thick thighs and chubby ankles
italian and a large ice cream sundae
thick thighs and chubby ankles
italian and a large ice cream sundae
A long time ago, in a Psychology class I remember learning how a memory is created. I imagined it as squiggly lines forming ridges in my brain, some in bold lead, some a lighter grey. Every time I try recalling a memory, one would light up, the ridges glowing as each detail is recollected, the squiggly line becoming sharper and clearer. I wonder about those grey lines, those lines that keep fading away as other become bolder, cobwebbed into obscurity. After a while would it completely die out? Like a squiggly line on a heartbeat monitor that after a while finds an abrupt halt. Reading Jumpa Lahiri’s Lowland, I think about Naxalbari. It reminded me of a debate competition back in Pre-University when I had to make a case for the Naxal insurgencies. In a way that had triggered the beginnings of a romantic’s imaginations of a revolution. It coincided with my first trysts with Marx; the first conjuring of violent uprisings that would transform lives of peoples completely unconnected to me. I continued reading about the Red Corridor, I even remember that Outlook cover of Arundhati Roy’s interview with the insurgents. I read that long narrative like a thriller novel with more grit in reality than fiction had ever produced.
It took a while for those stories to become a bigger part of my newly politicised thoughts and ideas. In 2011/12 Manmohan Singh had declared the naxal situation the biggest internal security threat in India. For a few years, Naxal insurgency played as serious a role in seeping terror through the country as post 9/11 America. Random arrests and shootings took place on a routine basis; any sign of dissent or even slightly distasteful thinking about just about everything being quelled immediately citing Naxal affiliations. Every radical was a Naxalite, any Leftist thought was radical and any questioning of normalities was Leftist. Looking back now, just a a few years later I wonder what happened to this biggest security threat. You read lesser about the Red Corridor in newspapers, no more headlines about Naxal leaders caught splashed across the country as exemplary signs of security, in fact there are barely any reporters in high-intensity conflict areas like Chattisgarh and Jharkhand. Has there been some spontaneous retreat of Naxal insurgency groups? Whatever happened to overthrowing the Govt by 2050? I don’t know and I don’t know enough to hazard a guess. And that’s what I find frightening.
That memory trace that I thought was ingrained in bold lead was successfully smudged and coaxed into nonexistence. I’d forgotten about it or atlas hadn’t thought too much about the lack of information until now. If it disappears from newspapers,does it disappear from our collective consciousness? Does the lack of concentration on the situation make it less important by default? After 2012,rape and sexual violence became an obsessive topic. Sometimes it’s as relatively inane as garbage disposal and sometimes ludicrously political like the beef ban. In the past five years the focus of fear and threat has moved steadily right along the political number line, from Maoist insurgent groups to right wing Hindu fundamentalists and an intolerant government. I’d imagine that the in-between might serve as a negotiation space, but in this case we see both as being completely disjointed from one another. Is that true though?
Reading a book by Saskia Sassen on Brutality and Expulsions in the Global Economy. Sassen suggests that there is a sort of power nexus constructed globally to aid and abet the global finance market. She sees everything from those who lost their homes in the mortgage crisis in the US to forced migrations in Europe and the displacements in the Global South through mass land grabs as being part of the same agenda. A universal principled agenda to actively make invisible peoples around the world as they become irrelevant and redundant in the market. What doe that mean? It means that neither the Naxals or the people caught between security forces and the insurgent groups matter, because they don’t matter to the economy. The rapists don’t matter and the people they rape don’t matter. One gets sent to prison and become invisible anyway and the other is removed through societal norms and conditions. Of course the limited time rape received in the spotlight, tried undoing the second one making the woman free to provide cheap labour in a minor role. What I am trying to get at is the creation of a second class citizenry, a sort of reserve army of labour in Marx’s terms. Pushing people into the margins, in ghettoised refugee camps, in prisons, through a caste system and even through reinforcing gender norms: to remove these peoples from plain sight,out of economic equations and census,but still keeping them there through a veil of inconsistent dialogue so that at some point some might be of use to the market.
These are still vague thoughts, running parallel sometimes because of two books I am reading and running into each other and merging in my mind at others.I feel like I am talking about a conspiracy theory; this creation of a second class citizenry through different means all for a common end. Sassen would see it as a creation of systems,governments,international organisations,corporations and individuals all connecting the dots to form a picture of the predatory face of global finance: not a group of individuals sitting around a table deciding this should happen, but everyone talking about the same thing because of the creation of a common grammar. Now I see those memory traces in my brain all interconnected as well, one squiggly line joining with another to form a web of memories. Everything forced into inconsequence becoming consequential because of its link with another. To jog collective memory you need a trigger, one strong enough to make a collage of newspaper headlines that begin with A and end with Z.
I never quite understood how fairy tales helped put little children to sleep. I read a lot as a kid and we had many a bulky book of Cinderella stories. I read and reread them, their tired pages always firing up my wild imaginations. My books were my sanctuary, but for everything that it did for me it never quite helped putting me to sleep. On the contrary, it blew the lid off my mind to introduce colours I’d never seen with my own eyes before; tingled my taste buds to bread and sweets that were beyond the realm of my mamma’s kitchen. I reimagined myself in blue eyes that I had never looked into and golden locks that no amount of Indian sun could coax my black hair into. These dreams kept me up for hours at night.They were not always rainbows and sunshine either. The fairytales were a constant trigger for nightmares.
The little girls were subject to cruel realities, snakes and toads came out of their mouths, they were often orphaned and were haunted by evil stepmothers,wolves and witches. The happy endings never made up for these terrifying realities. I grew beyond the fairytales to read little novels, most of them English- so you know they were morose. I was terrified of the hellish plague-ridden London streets, the gloom and despair of the English weather forever casting cloudy shadows even in warm, balmy summers of my childhood. One particularly morose novel was Jane Eyre. A stark contrast from the boarding school amusements of my Enid Blyton novels, Jane Eyre always managed to upset me.
It wasn’t merely her poverty that got to me, but that her character was so remarkably familiar that her fate read like a prophecy to me. The quiet child, buried in corners of a room with a book, often chided for her lack of cheer and amiability and when she spoke, she got a rap on her wrist for her sharp tongue. While the wife in the attic was the monster of the story to me, it was Jane who I always thought was the mad woman. Her many delusions, conscious meanderings from what was normal and acceptable, even her love for an old, scary man were abnormalities. She could only pretend to be the chaste Christian and everytime she grew tired of her mask, she ran away to don a new one. Even as I lived Jane’s life through the novel, I felt it becoming the narrative of my life.
Years later, I read Jane Eyre again .And two weeks after, I read Wide Sargasso Sea- that brilliant story, dragged out from Bronte’s attic and given a life of its own. With every few pages, I would find similarities between Jane and Antoinette. England’s gloom and the Caribbean heat has both eked out the wild bearings of these women. Both as similar as they were dissimilar. It made me wonder who the mad woman in the attic was again. Why are these fiercely independent women such a threat to the world?
Recently I read Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch, where she traces the very genesis of the capitalist order through the ordering of the witch-hunts in 16th c Europe. The pragmatics of inequality that capitalism needed, could not afford hysteria, superstition and the ethereal- those qualities associated with the feminine need to be erased out of the square box of a normalised world order.In the present globalised world, she says the same is happening with women in the Global South being expelled from their livelihoods. Witches and ghouls, women of loose morality and unchristian behaviour are not just unwelcome, they are brutally expelled.
Who is the mad woman today? The card carrying feminist? The lesbian? The widowed and the unmarried? The raped? The sexually active? Moulded and shaped into pretty ceramic figurines, the times we don’t cross our legs, smile and acquiesce, we risk setting loose the mad woman in our attic. Or is it setting free?