Tuesday, May 16, 2017

From Shopping Malls to Kashmir Valley: Narratives of Ignorance

Image result for stone throwing in kashmir
Taken from http://kashmirpost.org/2017/05/08/no-stone-pelting-without-veil-hizb-to-girl-students/

Kaleidoscope belongs to a generation which has seen the development of surveillance society as they grow up. The question of security has become part of his everyday life. So, when he leaves the house he knows he is being watched at the CCTV camera near the traffic signals. He knows, he will be asked to scan his bags before he enters into the metro railway. He is okay (not quite comfortable though) with the nature of frisking that he has to face before entering into a shopping mall - which is nothing but an extended high priced capitalist market. Seat back and relax this write up has nothing to do with nagging cry of a half hearted communist who would complain about hegemony and false consciousness. It has nothing to do with prison notebooks!

Frisking and irritations:

Kaleidoscope knows that everybody knows what one is supposed to face while entering into a shopping mall. He also knows what many people think when they enter into a multiplex within a shopping mall. Yes, dear reader we are scanned twice and isn't it often irritating? Kaleidoscope has seen people showing irritations in making passing comments.

"uff! these checking are nonsense!"

"How many times do they have to check?"

"Do we look like a terrorist?"

"Do they really check? does their instruments work at all?"

During his IIMC days Kaleidoscope made several visits to North-Eastern India - you know the foreign land. People whom Kaleidoscope's 'main land' people love to call chinky, or Chinese! Yes, those places. Kaleidoscope used to roam around in villages doing ethnographic fieldwork! Kaleidoscope had to carry his voter identity card which he had to show every now and then at different check points. People there always carry one identity proof or the other to prove that they belong to this great country - I   N   D   I   A.
Now, these frisking, checking of luggages and demand for identity proof is part of everyday life of one part of Kaleidoscope's country. Its going on for a very long period of time - since independence. In several villages villagers were amazed to know that you really don't need to carry an identity proof wile roaming around different places in the 'mainland' India.

Identity and ignorance:

The question precisely lies here. Just think about you are facing checking etc. at every five kilometres of your way to office everyday. What would you think about yourself? Would you think its okay? Or would you think this is an intrusion? Kaleidoscope would definitely think it to be an intrusion.

Now, think about the sentiment that you would have about the country and the system which is so blatantly bias towards you and others! Like you, my readers, Kaleidoscope knows nothing about killing of Burhan Wani and subsequent unrest in a zone which was declared as militancy free zone in 2008. Kaleidoscope doesn't know about the families who have lost their loved ones in fake encounter which ensured promotion of a few personnel and subsequent violence and killing of about 120 civilians!

Yes, Kaleidoscope is also ignorant about the fact that many among the stone throwers prepare for football games to be played as part of India and not as part of anything else which is puzzling when one sees the poll percentage in Srinagar bi-election (the famous 7%).

Its okay if Kaleidoscope remains unaware. Nothing really matters to the policy if people with whom Kaleidoscope talks, think of a strict military solution, but it really matters if the great India fails to empathise and only put newer bans on their freedom, like they did with curtailing social media. However, it also matters if the society in which Kaleidoscope lives, fails to relate their little interface with security personnel and their disgust! You really need to multiply that disgust with at least a crore times to have a miniscule idea about what might have been happening in Kashmir. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Letting go 13 - defining maturity

Like a falling leaf carrying ages of scripts, a flower that is over with its blooming moments, like a tree that dries with all its memories - patterns do change. No one knows when is the time to learn that its over for the old pattern and the beginning of something new! Time does not come in neatly bounded boxes, or does it? Like we know all major lifecycle events present life in chapters!

What happens when you know you have to wait for something to happen? You know you have smashed the keys, missed the final train, and you know those roads are no longer accessible and you are yet to start the 'new chapter'. When the rules of thumb dont apply anymore and like a wild fire the forest is burning!

You try to pull the poor self away from the forest of memories through the sleepless night and day. Laughing at you loud is your failure. You become entangled, cling with memories and dragged by the flow of time.

Like all that is lost  - the key, the roads and the final train, something continues,no matter how entangled, dragged and torn apart. Like frameless heads with endless possibilities you drift away. Being nowhere and everywhere.

Now that's what they call maturing - the series of letting goes. Yes kaleidoscope grows so does the world!

Friday, April 14, 2017

New Town and return of the repressed: Memories and Classy Country roads

Kaleidoscope in his new workplace often finds himself wondering and questioning his existence. He knows it happens primarily because of the settings of a build-in city in a freshly transformed environment, designed to comfort urban needs! Well Kaleidoscope is neither urban, nor in need to satisfy his needs out of the built-in environment. He knows this place is no different from other build in cities around the country. He could have been in Noida and feel the same. Therefore, he sometimes, roams around with some other souls who perhaps wonders in a different way with different sets of questions in mind.

Memories on a random day:
So, on such a random day Kaleidoscope met with a person selling green coconut. It was quite a discussion. He could remember a large water body near the New Town bus stand surrounded by grasslands, a graveyard nearby where children used to be buried and a famous banyan tree where several people have committed suicide for unknown reasons over the years. He could recall how fearful was it to people to roam around these places even in broad day light. People could listen to calls from the tree - calls of familiar voices - in Bengali its Nishi Daak - reminded by one of Kaleidoscope's fellow wondering souls. Well, the discussion was brief, continued until Kaleidoscope decided not to consume the entire part of the soft coconut taken out of the green coconut. The seller's his eyes could cross Kaleidoscope's body and focus towards the horizon - perhaps because memories stay at the horizon. Good old days also stay at the horizon. However, the repressed returns in a variety of forms. Sometimes a well kempt boulevard is "infested" by the grassland or the lawn is occupied by outsiders doing mundane proletariat things.
Often the seeds of memories come back quite unexpectedly as repressed returns

The lawn- Bourgeois lawn and others' evening encroachments another moment of return of the repressed.
Country roads:
As one of Kaleidosocope's fellow wondering souls says there has been real country roads nearby. Yes there were, but now there is a microbrewery nearby with the same name. it offers quality food and wonderful range of beers. Kaleidoscope sometimes goes there to drink a few mugs! No matter how hypocritical it may sound, Kaleidoscope too has urban needs to satisfy. While Kaleidoscope could roam around centres and periphery of this "built in" space, the memories as the coconut seller revisits, tend to disappear. The new space does not consider even the names of the places which used to exist when there was real country roads!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Patratu and the mountains in spring time

The road like a waterfall

What it means when its spring in the mountains? One of Kaleidoscope'a favourite songs is John Denver's Annie's song. His most favourite two liners from that song go like this: 'like a mountain in spring time/like a walk in the rain' someone is supposed to fill up Denver's (or perhaps Keleidoscope's) senses and fill him again.

Well, what mountains in spring time mean in New Mexico and how they whisper to the 'country boy' Denver is perhaps impossible for Kaleidoscope to imagine. He has never been to Denver's country roads, neither he can empathise him remotely. He, nevertheless has been through the forest in chhotanagpur hills this spring time and he is never shy to write as he experiences.

The highways, with provocative curvatures within a few moments of the journey began to fill Kaleidoscopic senses. Kaleidoscope didn't know about the place Patratu but heard it from one of the experiencers who fell in love with the place and perhaps found love in the place. Yes, Patratu embodies falling in love like feeling with brown fallen leaves, red palash flowers, light green mahua fruits decorating an ever changing pattern on the black bitumen. The white straps of lane divider called for a regularity and continuity. The entire highway appears like a love line which flows through every moment as Kaleidoscope was navigating. It opened up a new chapter of love affair with each passing moments! Yes, Patratu invites you through an unusual combination rocky mountain and deep blue sky forming alternative river banks through which to go availing a mystified highway. If kaleidoscope considers the highway to be the river, which time and again comes into his thought, the entire space transforms into that surreal beautiful landscape which kaleidoscope like thousand others used to draw and paint during their childhood drawing classes.

While the ola rental professional driver quickly understood the couples are on a pleasure seeking adventure he never exceeded the speed beyond 60 kmph. Hence, the spectacle could settle and fill the senses. At some point the road virtually jumps off the cliff towards the lake - which kisses the sky - the entire forest whispers - gosh thats Patratu. That waterfall like road shouts and challenges "come on get in here!." The lake where no one came at that time humbly submits and whispers the stories of rainfall through mountains. The Gangchil birds were waiting and roaming around aerially while the boat introduces to the lake and a small island nearby. The overlooking cloudy sky painted the canvas while thousand sheds of green complemented the 'mountains in spring time'.
It was fairy moments to feel water underneath, a few raindrops, accompanying Gangchil, thousand sheds of green surrounding the nature's den patratu.

A teastall nearby named 'facebook tea stall' reminds kaleidoscope about the world outside, the world back urbanite homes.

The spectacular sky in between the mountain peaks started to turn red. It demanded kaleidoscope to make his return and experience the mesmerising melting down of the loving souls of mountain, raindrops, fallen leaves, palas flower and smell of Mahua to become the one in darkness. Intimate moments approaching someone whispered to Kaleidoscope and so the car started to navigate once again. Kaleidoscope stopped midway when the sun was about to set to see fallen leaves talking about the year passed bye... the naked tree trunk bidding goodbyes and the setting Sun creating private sphere. Kaleidoscope could see the innocence of the new and colourful leaves! He left before the private affairs began - somewhere in the background its the Denver again 'you fill up my senses/ come fill me again!'
Those unexplored paths lying alone

highways and curvatures

Lake or rain in a bowl whatever they say

Hint of colour

Those provocative curvatures

One side of the bitumen clad river

A swift slope

Yellow eyed babbler on a palas tree

The witty facebook hotel

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Anthem, theater and a singular nationalism

Accessed from http://teekhimirchi.in/2016/12/national-anthem-singing-not-enough/

Kaleidoscope is experiencing an increasing shrinking of the space to be entertained. Being a regular visitor to the movie theatre he has no hesitation to say that yes, he enjoys the ambiance. When the movie on screen is not enjoyable he enjoys the play that runs parallel among the spectators. For example while watching the much celebrated Srijit Mukherjee movie Zulfiquar, one of the co spectators shouted at the entry of a celebrated poet Srijato: “Look it’s the Spine poet, writes in the facebook!” – so for a moment it was enjoyable. While he played the role of a backboneless cowered, a couple of lines were played inside kaleidoscope's  head in a loop mode “I am a human being, you too/ but the difference is in our spines!” It was difficult to stop being laugh out loud.

The real absence in the entertainment started to appear when one of the Kaleidoscope’s favourite songs the national anthem “jana gana mana” is made compulsory before the commencement of any movie. The problem is to prove you are a patriot now you have to stand inside a movie theatre, well Kaleidoscope doesn’t know what happens to those theatres where people enjoy b or c graded pornographies. Do you really need to stand before you watch pornography? How embarrassing it would be for the country which is popularly projected as the “mother!” kaleidoscope could remember many of his friends had embarrassing experiences of being caught in the act by their mothers! Perhaps most embarrassing experiences with pornography till you have to stand for national anthem before watching pornography at the theatre. Kaleidoscope wishes to do ethnography on it!

On a serious note the problem is whether you consider nationalism as an imagined community (Anderson), or impersonal society (Gellner) or ideology (Hobsbawn), there are expectations from the nation. Human rights, secularism, freedom of speech, syncretism and the like are a few of those. The depression is now you need to reinforce these sentiments (and you are miserably failing to do so!) which were always been there and actively practiced by the forefathers. Examples of Sayyad Ibrahim, translation of Mabharata as Razmnamah represents an atomic portion of the whole volume. While Indians are compressed between Caste, state and religion they are happy to stand at the movie theatre and see an orange clad man selling noodles or becoming CM. Territorial dimensions have always been porous and changing, Hinduism has always been multiple and so does the Muslim and other religions! So when you need nationalism to maximise your interest you tend to make it commonsensical to make others accept Brahminical Hindusim and undermine the rest at places and at others you play "jana gana mana!"

Kaleidoscope, nevertheless did not stop going to the theaters and he stands with others as he is supposed to stand often holding a bucket full of popcorn. The problem is when a movie like Rangoon uses other parts of the Jana Gana Mana people stood up and asked those who refused to. When Kaleidoscope insisted that this is not the national anthem, he gets a reply which makes him happy with the movie theater once more: “This is the old National Anthem!” Kaleidoscope knows it pretty well that movie theaters would never fail to amuse him whether there is a national anthem played or not!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Varanasi diary: A saint and a friend

Ghats do become lonely at times

Well Kaleidoscope is not going to give a five ten or fifteen pointer about Jogi who has just climbed up chair and is expected to saffronise the country. While there was no Jogi on the show, Jogi was there declaring how to rape, whom to rape, what to wear, where to install what and also trying to rewrite and make new history. A lot of others would continue to write on Jogi! Here Kaleidoscope will write something about a different sort of jean clad jogi at Varanasi. This gentleman roams around the ghats of Varanasi, belongs to an extremely renowned family which owns the worship rights to more than ninety nine percent of the temples there. Yes, Kaleidoscope met him on the Daswasamedh ghat when he was trying to take a few photos of the Sannyashis in the ghat. Let us call this gentleman Shiva.

Kaleidoscope watched Shiva buying a Betel leaf from the same shop which offers good cigarette in the day and marijuana in the night. Shiva was watching kaleidoscope buying cigarette after he finished his work with camera. It was late February and the mid day Sun was quite hot. Shiva asked Kaleido about the heat of the Sun and whether he feared going to Manikarnika ghat - the palce famous for burning bodies. Something clicked between them and they remained friends since then. However two stories Kaleidoscope would like share here about Shiva.

First, Shiva is very fond of alcohol but he needs to go away at least a fifty kilometer to enjoy a drink or two with his friends because he is supposed to be a priest. Shiva, does worship everyday and does it with utmost dedication but also loves to go frenzy with daaru, meat and other things. Once, in their early twenties they went to a restaurant about a ten kilometer from the city and drank. At the time of payment the restaurant owner refused to accept the money, saying "you belong to the holy family, how can I accept money." That was Shiva's biggest embarrassment and he had to run away. However, while saying this Kaleidoscope could clearly understand the challenge and pressure of being saint that his friend is carrying for so many years.

Second, Shiva had a love affair but obviously he had to leave her because of his caste identity. Shiva had to understand this dynamism in his early adulthood and has been repenting being born in that family for ever.

No, not everything has a conclusion and life is unpredictable so does this blog!

PS. If Kaleidosocpe feels like he might write about their joint exploration of the city. Until then do find Human nature inside every flesh and bone or caste and creed, brilliant or stupit. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

McCluskiegunj: Promised land, Imagined Community and the Unknown

With a sleepy mid day Sun, accompanying hungry stomach and an already awestruck but irritated driver we reached the place. McCluskieganj invited us with no excitement at all. The google map ends at a small station with low heighted platform. The typical arched station entry point painted black on yellow depicting the name "McCluskie-Gunj." The low heightened platforms indicating a place of not much importance for the railways as well. McCluskie's Gunj - the nostalgia in creative imagination unfolds and we followed the trail. Gunj - typically means a small town, larger than a village, usually a hub of activities - more often than not small business and redistribution center. The McCluskie-Gunj is not what the name suggests, its a place to make you imagine things which is not there, but one can always trace the trail.

Just like any other

There is a demand of an imagined history but the natural beauty of the place would engulf you as soon as you decide to reach the place. Yes the journey is no less exciting than the destination itself. The approaching road comes through undulations, green foliage and brown stems of growing Sal, Mahua, Kendu trees. Several red patches of palash flower depicting spring has a wild call. The love for wild is definitely going to enhance a hundred times as one reaches Jagriti Vihara - a school inside an undisturbed natural surrounding. The guest houses, dinning places, nursery would invite your soul to stay a while. While you walk through the fallen leaves, listen to the sound of unknown birds, you also feel the engagement of the local people, outsiders and forest in a complementary way. The Sun was up, asking to take refuge under a shed, but the call of birds kept us roaming around. We could look at fan tails and brahmani mayna as two unusual birds among others, however, Jagriti Vihara too seems to be deteriorating and there is of course a rise of the Don Bosco campus. The junior section runs on an now abandoned bungalow.

Typical Approaching road

Fan Tail - captured inside Jagriti Vihara

The call of the history started climbing up our feet, demanding amorous attention as we walked through the broken pavements towards the car which would take us to the St. John's Church. The Church declares "To the Glory of the God - Feast of the nativity of St. John."

A small script on the wall of the church

St John's Church

Yes, indeed the nativity of St. John and the gift of a space to worship, soul search for a small town of people who could imagine the place as their own! A quick look at the history would reveal an imagined space designed by McCluskie - in todays world he could be seen as one of the promoters with a creative imagination (of course a rare find!). The following advertisements supplemented by the fact that during 1930 about four hundred Anglo-Indians found McCluskiegunj as their promised land - a space of their own invites imagination of the time, space and narratives.

Advertisement published in news paper, taken from http://www.probashionline.com/holding-anglo-indian-settlement-mccluskiegunj/

The Home calling effect of the advertisement take from http://www.probashionline.com/holding-anglo-indian-settlement-mccluskiegunj/

We did not try to find out the Anglo-Indians, and kept our ethnographic selves satisfied with the fact that none of the families live here anymore. A few handful families which chose to stay, had to leave because of Maoist activities which allegedly targeted outsiders - and they were outsiders in every sense. We never wanted to meet them as whatever they wanted to say is available online and we could imagine how difficult it is to be treated like a living Museum object. Instead, we mounted on imagination, yes, Archaeological imagination (Long live Binford). 

The entire space of McCluskiegunj is a space that took up the question of identity seriously. You can easily think of the issue if you start imagining of a secluded space filled with people with similar origins - having parents one from the West and one from the East. The Britishers would never think of you as their own, and you will always be seen as an outsider by the native Indians. Hence, at McCluskiegunj, the marginals could find 'their kind', share 'their stories' and 'their space' in some tiny little township surrounded by mountains and forest - a space which does not have much to offer if you intend to earn resources and become rich. We could perhaps never be sure whether McCluskie thought of an isolated cityscape which would provide a refuge to souls which are already torn apart by the Britishers and "pure" westerners in their refusal, and "skeptic" gaze of Indians who fought against the British. Even in later period the fight continued among themselves based of caste, religion, region and what not! One can think of Anglo Indians as aliens under constant surveillance.

The whole narrative of McCluskiegunj as a space to contend, fight and accept one's identity becomes crystallized as we encounter the space where a Temple, Mosque and Gurudwara stands together. A space for Church is also marked by the conspicuous presence of a wooden cross. The Gurudwara is significantly smaller than the Temple and Mosque which are of equal height and almost same architecture. Gurudwara is significantly small and the Church does not exist - except for a demarcation and the wooden cross. 

The four faiths together, but only two is conspicuous

Temple and Mosque, from the Northern side, photo by Anwita
The Cross and demarcated area for Church
Does the difference in size narrate something which could ultimately depict a clearer picture of the promised land and great departure? We could think of restless souls in an imagined place seeing others making their way out. Would you chose otherwise if you are still marginal and allegedly threatened by the rebels, perhaps disturbed with the internal pressures as well. The fact that most of the Bungalows are taken over by their caretakers or are exchanged in pittance - indicates a complex and untold story to be tormented by multiple narratives aided with imaginations.  

What called off the day before the dusk was Mr. Jadav's regular act. Being in-charge of the temple he was present and offered a Muslim gentleman with incense sticks as he forgot to bring one. Both of them exchanged smiles, and we were watching the gesture and the story. 

Perhaps McCluskiegunj gives the words like 'imagined', 'lived', 'nostalgia', 'identity' its social significance. Perhaps there will always be trails as "A great civilisation is not conquered from within until it has destroyed itself from within" - Will Durant.

A few more shots:

Oriental Magpie Robin (Doel in Bengali)
Brahmani Mayna over Palash tree

Brahmani Mayna over Palash tree

Palash against the sky

All souls could rest beside a river - Dugadugi 

Important links: