Saturday, 20 December 2008

Social Service Version 3.0

I am a decided shop-a-holic. Anytime I get close to being unhappy or moody, I indulge myself in retail therapy - clothes, shoes, jewellery... basically the works. The other day I was walking back to the station with a friend and we were talking about this addiction that we share... and about how we spend all our money. And I, came up with a cute little justification: It is my version of social service. I am making everyone around me richer by spending all my money and not saving it :)

So there you go! No more guilt trips after a retail binge... it beats a food binge any day :)

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Inversion

Yesterday...
The city was noisy, the crowds pressed together. I could smell the sweat on the person next to me, making me wish I had a more palatable way of getting around. I pushed my headphones in tighter, the music blocking out the sounds of the morning traffic. I walked fast, keen to reach my destination, not wanting to linger.

Today...
I breathe the morning air & look at the familiar faces around me. Someone brushes past in the crowd, hurting my shoulder, but I can only smile. The bright sun warms my toes and I wiggle them in pleasure and walk at leisure to my destination, the same as yesterday. The song in my ears gets over mid way. I switch my player off and put it in my bag. The horns blare aound me and the vehicles whiz past but they don't make me wince... not today. Today I can only smile at everything that I once frowned at.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Deception

29.09.2008

It is a story of a day ago...

I sat alone in the train... except for the two women in the far corner. I was on my way back from an evening out with friends – a play followed by dinner. A cab ride to the CST station and a long walk down the platform later, I found myself in the second class ladies compartment, almost empty only because it was 10:30 pm on a Sunday evening.

 

The train pulled out, wind coming in through the window grates ruffling my hair gently. My head was buzzing with a thousand thoughts – thoughts of the evening gone by, thoughts of home, thoughts of the week ahead, of my boyfriend who would be here the next weekend. As was my habit, I put on my player, the music in my ears drowning out the sounds that I did not want to hear. Two stations later, as the train ground to a halt, a woman got in and sat herself down on the seat opposite to mine. I would guess her to be around 50, long hair dyed with henna, tied up in a bun, stray wisps escaping here and there. Her eyes were rimmed with kaajal, smudged probably by a long day out. She carried a handbag and polythene and was dressed in a salwar kameez. There was nothing particularly striking about her and I would not have given her a second glance had she not tapped me on the shoulder and asked me where I was getting off. “Kurla,” I replied thinking that she probably wanted the seat next to the window that I was currently occupying.

 

Seeming satisfied with my answer, she settled down opposite me. She took out the bright yellow plastic bag that she was carrying and pulled out two garments from with. As she donned them, I realised that she was getting into the headscarf and hijaab that many Muslim women across countries wear. While again there was nothing to raise eyebrows about the fact that she was donning a headscarf, what struck me was that at her age she found it necessary to go through this pretence.

 

To my eyes, here was a woman who had been out, probably for the larger part of the day, on work or an errand or maybe a personal visit to someplace. For the part of the day that she was out, she had not deemed it necessary to wear the hijaab and the headscarf. However, now, returning home, she found it necessary to wear them.

 

I have known many Muslim women – some chose to wear the headscarf, others not to, and to me neither of these choices have defined their liberalness of thought. But why did this 50 year old woman have to pretend? And which part of her was pretending; the part that had spent the day out without the hijaab or the part that was going home with it? What compulsion suppressed her preference or desire for one state or the other? And as I saw her lie down on the seat and go to sleep, a slight furrow on her forehead, I wondered at the deception that her life must have become – a deception not so much of others as of herself; a deception that probably has now become a source of comfort for in that deception also lies choice and free will.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

"Muahs!"

Oh we must... blow air kisses and give fake hugs. Else how can a page 3 gathering ever be a page 3 gathering. I happened to go, with two friends of mine, to the premier of Saas, Bahu aur Sensex and I was left highly amused by the gathering of starlets and wannabe starlets. 

The fun started right from the moment that the three of us walked into the little enclosure in front of Fame Adlabs (with the customary red carpet and camera flashbulbs). At the entrance was a suited chap handing out bright yellow flowers to all of us. "I've seen him somewhere... can't place him, but I've seen him in an ad or something," said my friend. We let the moment pass, waiting for enlightenment to strike us on the identity of the "flower" guy. 

Up in the lobby, we were treated to a never ending view of models, wannabe models, wannabe starlets and such like networking with a vengance. We, for our plart chose to divide our tasks. One of us would concentrate on the clothes, one on the shoes (I volunteered for this part since I have a shoe fetish anyway), and the third looked around for random people that we might recognise. Some combinations are worth a mention - Khaki shorts and pointy bright red heels, Something that looked like a nightie with candy pink heels and a pair of tiger print heels that made a totally stand out statement. 

Somewhere in all this observation, my friend remembered where she'd seen our "flower" guy before. "Oh! He's that chap... the one in the underwear ad!" And as she said the words, we realised, of course this was the guy from the Rupa underwear ad. From underwear ads to handing out flowers at a premier... dear me! Such are the lives of those in-between rich and famouses that throng this tinsel town - neither celebrity nor anonymous nobodies; saved from embarrassment by neither fame nor by anonymity.

And so we looked on, bemused and amused, at legs tottering on stilletoes, flashy shirts and underwear models turned flower guys till we were let into the hall. What happened there on is another story for another post.

Friday, 12 September 2008

A Great Maroon and Yellow Snake

There's something to be said for the Mumbai Local. Within a month of everyday commute you realise what a pain life would be without it. As you get on and get off the train twice a day, you also begin to realise what a microcosm of Mumbai each compartment is. Each journey affords you a peek into how the people of the city live their lives.

The platforms. People hurrying hither and tither; people sleeping on the benches; people waiting for other people. Buzzing, moving and always crowded. Standing on the platform and looking around, I realised that that piece of concrete was not just a boarding point for the locals but a place where people live a part of their lives - eating breakfast, catching up with friends and loved ones, listening to music or just reading. The slush and muck of the Mumbai monsoon that makes me screw up my face in disgust is not even noticed by most of them as they walk on casually.

Compartments with people packed in as tight as is humanly possible, with people hanging out of the door and hanging on to dear life, as the maroon and yellow snake makes its way across the metropolis delivering people to their destinations. In that little compartment, you can make out whose had a bad day at office (or at home depending on the time of the day), who is new to the city, who has lived here forever. Regulars smile at each other in anonymous greeting, never knowing each others names, only recognising faces. 

Standing at the door with the wind blowing at me, I see a multitude of images. Green grass and pretty yellow and red flowers alternate with drains, garbage and refuse generated by an over populated city. Scenic views of the city's skyscrapers are punctuated with peeks into the windows of chawls that line the track side - a woman hurrying on with her daily chores, boxes piled up, beds laid in a row, one against the other, all shaking as the train rumbles on. The air is sweet and fresh with the smells of the morning one minute and acrid with the smells of pollution and waste the next, the tracksides lined with people performing their morning ablutions, finding anonymity in the very public nature of their actions. 

As I alight at my destination, I too join the swarm of people heading out on to the roads. I often look back at the train pulling out of the station and shake my head in wonderment at that snake that makes life in this dense city possible.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A Client Visit - Nothing routine about this one!

It was a client visit. It was also a one in a million kind of experience... something that is not likely to happen to the same person twice. It was also murphy at his glorious best. So, without much further ado, I am going to launch into a chronological description of what turned out to be an extremely eventful site visit.

The place: the Bandra-Worli Sea Link - one of mumbai's largest infrastructure projects and something that many thousands of mumbaikars are looking forward to.

It began like any other client visit - with a drive from office... not to Nariman Point (which is usually the end point of many a client visit) but to the Bandra Reclamation area. Across the bay is being built the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. The builders, HCC, generously consented to having a whole lot of us from the agency over and showing us the sea link (which is nearing completion). Reaching the Bandra end of the construction site, we headed straight to the exhibition center, where after much tom foolery on our part, we were taken through the entire construction process as well as a corporate film (to help "understand" the brand better) . We then headed for the part that most of us had toodled along to the site for in the first place - the ride to the actual sea link and if possible a climb to the top of the tower of the cable stayed portion of the bridge.

Well we got to the bridge alright. And here began the awesome part. The view from the sea link is just amazing - the sea stretches out to the horizon on one side and on the other side, across the bay is the coastline of Mumbai with its fishing villages nestling between posh, high-rise buildings. The view got even better as five of us got into a lift and began the slow, 100 meter journey up to the towers from which 600 meters of the 4.7 km long sea link is suspended.

As we rose up, we saw more and more of Mumbai... all the way up to Malabar Hills on the southern side and the Andheri coastline on the northern side. We then alighted on the walkway between the two towers that hold the bridge up. If the view from the sealink was amazing, this was simply breathtaking. Looking down, the waves made it seem as though the bridge was swinging gently on its 140 taut steel cables. Our excitement reached its peak when we realised that helicopters and aircrafts were flying beneath us and not above us!

And then Murphy struck!!! Having dropped us off at the walkway, the lift was on its way back down to bring up the rest of our colleagues so that we could have an inspiring brainstorming session right up there on the top. However, the lift obviously had other ideas as it chose its descent as the appropriate time to get stuck, robbing those standing below of the amazing view from the top and leaving us on top with a mind blowing view but not much else.

Many frantic calls later, we decided to make our way down a construction stairway with only fishing nets and ricketty railings to aid our 100 meter descent. Suffice to say that we reached the bridge again. Suffice also to say that this was product testing and brand experience at its very best - terms that have come to mean our living for those of us who work in an ad agency.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

"Shady"

English is a funny language and its words even funnier. Imagine you are walking on the road with a friend and (s)he says to you, "Let's go to a shady place." While you may not exactly slap the other person, the thing that pops into your head when you hear that is, "ewww that sounds so gross." And it does too. 

Now imagine this: You are climbing up a mountain (or should I say trekking). You are walking on rocks, through under growth and there are spiders, crabs and insects all around you. The sun chooses this very day to be at its sunshiny best and is beating down upon you. No matter how you twist and turn, it is sure to catch your back, your head, or some other part of you. Beads of sweat drip down your face and soon your clothes will feel like you went for a swim wearing them. 

When someone now says to you, "Let's find a shady place", believe you me, you are going to jump at the opportunity and try to accomplish the task in a jiffy. And if the other person leads you to one, you'll thank and bless them. 

Such are the vagaries of the language brought to India by the British.

Monday, 18 August 2008

In Love Again :)

Lush green, rolling hills, paddy fields and gurgling water. I came to Mumbai expecting weekends full of malls, lunches and some lazy days at home. Instead I've rediscovered the excitement of exploring virgin lands; of doing things that scare me and yet leave a sense of achievement at the end of it all; of breathing in sharp, pure and pristine air; of feeling like I am touching the clouds; of the sudden brightness in the midst of rolling mist.

Two fun filled weekends - one on a tough yet fulfilling trek to Harishchandragarh, the other waterfall rappelling - have brought joy, peace, and excitement. They've been an opportunity to be with myself, to be away from the same old stories and gossip, to find tranquility within, to discover what the body and mind can do when they have to, to break the monotony of buildings, trains, traffic, and everything else that comes with staying in a city.

I've fallen in love with the lush, serene landscapes, the soft gurgling of the water, and its capacity to hurt, heal and pamper. I've fallen in love with the idea that I can be by myself or with people. I've fallen in love with that moment when you realise that your life is only in your hands; in love with the moment when you know what you have to do without having known it a second before. I've fallen in love with the softness and harshness that nature can offer and in love with the human body and mind's ability to face it, flow with it, and become one with it. I've fallen in love with this surprise that I have discovered for myself.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Foreign Education In India

http://www.thehindu.com/2008/07/15/stories/2008071555180800.htm

This is an interesting article analysing the request by foreign university (and higher education providers) to be allowed to set up campuses in India. The writer points out some of the obvious flaws of opening access to primarily private institutes. These include:

The fact that these universities would only offer programs that are in high demand in the market and would not invest in research intensive courses that might not generate as much profit;
They might not be able to provide access to underserved sections of society as they will be interested only in making profit and not offering equitable access;
That it would be difficult to regulate the quality of education that these institutions would provide and that it might not be the same as what they provide in their home countries.

All valid concerns but a little pointless in my opinion. If one looks at the larger context of the state of Education and especially higher education in India, then it is apparent that the government does not even have the funds to cater to the streams that are in demand. The author of the article himself admits that hardly 10% of the relevant age group attend institutes of higher education. Given this scenario, to me it seems that it is better to let private universities address the market demand. This way, the government can focus on sectors that might not generate as much profit.

Coming to the second point, of providing access to underserved sections of society, it is first important to have the capacity to serve a populace as large as ours. Second, once that capacity exists, it will distribute itself across the socio-economic spectrum to ensure its own survival. Yes, quality will suffer but this is where the government will be able to pitch in once the pressure to provide for the basic infrastructure is off its shoulders. Also, even with an entirely Indian system of education, the government has not really been able to ensure quality except in the few IITs and IIMs. Most Indian universities hardly provide even the basic infrastructure required for higher education. So, that is hardly a valid reason to refuse access. If anything, mechanisms need to evolved to ensure a basic minimum standard is met and this criteria would need to apply to Indian as well as foreign based universities.

All in all, given the overall scenario of paucity of funds as well as infrastructure in the education sector, it seems to me to be better to allow foreign players (after appropriate screening) to set up campuses to cater to the demand that is emerging and is only likely to climb higher.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Paradoxes

It is the 21st century and we do live in what we like to think of as a liberal world. I for one, have what may be a bad habit. I generalise based on the few people that I know and the few experiences that I have had in my rather young life. While it works for me lots of times, sometimes I am rudely woken up. I imagine all of upper-middle class, educated, working, young Indians to be like me and my friends. After all, why not? Brought up in large cosmopolitan cities, in english speaking schools, college educated, working in progressive industries such as the media and advertising.

And then an encounter surprises me, delights me with the diversity and makes me ponder about the paradoxes that exist in the seemingly globalised parts of this country. And so let me narrate a small incident.

I was in office in a meeting along with my senior planner with a sales representative from a TV channel. She (the sales rep) was narrating the plot of an upcoming serial to us. She got to the crux of the plot where she essentially wanted to say that the younger daughter-in-law was made to sleep with her older brother-in-law to produce a heir for the family. What amazed me was that she could not get herself to say the word "sex" or even the phrase "sleep with" and finally resorted to "mate".

It made me think about the paradoxes that exist in India - the confluence (or confusion) between tradition and modernity; the tense relationship that exists between the two that often explodes in various forms - debates on censorship, vandalism on Valentine's day, a march for Gay rights, a controversial re-writing of religious myths etc. It reminds me that Liberalised India is still young, that we are still gestating, that not everyone subscribes to a modernity that is essential Europe and America inspired.

It also amazes me that we are able to survive as a country with so many contradictions, paradoxes and differences; that we have room for everything without breaking apart at the seams. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

First Impressions

Mumbai... crowded, buzzing, moving, changing... expensive, cheap, fast, slow... new, ancient, modernity, tradition... skyscrapers, slums, highways, lanes... Glass, dirt, sand, concrete... Sea, rocks, walls, air... multifarious, monochromatic, knowing, anonymous... dream, reality, confluence, separation.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Untill the Words Come...

... here are a few pictures of a trek I recently went on to Matheran (2 hrs. from Mumbai).


It's Been A While

It's been a while... not just since I wrote, but since I visited my own blog. A lot's happened. Putting it factually, I've moved to Mumbai and finally started work. 

One and a half lazy months at home have not prompted me to write nor has the move to a new city (though my head is abuzz with thoughts). Maybe a prodded visit to my blog will. I shall keep my fingers crossed. :)

There will come a time to say more, I guess.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

In a Box

It is difficult to pack away two years in a box... things collected, memories made, that little life that was mine and is for a few more days. The simplicity, now lost, as I think about what to take and what not to take. The strings of attachment are difficult to untie and I wonder if snapping them isn't a better idea.

Curtains and rugs are no longer furnishings but a sign of something that I created, that were a symbol of a Life that I began alone; things that will now have to be put in new trappings. The wrenching away is almost a physical pain. Boxes are not enough for a lifetime of two years! :(

Sunday, 16 March 2008

A Mnemic

At the Almost End

At the almost end
I'm left speechless.

Too much gone by
In too less a time.

I can't gather all the memories
And I can't leave them behind.

The cocoon is dissolving,
It's threads coming loose.

At the almost end
It's a walk in reverse to the beginning of the road.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Enlightened!

We certainly are an enlightened bunch of people! Who cares about Raj Thackery's ruckus in Mumbai. "Oh dear me, all this politics is so boring!"!!! How much more interesting is Rakhi Sawant's 'fight' with her boyfriend on Valentine's Day on a national news channel(Headline Today). We must know all that was said and done between the two even though I doubt the guy in question was her actual boyfriend (I mean who would want to be abused on national TV unless he was a paid lout!). Not only must we know, we must also make STD and ISD calls so our voices may fill the airwaves and for 15 seconds we may no longer be anonymous nobodies of no consequence. Through all this we never stop to ponder the logic of what is happening or even wonder at how the new cameras managed to get to Rakhi's house at the precise moment of the fight.

I was at a cafe with my boyfriend for 2 hours and this is all we saw on the television scree n in front of us. You would think, in this day and age, with so much happening, news channels would have something sensible to telecast or that even if they wanted to give nymphets like Rakhi Sawant her 2 minutes of fame, they would restrict it to the aforesaid 2 minutes. But no they must go on and on about it.

Maybe I belong to the old school but I sincerely think journalists and news channels and papers can do so much more than they do. With the technology and access that we have today, they could do a much better job of what the earliest of papers did so painstakingly. But no, they must loiter with their cameras and microphones outside Rakhi Sawant's house!


Then again it is not just about the channels or papers. It is also about those who want to mindlessly watch this again and again, gaining a sort of voyeuristic pleasure out of the whole exercise. Why and for what earthly good are the questions that pop into my head at this point!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

A Li'le Poem For Us

10th Feb , 2008. 2330 hrs.

Moonlit stripes – across a face and onto the wall

Gentle and serene nightfall in hinterland

The cold of winter and the warmth of love mingle.

A hand changes the face of the world for me

Makes me feel so beautiful

A beauty created of itself and for itself.


The warm stripes of the morning sun

My hand swishes open curtains in welcome

But there’s warmth beside me too, welcoming me to the morning.


Beauty unknown and unsought

Love unasked for and found

Selfless and selfish.

In the time that I was most content

I found what I had searched for in vain –

A lifetime to live and love – Together!


And so I think, in those first rays of the morning,

As we often lose an object finding it only when we need it not,

Such is love.


Like a flash of lightening,

The sun that peeks after the rain,

Like the wetness of the rain contained within.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

The Economics of Identity

In response to a comment made on the previous post on nationalism, I personally think that the safety and comfort factor comes from the fact that a concept like nationalism gives a group of people a common identity to ascribe to. In doing so, they also assume that their interests are best served by protecting the group. Not only is it necessary to protect one's own group but also to fight for resources etc. against other such groups - basically a zero-sum game situation (it is assumed that all resources operate under a zero sum game while it may actually not be so).

It is only when we realise that the fight for resources need not be a zero sum game that the discrimination on the basis of identity is like to reduce or disappear. I think we are still a long way from that because we still trade preferentially with some groups over others. International politics still gives greater weightage (more often than not) to the identity of the trading nations as nations and cultures as opposed to looking at their needs and ability to produce as well as pay for what they consume.

Until economics is played on an egalitarian footing (I don't mean this in the sense of all countries having equal wealth but in the sense of economics not factoring in identity variables into transactions) I don't think that this notion of "my culture/country/caste/religion is better than theirs will wither away.

Boundary Less-ness

My brother and I have been having an interesting conversation following a post of his on his blog. So am copy pasting the post as well as the conversation following it (in the form of comments). It is interesting and I could hardly re-write it any better. In a certain way it is not just a question of nationalism or identifying with one's country but also with how we see and understand ourselves. It is really a much larger debate and the outcome is debatable and unpredictable. It would be interesting to see where all the "boundaryless-ness" of cyberspace leads us in terms of thinking about and understanding ourselves as human beings.


Nationalism - Time to move on?

As India celebrated its 59th Republic day this last Saturday, I was struck once again, as I often am, by the fervor with which we Indians assert our "Indianness". Maybe this is just an illusion, but I do find that Indians on the whole are much more patriotic than a lot of other communities. We want to do good for India, we want to help "Indians", we want our country to succeed, become a global power, have a soaring economy... We are an extremely proud race, proud of our history, our diverse cultures, the fact that our civilization is so old, etc etc - and yes, some of these are, indeed, pretty remarkable things.

In the larger context though, I find myself less and less inclined towards nationalism/patriotism towards one particular country. I do strongly believe that, though few people realize it, nationalism really is a thing of the past, and is a largely redundant concept in today's increasingly global world. I think nationalism was a wonderful way in the past century for people to form their identities, to rise out of slavery and colonialism, to come together under the common banner of a country, attain their independence, and gain a sense of self-worth. But I think the need for nationalism pretty much ended there - and the future we are moving towards is one where I believe the concept will eventually cease to exist the way we know of it today.

There are already glimpses of this - the European Union being the biggest example, with a number of "countries" coming together under a common banner, as they realize how interlinked they really are. And it would do us all a world of good, I think, to pause for a bit and muse on how dependent we are on the rest of the world today. Every basic need of ours is met by things that are probably made on the other end of the planet. We communicate with people all over the world, exchange information at unimaginable rates across vast spaces. Really, if you think about it, our very existence is intrinsically linked to a huge network of people all over the world. And this is something that's very much a development of the last 50 years or so - one could not have said this at the turn of the last century.

So why does nationalism still linger on? Why is the first question on our minds when we meet someone still "Where do you come from?" I believe the answer to that is the fact that nationalism gives us all a strong sense of identity. It is easy for me to concretize my "Indian" identity, as opposed to my global, human one. And a sense of identity is so important to us all, isn't it? And this really, i believe, is at the root of all our forms of categorization of people - on the basis of race, religion, creed, caste, sex, nationality - this need to associate a distinct identity with oneself, and identify other people who attach the same identity to themselves. And its all right having an identity for oneself - but the problem really arises when we use it to categorize other people, judge them, and use it as a means to differentiate between people.

So where does this end? In my opinion we will see a visible decline in nationalism as more and more people steadily realize that they do share a common identity with every other human being on earth - that of being human, and a creation of God. The shared sense of a common, interlinked existence and a common spiritual purpose to life is what will truly bring people together, and break all these barriers of categories we've set up for ourselves. Countries will continue to exist - but will be mere administrative units. And preserve our diverse cultures we will, and maintain our individuality we will - but the realization that fundamentally we are all one, and that our most basic identity is the one that connects us with every other soul on this planet, and with God, will enable us to truly accept each other as part of one global family.

"We desire but the good of the world and happiness of the nations....That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled... Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the "Most Great Peace" shall come.... These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family.... Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind."

Nithya Ravi said...

Hmmm... interesting and while I agree that nationalism in the jingoistic or patriotic sense is becoming rather dated because of our interdependence on and our interaction with people from all parts of the globe, I think nations will linger on as a way of expressing cultural identities.

Also, I think the need of distinguishing ourselves as unique is very strong which is why we adopt multiply multiple identities which identifies us with some people but distinguishes us from others, making the whole combination unique and thus, setting each one as distinct from the other as an individual. So even if the identity of a nation fades, something else will always take its place.

And the problem is not with the identity or classification itself but with how we use it to discriminate, stereotype, dominate and exploit. Therein lies the problem and not in the fact that these identities exist because ultimately things like sex, religion and caste are only means of concretising the abstract known as existence.

January 31, 2008 11:33 PM

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Blogger Nikhil said...

Agree totally with all that - and i agree that nations will continue to exist as administrative and cultural units. But I must again reiterate that over time I do think it will cease to be the strongest part of our identity - which it still is for a lot of us. India is a difficult example because even at the micro level these things are a strong part of our identity - not only does it matter to us that we're indian, it also matters which state we're from, what religion we are, etc. A better example is the US - Americans can be very very patriotic and nationalistic. But it doesn't matter that much which particular state they're from, for example. That for me, is a reflection of what nationalism will (or at least, should) become one day - where all these boundaries still exist, but they don't matter that much. And it would still be a part of our identity as we see it, but we would not allow it to discriminate against others, as our shared common identity as i described it would be more valuable to us.

February 1, 2008 7:12 AM

Blogger Nithya Ravi said...

Sure... but my argument is essentially this that if not nationalism, there will another identity that will become equally powerful, evocative and discriminatory because identities or ideas of the body as a social construct is how we identify ourselves.

So it is, from a purely philosophical and academic point of view, not important which identity occupies that position but that AN IDENTITY does.

History has seen a long succession of such identities from caste to religion to language... the nation is probably the most abstract of these identities so far because you can't really define it (it transcends the geographic definition of a state as well). Blood has been shed in the names of all these identities sometimes to a greater degree and sometimes to a lesser degree. There is a certain cyclicity to it only that the level of complexity increases with the level of abstraction that one invests into the identity.

February 1, 2008 9:50 AM

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Blogger Nithya Ravi said...

PS: this conversation makes for an interesting post in itself... maybe you should copy paste it beneath your original article... or with your permission i will do so on my blog.

February 1, 2008 9:51 AM

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Blogger Nikhil said...

sure there is something that does and always will form our identity - but its not just circular. Let's take an example. Fifty years ago, in India, your identity was not just that you were an Indian, but also included which part you came from, what your religion was, what your caste was, your subcaste, your family name, etc. Today we've shed some of the more micro-level identities, but still hold on to some large ones. You and I dont hold on to all the things our parents hold on to as a part of our identities. So its not just cyclical - but sort of spiraling outwards, where our identity is, as you said, becoming more and more abstract and high level. So the next stage in that, I think, is developing a global, human identity. And who knows what after that... :)

I'm not contending, therefore, that we will lose things to hold on to as part of our identity - I just mean that what we hold on to will eventually become more high-level, and hopefully reach a stage where we won't have to discriminate amongst each other on the basis of that.


Friday, 1 February 2008

Discovering, Refreshing and Rejuvenating

Yesterday at 6:30 in the morning, I was not snugly curled up in my bed as I usually am. I was sitting in a bus and we were on our way to a place some 270 kms from MICA called Tejgarh in the South Eastern part of Gujarat. Tejgarh is part of a tribal belt and the place we were to visit was the Bhasha Adivasi Academy. The academy was started by an individual by the name of Ganesh with the vision of empowering tribals. The academy runs a post graduate program in Tribal Studies as well as certificate courses in Health, Education, and Administration.

On reaching the academy we interacted with the student and faculty there. To me the most amazing part of the whole experience was to actually see a place that was actively and effectively empowering a marginalised community to be a part of our so-called Urban Modernity if they so wish to be. And the work of the academy is perhaps far more fruitful than any number of reservations that the governments in this country can make for it allows these people to choose the manner of their assimilation; it allows them to perserve their own culture and value systems while at the same time giving them the skills and tools to be a part of post-liberalisation India. The people who have passed out of the academy work in villages and in the academy itself and help empower others from their community.

The interaction also helped dispel many pre-conceived notions about who tribals are, what makes them tribals, their value systems, way of life and practices. Tribals are not necessarily half-naked people dancing around fire and talking in 'primitive' languages. As Sonal Behen there said, "I can where a saree or a jeans and talk in English or Hindi but what really makes me a tribal are my beliefs and the social practices." This I think holds true for all of us and our community identities. We belong to a community not because of the appearance but because of the history, the shared pasts and values and beliefs.

The other interesting experience I had yesterday was in translating the experiences of the people we interacted with from Hindi to English for the rest of my classmates. It was engaging, challenging and for the first time I really understood the meaning of the phrase "Lost in Translation". To be responsible for what others understand and learn is an indescribable feeling not only of a certain power but also responsibilty. It also made me listen more keenly and engage with the people there and establish a rapport.

We also went to see ancient cave paintings and tribal artefacts museums at the Bhasha Center. But more on that in another post for I am now running out of patience and steam.

P.S: Will upload photos as soon as I have collated them.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Doors Wide Open

Been a long long time... two months to the day actually... at many points I thought I would write, but I never got around to it.

I revisited my diary today... it's been half a year since I wrote in it. Even today I did not write in it. Just went back in time, relived memories and feelings and shook my head in wonder at how much things have changed, at how much things can change, how the unexpected can turn your world upside down. Says something for why one should leave the doors in one's life wide open for the winds that blow. You never really know which one will make you dance with joy and twirl with happiness.

Here's to a new year, a new life, joy and happiness!!!
:D
 

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