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.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  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.