Friday, February 27, 2015

Hegemonic Hypocrasy: From Body to State

The broader question of this quasi technical essay is to understand to whether our hypocritical selves help sustaining order of things which we technically call structure. There is a significant scope of using Gramsci's (1971) concept of "cultural hegemony" as the structure is a structure of  dominant groups that maintain their power by gaining the consent of the populace. Ideological manipulation has been the primary technique of doing that. Dominant groups use “symbolic violence” to encourage subalterns to adopt a worldview that is consistent with their own interests (Bourdieu 2001). Public perceptions are influenced by disseminating national ideology—a state-sponsored system of beliefs— across various societal outlets including education, media, religion, and folk wisdom (Omi and Winant 1994). 

The central concern (may be difficult to accept) of my argument is that primary mechanism of such hegemony that dictates to a large extent over how we live is hypocrisy. When I refer to "how we live" I refer to how we the people of semi-urban, formally educated, middle class Bengali people live in and around Kolkata. To establish this argument I will refer to some of the posts made by Kaleidoscope in this blog.  

The private parts and eagerness to share:

Kaleidoscope in his if it is private post explains why he sometimes write private issues in his blog. He reports "Kaleidoscope wants to share what is personal... but he does not want to share it with people who physically know him... In web world, with crores of pages, Kaleidoscope's words are kept as safe and secure, with a hope that there are people who read them... may empathise them..." The interesting part of this hypocrisy is the amount of risk involved. I am told in an "interview" that Kaleidoscope has never been asked any question regarding what shit he writes in the blog - because no one cares to read them, and bothers to take them seriously. Yet Kaleidoscope feels relieved from the burden of not carrying all the "irrepairable stuffs" (click here) with him (?). He occasionally dumps them to the Worlds and words. Kaleidoscope smiles and says its a risk well taken.

Therefore, Kaleidoscope successfully fits himself in the stereotypes of proper. Now if Kaleidoscope is burdened with some emotional vulnerability, why cannot he simply speak the truth and not hide himself in the mask of "messy text" (Click here for a detailed study of Kaleidoscope's messy texts). I think it has something to do with his definition of proper/improper, order/chaos, good/bad, love/hate, sex/heresy. This is precisely the reason we are taught that we are born because god wanted us to born (not sex), we should have sex only with one person (even if you do otherwise keep it secret), we should love a single person (even if you have romantic feeling for others, hide it, let it go). And ultimate triumph is not over the land or wealth but over the sexual rights of the women of land. Therefore incidents of rape continues and we tend to stigmatise a rape victim and often not the rapists. For a similar reason we tend to scandalize "improper" love affairs. 

Therefore, we learn to be hypocrite in our maintenance system and we manifest a fine tuned hypocrisy in our projective systems. 

The caste and religion dilemma:    

There is no caste based hierarchy in West Bengal -  at least that is what we are taught to believe with long years of "communist rule". Theorising this issue has been championed by Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya. He writes about party-society, which has over the last three decades displaced the older patron-client form of relationships. Bhattacharyya (2009) argues:
“Land reform legislations and local government bodies (the panchayats) were the tools and the CPI (M) (as well as its peasant wing, the Krishak Sabha) was the primary agent to bring about this change. The new politics set new norms of transaction to which every political outfit – the ruling side as well as the opposition – had to conform, willingly or unwillingly. In this organizational grid … [the] political party was largely accepted as the chief mediator, the central conduit, in the settling of every village matter: private or public, individual or collective, familial or associational.”

Now as Bhattacharyya noticed the dominating nature of party which has effectively displaced older caste and religion based networks which is apparently true in most of the cases, but what happens when this political network is under challenge with the rise of new political or other forces? When the dominating political power group is loosing its grip, perennial classificatory systems rejuvenate. Therefore, Kaleidoscope in his field visits noticed:
1. Teli-Bagal caste based conflict related to access to land and water in West Medinipur
2. Dominance of kinship networks in Bardhaman through the oligopoly of cold-storages
3. Caste-tribe dilemma and use of tribal sentiments to make a political change and sustain skewed allocation of resources in Bankura
4. withdrawal of support from the "harmad bahini" because of involvement of Muslims in Paschim Medinipur.

The Hypocrisy is when we are told to believe that West Bengal is a secular country where communism is not impossible to achieve, we are actually taught not to speak (remain silent) regarding the issues of communalism, caste-religion political games. Silence and silencing discourses can play an important role in the perpetuation of legitimizing myths and the social order (Bhattacharya 2009; Clair 1998). Some scholars have even asserted that secrecy is indispensable to power (Foucault 1978) and lies at its very core (Canetti 1962). 

He-who-must-not-be-named is real Lord Voldemort(s): 

While our greatest Sita is associated with Agni Pariksha- Inspector Clouseau seeks to know whether there was "Not even a little smoochie-woochie?" happened between Nicole and another detective who took his chances with Nicole in Pink Panther 2. This apparently fun-filled dialogue exchange once again reinforces the stereotypes a) you must make love with a single person, b) being faithful means you are monogamous, c) love is singular, d) your right on your body is defined by the structure and settings, blah blah blah!

In a similar tune we are taught not to trust our fellow citizens hence we fail to make Rizwanur a hero, villagers misrecognise Kaleidoscope and his HoD, and there is unnecessary religious view points come out in everyday discourses. 

The puzzle which pushes me is that the situation in which we live in is not a perfectly fitted hegemonic false consciousness (hope someday social scientists would find a true consciousness!), because we know what we make out of caste, religious, and class differences. We know about our romantic feeling, bodily involvements. If this is precisely the case then social silencing of everyday realities cannot be equated with hegemony, or similar dynamics that imply false consciousness. On the other hand yet silencing, of ethnic difference or monogamy per se is compatible with understandings of hegemony, as the process of silencing clearly reinforces power structures. 

At least in "Worlds and Words's" present state of condition, my interview and association with Kaleidoscope I would rather define Kaleidoscope's present state of being Hegemonic Hypocrasy.

PS. After reading this draft Kaleidoscope continue to remain silent, and I think it is better not to poke unnecessarily

Monday, February 23, 2015

Construction work, empty space and sex: emptiness and harmony

Kaleidoscope because of his never-ending process constructing a space for living in literal sense continues, he keeps in touch with professionals: plumbers, carpenters, painters and what not. Kaleidoscope is also thinking of starting a new consultancy on arranging people to get those work done. Then he discovers the existence of a website "" and drops the plan.

Now, because of his insatiable desire to talk to people and know about their life experience - a few days back he could arrange something that can technically be referred to as Group Discussion during the lunch hour. Participants were two painters, a carpenter and two plumbers. The prominent issue has been empty space and sex. When Kaleidoscope used to board the first train from his sub-urban railway station regularly in his students life he could see men and women throwing funny bones filled with sexually charged comments to each other and enjoying their journey. Often aided with touching, hugging, sitting closely, sitting on each other's lap have made Kaleidoscope wonder about the nature of constructs regarding sexuality among these people.

These people living with so called "low" cultural capital indeed have lesser inhibition regarding sex. Each five of them has experienced sex (not always penetration) in empty space: in newly built apartments, incomplete houses and rarely in completed homes, on freshly installed furniture.

"Having fun with female co-worker has never been this easy - every now and then I have seen my colleagues at the construction work build up good relationship with their female co-workers which often end up in having sex... I have tried twice and has been successful once" - reports one of the young painters with a distinct smile.

The relationship is often long lasting and mutually beneficial. After coupling, often these partners refuse take up work if both of them are not allotted work together. "not always because of the bodily need... its often emotionally enriching and fulfilling too... like you high class people we too have emotional problems, and lack of sex in our life" - one of the plumbers report.

"what we enjoy the most is when we see young people come and spend quite a long time in the semi-complete apartments, you can readily read the purpose of their visit... earlier in such occasions we used to sneak around - just to have pleasure you know, but now I try to stop my co-workers from doing this - two adult people have rights to spend time together..." the painter adds and starts laughing. One of the age old painters - who happen to be my contractor reports that before the construction of the apartments these things were not there. "It is happening because now there is a space... this is happening among 'mistry community' because now women folk are increasingly participating in our 'line'... ! 

The technical session could continue hours, but the time for lunch was over. One thing that Kaleidoscope finally asked "what would you do if similar thing is done by your wife?"

Each five of them stopped and then the contractor smiled and replied "this is why we do not send our wives to work"


Sunday, February 15, 2015

FROZEN MOMENTS - a note to self

Kaleidoscope had very many letting go experiences and with time he thought he has mastered the art quite well. Until recently he was developing a self that could let go anything. His recent self enriching reading and experiences with the "setting" was paving way to let go anything. While Kaleidoscope finds his letting go self becoming powerful,  he finds something to hold on, to never let go - a feeling coming from within.

Clearly the river Dulung with whom he has recently fallen in love is taking him to his previous self  that fights with itself -  a self which he has buried years ago. The graveyard has been such a distant place that his past has trouble to remember his date of birth - point of origin.

However, with a cup of coffee Kaleidoscope makes a time travel simply because he is having too many frozen moments with the river. He finds out:

SELF denial



S   P   A   C   E   S

Self Deprivation


finally the key word


Therefore, whenever, Kaleidoscope experiences a high frequency of frozen and cinematic moments with Dulung, he must also be conscious to make each moments count... so that even when he has another letting go experience - he manages to do justice with the key word ACCEPTANCE...  

Friday, February 6, 2015

"Many faces of jungle people" - yet another love story


Sometimes a little push is all it takes for Kaleidoscope to start typing which his head often labels as unimportant and insignificant. This post (and many others too) owes a lot to Kay Cha... kaleidoscope's black and white friend (not quite) from down the memory lane simply because Kay Cha pokes Kaleido on absence of blog entries, and in thousand other ways.

Annual field ritual:

This year's yearly field ritual is guided by Kaleidoscope and his favourite HoD. The chosen place has been Gidhni, a small station having tiny villages located within dense forest, once a Maoist inhabited zone of the Paschim Medinipur, West Bengal. Apart from the ethnographic romances, kaleidoscope and HoD because of their vagabond(ish) selves soon discover more forests, stones, ups and downs rivers, within the forests, rivers and everything else. Once a liberated zone for Maoists, also a place where Kishenji has allegedly been killed, Kaleidoscope falls in love with the most spectacular river he has ever encountered - Dulung - which become another name of his love. 

Walk is worship:

Kaleido and HoD are both expert walkers... they can walk restless for hours. Kaleido kept concentrating on his Camera - his second wife and HoD with GPS (arguably his second wife too!). Kaleido and HoD together kept exploring the forest which directly connects Paschim Medinipur with Andhra Pradesh... the famous Red Corridor. 


Gidhni is closer to Jharkhand and Orissa, ideal place for a game of hide and seek especially if you have a GPS and a car or motor cycle. Kaleido and HoD kept walking for 12 days, enjoying the sun, forest, river, wildlife and of course the river.
A rough area covered by Kaleidoscope and HoD

What face do you wear?

One day, while they have walked for more than three hours covering about 9 km within the jungle HoD felt pain in his left ankle and Kaleido also thought that its better to take some rest and do some focus work with his camera. HoD kept himself busy with his second wife (the GPS) as this one is fresh (newly purchased for the department) and HoD had to explore her beauty (options)… Kaleidoscope and his HoD both did not shave for a few days, had unkempt hair – something that happens when you don’t have actual wife (who will nag to make you do these things) or girls to impress (of course voluntary impressions management) and wore the walk tired faces.
Suddenly both of them heard a sound of a person walking through the dried lives… made them look forward. Three women with tangi (battle axe) were approaching and discovering Kaleidoscope and HoD's faces, stopped for ever. When forerunners stopped there were others following them asking "why do you stop?" They stopped for quite long, so do their followers which is an entire village of Mahatos in search of fuel wood and mushrooms. They did not say a word, nor do they retreat. 
The moment of halt... Kaleidoscope had to shoot it from within the grasses. 
Kaleidoscope with his pea size intellect told them to pass and also mentioned that he and the HoD are not forest department officials and henceforth are not in a position to do any harm. The crowed still did not move a muscle. Kaleidoscope also referred to his identity as a "college master" and that his students are working in the nearby Khatgeria village. One of the younger looking girls managed to smile and said "I also had anthropology in my Under Graduate."

Others were not as comfortable, and the following conversation took place

K: Why were you afraid of us?
Villagers: "you dont look like masters..."
K: so?
V: "so many different kind of people roam around this jungle"
K: What different kind?
V: Jungle party people look similar to you... they also carry bags and phone map (pointing at HoD's second wife, the GPS)
V: "you people should not roam around these forests... these are for us and for different people"
K: Do you fear Jungle party?
V: no, they used to give us medicines... now roads etc. are constructed to kill them... we are getting the benefit...
K: We have heard that Jungle party people are gone, especially after the encounter death of Kishenji
V: We don't believe he has been encountered... he was killed
K: If you do not fear Jungle party, why were you afraid of us?
V: we don't want to witness anything odd... neither do we need to be interrogated by the police... you people better off the jungle and concentrate your work at the village... this place is not for you... you roam around the metaled road... it is safer.

Before Kaleidoscope or HoD could say another word the entire village moved out in search of forest resources. Kaleidoscope and HoD was amazed with their faces that represented/ resembled jungle party... and it was even more amazing to encounter a pupil of anthropology living a life which anthropologists have always been studying and never living.

Kaleidoscope returns home leaving the place he called field with a not to share love-story and still looking for an excuse to go back... 

Post script:

A few shots which Kaleidoscope could take before proposing to the river Dulung for love.

Khanjana beside river dulung

Title me!

They call it tuni ful...


Kaleidoscope's last hope
Kaleidoscope will remain a walker... even after his legs are gone... 

Focus work