meaning of all that has been said.

It was on 26th January, during a panel discussion at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013, titled ‘Republic of Ideas’ where five men from various fields were exchanging ideas about India, its present and future. The conversation soon turned towards the topic of corruption when Ashis Nandy pitched the idea of nepotism also being a form of corruption, but not being recognized as such. This allowed the powerful and rich to hide their corruption, while incriminating the poor who indulge in corruption. He also said that corruption made our society more humane. In response to this, Tarun Tejpal, the editor of Tehelka and one of the panellists, deemed corruption to be an equaliser since it is a means for the underprivileged to subvert the structure of society and improve their condition. At this point, with a prior warning that he was about to utter something “vulgar” and “undignified”, Ashis Nandy said, “It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBCs and the scheduled castes and now increasingly scheduled tribes and as long as this is the case, Indian republic will survive”. Nandy followed up these words citing West Bengal as an example where nobody from the SC/ST or OBC community has reached any position of power in the last 100 years. At the same time, it is also one of the least corrupt states in the country. By this he implied that since they don’t indulge in monetary corruption, people from these backward communities have not arrived at powerful positions although nepotism among the privileged allowed them to continue holding zenithal statuses.

Ashis Nandy making a point

Despite his seemingly pro-Dalit example about West Bengal, Nandy’s previous and now oft-quoted words had already sparked the ire of his co-panellist Ashutosh Srivastava, Managing Editor of IBN7. He protested saying that this was the most bizarre statement he had heard and that this was the typical perception about Dalits held by the elite. Ashutosh’s objection was met by some supportive applause from the audience after which there was a question-answer round before the session ended and the audience dispersed. In a few hours, a group of people led by Rajpal Meena, Chairperson of the SC/ST Rajasthan Manch, began a protest outside the venue demanding Nandy’s arrest for slurring the Dalit community. Soon, TV channels were displaying a clip only of him making the particular statement that the protestors claimed was proof of his anti-Dalit attitude, in a loop and out of context. This escalated the issue and soon a police complaint under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act) Section 3 (x) was filed against Ashis Nandy. Although such a complaint demands immediate arrest, Nandy left the Jaipur Literature Festival premises from a back route and drove to Delhi. While no arrest was made despite four FIRs being filed against him in different parts of the country, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on the arrest of the accused writer on 1st February 2013.

In the meantime, Ashis Nandy produced a statement clarifying what he meant by his statement at the festival and that it was, infact, not anti-Dalit. This was reiterated by a still-growing number of his supporters from the media, academic and intellectual circles, via articles, petitions and even an Ashis Nandy solidarity blog. Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Karan Thapar and many others raised the argument of the freedom of speech and expression being a constitutional right for all Indians and that we have become an intolerant people to not respect this right and listen to someone’s opinion. Many others like Lawrence Liang and Ritu Bhatia felt that ‘Ashis da’ deserved better and that all his past writing is proof that his heart is in the right place and that he has infact always been a supporter of Dalit upliftment. Others like Ali Khan Mahmudabad attributed this anti-Nandy protest to be a result of manipulation by politicians who have twisted the meaning of his words for identity based vote-bank politics. Many also agreed that Ashis Nandy’s words and manner of phrasing his thoughts was too obtuse and thus, easily misunderstood his idea of associating corruption with caste in India, which haven’t been linked before. These are largely true and strong arguments brought up by his supporters, however, I find reason in the arguments put forward by those disapproving of his action. In an open letter to Ashis Nandy, Kancha Ilaiah, Director for the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, pointed out that labelling SC/ST/OBCs as corrupt to equalise them with the upper castes is not justified because the latter indulge in corruption as well as exploitation. Another argument pitched by S. Anand of Navayana Publications is that Nandy has dismissed the agency of Dalits by implying that even in corruption they are ‘emulating’ the Upper caste people. Urvashi Butalia, who was chairing the panel discussion where the controversial incident occurred, ends her article supporting Nandy, by posing a question. She asks if something derogatory against women is spoken by anyone in public, will anyone protest about it? She speaks too soon when she says there will only be a few feminists protesting, while still abstaining from judicial procedure. In my opinion, if there were adequate laws, the long-oppressed women would have raised their voices in protest and invoked the law.  Dr.K. Satyanarayana also pointed out that all this hype about the issue and the raising of the ‘freedom of speech’ argument is making the Dalits appear as if they are an intolerant community and foreclosing any discussion on their corruption levels by simply stating that they are the more corrupt.

There is indeed no empirical data about the levels of corruption related to castes and communities. In a space like a popular literature festival, Ashis Nandy ought to have weighed his language and articulated his idea in a responsible manner. Throughout this controversy, one can recognize the problem of using words and interpreting their meanings. Ever since Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption movement, the vehement abhorrence for this vice has increased and by accusing a people of being corrupt, Ashis Nandy has stepped on fragile nerves. One also needs to examine the Prevention of Atrocities Act that has been filed against him. The word ‘Atrocity’ is quite a harsh word and one needs to question if by saying something that can be potentially misunderstood and can hurt a Dalit, infront of a large public gathering, he has committed an atrocity. It is apparent in the context of the conversation that the sociologist was not making an anti-Dalit statement, and needn’t hurt or offend anyone, except those on whom he is blowing the whistle. However, I believe that in terms of the law, and in the light of the way that single sentence was used, Ashis Nandy has committed what could be an atrocity towards their life in this country. Someone, who doesn’t understand his meaning and buys into the sentiment that that statement proliferates, could be biased against Dalits which could possibly cost a member of this community job opportunities, food and a humane life. I think the court trial ought to go ahead and the fact that his was not a casteist statement can be proved and established via the judiciary and constitution, thereby maintaining the faith of the people in an Act and a law that has been a tool for their redemption.

Leave a comment

Filed under Issues, People, Thoughts/ Ideas, Why?

delhi times

I left something in the hills.

This was during the recent trek in the Himalayas. I left something in the hills there. A little joy, a little love, and came back with a promise to return.
May be when I go back next time, I’ll get some of the weather back. Delhi needs it. and I emphasize, Delhi needs it.

I came back here four days back and although its supposed to be monsoon, I have not even seen a drop of water fall from the sky. Not even a bird has pissed down. Who ever in the first place decided that Delhi was a habitable place when they first started settling man. WHO?!! Its terribly hot and humid here and lately, the irritation level has been so high that getting any closer than 2 cms to even your  best friend can result in a sparta like reaction. You know like this-

“Yea we are fucking meeting after more than 2 months but don’t fucking hug me! and if you step any closer, I’ll shower you with my sweat! It’ll be sparta forevuuur!”

Yougaiz, I hope, are in a better place. Is it raining where you are? Sweet blessed warm showers like Bombay? I am longing for the smell of wet earth.  By the way, did you know that there was a word for that lovely smell- its called petrichor.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Don't want to talk about it, Journeys and travels, Why?

If a body catch a body in the rye…

If you’ve read the ‘I believe’ column on the left-side bar of my blog page, you would know that I love the Beatles. I am even listening to them right now because this post is remotely about them. If you don’t like the Beatles, I suggest you still stick around and read this post or another one like this or this one on Walter Kitty’s diary.

Ha! Now that I am done with the day’s bit of good deed and self-promotion, I shall get to the point.

So over the last two days I read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. You might say that I am reading it too late but I admit that I was a lousy English literature student.  For those of you who haven’t read it, here is a short synopsis.  The book is about Holden Caulfield, a 16 year old boy who is deeply disturbed by the phoniness he perceives in people around him. He is wary of almost everyone and is afraid to accept change.  The book is Holden’s own narrative in the form of a cynical chatter coupled with wry humour, that reminded me much of Woody Allen’s films. Perhaps it had something to do with the 1950’s New York slang, but the nervous tone and tangential streams that Holden’s mind goes in, are reminiscent of Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall.  Holden talks about the time when he gets kicked out of his third Prep school and the ensuing weekend in New York. This is a bildungsroman novel (a “coming-of-age” novel), and the reader engages with this adolescent boy’s  personality and emotions through his thoughts and actions.

the catcher in the rye – JD Salinger

With the themes and motifs in The Catcher in the Rye, one understands that Holden perceives adulthood to be a world full of phonies and admires the innocence in his little sister Phoebe. He says that the best job for him to protect children from falling off the cliff while they are running around and playing in a rye field. He would be the catcher in the rye. The fall over the cliff is, for Holden, the plunge into adulthood, that he himself is unable to grapple with. He can’t fathom emotional and physical relationships, despises all kinds of pretense (though readers and even Holden realize that he himself is phony in some ways), is quite fickle-minded, unable to find a path and doesn’t even see any point in “finding a path” for the sake of a phony moronic herd of sheep called society. (Phony was among the top used words in the book. Don’t blame me bro.)

I suppose that for the inner-conflict that Salinger explores, a lot of readers might be able to relate to Holden’s character in The Catcher in the Rye. Written in 1951, this character is often called the original ‘angry young man’ and resonates a tension that bumps off into the reader too.  The compulsion to categorize people’s personalities as either black or white , does not allow Holden to perceive people as just being different hues of grey.

However, for me, this very attribute of perceiving everything as a shade of grey, disallows me from having any definite unshakable belief in anything. My mind is my own devil’s advocate. My facebook political view says that I have a ‘socialist heart with a capitalist brain’. Do you see? It’s not as if I am sitter-on-the-fence all the time, but I do believe that everything must be analyzed on a case to case basis.

So if a guy like Holden who is a black-and-white sorta guy, can’t hold it together and neither can a grey-vision girl like me, then what the hell is going to work?! Oh darn, this book must have gotten me really depressed. Depressed, that was another favourite word in the book.

Hey but I was telling about the Beatles and this book , right? Thing is, Old John Lennon, was assassinated by one Mark David Chapman in 1980. Lennon was shot dead outside the building he was staying at. After shooting him, Chapman hung around waiting for the police to arrive. While waiting, he read a book. He had signed it from Holden Caulfield and wrote ‘This is my statement’. He carried this book to his court trials and also quoted from this for testimony. The book was The Catcher in the Rye.  Chapman repeatedly said that this book triggered and inspired him to kill John Lennon. One explanation (also the most likely)is that Chapman thought that if Lennon talked about love and peace, then how could he have millions. He thought Lennon to be a big time phony guy and decided that he had to die. In a later interview,  Chapman said that he killed Lennon “to acquire his fame”.  Lennon was a grey man, and Chapman couldn’t take that.  So another music died.

the day another music died.

The Catcher in the Rye has often been called a hate manifesto because of a few other assassins also fancying the book along with having a flair to kill famous people. But meh, I don’t think it was that at all. The ambiguous ending in the book allows the disenchanted whites, blacks and greys of the world to just suck it up and go ahead any way.  I liked some of the images he Salinger shines into our mind. It just made me glad that the book hasn’t been made into a movie yet. You know, sometimes you don’t want your imagination of something to be spoilt with a movie image.

Lastly, but NOT the least, I also learnt from the book about what fishes and ducks do when the lakes and ponds freeze during winter. Holden is always pondering over this in the book. The book doesn’t give the answer. But I ‘googled’ it. oh yea!

 

6 Comments

Filed under Literature, novel, Stuff I like, Why?

people getting married

My grandparents are my favourite people in the world. They are also quite deaf and I suspect its my grandma’s habit of watching TV real loud that made him hard of hearing too. When they are around, conversations are funny and repeated four times. We all talk really loudly and the TV volume is further increased and so we all talk more loudly. Even if they want to talk about something secretly, they go to the other room and talk loud enough for us to hear. haha! I love them. Blindly and more than anyone.

Last year, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. It was on 2nd April, 1951 , a day after April Fool’s  Day ,(my grandfather often jokes about it) that they got married. So 60 years on, we arranged a great party and even had their friends from old times over. Watching them that night, and even now, it struck me that even after so many years of being together, they still have things to say to eachother. They even spend all their time together, so its not as if they are informing eachother about what they did that day. They look out for eachother and truly care. They still fight and crack jokes about eachother to us.  But I know, they would crack without eachother.

 

My grandparents’ wedding photograph, 1951

Their marriage was arranged by their parents and they hadn’t even met before they got married.  And this is how it turned out. On that one day, I felt may be marriages can work. But may be it was just them. May be they wouldn’t have separated even they hated the guts of eachother simply because of societal stigma.  One never knows.

My grandparents of Grandpa’s 80th birthday ceremony

Yet, I am somehow, never lay my hands around the idea of spending the rest of your life with one person. Though I understand the value of companionship, the idea of spending the rest of your life with one person, really scares me. You might say you are in love with him. But I wonder if it won’t fizzle out, won’t you begin to doubt, get bored, get scared or fall in love with someone else? I know that divorce is fairly common and accepted now. However, why would anyone enter a relationship, already anticipating an end and knowing that they have a way out of it?

I read in the news today that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are splitting after 5 years of marriage. Can you beleive it, after he clowned around so much on Oprah. I don’t care about them at all but didn’t they have time earlier to figure out that they don’t get along? Arnold Schwarzernegger and his wife split up after 25 years of marriage because of some illegitimate child he fathered many years back. I know I can in no capacity understand her situation, but I suppose I could forgive some mistake like that. Especially if I have discovered that for 25 years  this person has kept me happy and we can be in the same room, without shattering plates or having the silence shatter us.

Marriage is something I haven’t understood even with the countless movies, famous couples or even with my own family and parents. I don’t know why its necessary to put that tag on your relationship just because society is comfortable with it and thinks it appropriate for you to want it. Even live-in relationships can have everything a marriage has. and have equal chances of failing, ofcourse. Why does an acknowledgement by a governments civil laws or by a religion, make a relationship sacred or more important? I am sure the breaking of any other relationship should be just as painful and important or unimportant.

In India, parents think its their duty to get their children married by the mid-twenties and pay for it too. The whole event or the not timely occurrence of it is a stigma and becomes an over-riding question in the lives of the parents, grandparents, uncles,aunts, neighbours and colleagues. It becomes everyone’s business really.

As my understanding of it stands now, love usually fizzles out. and after that its just habit and fear of the lack of this person, or of loneliness that keeps one going. Marriage usually adds other wheels like children and property to this.  I am not really sure of all these things about relationships are marriages.  But I sure of one thing- that I am afraid to find out the truth.

Leave a comment

Filed under Issues, Love and all, My favourite people, Thoughts/ Ideas, Why?, World

Breaking the ghetto

As I mentioned earlier, I am visiting my parents in Kuwait this summer. But honestly, it’s quite easy to forget that sometimes over here. Now, we reside in a part of Kuwait where mostly Indians and Pakistanis live. When we step out of the house, people on the streets, parks and malls looks exactly like the people back in India and it does not really feel like we are in a “foreign” country. The local shopkeepers and street-end grocers speak Tamil and Malayalam(south Indian languages) and you can be sure that anyone in the area will respond to your Hindi. Before we go ahead, I must emphasize to those who don’t know already, that Arabs (West-Asian origin)look quite different from Indians (South-Asian origin) in terms of facial features and physical built. Now let’s get to the point.

Why does an Indian or South Asian ghetto even exist here in the first place??! Why do people like to flock with others of a common or even a similar origin irrespective of whether they like the fellow clansmen or not?  This scenario is not just limited to Kuwait, every city has such spaces that can be said to be an area specifically populated by people of a specific races, countries, religions, regions, languages, ages.   All my parents’ friends here are Indians and as far as I can perceive , belonging to certain privileged castes(as such a problem exists in India), class and I suppose also largely vegetarian like my family. I remember meeting a particular Aunty who always always criticizes Kuwaitis whenever she speaks. She talks about how “they” waste food in restaurants, splurge money, ill treat maids, buy too much stuff at the mall etc. But how can a certain people be just generically criticized of a behaviour that I am sure exists even outside of them and I am definitely sure exists also in the people this Aunty will call her own brethren. She probably hasn’t really spoken to a Kuwaiti beyond an “excuse me” and not interacted with them at all. Don’t such preconceived notions definitely stop her and us all from actually ever really getting to know anybody who is born different from us.

Its really strange that what people consider “community” changes in different places and often depends on how far they are from a place they consider their “home” or the place they belong to. For instance, back in University, the Tamilians, Bengalis, Assamese, etc made what they call cultural associations so that others of similar origin and language can gather and mingle, celebrate festivals, eat, date , etc. Delhi also has a Bengali ghetto called Chitaranjan Park and Okhla has actual territories that are divided as Hindu and Muslim where people belonging to the other religion don’t even enter. 😐  Yes, so grave is the situation in the capital of India.

But boss, you should see an India v/s Pakistan cricket match. The most recent of these stand=offs was the ICC World Cup 2011 Final match and it was just crazy how the Indians rooted for the Indian team and rejoiced when Pakistan lost. I suppose the situation is the same on the other side of the border as well. The tension between the countries remains and is quite bitter and aggressive especially when there are unfortunate acts of violence in either country. As for me, I am of a delicate heart when it comes to this, and wanted Pakistan to win that cricket match simply because they needed the victory.

I emphasized the tension between India and Pakistan because I have seen that Indians and Pakistanis bond with each other when they are in Kuwait. The other day we went to an amusement park here and met another family who looked “very Indian” and on speaking we got to know they are Pakistanis and we hung out for sometime and there was not an ounce of bitterness. I suppose that for a lot of people , meeting someone from anywhere near where they are can kindle a sense of brotherhood. I wonder why a brown skin among a sea of white faces should make someone feel at home. (Ofcourse, the same could be different or the exact opposite perhaps for say, Indian who is born and/or brought up in America.)

Guys, so please, just ‘unghetto’. It could make a world of difference. It is actually going to make for a safe interdependent neighbourhood because that is how we could begin to deal with trust issues that have enslaved our minds and bound us from new experiences.

May be I have no right to say all this because I haven’t lived in another country for very long periods, but so far, I have noticed that for me “people are just people”. hah, that’s a line from Regina Spektor’s song, Ghost of Corporate Future. She also says “the world is everlasting, its coming and its going.” So I want to make the most of this world while I come and go and know that I could, without any preconceived paradigms, experience all the people and things that make the world as wonderful as it is. I hope that when it comes to it, I don’t run to some Indian ghetto in whichever part of the world I live in and mix it up bitches!

Leave a comment

Filed under Issues, Thoughts/ Ideas, Why?, World

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

Last week in our Surveying Western Art class we learnt about the artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), a contemporary of Vincent van Gogh. Though this Gauguin fellow is highly problematic, politically incorrect, racist and quite a male chauvinist, I love his work and style. His use of colours, ways of seeings and plain cheekiness intrigues me and I guess that is what makes me appreciate him.

Anyway, one painting of his that we saw was titled Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? . Painted in 1897, the painting is an artistic representation of the conflicts and questions that plague Gauguin at that time. As the 19th century was being engulfed by the promise and threat of new discoveries and challenges to beliefs.

Here is the painting –

Paul Gauguin, Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

And here is a commentary and small catalogue on the painting taken from http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Annotation?action=view&annid=10412 that gives a great insight into the painting.

Irrespective of whether one grasps what Gauguin is trying to show in this painting or not,  I am really struck by the fact that its has been 115 years now since he asked this question and painted this masterpiece. Yet, after more than a century, in 2012, we are still asking the same existential questions. If anything, we are all the more perplexed by the whirl and enmeshed nature of reality and life around us.

Indeed I ask, Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under La vie, Thoughts/ Ideas, Why?

Bomb blasts in Bombay

Ok. Just 5 minutes back I got news that there have been bomb blasts in my city- Mumbai. I can’t get through to many of my friends. phone lines are jammed.and I am angry. and I want to rant.

Now, Mumbai, the city I live in , is not new to this. There have been numerous multiple blasts before, there have been shootouts and riots too.

But everytime I believe that this is the last time, it happens all over again. We believe that the lesson is learnt. Whoever wanted revenge has taken it.  And now we will be left alone. But here we are, once again in the middle of another mess, trying to pic up the broken pieces of our city and trying to lift our spirits, and go on with our lives.

I have never really been scared of dying. But now I wonder if the fear has become such an innate part of the people of this city , that we don’t even realize how some part of our mind is always counting the dying minutes.

I don’t know if terrorists read blogs. But If they do,

No amount of Beatles’ songs about peace, no number of movies about the ravages of war and not even real

Leave a comment

Filed under Issues, Why?, World