Sunday, December 29, 2013

Aam Aadmi Party: Charisma, Simulacrum and a new myth


While Kaleidoscope remains dormant for sometime several incidents reshape the world in which he strives to live on. One of the striking reshuffling that Kaleidoscope finds hard to overlook is the rise of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). On the one hand the rise shows anti-Congress wave that former CM sheila Dikshit’s popularity and political skill fail manage and on the other hand although Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP+) emerges as largest group with 32 seats it faces a stiff warning. Moreover, clearly the “Modi effect” which supposedly works in Rajastan and Madhyapradesh do not work in a cosmopolitan city. Locational analysis would prove the fact that BJP wins with its traditional voters.

What is new?

AAP and BJP continue to show interest in becoming opposition and the country sees an unprecedented situation where parties fight for becoming opposition in the run on elections. While Congress extends their primarily “unconditional” then “quasi-conditional” support, AAP goes for a SMS poll and accepts the verdict of people and Mr Arvind Kejriwal is becoming the CM of Delhi. A great transformation of a versatile individual from participating in a social movement to an active change agent – now with authority he needs to do something extraordinary with huge expectations.

Kaleidoscope’s tiny little books and AAP’s rise:

Kaleidoscope has long been admirer of bearded sociologists (of course new addition is non bearded and even bald thinkers), one of them who is particularly linked to Congress, BJP and AAP’s present condition is Max Weber and his tool kit of explaining authority. More recent condition which links Congress and AAP is of course the not bearded Jean Baudrillard’s cup of tea.
CONGRESS’s case: Congress is at its best to be explained as a party that uses nostalgia, or to be precise “tale of origin”. Congress claims the right to rule because its members in the past victoriously fought a common enemy, i.e. the Britishers and developed common resources to found a kingdom. The tales often becomes poetic-mythical, full of factual errors but nevertheless remains a powerful mechanism of maintaining legitimacy.
BJP’s Case: BJP too is a nostalgic team. It projects although now with a softer tone the glorious version of Hinduism and their fight or restorative effort. The tale of origin with factual errors are with formidable power as Kaleidoscope find’s while Sardar Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel is being projected as the maker of India, BJP ignores the fact that forming India by forcibly incorporating several princely states seeps in today’s regional movements. Even the divisive approach of Sardar Patel’s in creating Hindu Swimming Bath and Boat Club Trust in Mumbai must have been celebrated inside and ignored outside.  Meanwhile, they also use the charismatic transformation of Gujrat under the leadership of Mr. Narendra Modi – the declared Prime Ministerial candidate of the party.
AAP’s Case: AAP is a charismatic new avenue. It effectively blends the future fight against corruption- which has all the potentials of becoming poetic-mythical, quite similar to the Shri Krishna’s avatars using their charismatic power to restore humanity with future India. AAP says quite clearly “vote me because I can transform your life” (including reducing the Electricity bills and distributing at least 700 liters of water).
The irony is that today’s AAP is nothing more and nothing less than what Congress was during 1940s and what BJP was throughout Post Colonial India’s history. The alleged issue shifts from Colonial masters to rescue of Hinduism to corruption. Social scientists at least people who seriously think for the society and not people like Kaleidoscope who sleeps off are finding a new evolution in the nature of social movements. Many believe that rise of AAP is an alternative model of organising social movement. Although this approach is quite parallel to the people who once thought to come to power by violence and form people’s country. Only they fail to appreciate non-violence and democracy.
Tomorrow’s AAP with Kejriwal as CM of Delhi is ultimately a coalition government that is expected to rule Kaleidoscope’s country capital with “legal rational authority.” AAP will use a permanent machine of Bureaucracy loaded with much nuanced power dynamics and corruption than what they did encounter in their social movements.

Congress support and simulacra of AAP's origins:  

Kaleidoscope along with the entire country witnesses Congress support to AAP. Congress which holds 43 seats in 2008 and now holds only 8 seats supports one of its fiercest enemies that claim their identity from anti-corruption movement allegedly against Congress. AAP had no choice than to form the government to avoid being labelled as irresponsible. This condition at the very outset of AAP mounting on a legal-rational authority, making a transformation from their charismatic power is based on a notion that happens to be a simulacrum-like image under endless succession of depthless presents. AAP fought against something that is in the process of becoming contemporary myth, a well designed, strategically planned myth which soon would be a simulacra whenever AAP will seek its power with “tale of origin” and non-rational sources.

Kaleidoscope wonders five years from now he might be asking “did the anti-corruption movement take place at all?”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Right to right


Kaleidoscope finds this girl fighting in a no-man’s land in the factory where she like many others strives to produce resources that can potentially change this country. She aspires to go out of her comfort zone and makes contacts for things that she finds right, fights with people who otherwise go away with saying and doing anything as they are in the no-man’s land, does things with passion and sincerity that is increasing a scarce resource, and finally she demands what she is entitled to get.

She finds procrastination, has to pursue the powerful, and finally gets absurd remarks from the least expected corners. However, she is going to get her rights, delayed but in a sound way.

Kaleidoscope, seriously, Kaleidoscope does not know when this cosy circle of friendship and other ties would be hammered? The cosy circle which exercises centralised power, makes uncalled for intervention, and uses personalised covetousness that become the rights and rituals. Yes Kaleidoscope's world needs a strong Heresy! 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

State, temple and corporates: constructs and micro identities in postmodern India


Kaleidoscope and queen were amazed and shocked to find Mr P in Levi-Strauss jean and denim shirt in Varanasi as being part of the family which owns all but four temples of the old city. Mr P is a Brahmin and a saint who does not need to 'sacrifice' any of the earthy comforts to attain Moksha. Mr. P belongs to a considerably large group of many other such saints and leads a life which is quite contradictory to the common constructs associated with saints.

God man and not so godly pursuits:

Quite obvious, this section devotes itself in discussing Asaram's alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl. It appears that the girl and her parents are made to believe that she is possessed by some evil spirit and Asaram being a guru is with the power to drive it off. Asaram's ideology is anti-western, anti-non vegetarian, anti-sexuality as he says if one removes these 'antis' s/he perpetuates evil side of human beings such as aggression, wrath, etc. He advises not to fall in love before marriage, abstain sexual intercourse for pleasure as it is for the continuation of life cycle. He further advises to stop celebrating valentine's day, and also talks in favour of rapists who raped and killed the medical student in New Delhi. 

For Asaram the saint Kaleidoscope and the Queen meet at Varanasi is perpetuating evil side of their personalities.

The constructs: 

Asaram and people like Asaram projects the image of saint that is well nurtured by the mainstream media. Socialisation and social constructs are intermixed for the perpetuating their hegemony. Throughout life people tend to identify themselves with their parents, teachers and heroes. Therefore when Asaram and the like shares dais with leaders of such height as L K Advani, Narendra Modi or Uma Bharati it leaves significant effect on people's mind. When Bollywood superstars vow their respects towards these godmen the  powerful constructs embodied by them are formidable. Despite of many cases of murder, sexual assault and land grab Asaram has considerable power in BJP ruled states such as MP, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. Asaram's arrest has been projected by VHP as an attack to weaken Hindu culture and Hindu ideology. These acts often go unnoticed but smoothly blends faith, politics and money. 

Interestingly all these happen in a time when Science and Technology dominates much like the Pharaohs of Egypt and Zamindar's of Bengal. While Science and Technology bring new barbarism, religious pursuits are even more powerful. One instance would show the nature of constructivism in neo-liberal India. The solar eclipse of 1980 was a phenomenon that people were advised by the televisions to avoid, people avoided. The 1995 eclipse was promoted by television as a spectacle and people watched the spectacle. Interestingly in the same year the country was moved by the miraculous milk drinking Ganesh. Constructs, stereotypes and myths are created, recreated and killed everyday.

Liberalisation and India's own special ways:

Godmen like Asaram project their agendas against west and aspects of 'other' culture that comes with post liberal era of the country. However, strategically Asaram and others like Ramdev uses political clout which surrounds them, encash Hindu sentiments promoted by several political parties and voluntary organisations, build their empire on leased and discounted lands from states, collect donations from sections of rich Indians in India and in Abroad, collect money from temples that tend to grow like mushrooms. They are successful in attracting corporate fundings from organisations which seek to encash from religious tourism, healthcare and education industries. Neo-liberal India sees free flow capital along with a blend of states, temples and corporates effectively. Under Neo-liberal regime India attract private capitals from both global and indigenous players. It has become relatively easy to club up money from people and corporates to form religious-cum-business empires. Saints whom Kaleidoscope and the Queen meet in the Varanasi, with whom they dine together, talk over hours and share a special friendship are therefore sidelined, although Mr. P cannot overthrow the political clout which surrounds him just because he is part of the family which owns numerous temples in the holy city. 

The rest, the dominant discourse of sainthood run patanjali, get funding for Art of Life (AOL) form Infosys, get land from the state, spread Hinduttava among the tribals of MP, Chhatisgarh and then they allegedly rape girls, kill people, and encroach lands all for sake of faith and value of a age old tradition collectively called the Hinduism.


   

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ethnocentric bias, starvation deaths and vanishing natives


People can die because of malnutrition, tuberculosis, fever and pneumonia, but they can never die of starvation. A recent report of starvation deaths in Birbhum triggers controversy that government and other key players have found hard to dodge. At least 19 tribal people have died because of starvation. There are several sporadic incidents of such deaths that go unnoticed. The question that becomes important is a historical one. The large scale starvation deaths occurred during 1942-43 do not report much death of tribal population of the state. The starvation death among tribal population while seen historically is a much recent phenomenon. What changes have taken place in last 70 years? More crucially it is important to explore what changes have taken place in last 20 years that have radically altered the tribal ways of life?

Post neo-liberal India sees lands being classified as barren, one to multi crop land, land having mining potentials and so on. Similarly forest policies kept displacing tribal access to the forest. Forest trees are replaced by eucalyptus and others adding noting to daily life of the people who depend heavily on the forest. Furthermore large scale displacements, often induced by development  have continued.

While a land which is seen as barren is actually used for cattle grazing, cultivating wild and high calorie cereals for local consumption, collection of tribal medicines. These lands are then taken for either developing connectivity or stone mining or much recently for industrialisation. The land grab under which tribal people are going through for last three decades are unprecedented.  

Case - I: dam construction and a close call 

The place is known as Mukutmanipur where thousands of families were displaced because of the construction of a river dam which is supposed to irrigate parts of Bardhaman, Bankura and Paschim Medinipur. My two seasons of fieldwork reveals that the impact of the dam construction is still quite detrimental. Apart from the loss of their homes and families who are now resettled far off, the neighboring villages have lost their grazing land and valuable forest resources on which they used to depend. Now the alternative economic pursuit is to work as a hotel boy in several hotels developed surrounding the mukutmanipur lake. Furthermore, the nature of the jungle is transformed and people can no longer depend on the forest resources which used to provide vital nutrients. The result is large-scale migration of men folk to neighbouring urban centres. If the neighbouring urban centres would have been far off many of the existing family members would have died.

Derivations:

Displacement leaves long term effects and undermines local and micro value orientations.
Policies of development usually underestimates existing man and other resource relationships

Case - II: piggery project and child malnutrition

 What happens when government decides to do something for the people. It usually happens like this.

step - I something clicks in the mind of a minister or IAS or the like in one fine morning
Step - II S/he prepares the plan over cups of high-tea sessions
Step - III An expert committee is formed and the project is implemented with the help of local agencies including NGOs.

No one even asks or seeks to explore the feasibility of the project. Once in  one of my fieldworks in Manipur it is seen that after the implementation of piggery development project child malnutrition become extremely high. The assessment team populated by anthropologists finds that because of high cash value of the piggery project people have stopped cultivating wild maize and other cereals. In consequence because of the lack of fodder which used to come from the stems of those wild cereals people have sold off their goats and cows. As a result children started to suffer from mal-nutrition triggered by low milk intake. 

Derivations:


Long-term effects are often undermined
Possible consequences of any initiatives are not properly addressed.  


Case - III: barren land and a halted industrialisation  


Derivations: 

Understanding of the natural resources are never done from the persepctives of the people who depend on these resources.
Value judgement of any resource depends on perspectives and policies lack the perspectives of the people who tend to depend on those resources


Case - IV: Maoists and armed forces

In another long term fieldwork which continued for three consecutive seasons in several regions of Paschim Medinipur I have seen that people are systematically being denied from the resources on which they have historically depended. While in pre 2011 election Maoist violence have occupied the news headlines people's everyday lives have largely been unseen. The most severely affected people were the tribal. They could not go into the forest because of the fear of maoists who would see them as police linkmen and they could not come out of the jungle because of the fear that police would see them as a maoist sympathasier. The consequence have been devastating. Because of frequent bullet exchanges cultivation was virtually stopped people have starved, if not have died.  

Derivations:

Policies and sometimes armed ideological conflicts tends to undermine people for whom the fight take place.


The accumulations:  


One of the anthropological cornerstones have been the idea of cultural relativism. Although hotly debated, whether or not we should observe cultural relativist stance there is a need to make policies free of ethnocentric bias to the extent possible. Often we find people saying tribal and natives eat rats, snakes, insects and ant larvae because of the paucity of food. There should be policies to feed them for which we need their resources. This is an utter lie. Tribal people eat those items because they consider those as their foods and not alternatives to chicken/mutton or rice and wheat. We have continually damaged their resources. We have transformed their grazing lands to mining grounds, stone crushing factories and water reserviors. We have transformed their forests into bunch of eucalyptus trees which do not yield anything but fuel woods. We never try to explore the systematic relationship between tribal and their habitat. Sadly, anthropologists and other social scientists including activists who do understand the process are either sidelined by the policy makers or are too romantically involved in so called "going native". Instead we see site for industrialisation in their barren lands, we tend to calculate profit and loss from the land yield according to our mode of calculations. 

Now the question is how long are we going to prepare policies that has nothing to do with the natives? The answer however, is known, it is INDEFINITELY. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

A fake coin and the postmodern depthless presents in everyday life


Kaleidoscope and the queen rushes to the expressway connector in order to reach their destinations. It is a hurried moment and as always happens both of them are in no mood to waste a moment. Meanwhile a person approaches "could you please spell out what is written on it?"
Kaleidoscope and the queen become speechless to find out an East India Company 1818 coin in his hand. He convincingly says that he has found it underground while working in a place close to airport. 

The impression that the coin bears is also available in internt: http://kalyan.olx.in/east-india-company-1818-shri-ram-darbar-5-headed-shri-hanuman-rare-temple-token-coin-iid-153375084

Sell it:

Kaleidoscope with his pea sized intellect reads out the inscription and he fails to understand the hidden strategy. The person keeps on saying that he intends to sell it if someone pays him 'a-man-day'. Kaleidoscope asks "which is?" "Yes, it is Rs. 300/-" the man replies. Kaleidoscope (still thinks!) does not show any interest in the coin but reluctantly offers Rs. 50/-. 

The religious issues:

Since the coin numismatically Hinduised. It includes Lord Ram, his brother Laxman, his wife Sita and Hanuman. The man promptly says "I am a Muslim and my contractor says I should not keep it." 

Sold!

Not because of any attempt to save Lord Rama from a Muslim possession, but just because Queen is from archaeology, and Kaleidoscope is magically inclined to old things they make the purchase. 

Fake or Real:

Now comes the real test. Should Kaleidoscope feel the pride of possessing a coin nearly 200 years old, or he has just been cheated. The queen's father and many others (excepting Kaleidoscope, perhaps) have experiences of such encounters with fake coin sellers. Furthermore, one of Kaleidoscope's neighborhood sister from archaeology also says as the queen feels too that the coin, most probably is a fake copy. Kaleidoscope comes back and asks google, as google knows everything. While Kaleidoscope finds out, the design that the coin carries indeed resembles 1818 East India Company Coin.
Meanwhile a thought passes Kaleidoscope's mind, are not we living in an era where restorative efforts, such as Kaleidoscope's inclination towards old stuffs in postmodern condition, reflects the loss of an active relation to past as we have lost a sense of historical location and are locked into an endless succession of depthless presents (Jameson 1991). Hence, Kaleidoscope finds the answer. Whether or not the coin is true or a true copy of the original does not really matter. He is in the world with a whole historically original consumers' appetite for a world [that] transformed into sheer images of itself and for pseudoevents and "spectacles" (the term of the situationists). It is for such objects that we may reserve Plato's conception of the "simulacrum," - the identical copy for which no original has ever existed.

Kaleidoscope is amazed to find out:
  1. His consumer-centrist attitudes towards the endless successions of depthless presents
  2. His and queen's crave for a restorative efforts in their nostalgic (/colonial) hangover in a postmodern condition.
  3. A juxtaposition of religion, consumerism and images in which Kaleidoscope finds the world in which he chooses to live. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Longing for a home that never exists: (A)historical emotion and return of the repressed


When hostel students organise farewell and freshers' welcome, the hostels are usually transformed to a carnivalsque. It becomes upside down. Pupil suddenly becomes eager to confess, there are boundaries that get dissolved and people like Kaleidoscope often sees naked reality. So once in a programme like this, in a moment when Kaleidoscope's pupil were in a mood of confession, a young boy shouted "if you don't have brother don't make a dummy brother, if you don't have a sister don't make dummy sister." It suddenly opens a window, a nostalgic one where Kaleidoscope can see pupil's longing for a home that never really exist.

What might have happened:

Possibility I:
1. The guy had found a sister (highly probably) in a girl
2. The sisterhood continued for a while and it got broken up

Possibility: II
1. The guy was looking for a significant relationship in an otherwise manly hostel world and he finally ended up in getting a sister (and not a fiancee)
2. Eventually the girl realised the underground demand and they broke up

Possibility: III
1. The guy and girl both seek a significant relationship
2. They found each-other
3. At the end of the year either one (in this case probably it is the girl) got back to the lost home, went back to the real brother (or the sister, probably not in this case), hence eventual painful separation because "blood is thicker than the water."

Well Kaleidoscope can keep on listing numerous permutations and combinations of the possibilities. However, the bottom line is that there are people who continue to seek for the world that never really exist. Kaleidoscope would rather see this as a restorative effort of the people who are born in a nuclear family (or are compelled to live in a nucleus life), miss out relationships which are historically defined as important but absent. The reflective dimension of nostalgia is intertwined as Svetlana Boym sees it not as an individual sickness but a symptom of our age, a historical emotion. As the world evolves to modernity, worlds find new time and space coeval with it. A result of which is longing for not only a space but also for a time. Hence worlds are filled with ancient ghosts, people's restorative efforts and a heterotopic outcome. It is highly likely that it will call for more uncalled for carnivalsques engulfing Kaleidoscope in his restorative efforts and his longing for a imagined home. The hostel boy, the transformed spaces, vanishing places and juxtaposed and nucleus modernity do make a space for the return of nostalgia as repressed are often returned.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rapes, outrages and letting go: Delhi (ites), Kolkata (ns), Mumbai (kars) and others

Medical teachers and students express their protest against Delhi rape case while taking out a candle march in Chandigarh on Friday. - Photo: Akhilesh Kumar (From The business line)

Kaleidoscope like many others have a strong faith on the public sphere and civil society movements but he is afraid of the increasing politicisation of civil which ultimately makes each of such movements futile. It starts with the Delhi rape case, continues with Kamduni case and showing similar voices in yesterday's Mumbai rape case in which till now two accused have been arrested. Public media, opposition and important others comment on the lack speedy trial, police patrolling (i.e. law enforcement), and a fearlessness among the people at large are the reasons for these heinous crimes. One thing that often ignored is the socialisation practice with which Kaleidoscope's society up-brings their children and the nature and extent of reluctance to take preventive measures.

Gangs of Kamduni and gangs of neighbourhood:

In Kamduni case the place of rape was a relatively empty road (BDO office road) which connects Kamduni crossing to Madhyamgram. The stretch goes through fisheries allegedly infested with fish mafias. Taking a girl away even in the daylight has been quite easy.

Similar rape hotspot can be found anywhere in and around the city of Kolkata. Take the instance of Kaleidoscope's place. Kaleidoscope with his post Belghoria Expressway life has changed the route to reach the city. He goes through a small alleyway which connects his house with the expressway. In post lunch sessions Kaleidoscope reluctantly sees a gang of young to middle aged persons playing cards. They occupy more than half of the alleyway with their circled sitting arrangement just beside the numerous apartments under construction. The play session goes on till night. Although apparently they play cards, but clearly they gamble, drink country liquor, use slangs, and stares at passing-by girls and women. Kaleidoscope is amazed with the reluctance from his locality and indifference from the houses in-front of which they play cards. In post evening when most of the Kaleidoscope's neighbours are busy in watching television mega-serials they can do whatever they want in the apartments under construction, hence, the vulnerability of a girl passing through that alleyway is potentially quite high. There are empty rooms in hundreds of incomplete apartments, there is an relatively empty alleyway which connects to an expressway, and there are intoxicated card players. 

What happened to the community? 

The question that Kaleidoscope asks himself before looking at the public sphere "Why Kaleidoscope is reluctant? Why don't he say something to that gang?" The answer is the image of fear. They are supposedly having strong network with both politics and local mafias. They are involved in construction business and are also the middlemen. Taking steps to stop them from playing cards is difficult, primarily because apparently they are just playing and relaxing with their circles of friends, so Kaleidoscope really does not have a strong ground to oppose what they are doing. Furthermore, because of their nexus with the local politics getting the leader's support for removing them is highly unlikely. 

The only hope is the civil society/public sphere/community of the locality in which Kaleidoscope resides. They are too busy (as Kaleidoscope too is) with other matters, and since, there is not a single incident happened so far, people do not bother to look at the potential threats and do not take preventive measures.

On the other hand, each of the families of Kaleidoscope's locality is moved by the Delhi or Kamduni cases. They frequently show frustration with the depressing performance of law enforcers but fail to account for the fact that society runs on largely informal social controls and that law enforcement with law enforcers in every corner of our country is impossible. Hence, Kaleidoscope along with others shouts, protests against the rapes, criticises government and legal systems but do not mobilise against what happens at the very next alleyway everyday. 

Socialisation practices:

When Kaleidoscope speaks about socialisation practices he not only means the formal socialisation institutions like family and schools he also entails to focus on the informal mechanisms of socialisation including television, internet, pornographies, advertisements, peer groups, local/regional/school/college gangs and so on and so forth. When the card-players play at the link-road towards Belghoria expressway, Kaleidoscope sees many young adults (12 - 15 years of age) are watching and enjoying the games. They look and tend to imitate their lifeways, hence, these card-players dens are also actively a breeding grounds of the future card-players.

What happens next?

Next, Kaleidoscope posts this text in his blog, shares it in facebook, awaits comments and likes until another news breaks. If it is not in Kaleidoscope's alleyway he feels a momentarily secured until something really happens on the way to Belghoria Expressway.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Studied, played and got buried: mid-day meal poisoning in Bihar and beyond

One of Kaleidoscope's maternal uncle is a school teacher. He teaches in a primary school where mostly first generation learners come. He is a brilliant multitasker.
He is an
accountant
cook
census worker
disaster manager
and finally a teacher.

After the Bihar incident where 23 children died after consuming a midday meal that was found to have been laced with a deadly organophosphorus insecticide, Kaleidoscope calls him up and he reluctantly but sadly says that this is something quite obvious. There is no infrastructure for teaching as there is no infrastructure for cooking and feeding the children. Kaleidoscope finds that first, it was policy makers' eagerness to decrease the dropout rates without looking at the quality of education service being offered, and now, the policy runs itself into more complicated situations in which a teacher becomes cook, students see schools as a community dining place, local political elites find another seep in the long pipe of India's so called pro poor policy now injected by more than 13,000 Crore and guardians find a place where they can keep their child safely (?) and do their regular works. 

The case of Bihar - the case of India:

Kaleidoscope finds a repetition of the earlier customs of food offering. Earlier kings had tasters who used to taste & test the food bring offered to the king. Bihar government with severe criticism suspends the headmistress, and directs teachers to taste the cooked food before serving them to children. These superficial measures indicate the lack of seriousness and political will to take a corrective measure so that incidents like these can be avoided. The particular school in that day was run by the headmistress only as the only other teacher was on leave, which means on that particular day students were waiting for their meal and not for any lesson. Perhaps this is the picture of our primary education system. In severely understaffed schools, teachers are expected to maintain accounts for the midday meal schemes, procure and store the raw materials for cooking, help in cooking, work in the Census, perform election duty, prepare electoral list, take part in disaster-relief (legitimised by RTE Act, section 27) and finally teach and create good human resources for our country. People who cook midday meal works for Rs. 1000/- per month that too for 10 months with a hope that someday their welfare state will make them permanent and they will be paid in pay-scale. There is barely any clean and shaded kitchen a separate place for dining or quality meal for the students as there is no job security and fair wage for the workers and even these schools do not have first aid kit available.

... and beyond: 

Kaleidoscope in many of his fieldworks found midday meal schemes running in schools popularly known as "khichuri school" (khichuri or khichri means the meal being offered there). In one particular incident the school was adjascent to a Panchayat office in Purba Medinipur. That day the children were very happy as in addition to the rice and dal of their regular meal cauliflower curry was prepared that too because we (on behalf of  GoWB) were supposed to visit the Panchayat office. 
Children at the Purba Medinipur in 2009

Moments of joy before joining for the midday meal at Purba Medinipur 2009
There is hardly any nutritious meals being offered. There are often instances of lizard, cockroach infested meals being offered. Centralised system of midday meal such as those run by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Nandi foundation and corporates like Vadanta is equally depressing. They offer meals that rot on the way, there is virtually no regulations on what they offer in the meals, and there is reported gap between the amount of raw materials they said to use and number of meals they provide. 

Kaleidoscope like many finds that "participation" or participatory approach is most frequently projected as one win-win solution to all of India's problems. Perhaps, this is trend of all neo-liberal policies. Whatever you (state) cannot handle, hand it over to locals. As a result Panchayats are extremely overburdened. In this particular case of schooling system where governance is now largely handed over the local people, "the school management committee" under RTE act are not performing as it is expected to perform. As other sectors like decentralised irrigation management is failing too.

Sadly, when we look at one case, we often loose to focus on the other related issues as well. Kaleidoscope was mapping Dharmasati Gandaman Primary School's case to answer "why so many children died?" (22 have survived) The quick answer is like this.

1. The school lacked first aid kit
2. Primary health care centre is 7 km away with poor connections
3. Nearest civil hospital is 50 km away
4. Patna medical college is 75 km away.

At this point there is no simple solution to world's largest school feeding programme. There should not be severely underpaid workers, become cook teachers, local players looking for a seepage in the now entitle 13000 crore funds and poisoned foods for the children. No doubt the scheme has played a great role in checking dropouts, and provided valuable aid to daily diet but installation of educational system is still far away, meanwhile the incidents like Bihar indicates increasing lacunae of the scheme in action. We will have wait for the concrete measures as told by our PM.

Lastly in the voice of Kaleidoscope's maternal uncle "earlier we used to get empty classrooms... now at least they are filled. At least we have made their parents understand the importance of preliminary education just like a balanced diet."  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Postmodern Travels


Others know a lot about Kaleidoscope's long travel experiences. Some of the facebook posts shows that Kaleidoscope travels with a romantic mood. When his train hops at different stations Kaleidoscope takes snaps. One thing that Kaleidoscope do not report is the postmodern condition in which he travels in the local trains which takes him from Birati to Sealdah and "Super fast" buses that takes Kaleidoscope from Mecheda to Haldia, especially in Mondays.

So here it goes. Monday morning Kaleidoscope says good bye to The Queen at 5:00am. The Queen could only say a few words with her sleepy voice and swelled eyes.

Kaleidoscope boards to a train filled with subalterns. They take revenge by smoking bidis, sleeping on the seats meant for sitting. Some of them goes as far as changing their night dress, i.e. the lungi and wearing the day dress, i.e. Pants before they get down. These subalterns travel regularly. They sit together, literally sleeps on each other. As the train reaches to the Dumdum, some of them are awaken and they happily say good byes, talks to each other with regular slangs, throws sexually charged words to womenfolks who seem to enjoy these chats and travels with them regularly. Most of them gets off at Dumdum or Bidhannagar (ultadanga). These co-passengers are informal sector workers who bring flowers, vegetables and fruits for the urban consumers from remote corners of the urban hinterland. Kaleidoscope increasingly getting a feel that these early morning local trains represents a perfect postmodern habitus. The boundaries [between bodies] are blurred, norms are breached and impositions are compromised.

Kaeidoscope gets off at Sealdah and boards to shared taxi, more popularly known as "Shuttle" to reach at Howrah. When he walks down the pathway from Sealdah station to Mahatma Gandhi Road, jet propelled autos rushes towards Mechua - the fruit market carrying some his co-passengers. In the shuttle, Kaleidoscope presses his body against others as these shuttles must carry more passengers than a car can usually carry.

The train journey from Howrah to Mecheda is pleasant when Kaleidoscope often takes the snaps.

Boundaries do dissolve

Kaleidoscope and his colleagues must loose a number these "Super fast" (popularly Haldia/Mecheda Super) buses in order to secure seats at Mecheda. As these buses are stopped boundaries are dissolved again. Kaleidoscope like others adjusts between the pressing bellies, wallets, mobile phones and reproductive systems. Usually Kaleidoscope sleeps but nevertheless he often remains conscious about the boundaries that continue to dissolves until the bus reaches at City Center. Kaleidoscope finds young girls, college students compromising their bodily boundaries, and limits for an (un)invited postmodern potential of the journey. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

For the sake of her marriage: Compensating for a gendered world


Kaleidoscope has experienced the presence of several domestic helps since his father could afford them. He has seen never ending complains from his mother about the bad performance of these maids. Last week one of  the old maids Tarulata, her now married daughter Krishna and granddaughter Ghutul who is only four months of age arrived when Kaleidoscope was reading Jonathan Glancey's Nagaland. He was quite unaware about the atrocities that people of Nagaland are facing as he has been unaware about Tarulata. Tarulata with her granddaughter on her lap smiles at Kaleidoscope and says "see, this is the reason I choose to work as a domestic help"

When Tarulata in late 1980s gave birth to Krishna, a girl child she was told by her mother-in-law and her husband that she is responsible for the birth of this girl child, and that she must arrange for her marriage. Tarulata cried with helplessness but slowly accepted the challenge and took up the profession of domestic help in many houses including that of Kaleidoscope's. Tarulata's husband over the years have done reasonably well in his shoe and chappal manufacturing business. In late 1990s Tarulata's husband repeatedly requested Tarulata to give up her profession and start relaxing for a while, but that request was futile. When Krishna comes up to sixteen she also accompanies Tarulata and finally in 2009 Krishna is married to a small business man. Over the year Tarulata buys the jewelry, pays off the dowry and now holds a smiling face with her granddaughter in her lap. After Krishna's marriage Tarulata gives up the profession and now helps her husband more actively in his business.


Kaleidoscope exhales and comes back to his room with a fear of unknown future of Krishna with her daughter.

[Reasons to worry:
Dowry related register death cases in India in 2010 is 8391 click here
The Hindu reports India looses 3 million girls in infanticide click here]

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Boy-I, an university examination and letting go


When Kaleidoscope immerses himself in his examination management he gets a call from a room number where a candidate appears to feel sick... Kaleidoscope along with AM, rushes there to find Boy-I crying. He has already broken a couple of pens, torn off his university admit card and registration certificate.

I
Kaleidoscope asks him "what happened?"

Boy - I: I cannot recall anything. (sobs)
K: Do you find the question hard?
B: No, I know everything but cannot recall. (Sobs)
K: Okay, take some time... would you care for some water.
B: No reply...(keeps his head on the hight bench, on the answer-script)

Kaleidoscope thinks for a while to give him some time off... He goes out and then comes back withing 15 mins to find Boy-I being in the same position.

K: (Now that K, knows the name of the Boy-I) Bo- I, come with me, you don't have to write... come with me in another room...

II

Boy-I listens to... and comes with K, and then falls on the floor. Kaleidoscope holds him and almost carries him to the first floor in Kaleidoscope's department... he runs the AC on and starts talking to Boy-I. What Kaleidoscope deciphers is that

A. Boy-I is having this problem of being unable to recall anything once he sees the question paper after his Higher Secondary examination.
B. Despite of being a poor student he has a honours course in Geography because his maternal uncle has some source in some college
C. He belongs to a poverty stricken family, his father is a farmer
D. He has faced similar problem in the last year, in consequence he had to drop out a year
E. He does not want to live anymore.

Kaleidoscope has AP, who can help him with Geography. So, AP arrives and tries to help him recall something... and he writes something.

Now, that Boy-I is ready to submit his answerscript Kaleidoscope takes his answerscript and asks for a phone number so that Boy-I can be given to a safe hand.

After giving the number Boy-I throws off his quite costly mobile phone (gifted by some elder brother), tears off pages of his geography notes and starts to take out more notes from the bag until Kaleidoscope stops him.

His maternal uncle and his father comes and Kaleidoscope narrates the story and suggests them to take Boy-I to a psychiatrist, or a counselor.

III

Yes, Boy I's father is a farmer, maternal uncle works as a wage earner. Boy-I reads, writes and attends college regularly but somehow, fails to recall in moments of pressure. Kaleidoscope perhaps will never know what happens after Boy-I leaves the college...


Friday, August 2, 2013

Monsoon in the wonderland

Kaleidoscope by virtue of his occupational status and affection to photography is finding wonderful locations to capture what Monsoon means to the people who surround his workplace. This post, Kaleidoscope is afraid to mention is going to offer only a few snaps to describe (and henceforth not to interpret or analyse) aspects of monsoons.

Plentiful:



Kaleidoscope along with others resides in a faculty quarter where outside encroachment often disturbs their sense of privacy, but in monsoon, Kaleidoscope and some others find it okay to watch and photograph these activities.









There is plenty for each of the encroachers...

Showing offs: 

Suddenly a romeo appears in now water logged playground...
Kaleidoscope does not know for sure whether his romeo has been able to get the much deserved attention from the girl next window... in the girls hostel! Well definitely a wonderful attempt.

Reflections:

Kaleidoscope like many others often is moved by the monsoon sky in its strokes and paintings... Some of the reflections that he could capture:

Just before the sunset... even if there is a momentary space for the sun to show its face... reflections are everywhere. 

 Raindrops do provide the ripple effects...


Monochromes are as usual nostalgic...

Kaleidoscope finds enough reason to describe his workplace - a wonderland... 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Weird wirelessness



Kaleidoscope finally chooses a wireless 3G network. It gives him speed and mobility. More importantly it makes Kaleidoscope feel empowered and less insecure. Although the decision is taken for the disgusting performance of BSNL over the past few months, at one corner of the Kaleidoscope's (in)sensitive mind his rootlessness, ever commuting experience played an invisible and significant role.

The archaeology of internet use for Kaleidoscope includes the dial up - internetlessness / sybercafeish access - institute based access - wired broadband (and office net) - wireless connection (and office net). The pattern of internet use for Kaleidoscope like many others relates itself with his insatiable dependency over the world of easily accessible and shared information.

Over the years Kaleidoscope's archaeology includes increasing detachment from his earlier roots followed by a series of suffocating and painful nights to a wireless void. Kaleidoscope asks itself why should it be a part of such a void? Does it have anything to do with his commuting experience, lack of focus on the list of things that he should be doing or is it simply the result of increasing detachment from the symbols that used be significant for him?

While Kaleidoscope remains clueless, the whole paradigm of invisible patterns of actions - (the very pattern that determines Kaleidoscope's taste, feel, ways of being and doing) smiles.  The harder Kaleidoscope tries to break down the signs to find out underlying significations the smile becomes a laughter - louder laughter. Kaleidoscope - like many others remains one dimensional - looses the imagined capacity for being an actively constructing agent and becomes part of a high-speed, rootless wireless network surrounded by the same void that Kaleidoscope once tried to break down.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What does skin have to do with transfer and posting?


Kaleidoscope as many others travels frequently to a distance place to work on to sustain. People, of course including Kaleidoscope's colleagues who commute like kaleidoscope wear a tanned skin, unkempt hair, air stroke face, dull neck, wet clothes, often swelled eyes which are never compensated with sleepy blue nights. They use body sprays and shampoos to repair the body in which they live in.

Imitations and failures: Kaleidoscope noticed a few of his colleagues who are now transferred, wearing loud make ups. They strongly believed that it helped them save their skin from the road waste that Kaleidoscope and the like wears each time they commute. Well Kaleidoscope is not a person who can wear and carry a loud make up (Kaleidoscope is consciously not  a homophobic). Kaleidoscope does not have a dupatta with which he can cover up the skin and hair. He tried and failed to follow what the other person from another department does, covering his head with a handkerchief, although the other person continue to loose his hair. So, Kaleidoscope's skin, hair and face bears the marks of the so called "C-zone", in the never quite clear division of zones according to the posting.

The others: After the transfer of Kaleidoscope's colleagues who have successfully saved their skins from the C-zone effects there was a period of communism - all wore more or less C-zone skin. Suddenly with the new transfer policies several A-zoners are now sharing the baton in the orchestra of higher education in C-zone. They are the others. They wear city skin, hair and clothing. They commute either by the AC bus or by Goddamn expensive cars, they continue to wear the city bound professorish skin, but how long is a question.

Once Kaleidoscope and several others
(KB, KP, SB, AP, SC)
 had to travel by a truck to reach to teach
(Photo credit: KB!)

So next time you need to find out Kaleidoscope in any of the conferences or get-togethers you must seek:

A. Tanned Skin
B. Unkemped Hair
C. Unpressed Clothing
D. Swelled eyes


You find one, ask him straight... "Are you Kaleidoscope?" Even if the answer is no, it is a Kaleidoscope...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Money, mind and matter: micro conflicts and conflict resoultions in late capital society

[taken from: http://twentytwowords.com/dev2/2012/11/03/street-artist-creating-street-art-that-destroys-the-street-artist/]

Whether or not capitalism is a winner is no longer a question to ask. Capitalism wins and it wins at the very moment you tend to think that capitalism cannot to solve all the problems that people have in their everyday life. Solution to a problem with capitalism is not a justice to the problem with a provision of effective means of conflict resolution. Rather, capitalism brutally exercises power to silence the voices that tend to question or makes a small step in challenging it.

While critical theories focus on macro factors that prevents people organise against capitalism, there are micro dynamics of capitalism and its exercise of power in everyday life is formidable. Here are some of the examples:

Discourse I - Product conflict: X tells Y not to waste money for a particular product because X thinks the product is overpriced and is strategically made scarce. Y replies "I am wasting my money, why do you bother? Don't you dare further intervening in my lifestyle"

Inference - I: 

  • Money making pursuit and ownership of the means of expenditure, 
  • Personification of expenditure, 
  • speaking against capitalism = intervention is one's personal matters/ putting restrictions against one's wide range of choices


Discourse II - Resource conflict: X tells Y not to waste resources like electricity, water, and car fuel. Y replies, I will pay for it.

Inferences: 

  • Money has an incredible ability of being exchanged against any resources.
  • limited resources like water, oil and coal is no longer valued from the perspective of sustenance.


Discourse III - Emotional nature: Because of the repeated conflicts between X & Y, they fought face to face, fought over telephone.

Because X & Y are now sad they must go shopping and eat out.

The best way to resolve the conflict is not to intervene in Y's decisions and to smooth the rough edges X must take Y to shopping, eat outside, drink good wine and watch movie.

Inferences: 

  • Spending money restores peace. 
  • Money is in exchange of loneliness, conflict and conflict resolution. 
  • Finally money brings momentary peace. 


Game of conflict is a state of mind that matters:

While we know conflicts arise because of differences in opinion aided with (and more importantly) nature of discourse (tone of voice, ways of delivery) and the history of compatibility. Conflicts work in a vicious cycle as todays conflicts are tomorrows memories they keep on playing important role in shaping the intensity of further conflicts.

A state of mind is full of matters that are enforced by the masked and/or invisible power that percolates with capitalism.
Hence,
  1. Y (certainly in other cases X as well) is taught to differentiate Y's ownership of the means of expenditure from a supposedly common resource pool based on family. Paradoxically, the institution of family is strongly surviving where mind is filled with atomic individuation. 
  2. Freedom of choice is in contrast with selflessness. While in capitalist society the most effective means of punishment is to jail the criminal, people with slightest intervention in freedom (freedom to buy, freedom to exhaust) strongly react. Freedom has become one of the major sources of capitalist power.
  3. Do we live in a limited world? Apparently if one is in a selfless pursuit of money making (almost as selfless as a saint for his/her devotion to god) the world is both expandable and expendable. While things that are not meant to be exchanged like natural resources are valued in the spectrum of price and one's ability to exercise power of beating the price. 
  4. The state of mind that finally seeks peace restoration seeks refuge to the same means that makes peace fast vanishing.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Election or Occupancy: Are We in a Position to Choose?


Since the beginning of nomination filing for the forthcoming Panchayat election frequent issues of political conflicts are occupying news headlines. This conflicting situation and post conflict blame game is not unique to 2013 Panchayat election only, rather similar incidents are becoming increasingly common for last few elections. Even elections of much lesser significance like School committee votes, college students’ union formation have witnessed unprecedented violence in recent period. There is a trend of use of the term ‘occupancy’ (dakhol) instead of election (nirbachan) to characterise the so called democratic process which reflects a particular way of thinking of the political parties in contemporary West Bengal.

It is important to look at the background factors that are responsible for these conflicts to find out why political parties try to capture Panchayats and often tend to undermine the fair democratic process of winning elections. In my anthropological fieldworks in different parts of Bardhaman, Purba Medinipur, Paschim Medinipur, Purulia, Bankura, and Murshidabad I have seen strong fissures based on political orientation. Although rural West Bengal is often portrayed as a peaceful place where the political conflicts occur only when election takes place, this is precisely not the case. Rural party politics remains conflict bounded throughout the year. Panchayat as a Local Governance system rarely enjoys freedom in delivering public goods in a closely knitted and prominently divided party based society. It is seen that from the decisions of choosing the beneficiary for MGNREGS to large-scale works like construction of roads and distribution of tube-wells are based on electoral calculations. For example, in a coalition GP (Gram Panchayat, the lowest of the three tier system), suppose X has 5 Y has 3 and Z has 2 and the opposition has 2 there will be a percentage calculation within the coalition. The total 10 seats (X+Y+Z, of course opposition is excluded from the calculation) represent 100 percent and hence X with 5 seats will pull approximately 50 percent of the total public goods to be distributed which sidesteps prioritisation process often undermining Annual Action Plan – a feature I have seen in several GPs in Bardhaman, Purba and Paschim Medinipur, Murshidabad, Purulia and Bankura. In a single party ruled GP there are more serious problems with party factions and leaders having stronger network with higher political authorities tend to dominate the entire distribution process. Hence, skewed allocation of public services characterise many Panchayats in West Bengal. There are few exceptions where voice of the opposition gets manifested and Annual Action Plans are strictly followed. Otherwise skewed resource allocation is a quite consistent picture of the state. While different studies focus on the importance of functionally effective Gram Sabhas to enhance the performance of a GP, these democratic participatory processes are frequently avoided, instead decisions are taken by the powerful political leaders. In 2003 when GoWB initiated the formation of Gram Unnayan Samiti in each and every village constituted by the elected representatives, nearest opposition and nominated members like government employees, teachers and Self Help Group members aiming at apolitical planning and implementation, I saw conflicts and bloodsheds in Purba Medinipur, Murshidabad, and Bardhaman as local political leaders perceived Gram Unnayan Samiti as another platform to exercise political authority in addition to Panchayats. In paper it was a selection of ideally non political people. Villagers were supposed to name and then raise their hands in support of the name in an open forum. However, in practice I have seen that in many villages two panels are placed by two parties and eventual open voting revealed everybody’s political identity. This is indicative of existing polarised condition of the villages where Panchayat functions. Although regularised elections, land reforms, and better distribution of public goods have helped GPs to gain trust of the villagers under Left Front Regime, in last few years, different studies have focused on the increasing politicisation of Panchayats.


With increasingly more resources being distributed through the Panchayat machinery especially after the onslaught of direct benefiting schemes like MGNREGS, IAY, Old Age Pensions, etc., controlling Panchayats virtually ensures gaining political control over a considerably large population. Present pre-election violence represents politically fragmented and polarised nature of rural West Bengal. In different election campaigns leaders are terming their political oppositions (Rajnaitik Pratipakhkha) as enemy (Shatru) to be wiped out and their cadres are following the instructions wherever a party has strength. Pre-election violence installed by regular direct and indirect threats including party instructions to vote for them, violent conflicts between opposing parties, biking rallies, bringing outside yobs either compel people to vote for a particular party or to avoid voting. Beating out opposition party cadres, attacking party offices, stopping people from participating in election process always effectively create an image of fear that heavily influence patterns of democratic function in a region. Constitutional bodies like Election Commission can only attempt a fair election with adequate protection during the election period. However, they can neither provide long-term solution to the problem of political fragmentation nor can ensure security in everyday life. As a result using people’s feeling of insecurity political parties continue to practice occupancy rather than election. If political parties do not stop avoiding, undermining and disrespecting the democratic process, administration does not work in a judicial manner and people do not become more politically conscious, West Bengal will see more instances of political violence and development process will continue to get affected.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Saradha bankruptcy and its socio-economic backdrop – time to look at broad spectrum




While several issues of political affiliation in association to the recent bankruptcy of Saradha Chit-fund organization are widely discussed, one of the basic issues, i.e. why people invest in chit funds is not getting the attention it deserves. Rational Choice minded scholars would argue that since these organisations project a lucrative rate of interest, people applying their rational mind choose to invest here instead of nationalized banks. In this process the investors either undermine or are unaware about the risk involved. This is perhaps only one of the reasons applicable especially in urban and semi-urban places where people have options to choose between banks and chit funds. Several places of rural West Bengal represent a considerably different story.

The most evident problem which rural West Bengal, perhaps the entire rural India faces is the lack of people’s access to formal banks. In rural West Bengal most of the nationalised banks are strategically located near block offices and near major road and railway connections; hence, the distribution of banking service is extremely uneven. If a person with little banking knowledge has to do banking s/he will lose a-man-day of employment the cost of which is often too high to bear. Understaffing and poor infrastructure in many rural banks make it a hard task to manage the workload which delays the services, eventually making people disinterested in bank. In 2009 when MGNREGS initiates direct bank transfer of money I do fieldwork in Bardhaman, Murshidabad, Purba Medinipur and Purulia to find out huge crisis that the banking staff and Panchayat people face in opening up the bank accounts. Several Post Offices and Banks simply refuse to open more than a stipulated number of accounts because of staff shortage. Banks and PO employees clearly state their unwillingness to open zero balance accounts for persons who will not be able to save money and will require regular assistance in banking. In consequence people see banks as alien place. In fact, it can be said the rapid expansion of chit funds and people’s lack of interests in banking reflect on the failure of the development of banking behaviour through MGNREGS fund transfer.

A more recent fieldwork in Gorabari Panchayat region Bankura where people were displaced due to the construction of Kangsabati River Dam in late 1950s shows that people could not save the compensation money because of the lack of banks at that time. The Gorabari branch of Allahabad bank is no older than 15 years and villagers still avoid going to banks. The compensation money is spent in different festivals and rituals. Many reported that they kept a significant amount in terracotta jars underground – a popular method of saving cash earlier, which was lost because of monsoon flood. The only asset they could create is livestock. While people from 60 years back have lost cash because of lack of banks, in 2013 people from more than a dozen villages around the acquired land of Jindal Steel Works (JSW) in Salboni invested a considerable amount in chit funds via several known agents. The rest of the money is used to purchase luxury goods like motor cycles, televisions, etc. Similar trend is also noticed in Manipur in 2007, where people earning extra money from a hybrid variety of pigs, have invested in chit funds and purchased luxury items. However, in Manipur with NGO intervention the ill effect is minimised.
While going to bank means loss of a man day, chit fund agents come directly. When banks in the form of chit funds come home, it becomes a phenomenal event in a place where getting assistance in petty tasks like filling up a withdrawal form in a bank is a serious constraint. Reflections such as “I have kept my money to Saradha bank because Mr. X of our locality told it will give return” show people’s trust on person rather than organisation – a feature which has a long history in agriculture based rural society. After Saradha bankruptcy several agents are absconded which reflects that chit fund organisations often take advantage of the social capital (social networks) of their agents based on trust to expand their business. People’s interest in chit funds, hence, is not always the calculation of profit and loss. To understand the actual fact behind the growth of chit funds, it is important to look at the means of information flow in villages, and people’s savings behaviour. Most of the people I have interviewed told that they have invested because somebody else has. The decisions for investment often have a friendship and kinship base. When people from the villages around the JSW project got their compensation package, agents from all over the investment companies came and convinced them to invest. When one villager is convinced others follow.

In sum, it is important to note that although bringing a legal provision for regulating these organisations would certainly make things better, meanwhile in-depth study of rural people’s savings behaviour and making policies accordingly should be given adequate attention. With strict regulatory mechanism, adequate understanding of people’s savings behaviour aided by a spread of banking services in rural places the rise and ill effects of chit funds can be stopped.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

An Afternoon with the Hunters

Kaleidoscope was making his yearly trip to the field, often a romantically described native place to interact and gather social experience to be transformed into anthropological knowledge. Kaleidoscope had to leave his comfortable AC, PC, internet to adopt weak mobile network, unfiltered water, stinking bed, mosquito bites and miles of walk. Kaleidoscope also had the camera, a notebook, a GPS, an energetic bunch of students, loads of field reports to be corrected and a freedom to go anywhere and everywhere. Kaleidoscope enjoyed every bit of it. Took photos and after a while left the place anthropologists call field.

Among several experiences which Kaleidoscope had this year's visit is a permission to accompany a bunch of young stars in hunting.

Not an ordinary day:

Kaleidoscope was excited with the permission he had from the village headman - Laya to accompany a bunch of young adults with whom Kaleidoscope already had good deal of interaction. So on the day Kaleidoscope took his camera, and started roaming around the nearby jungle.

National Geographic Scenes:

Kaleidoscope being an admirer of National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet channels, and also having little exposure to the villages of the region did not expect anything dramatic. Nothing dramatic happened, therefore, readers must not expect that the story will thrill them in a sense those channels do. 

However, at first Kaleidoscope accompanied them to the near by forest surrounding the hillock popularly known as Baroghutu Pahar. It was difficult for kaleidoscope to make up the speed difference with his weak lung that often requires puffs of Asthalin and Seroflo. However, the village boys did not leave him. 

Portion of the Jungle pathway

Portion of the Baroghutu Pahar

Hunting implements:

They were carrying a long bamboo shaft, Gulti, a couple of clubs and loads of small stones. The clubs were useful to hit and injure rabbits and other smaller animals including rodents were manageable with the bamboo shaft and Gulti.

The missed opportunities and hunts:

While they climbed the baroghutu hills a rabbit was seen... before Kaleidoscope could see the animal had jumped away. The entire group explored the the hills region for three hours without results. Kaleidoscope was exhausted and had already consumed half of the water he had in his small bag. The group, headed by a tall and relatively experienced Moresh, got together for a quick meeting. They made a change in plan and went towards the farmlands. 

Moresh watching his young guns in action 
In the farm land they started to insert the long bamboo in the rodent's holes. With application of water and constant insertion of bamboo a few rodents came out. They quickly took shelter towards the trees. The young members of the group quickly climbed up through the trees and tried to catch them. From the ground the rest of the group constantly kept throwing small stones with gulti. After about an hour, they injured one of the rodents and caught it. They made several other catches in the bamboo bushes. Kaleidoscope was amazed by the skills that these little fellows have in climbing up the bamboo bushes without getting themselves injured by the small bamboo branches that acted like spikes.

In the end they could catch a dozen of rodents... 

Kaleidoscope came back, exhausted knowing that the group will make similar efforts tomorrow... perhaps everyday when Kaleidoscope will be gaining more weight and loosing fitness even more.

The results... 



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Delayed Train and The Others


When the journey started from Varanasi the train was already running late by three hours. Instead of making up time, the train further loses time. Kaleidoscope had a research paper to revise and send it to the journal editor, hence he kept himself busy. Among his co-passengers a young couple from Holland was enjoying the trip. For them, the more the train gets delayed the more they can see India. Kaleidoscope as part of his research on Varanasi asked a few questions and they answered energetically and reflexively. While Kaleidoscope reworked his paper, they keep on watching outside. When the train reaches at Bardhaman on next day it is already five hours late. The couple panics a bit... and now their whole range of discussion is how to get to the airport soon. The train is finally about five and a half hours late and they just have enough time to reach to the airport. They dismiss their short trip to Kolkata and they admit that they will never travel by a train in India. Kaleidoscope however knows that he will have to experience more delayed trains and perhaps with more interesting works than editing and reworking a paper.