FEast OF FooLS

Almost a year ago when I decided to study abroad for a year, it was a sort of escapism from the deep abyss I saw India slipping into, in the near future. I thought lives would change radically, things would slip into chaos in an unforgiving dictatorship. I lived in a bubble of dystopia in my head, even as everyone continued with their lives with the same degree of normalcy. Some may even say with a higher degree of optimism.

As Winston sat down to write in his diary the mundane realities of an implausible world, he created a schism between phantasm and reality. Either he was mad or the rest of the world was. What seemed more possible? I always thought that book would end up with him in a mental asylum. It didn’t.

As soon as I left the country though, it suddenly felt as if I had set off a pack of dominos in my wake. The only bits of news that pilfered across a continent and two worlds, was news about large scale protest movements and escalating atrocities against the Dalits. I expected a communal riot, but caste ran the first leg. What worried me endlessly was not just that it was happening, but that I was stuck a million miles away and no one around me knew. I sat in endless discussions about Brexit and Donald Trump, Modi who?  Whatsapp conversations, an Indian friend,skype chats with the family added to this nightmarish normalcy. They looked the same, they still spoke about their boyfriends,the menu for lunch and dinner, the cousins who were pregnant. Hadn’t Rohith Vemula just committed suicide? I turned to those friends still in university, they were all student protests, so at least they’d be agitated. They spoke of endless assignments, not having time to read the news, not having seen this particular news, Delhi was so far away, did the locked up students get Hyderabadi biryani? I was keen to come back to India.

Una happened only a few weeks ago. I had a brief chat with Arnab Amuses Me, about the whole Kashmir issue being hyped, he also thinks Una was an isolated incident.GST is big at the dinner table. Meanwhile, I must find a way to pay off that student loan.

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tHE MidNIGHt ParASites-protest diaries

Yes, I went for the walk again. No compulsion,I simply love how the same sights form new meanings in the cover of the dark…and sometimes in the abandon of the rosiness of the sun. I find the dark comforting when most people find it frightening and discomforting. But then again, while walking in a dimly lit street, I feel more exposed than when in the light. Darkness has a wonderful duality that should never find resolution. So, I went to ESI again, now leaving a setting sun behind. I cannot see the drains today, I can really only smell it. The odour already turns the blackness into the green murkiness and charcoal grey slime in my mind. We walk silently, a lot more quiet than usual, the night sometimes forces the quiet upon you, sometimes even forces the orange of the streetlight upon you. We walk in longer shadows with tiny torches. Again the monstrosity of progress, even more terrifying with its glaring lights in the dark. Again, the worker’s schedules. Again the children’s park, now more crowded with the old exercising on what masqueraded as bright yellow toy gymnasium. Again, Gandhi and Ambedkar. Again the vacant protest at Town Hall. The garbage dump cleansed by the idol and the pot plants for company, now looked bored and abandoned, maybe by virtue of occupying a dump the idol and become an outcaste? Did the gods have a caste system? The water in the plants had turned murky grey and had a Good Day wrapper in it. We ended with Swachh Bharat outside Gandhi Park this time around. Hey, this nation can never get more of this guy can it?

The post walk discussion was less than lively and the Srinidhi coffees did only so much to cough up some comments. It was however becoming more apparent that every group needed its information. Who are these powrakarmikas? Who pays them? What do they do? Where does the garbage end up? How much do they get paid? Can they be replaced by machines? What can we do about lost employment? What are other organisations doing? Wet waste/dry waste, what waste is okay waste? There were no real ‘what do we do’ questions here, but a more generic ‘are there things that can be done?’ Maraa offers an overarching explanation of intent while still disengaging from the conversation of intent. They do say they designed the walk around consumption instead of directly looking at waste disposal. I however thought, the walk was around the powrakarmika, the people soaked neck-deep in our waste. Consumption really never comes up except for the Klee painting description on the skywalk(which is probably why I think that is the most momentous part of the walk) and when they mention it during discussions. And then there’s the bit about not really intending to come up with solutions and leaving every walk at the ‘I don’t know’ phase. After the first walk, yes it disturbed me through the night, it occupied a space in my mind and did what they intended for it to do. It left me unsettled. After the second and third one however, somehow the ‘I don’t know’ or the not finding solutions but creating questions in my mind actually diluted the issue at hand. While the form had developed and I could now see what they meant by having walks as a creative practise, I felt like the issue had divorced itself for the lack of resolution or maybe a failure of consummation(solid ground for divorce anywhere).

Two resounding epiphanies during the walk. I usually find at most maria events, the same faces, the same clothes, the same rum and cokes, the same Marlboros, the same reading lists, the same eccentricities. Same is unfair, I’d replace that with similar. The walks however produced different ones each time, the first in particular I quite enjoyed with a healthy mix of the old and the young at the very least. The energy kept changing, making every walk different, which is why I could always experience a sense of novelty with each one. I felt like a different person myself during each walk. This then, is definitely a form they should not let go off. It doesn’t fit well with the already created niche of walks in the city, so it still has room for all kinds of meanings and faces to fit within its slowly evolving definition.

The second, I really need to probe more into because I absolutely love it. Someone during the discussion after the last walks said something incredibly insightful, “ I don’t want to be a part of the garbage truck.” Why do I find that amazing? While talking about consumption taking precedence over the generation of waste itself, it seems to me that for my presence to be felt as an active/contributing member of the economy, I cannot just buy the bar of chocolate, I must also throw away the wrapper. I don’t know if this makes sense. The garbage truck has proof of my existence, the clogged drains, the open sewers all had a part of me, all part of my creation. It occurred to me that my throwing away the wrapper was more important than my having bought the wrapper. This must sound altogether confusing, which is why I need to read more and spend more time on this. But being part of the garbage truck has now taken new meaning.

protest diaries- 2

As Thoreau once said we must walk and walk again to make a deep physical path. My favourite books are the most tattered and torn, abused from overuse. My favourite films are those where I can parrot the lines from start to finish. People often ask me how I can read the same story again and watch the same scenes again, ‘Don’t you already know what happens?’

Well, i don’t believe a story can be simplistically defined as that which has a beginning,middle and the end. I like all the parts in between, a word which forces you to think of the before and those lines that let you imagine an after. A story is infinite. Even after reading a book a few hundred times, a well written book and seldom a good plot opens new doors of imagination to me.

When I write about my interactions and participations with maraa, I am often aware that I am not divorced from the people, the cause or the form and it often troubles me that I may not be writing ‘objectively’. That a clearer picture is that which is beheld from afar. But over time I have come to realise, that the fact that I am not divorced from the cause lends me better perspective. I am not reading the story for the beginning, middle and end, but looking at the writing of each sentence. That mysterious form that language takes when the most ordinary words can be arranged to construct a sentence that transforms the meanings of the words itself.

The second Olfactory walk did just this. It wasn’t even the same book though, a sit often happens a writer understands that with time  a better understanding could add more insight to a work that looked finished once. And we have a new edition. Maraa did just that ( I use maraa, instead of names of the people as the space tends to define the direction of the peoples who work there). The walk included some new elements and some the same in a new light. The general form of the walk remained the same, with no real performative elements this time, but a more quiet and somehow more conscientious reflections instead. The evening was dull and grey, a weather that demands you retreat into yourself and the cloudy skies have an opposite reaction on your mind which can think clearer. I realised this time around that I had grossly underestimated a momentous part of the walk. Often you only realise much later that you feel a certain way about something and when that realisation strikes you also realise that you have actually felt that way all along. The first conjecture in the walk which breaks a long quiet spell and the directed stroll becomes more intentional is at the Domlur skywalk. In the previous walk, I mentioned the storm of progress that they described as a description of a Klee painting. This time we read the description from chits of paper, each locked in bubbles of solitude staggered along the skywalk, the noise, the noise of this progress. I stared at the oncoming traffic again. This moment I realised, coupled with the description of the painting has an intensely disquieting effect. I remembered my own reflections of life in large rumbling trucks and big blue buses and I saw these ugly contortions again. Humanity had transformed itself into wonder boxes of their own creation and had sped far ahead in its evolution, that ape to man is now man to whirring engines. If that enormous truck had stopped midway, the whirring in the engine died out, the whole of humanity in its plastic-metal glory would all come to an abrupt halt. As I watched from above, it felt like just that single piece of domino would mean the end of humanity and we would stand above them all, with little chits of paper.

Religion is the golden ticket today, you hold the cross out in front of you, covering your chest, gripped tight in your palm and ward of the evil. We make a huge hullabaloo about impurities and dirt in Hindu religion, a menstruating woman is not allowed anywhere near those colourful idols and burning incense, the lower castes who clean our dirt is not allowed on holy grounds. With the prevalence of these antiquated rituals even today, I found it rather amusing when i saw it twisted around with idols placed where a garbage dump once was so no one would throw more garbage there. This is serious business. If the ash fell from the ends of a cigarette butt and the beholder (god forbid) happens to be a muslim boy or a lower caste hindu, there would be a raging riot overnight. God himself will not rise from the garbage dump to prevent it.

The light drizzle was now threatening to let all hell loose, but thankfully we made it to the warm smells of coffee and masala dosa, the welcoming shelter of a darshini by the time we got to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan finale. I have still not seen this advertisement of the powrakarmika in the invisibility robe. It was one thing to publicly shun them a generation ago, now we simply refuse to accept their existence. Now that, is progress in the Modi sarkar!

This time there was an elaborate discussion that followed. It could be the fact that there was more young blood this time around, that we took a recourse from the normal means of action of welfare association and the BBMP to a more individualistic perspective, the journey of the garbage bag and the workings of the city through waste production and disposal. Again of course the space created was not that of a problem-solution platform but the necessary occupation of the phenomena of waste itself in our minds; perhaps rewritten through a lens that strays away from a ‘Do not litter’ signboard.

[13/02 2:44 AM] me: Aargh Rohith Vemula’s name is starting to sound an awful lot like Nirbhaya
[13/02 2:44 AM] You: Well at least it is his name
[13/02 2:44 AM] You: I wonder also how much the savarna-ness of a name like Rohith has to do with it
[13/02 2:45 AM] You: Other Dalit victims had unusual names. North Indians wouldn’t be so celebratory of a Senthil.
[13/02 2:47 AM] me: Hmm that’s interesting. I would have thought that if he had a more Dalit sounding name, his case might have been stronger for claiming victimhood. If you gain the upper hand with a Menon/Rao tag, shouldn’t it work with a Dalit name too?
[13/02 2:48 AM] You: It does need a nicer ring to it, for protests and the like.
[13/02 2:49 AM] You: Even a Sheetal Sathe, Sachin Mali, more ‘mainstream’ names. We all know a Sheetal, Sachin, Rohit, Jyoti.
[13/02 2:49 AM] You: I’m part Tamil and I simply dont know any Senthil, not even as a friend of a friend of a friend type acquaintance
[13/02 2:50 AM] You: It’s a distinctly working class name in TN, I think
[13/02 2:50 AM] You: So I wonder, I could be wrong. But then who are the unusually named victims in Indian memory? Everyone seems to have savarna names
[13/02 2:51 AM] me: Perhaps. I would have thought the name might have actually lent more validity to that whole thing of him not being Dalit at all
[13/02 2:51 AM] You: I thought so too but I think BJPwallahs want to tread carefully
[13/02 2:52 AM] You: They want to muddy the issue but not disfigure it altogether
[13/02 2:52 AM] You: They do have a Dalit voter base after all
[13/02 2:53 AM] me: Actually that’s true. if there are any, they are nameless or we remember it by another name. Like a place. Khairlanji, Badaun
[13/02 2:53 AM] You: Yes, these geographies of sexual violence as a memory
[13/02 2:53 AM] You: I posted a status a few days back, don’t know if you saw
[13/02 2:54 AM] You: Went to an Indian restaurant and the Delhi uncle owner asks me where I’m from and I said he probably hadn’t heard of it but this town called Manipal
[13/02 2:54 AM] You: And he said of course he had, he’d seen it on Crime Patrol when they’d reconstructed the gang rape
[13/02 2:55 AM] You: so I asked him where he was from and when he said Delhi he must have seen something on my face coz he immediately said ‘Yes this rape culture these days is so bad’
[13/02 2:55 AM] me: You might have struck gold with this. There’s always been a refusal to name or identify the lower castes/certain racial profiles by their original names. Reminds me of Jane Eyre’s Bertha. Also, this malayalam film i watched recently, where this guy fron the Paniyar caste refers to how he is simply called Paniyan and  not even afforded the dignity of a name
[13/02 2:55 AM] You: It struck me how in his mind Delhi and Manipal were synonymous with gang rape. How awful.
[13/02 2:56 AM] You: Ohhh yes.
[13/02 2:56 AM] You: To be fair though victims still alive should be allowed full anonymity
[13/02 2:57 AM] me: Oh yeah, i see that here as well. Especially when they talk about Islamic countries, or just the Third World.  Their minds map these spaces in large chunks that could be anywhere. Anywhere far away from where they are. But all grouped together
[13/02 2:57 AM] You: But these locations of rape seem to say more than castes
[13/02 2:57 AM] You: Yesssss
[13/02 2:57 AM] You: There’s an othering of sexual assault so conveniently associated with distance
[13/02 2:58 AM] You: Oops sorry
[13/02 2:58 AM] You: Was scrolling up to see how long we chatted
[13/02 2:58 AM] You: And dialled by mistake
[13/02 2:59 AM] You: Three hours!
[13/02 2:59 AM] You: Three and a half actually
[13/02 2:59 AM] me: Haha jesus!!

[13/02 1:59 AM] me: Yeah, he sort of changed stance so radically that it worried me. I didn’t know if his outrage initially was real at all, or he was saying it because it sounded good
[13/02 2:01 AM] me: We were talking about representation in news media in terms of caste. The first interview i took, he launched into this diatribe about caste invisibility and his own encounters with it. It was provocative and obviously sounded great. There was a problem with the audio however and i had to redo it. This time around, i took 40 minutes trying to get this guy to talk about caste and he gives me nothing. He says there’s enough space for it.
[13/02 2:10 AM] You: Hmmm, interesting
[13/02 2:11 AM] You: He’s usually one of the few outspoken Dalits in mainstream media
[13/02 2:11 AM] You: Which is what makes it a shamr
[13/02 2:11 AM] You: But I really feel all these media institutions have naturalized these perspectives so much
[13/02 2:12 AM] You: It seems natural to talk of the Tejpal rape case as a high-profile case but not as a Brahmin rape case
[13/02 2:12 AM] You: Whereas Badaun or Bhagana are ‘Dalit rapes’
[13/02 2:12 AM] me: Yeah, he was the only one we could get for the interview. *_* didn’t work out. So this was disappointing. And the journalist in him just kicked in i suppose. A few of the people we spoke to were very concerned about getting into trouble
[13/02 2:12 AM] You: Vemula is a ‘Dalit suicide’ while all those kids in Kota killing themselves for IIT-JEE are student suicides
[13/02 2:13 AM] You: *_* is with HT now, which is not too restrictive but who can say with individual editors
[13/02 2:14 AM] me: So you’re saying unless you explicitly claim you’re dalit you won’t be recognised as one? Why were those cases different?
[13/02 2:14 AM] You: But I guess my larger concern is whether a Dalit journalist can even articulate a resistant frame of news within these institutions
[13/02 2:15 AM] You: No no, I meant we are okay with linking rapes of Dalit girls to a caste structure where their oppressors are OBCs or castes slightly higher on the scale than them.
[13/02 2:15 AM] me: Yeah. *_* says you can. But with the Rohith news he had more freedom to do so since everyone was, but unless it’s  a trending topic I’m sure it’ll be swept aside
[13/02 2:15 AM] You: But when it comes to looking at upper-caste homes, patriarchy and rape seem to have nothing to do with caste
[13/02 2:15 AM] me: Ah, in that sense
[13/02 2:16 AM]You: I’m saying caste is always involved in sexual violence
[13/02 2:16 AM]You: Even Brahmin women are victims of caste violence
[13/02 2:16 AM] You: Tje ‘purity’ of Brahminism rests on their shoulders, as much as the duty of ‘satisfying’ Brahmin desire
[13/02 2:16 AM] me: True. If caste is based on endogamy,it has to be centred on women’s sexual mobility
[13/02 2:17 AM] You: Yes the moment the woman transgresses she is a threat to the caste system as a whole
[13/02 2:17 AM] You: And the moment a Brahmin woman is ‘unavailable’ the Brahmin male turns to the Dalit-Bahujan sex worker
[13/02 2:18 AM] me: It’s stunning, how everything about the way a Hindu woman leads her life is really based on maintaining caste structures. I didn’t ever see it that way
[13/02 2:18 AM] You: Either way the woman is expedient, as long as the Brahmin male’s desires are met
[13/02 2:18 AM] You: I know right
[13/02 2:20 AM] me: It works so much better than race. It’s the most ingenious form of hegemony
[13/02 2:24 AM] You: It is. Ambedkar observed that graded inequality is what makes caste insidious and so pernicious. Each grade serves to protect the one above
[13/02 2:24 AM] You: And the Brahmin of course is the most cushioned of all
[13/02 2:26 AM]You: So now if Kanhaiya is a self-identified OBC, the BJP folk have successfully converted the issue of institutional casteism – which Kanhaiya had been initially protesting – into an issue of antinational behavior, because of his support for an Afzal Guru documentary
[13/02 2:26 AM] You: An issue which had united Dalit and OBCs has now been split up into antinational Dalit and antinational OBC
[13/02 2:27 AM] You: Caste is all over this scenario and no news media will ever dig beyond the surface
[13/02 2:29 AM] me: Such brilliant mechanics. I’m sure there will be people who see through it, but those people usually think it’s discriminatory to bring caste into the picture in the first place.
[13/02 2:30 AM] me: You should consider writing a response to that article in Kafila
[13/02 2:31 AM] me: Actually,  i want to put up this whole conversation on the blog!

[13/02 1:41 AM] You: I read that Kafila piece by Shuddhabrata
[13/02 1:41 AM] You: Man, so many issues with it. Life is complicated when you both agree and disagree with what one person says.
[13/02 1:42 AM] me: Exactly what *_*was saying! And from what I’ve seen in mcph a very different kind of rebellion or radicalism is endorsed and even encourages. I’ve never been good at following guidelines when it comes to writing and have flouted it more often than not, but mcph seems more welcoming to gimmicks than any serious thought.
[13/02 1:42 AM] me: Oh oh what do you disagree with?
[13/02 1:44 AM] You: His whole fatherly disapproval about sloganeering like ‘barbaadi’ and destruction. And equating the students (who are OBC, if I’m right) to RSS sloganeers
[13/02 1:44 AM] You: I mean when JNU jholawallahs shout Inquilab zindabad, what revolution are they shouting about? A bloodless non-violent coup?
[13/02 1:45 AM] You: The barbaadi slogans are rhetoric just as much as inquilab is
[13/02 1:45 AM] You: But these Marxist types have such ephemeral ideas about revolution, and that word revolution is allowed to be all sorts of things except a violent seizing of rights and privileges
[13/02 1:46 AM] You: While a Dalit or Kashmiri student screaming about India’s barbaadi is an unacceptable sentiment
[13/02 1:48 AM] me: Thank you! I was just talking to my friend about this! That nothing I’ve read so far, even in the alternative media seemed to look at it feom the point of virw of the students. They all seem to be making a case for distancing Kanhaiya from the event. In fact some reports abiut what this guy was saying in court, say he claims he believes in the indian constitution, does not support the anti-national event, believes kashmir is an integral part of india and is helping the police identify the students who were at the event
[13/02 1:49 AM] me: Oh thank god. Sometimes i think I’m paranoid, when I read things differently
[13/02 1:49 AM] You: Hahaha, sometimes I think I’m beyond all hope because I can only see these things so despondently
[13/02 1:50 AM] me: Haha might be good to be able to just agree and feel outraged with the masses every once in a while
[13/02 1:51 AM] You: I felt like that with Rohith Vemula’s suicide
[13/02 1:51 AM] You: The outrage felt right, felt human, no matter who was doing the outraging
[13/02 1:52 AM] You: But then all these foreign desi intellectual types began hogging up the media and I got irritated once again
[13/02 1:53 AM] me: I did too. For a good while that too. I hate suicide notes being published and commented on, but in this case it felt important and necessary. But then I started to cringe when it passed from a trending topic to something just being capitalised by the mainstream and alternative media alike. And then i just stopped reading the different eulogies
[13/02 1:55 AM] me: Well i think i got pretty irritated with even the Indian mainstream, even if they were dalit journalists
[13/02 1:55 AM] You: *_*’s piece really disturbed me
[13/02 1:56 AM] You: At one point Rohith’s brother asks ‘How did you find out about all this? Rohith never wanted anyone to know’ and I was wondering how he went ahead and published it
[13/02 1:56 AM] You: *_* I mean
[13/02 1:56 AM] me: Haha i was trying not to name him
[13/02 1:56 AM] You: Such private details of shame and embarrassment
[13/02 1:56 AM] You: Laid out as a victim story
[13/02 1:57 AM] You: Haha I’m all about the naming these days
[13/02 1:57 AM] You: It’s not gossip when it’s a legitimate critique
[13/02 1:57 AM] me: Yeah, they just went on to make the whole thing very reductive. Made me cringe

Anupam_Sud___Persona_27_x_195_in_etching_on_paper_1988_limited_edition_of_15_category___printmakingThis blog is stupidly named scoldsbridle. When we were still in the process of creating it, we thought it made a lot of sense. It came from a string of discussions and thoughts that were said within closed walls and select settings, thoughts that we knew would offend and declared radical by most people. I look through the posts from the last few months now and realise none of us are saying what we say in our texts to each other, phone conversations and long mails that we spend hours mulling over. What is it? The fact that this is now read by people outside our safe setting? That our chosen anonymity has become a more enforced one?

I sent a text a while ago to a fellow writer on the blog,” The JNU arrests.’…’, I am so restless here. What on earth is happening in the country.” I went through several news articles and scrolled down to see the comments, most ask for the students to be hanged, be given life imprisonment; “Do the students ever study or just protest..?” . There are articles that suggest outrage at the arrests, but the comments veer in the opposite direction. The lot of them seem to think there is terror spreading through the country, but they believe it comes from these dissenters. I am terrified too. I am terrified of how just how many people believe that dissent goes against the principles of a democracy. There is a strange vein of nationalism spreading through India and it refuses to be punctured by resistance, however strong it might be. When I sent that text to my friend, I had no intention of writing this post. Then I took a couple of minutes to register just how many times I’ve stopped myself from writing. The self-censorship evident through all the posts in this blog is appalling. I stick to the anonymity, but I do not want to continue writing cryptic messages and veiled thoughts.

I cannot rely on the newspapers for the truth, so in time I might come back to correct-not retract- some of what I am about to say. So far, I have gleaned that there were ‘anti-national’ slogans raised at a JNU meeting that discussed the hanging of Afzal Guru. Following an FIR filed on sedition charges against the students who attended the meeting, the JNUSU leader was arrested and several others named were absconding. Some other students have also been suspended from the university. The ABVP are protesting the meeting and ask for the students to be expelled. Meanwhile another protest is taking place that asks for the JNUSU leader to be released. What did the JNUSU leader say about this? This meeting was not organised by the JNUSU. He believes in the Indian constitution and that Kashmir is an integral part of India. He does not support such events. He only went to break up the fight that ensued between the ABVP and the students at the meeting(supposedly a group headed by Hurriyat leader, Geelani).

Now, I am absolutely appalled that sedition charges were filed, that arrests took place, that the police are swarming the University and that so many people feel the students must be dealt with harshly- And Smriti Irani…for heaven’s sake, stop saying ‘Mother India!’ -But I am also pretty unsettled by what the JNUSU leader is saying, if this person is indeed making these statements. Kashmir is an integral part of India *shakes head*.  I do not support such anti-national activities *shakes head*. Cooperating to identify the university students who attended the event *shakes head*. If you cannot say the constitution is flawed, if you cannot claim a lack of belief in the State, if you cannot feel safe to criticise, condemn or even express absolute disdain for the state of affairs in your own country, then that’s one hell of a scary place to live and democracy is a dystopian ideal. And really the AISF then is starting to sound remarkably like the ABVP. Distancing from the students who were actually at the meeting doesn’t make strong claims for righteous anger against intolerance.

After a considerably long time, I am writing in a fit of anger and might in a while rethink some or most of this. But before I am fitted with a scolds bridle, this slew of statements needs to be out there and needs to stay out there.

Radical Ideas of idle rAmbliNgs

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.

OF angeR, FemIniSm and COLOURs OF the rAiNBoW

Someone once mentioned in a passing comment, that the Dalit movement in India is very different from the LGBTQ. One is about rage and anger,the other about celebration, the Pride March is full of colour and music and dance and the quintessential drugs and alcohol. The Dalit movement has its own music too, wonderful witty numbers by the likes of Sambhaji Bhagat and Sharat Chamar Nalingati. But the thing is, that while the Dalits might have a visible antagoniser held at a wary distance, the LGBTQ movement is not resentful of sympathisers outside the league. But this is not to say that they aren’t angry; their colours may seem celebratory but their language of protest is just as potent as that of the Dalit movement. In fact,I really don’t see how any issue, class struggle,caste oppression,feminism, anti-globalisation…how can any of this not be underlined by anger?

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Over the years I have realised how overtly political I am, often I choose to believe I can titter about offensive stereotypes or dismiss a sexual comment, but you know what?I can’t. In college or outside of it, the friends I was with and the people I worked with, all deeply involved with socio-political issues, well-read and intelligent, but the conversations were never distanced from that sense of anger. So when I walked into my Feminist Society meeting at uni, I was vaguely amused by what I thought drove feminists in the first place:righteous anger about deeply disturbing inequality and injustice. Now do not get me wrong, I am not talking about resentment here, I am talking about anger. Here were a group of women and men, eager to help and excited about feminism, but can put up a powerpoint presentation on running a campaign against sexual assault and violence and smile through it all.claudiosouzapintobycatherinelarose56

A conversation with Homie from Home the other day and we realised this lack of anger and protest was explicit here. Everyone was polite, they stood in their long queues, got up for an elderly person in a crowded bus, said their thank you and their sorrys, and never posed a sense of threat to your personal space. Students in a Politics class did their readings,made powerpoint presentations everyday, spoke about Marxism and development issues, wars fought and won, recession and a breakdown of world order, all without ever getting into a heated debate! I didn’t even know you could speak about Marxism without a loud tug and jolt between opposing sides of the debate. Rallies and protests are happening in London even as I write this, some distinct shouting of slogans, against maintenance fee, higher education tuition fee, things that matter, but do they sit around and plan protests by sending out friendly requests? Baking cookies and samosas so people might sign petitions? How odd. Homie from Home says, it’s because they have nothing to aspire to, even with austerity measures and what not,they believe they can lead fairly comfortable lives and have never felt any great instability in their lives to shock them into feeling a deep sense of resistance.

Are there any angry First World activists out there who’d like to tell me about their own brand of anger?

Meanwhile I shall go back to wondering how a friend could take a Marketing class while learning Politics, so she can get a job and make some money.

mInd yOUR LangUage

In my first week at the Uni, I met several international students.Italy,Greece,Palestine,China,Armenia…all lost, fragmented in their identities, desperately in search of fellow countrymen and all feeling completely inadequate while expressing themselves. They would sit through numerous orientations, trying to glean some information, while White people in suit and tie,with flashy powerpoints would tell them what they should and shouldn’t do. They would come out, flustered and frustrated because they hadn’t understood a word of it. The Italian must have assumed she spoke fluent English back home, the Greek must have revelled in his writing skills. Then they come here to find that it was all a sham, the trouble they had gone through for years honing and correcting their accent was all for naught! Their high school English teacher was a fraud. They even have to go through a gruelling 3 hour language test, where they might excel in writing and reading but fail miserably in listening because this was not the same language they had learnt.

Meanwhile I get an exemption from the test, can chatter away in English and figure out the forms they have to fill and phone settings and bus passes. To them, I am clever merely because of my grasp of the language. I laugh as someone asks if people in India speak english, I smile graciously when they compliment my accent and vocabulary, I generously acquiesce to help them ‘figure things out’ while explaining that I have been speaking English since I was 2. My language is a validation certificate to be bandied about here to gain acknowledgment, to surpass the brown on my skin,to use well while avoiding the twang in my accent and common Indian slang.

 As a classmate explains how arduous she find the readings and how she sometimes has to find online translations of academic terms, I wonder if I might seem half as smart without being able to speak fluent English. The various affectations of my language in India, sprinkled with different regional languages gave authenticity to my ideas that atleast politically, were intrinsically Indian. The English I speak here  though, has a tendency of sounding like an outsider’s perspective even when I talk about India; atleast to my own ears. How then does a Thai student go through the process of translating her thoughts before being able to say it out loud and then have people not understand it? The very process of translation has diluted her idea and she is aware of it even as she forms the words. All meaning is lost. 

Who knows if the Over The Moon can wax eloquent on how the West refuses to see anything more to China other than perceiving them as a threat? Who knows if Just Punk Not Japanese can make long passionate speeches about politics in music?And I will never know if my very thought process would be different if I didn’t think in English.