Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How green is my lawn? landscaping and and value addition

When kaleidoscope had to join at his new workplace at the heart of the IT hub, he was quite impressed by the the apparent appearance of it. His new workplace has a postmodern glass reflecting architecture with a landscaped lusty green lawn in front. The reflecting glass part and the green landscaping complement each other well. There are several jokes which revolves around the architecture, like it was supposed to be a guest house (as many of the classrooms have attached washrooms with them) and so on. However, on a serious note, Kaleidoscope finds this landscaping as a brilliant attempt of showing a supposed aristocracy and of course the downfall of it!
Glassy classy appearance

Archaeology of lawn:

Kaleidoscope is reasonably sure that stone age hunters did not seek a lawn to be maintained  in front of their cave home. Flintstones cartoon also ratifies such conclusions!
Then lawns become symbols of authority, particularly because it demanded land and a lot of works, in exchange they produce nothing of value.
The symbolic value attached to it is nevertheless formidable. Royal palaces, government buildings and public venues often aided with signs 'keep off the grass.' A sign that makes it conspicuous that lawns are associated with political power, social status, and economic wealth. One can easily understand the wealth and position of a family by the size and nature of the lawn.
While laws began as a craze of Europe and America, it is no longer restricted to there only. It had since then invaded several other corners of the world. Kaleidoscope's workplace is no exception. The only thing which interests him is that the lawn is constructed by a government which supposedly represents subalterns in

Flag hoisting on the landscaped aristocracy 
their slogans 'mother, earth/soil and humans.'
However, the symbol aristocracy also has its counterparts.. A badly shaped lawn can indicate the condition of its owner as well. With a couple of walking ways, because of a couple of shortcuts and often decorated with cow-dung - the symbols representing rightful owners of the land, the lawn, however, represents not a downfall, rather an attempted fake identity that couldn't hold itself long!

Some of the rightful owners near Kaleidoscope's workplace

For those who are interested:

Lionel S Smith & Mark D E Fellowes 2013. Towards a Lawn without Grass: The journey of the imperfect lawn and its analogues. Studies in History of Gardens & Designed Landscape 33: 3,158-159

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Letting go 2: what happens when you come back

Kaleidoscope went back to the wonderland for one more time, within a little more than two months' time after his departure. During the journey he enjoyed the beautiful landscapes from the 'nonstop bus.' As the time progressed he became increasingly excited about his return to the place, more so about his return to the river he loves the most.

The journey:

When the daylight was gone, he became on his own with a mix of loneliness- as he rarely travelled the distance alone, excitement - to meet the river, the wonderland, and anxious- because of his scepticism about the interaction with place where he is no longer a regular visitor. Would the place question him because kaleidoscope has made so many promises? Would it dance to celebrate kaleidoscope's return? Would it stop talking to him, because of the broken promises? Would it tremble if kaleidoscope touches it one more time? With the twilight he started to write a blog, easiest way to take refuge from storms inside that he has to handle every now and then.

The arrival:

When the bus crossed the 'gateway', Kaleidoscope could not hold his excitement anymore. He tried to look out in darkness, tried to make sense of the place which is engulfed in darkness. He failed to do so until he reached the crossroad near his workplace. The crossroad, the port lights, the rivery smell, the wind remained the same. They did not welcome kaleidoscope in any overwhelming way, but kaleidoscope could feel the connection began to build once again from within. They were not excited with the return, neither they remained indifferent, they rather looked at Kaleidoscope, as if questioning 'while you expect us to be the same, are you the same person when you revisit here again?'

The interaction:

Kaleidoscope had a wonderful reunion with his friends, celebrated the life, and continuation.
The place, surroundings interacted differently at different times. Sometimes, kaleidoscope felt at home, sometimes he cried out silently, because this visit, and every next one would be momentary. He cannot roam around aimlessly on the streets, talk over hours, wait with his camera forever to capture the right moments. This very momentary nature of his visit made all the difference. He attempted to see the not so conspicuous road side outgrowths, the birds, trees, reflections of the sky over marshy land and numerous tiny little things which lives happily and only comes alive in 'macro lens.' Kaleidoscope's inside shouted out 'miss you all, there is nothing like you here so big and yet so small.'

The river:

The river remains as lovely as the sunset moments, as warm as a lover's soft hands. Perhaps more inviting than a blooming flower. Kaleidoscope wept for a while along with the river. They told each other 'stay well/ bhalo thakis'- that's Bangla way of saying 'please don't leave, stay!' and then with darkness two lovers depart with longing selves living for another reunion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Letting go: What happens when you leave?

Kaleidoscope has just finished his wonderful days at the wonderland. When he was shocked by the fact that he has to leave the place he fell in love with, has to stop seeing the river he can't live without, he was numb. He knew that best days of his life was about to get over. Its not that he never thought about this day. He knew he would be shattered when these days would be over. He had in his distant thought about the things that would have happened when he leaves the place he is so attached to. When the moment arrived he fell short of words to describe exactly what was going on inside his self.

The abrupt departure:

The nature of attachment Kaleidoscope had would made any departure abrupt to him.  He made it sure that he leaves without tears, he made it sure that he leaves with a positive mind. On his way back he talked to the river and to himself, said its not the end. Its a beginning with a new journey at a new place. He also expected a new journey with his friends at the wonderland. He expected new beginnings at the new place.

A divided and restless soul:

Its now about two months. One part of his soul still lives at wonderland and perhaps will never leave the place ever. Perhaps there is another part of his self,  an imposed division, which he had to make because of the sudden change of place. Now when he roams around the city where he grew up and has so many memories, he finds himself as a complete stranger in the middle of a crowded place, all alone, attempting to find a refuge, attempting to develop a language to converse with.

Everydayness and the loneliness:

He is transferred to a new part of his city, rather an extended part, specifically designed to house the Information Technology hub. Everyday he travels in a crowded bus to reach his work place. He cannot estimate the time needed because he almost forgot to calculate time and distance, keeping in mind the traffic conditions. He usually lets go most of the over crowded buses and stands alone in a fleeting bus stand to see people come and go. He sweats, looks around the busy people talking over phone, or arguing with the bus conductors and fellow passengers. Often nothing registers in his mind. He looks out, tries to transcend his contextual change and imagine the highway rides, sunsets over the river, kisses and smells of the waves that made him survive so many hurdles of his everyday life.
When stuck at traffic jam Kaleidoscope never gets irritated, he is usually in a process of churning the memories, because memories are all he has.

The return:

Kaleidoscope could perhaps never return to the wonderland, to the river, to the lover like he used to rush everyday, every moment. He could, perhaps never be the one with the wave. Perhaps he would never cry out thousand rivers. He would never be the same again.
However, kaleidoscope returns everyday, every night in his dreams, sometimes in a surreal way to his river. His soul claims the river, the sunset and the wonderful highway.
Would it ever be the same again? Would the river give him another chance, another time to cry, tell a story. The story of growing up misplaced. Would his highway set him free like it used to be?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Naturalized injustice: intolerance of difference and polarisation

It appears that Kaleidoscope's endeavour to thematically organise the recent resurgence of religious intolerance had an impact (click here). A few people, or may be many, have taken Kaleidoscope's everyday experiences seriously. They have decided to keep an eye on Kaleidoscope's future posts, they may take some adverse step if he continues to post what in their understanding is anti-Hindu. Such an event along with a couple of comments from one of his favourite colleagues from his new workplace has made this post possible. His colleague mentions that the Hindu Muslim polarisation is less prominent in his native place, it is nevertheless increasing with each passing day. However, eventually within a short spell he recalls that this not so, rather the polarisation and mutual hatread is quite prominent now a day in his native place. While those of the intolerant people and my colleague occupy two completely different positions but are victims of the same primordial feature of human mind variously known as 'natural attitude' by Husserl, 'taken for grantedness' by Schutz, 'reification' and 'false consciousness' by Marxists, Gramscian and even the Bourdieuians (if there is any such thing at all)

Kaleidoscope wishes to call this primordial bias as 'naturalisation of injustice.'


Following agriculture revolution, our beloved civilisation needed humans to organise themselves in mass cooperation networks - something that ants, bees have in their instinct but we lack. To handle this baggage we have developed imagined orders that is naturalised. People needed to be divided which is neither natural nor fair.

Here are few examples:-

1. Naturalised hierarchy between slave and masters.
2. Hierarchy based on racial theory, where rights  of men had little to do with Negroes.
3. Hierarchy and gendered division of labour, rights and opportunities.
4. Todays' hierarchies between rich and poor is equally and falsely taken as naturally pre-given, at almost an ontological level.

If you discuss with white supremacists you will enjoy a psudoscientific lecture concerning the biological differences between races. You will be informed that there is something superior about Caucasian blood!

Ask a die hard capitalist about the hierarchy of wealth, you are likely to be explained that this is an obvious and objective outcome of differences in ability. The rich have more money because they are more capable and diligent. No one should be bothered if a wealthy gets better health care, better education and better nutrition simply because they are born in a rich family.

Caste hierarchy coming from some mythological origin of Purusa is no exception.

All these hierarchies are essentially an outcome of human imagination. Just as for today a Hindu cannot accept that there once existed ritual widow burning the famous satidaha pratha, similarly today's westerners would be shocked to accept that once there were laws to prohibit blacks to stay in white neighbourhoods.

Similarly, kaleidoscope cannot accept the fact that he is living in this polarised society where there are different layers of hypocrisy in religion based discrimination - to accept this fact he has to perform some sort of coding of his own experience.

Kaleidoscope's favourite colleague takes time to recall the difference between his idea about his society in his native place and contemporary reality.

Kaleidoscope's groups of anonymous friends similarly cannot accept their imagined disgust to be analysed and presented in a manner that they feel threatened.

All these are products of our fertile mind which has once accepted the creation of imagined order (mythological orders in caste system about some 3000 years ago, psudoscientific racism and the like). What happens afterwards is interesting. Eventually, human beings tend to take these orders for granted and never questions.

People imagining their society as a just society, religious intolerance as acceptable, killing in the name of protecting one's country, accepting rich and poor gap as natural are all victims of the process of naturalisation of injustice.
Take it easy my friends; we are all product of a long 'civilisational legacy' like a long long blood vessel.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Resurgence of religious sentiments

Resurgence of religious sentiments in recent time is formidable. Kaleidoscope experiences the recent transformation in his every day discourses across different sections of his society. He wishes to make a few thematic foundations based on his earlier readings in phenomenology and qualitative research.
Depending on the context and extent of acquaintance he wishes divide these discourses into these broad divisions.
A. Formal sphere with close friends
B. Informal sphere with close friends often after a few shots of alcohol
C. Spheres with acquaintances
D. With complete strangers in public places

A. Formal sphere with close friends

i. Increasing terrorism and Islam association: often referring to the 9/11 incident and numerous other cases.
ii. Lack of religious reform among the Muslims
iii. Issues of internal threat and its association with the Muslim population.
iv. Politics with Muslim voters: mostly referring to congress at the centre and trinamool congress at state thereby justifying BJP - RSS alliance and polarised politics. Therefore, all other issues of bad governance, international relations, fatwa on cultural expressions are legitimised.
CORE FINDING: policy, politics, religious orthodoxy admixture in arguments is noted.

B. Informal sphere with close friends often after a few shots of alcohol

Here often a complete transformation in arguments is noted. It usually begins with much like the formal sphere discussions, eventually the nature of discourse becomes more personal filled with hatred on the Muslims.
i. Personal attack: from traitor to religious enemy are the labellings attached once kaleidoscope tries to place the arguments against the discrimination based on religion.
ii. Good and bad Muslim: usually these people had or has Muslim friends who are 'strangely' good and therefore are exceptions, all the others on the other hand are exceptionally bad in nature.
iii. Partition and riot: are all caused by Muslims and not by Hindus.
iv. Lack of birth control and minority majority issue: there is a fear psychosis growing. They believe that because of allegedly lack of birth control measures among the Muslims soon they will overtake the number of Hindus. Even when presented with statistics from census the argument remains the same - a strong sense of denial prevails.
v. Filthy and unclean living: muslim food habit, dress code and their smell is bad. Completely disgusting. (But of course this discussion over glasses of whisky and kebab continues).
CORE FINDING: us/them division, cultural disgust, fear psychosis.

C. Spheres with acquaintances :

i. Educational issues: since Kaleidoscope is associated with educational industry, he often encounters with views which states the needs to remove Madrasa institutions completely. Some would say it is not the question of Madrasa education system or syllabus but it is more about the way they teach and inject communal hatread among their students. Although the people do not present any concrete evidence not even from their personal experience.
ii. Muslim country and no country for Hindus: there are countries for Muslims but India as a superpower needs to be a Hindu country! To protect their race.
iii. Food habit and cultural sentiments: the difference of food habit and the the like is so prominent that there is no way these two can co-habit peacefully!
CORE FINDINGS: Policy, space and cultural incompatibilities.

D. With complete strangers in public places

i. Sheer number of their children (meaning large family size).
ii. Uncontrolled behaviour and public display of beard face, hijab is disgusting.
iii. There are so many things for them (alia university, minority empowerment centres, OBC status reservation and the like) and nothing for HINDus.
iv. How can they be allowed to have special muslim law?
v. Why should they be allowed to keep more than one wives?
vi. They are uneducated and uncontrolled.
vii. All of them support Pakistan.
Cultural difference and intolerance, anti-national sentiments.

Nature of the problem:

Kaleidoscope thinks and thinks for quite some time now, that there has been a recent resurgence of religion based discrimination in the active thought pattern of the people with whom he interacts or listens to when they interact with each other. In his last few months of pseudo bachelorhood he has encountered an increase in frequency of such issues at the informal and intoxicated space. After a careful but quick review of the nature of discourses it is clear that while in formal discussions the underlying disgust which is primarily an outcome of the cultural incompatibility is masked with issues of partition, population problems, policy issues and the like, in informal sphere it is more personal and revealing that people are taking out their primordial hatread and religious sentiments.
Interestingly people with whom Kaleidoscope has a chance of interacting with formally and informally, all belong to educated often upwardly mobile middle class of West Bengal. Whose polished ways of presenting their underlying disgust is shattered with alcohol-in-action in private space. The nature of hatread and disgust is dreadfully same with the passing comments that kaleidoscope encounters in bazaar, public vehicles and other places where every other person is a perfect stranger.
It is quite early and immature to conclude anything based purely on random expressions being noted by a qualitative mind, but the essential nature of discourse that clearly indicates some sort of parallel of thought between the so called educated middle class mind and those of the not so educated mass minds at time of increasing polarisation is a matter of concern!

Monday, May 16, 2016

What should you wear in an emergency?

Kaleidoscope's neighbour has an one year old girl. In a sad incident today the girl fell on a half cooked and still boiling fish curry. It was a sudden accident that attracted about fifteen people to gather and to instruct. The most significant question that came immediately after the decision of taking the child to a hospital nearby was what should her mother wear? She was in a nighty- a popular form of informal night dress which one is supposed to wear while remaining inside the home.

It was debated among the spectators and she was not given the privacy to change her clothes as the family has only a couple of rooms. She could not say a  thing but left hesitantly in her nighty.

When she came back in the afternoon. The discussion was how rational it was for her not to change her clothes, and that no one would mind, not even the men at roads who watched her on her way. This discussion continued for hours with an addition that it was an emergency otherwise you should not wear a nighty outside and how embarrassing it is to go out like that even in an emergency. 

P.S. The girl is fine now with some second degree burns on one of her legs which will take some time to heal.

I do not know about the woman and her feeling about the clothes and the discussion, whether this 'embarrassment' would ever be healed.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Archaeological Imagination and the imagined present: Reality and its Juxtapositions

This post is about the imagined nature of our present time. It is in support to the contention of archaeologists in the cultivation of imagination. It is important to note, at the beginning, that archaeology is considered itself as a discipline of imagination (Thomas 1996). To extend this argument I suggest that archaeology is about imagination not because of the paucity of material remains to 'reconstruct' our past, but more so because we live in imagined world and each and every moment of our life are imagined moments.
Before going into the abstraction of the imagined nature of our everyday living, I wish to present two cases of the jumbled up space in Haldia - my work place to show in what ways reality is misleading and reality is imagined.

CASE I: Haldia Govt College and the beer bottles nearby.

Haldia Govt College used to have a huge tract of land. I have gathered the information that the college had about 50 acres of land which was never fortified. Even today when college administration can identify about 25 acres of land it does not have any boundary wall. In 2009 after the famous Nandigram incident several families have started to take refuge nearby. Most of them were political refugees from Nandigram. Initially they set up shanties - make shift arrangements which eventually is converted to semi permanent structure. Now they have successfully brought electricity, installed hand-pump for water. One of the major occupation of these people is to bring and resell scrap materials which ranges from factory waste, smashed car scraps from highway accidents to beer bottles. Since there are two bars nearby, the most conspicuous material is beer bottles. There are thousands of beer bottles, hundreds of whisky, vodka bottles and many more country liquor bottles being stocked every week.
The beer bottles nearby the college building - juxtaposed space

Possible archaeological inferences: 

Its less than a hundred meters away from the college building. Therefore, in a site formation process the material remains that archaeologists might have is the college building. That means a building with blackboards, laboratory equipment and then thousands of beer bottles. What would they infer?
1. Bottles were most important aspect of education in 2016
2. Students were encouraged to drink because drinking has direct linkage to concentration that early men believed.
3. The educational institution had a wine manufacturing unit too.
4. Teachers and students used to drink together and drinking was an integral part of that civilisation.

CASE II: the removal of Lenin's statue

While there are several industries in Haldia, it nevertheless also had many strong labour movements under the leadership of CITU. The erstwhile Member of Parliament Mr. Laxman Seth provided leadership to install several association offices in Haldia. One of such office is  a two story building near railway track close to Bandar (meaning port) railway station. The most conspicuous emblem is a lively statue of V. Lenin.
The Lenin Statue which is now removed

Now, since there  is a political change in the state, the two story buildng known as Shramik Bhaban (building for labours) lies there, which is now a home to some of the still faithful followers of CITU. The building is slowly decaying without maintenance. The Lenin statue has been removed from the place.

Possible Archaeological inferences:

The material remains of the past symbolising left labour movement is decaying, perhaps being destroyed purposefully. With such removal of the statue if Lenin, now, the history only survives in the oral narratives. The more the time passes by, there is lesser chance to the history to survive with material remains. This is typical of power shift and an indifferent attitude towards history that makes even the present imagined.

The Imagined Present

While as  discipline with scientific hangover rooted from positivist philosophical tradition archaeologists were once hopeful about the possibility for a 'reconstruction' to a certain degree of accuracy. It has increasingly recognised the impossibility for a 'reconstruction.' It is impossible to reconstruct because of several practical reasons. First, there is paucity of material remains to reconstruct, second, even the written records may be misleading (written with a voice, voice of the powerful people), third, and more importantly there is juxtaposition of time and space (as we can see even in present time, the Haldia case matters, right?). 

While archaeologists and to a certain degree social scientists have accepted the fact that there is no single reality, and with the age of postmodernism we are increasingly stepping towards the multiplicity of reality. However, postmodern philosophy and postsructuralism talks much about the perspectives (an emphasis on how we see, rather than what we see, as we find in Woods, 2011, p. 7). 

However, what these juxtaposed realities suggests is that it is perhaps the time to rethink the present as well. Are we not living in a present which is filled with so many juxtaposed, jumbled up and hodgepodge, extremely heterogeneous realities and power play that whatever we think about time, and more importantly how we take note of it, how we fix it in our everydayness is also imagined?

We restore our faith in the material entities of our time. But can we really believe that the material reality is also constant and not a changing one? Or can we rest our assumption that there is any unchanging  narrative of the present? If we secure foundation of meaning and live comfortably in our narratives of the meaning, are we not living in an imagined reality?