Friday, September 29, 2017

Newton - from an anthropologist-cum-government employee's self

Newton tells a tale of a government employee who wanted to perform his duty, nothing more and nothing less, of course, the duty appears to be a tough one- the one which people are not happy to perform. I am not a movie critic nor I have the capacity to review anything let alone a movie review, but this is going to be an experience of an interface of my government servant self and anthropologist self with the narrative called Newton.

The storyline in sum:

The story is that of a newly recruited government official, Mr. Newton and his experience in performing the presiding officer's duty at Maoist hotbed of Dandakaranya. He was equipped with pen, paper and presiding officers' diary and an already terrorised polling team. They reach at a nearby Central Reserve Police Camp by helicopter and then by army jeep to spend the night at a CRPF camp. Next day, early morning he was told by the CRPF commander  not to go to the place. After some  near-fight situation he made CRPF team to go to the polling booth by crossing a jungle terrain. He set up booth in an abandoned school building within a burned down village, apparently by the CRPF themselves. The BLO officer (a government employee, originally from the neighbouring area who carries updated voters' list) - a local Gond lady accompanies them and no one came to vote until there was an international media house planning to cover India's 'deep democracy.' Suddenly the CRPF personnel went to the nearby two villages to bring men by beating them up. Meanwhile, Newton tried to make them understand what voting is, what leader means and why parliament is important. As expected they couldn't understand and the voting procedure became a farce. Newton tried  a lot but failed. However, Gonds did understand their own rules, own Patel's (village chief) potential and wanted their Patel to represent them to Delhi. However, voting was staged and the international media house reports India's beautiful democratic procedure even in the remotest corner as the booth was set up for only 76 voters. Soon after the media left, there was a sound of firing and the CRPF commander instructed them to leave the place. The commander wanted to wrap up the process much earlier but since Newton protested he had to stay. However, since there was a sound of firing, Newton and his team started to evacuate but Newton sensed with few hints of the BLO lady that it was all staged. He first fled to reach back the polling station chased by the CRPF jawans to finally get caught and dragged back. On his way he met a group of young men coming to vote. Since the CRPF tried push them away Newton took up arm from the commander and compelled them to set up a temporary booth in the middle of the jungle. After the voting process was over, he gave away the arms, he was severely beaten up by the CRPF jawans. The film ends with Newton wearing a neck collar and the BLO lady making a visit to his office. He seems to be the same person working busily according to schedule.

The parallel movie inside the theatre

There was a parallel movie running inside the theatre mostly through passing comments and laughter.

A few examples might suffice the contention

Newton asking one of the election trainers about the reasons and possible measures to transform the work culture of the public offices. The trainer says 'you will be like them soon'
People say - thhik bolechhe, rightly said and laughter breaks
The trainer continues '... or just continue your duty honestly and remember honest is not something to be pride about, it should be a regular thing, you are not doing anything extra'
silence from the spectators and a few commented 'can this happen? Meaning this cannot happen.'

When Newton instructs and imposes his 'magistrate' authority as presiding officer over CRPF
People - 'he is gone mad'

When village leader fails to understand the system of parliament and voting
People - loud laughter and a few passing comments 'shame on our country', 'Arrey these people are like this only'

When CRPF pushes the villagers, even beat them up to make voter turn out
People - laughter continues

When CRPF asks one of the old village lady to cook one of her livestock for delicious deshi chicken for their lunch.
People- uff deshi chicken, and laughter.

When CRPF finally beat up Newton
Yes laughter again. Some even said why should he took up the gun and challenged authority.

There were several fine tuned and unsaid moments deeply embedded in the film that actually created a parallel narrative of authority relations, power positions and helplessness of all characters involved.

Experiences of a government employee

everything can't be said being a public servant but there are dimensions that can be revealed. Let me just jot down quickly. I know you are already looking at the size of this manuscript!

Dimensions of misuse of authority positions-

Lets break the stereotype that people in authority exercise authority and often do things which are white collar crime or misuse of power or plain and simple corruption. Interestingly, whoever posseses whatever authority has a potential to misuse it. For example if you are a group D staff in charge of giving photocopy of a particular application forms you can tell your superior 'sir the copies are exhausted please come tomorrow.' If that superior staff is a newly recruited, the one who might believe in you, will go back and come again. Likewise, the superior official one day will find out that group D staff will do things easily if he is given a cigarette. Or may be some affiliation to an organisation or a particular superior or senior person would help! Its a vicious cycle that continues. I began with the lowest position but it continues at different levels and with complex combinations under a catchall umbrella term 'office politics'. Newton has precisely shown with a fun filled feature these issues, often subtly. His supposedly protectors, supposedly working under him because of his magistrate power given by Election Commission of India has been undermined by the CRPF jawans over and over again first through verbally and then physically and all of them remain unchanged.

Corruption in everyday offices

There are certain things which we already have forgotten as corruption. For example to reach office late or to leave early, to do task unmindfully, to loose papers or not to search for the one because searching for one is strenuous but getting another photocopy from the incumbent is easy. We have forgotten that giving services in exchange of money (or Gift in Mauss's term!) because you occupy certain authority position is corruption (it includes private tuition as well). One major issue that Newton addresses is precisely this form of corruption. His complain in his everyday office life and then casual attitude of the polling team portrays these forms of corruption well. Dreze and Sen (1996, India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity) has referred to these forms in their book quite effectively.

Corruption and its acceptance - corruption as culture

Newton brings the accepted dimensions of corruption beautifully. The spokesperson of the Gond tribe happens to be the BLO lady who often says 'humari iyha aisa hi hota hai'- this is what happens here when they see no one was coming to vote or CRPF forcefully brings men to vote. When the tribal had to come, they were asked if they think this voting will bring any change in life and one of them replied 'no' and then continued to shake his head. A spectator would wait for a while if there is any addition to that answer- however, he utters no again.
As the CRPF people forcefully brought men, they seem to be accepting such beating naturally and as instructed started to cook the deshi chicken - their extremely valuable livestock.

Election experience - no one is Newton

Not everything that a presiding officer experiences can be documented. Not only because of the nature of secrecy but because of his own inaction (for a variety of reasons) that might land him to a big trouble - yes, no one is Newton. Election happens to be an extremely difficult situation for everyone. Most of the government employee is afraid of election and some of them often engages in corrupt practices including bribing the superiors or block office officials to drop their names. It was also shown in Newton. However, the director doesn't know or didn't want to spend time on but the nature of chaos of polling would have added to the black comedy meaningfully. A person would loose all his strength just in collecting materials and then reaching the polling station in scorching heat of May Indian summer. Then there are (useless) supposedly the most powerful paper works and a presiding officer is expected to sign a thousand times perhaps. These strenuous works are the checks and balances of democracy. Papers that no one reads. As a presiding officer Newton asked what will happen if Maoist comes the trainer brilliantly told not to play a hero, and give them everything they need as there will be re-election.

None of the officials ever thought of or made plan for what to do if CRPF or the protectors play dirty! Precisely what happens when you go to booth. If the forces cooperate you can achieve a fair election. All polling personnel know they can dispose their duties if there is a central force protection and if there isn't any, they cannot do anything and have to compromise.

I know presiding officers beg to the polling agents to stop rigging after a while and also take upper-hand when  there is a strong security assistance and keep the election run smoothly.
Newton represents an unique case in an unique place and yes, no one is newton in real life! But wait there are many Newtons inside, waiting for the right situation that never comes.

Experience of an anthropologist

As an anthropologist working in the area of politics and governance I will focus on certain brilliant portrayal of larger and often theoretical issues that Newton addresses.

First the question of multiplicity and democratic failure. As a pragmatic cultural relativist I see the conflict of tribal world view, their system of governance and political authority as completely with parliamentary democracy as 'natural'. When asked for their choice over their representatives they readily identified their 'Patel' - the village headman. A quite obvious choice from their worldview but a comedy for us hence the spectators laughed. The laughter is not to be cherished, the laughter is representing civilisation and tribal world interface where the tribal people are supposed to get marginalised over and over again.

Second, to enhance the nature of marginalization we have developed elaborate system: Administration, Judiciary, Education and Security forces. Hence, when the BLO lady, a school teacher by occupation, says she finds it extremely difficult to teach these people because they don't understand Hindi and there is no book in Gondi language, it doesn't only say about language supremacy and hegemony but also questions why these people need to learn them at all - some supposedly 'superior' civilisational system? The answer is easy, of course, to make them discipline in hegemonic terms and conditions of the civilisation, yes you can remember Foucault here.

Third, the behavioural supremacy of the representatives of the state. They exercised force and violence, snatched away village livestock, burned down their villages. All are summed up in BLO's words. When Newton sees some scripts of protests on the wall of the shattered school building he asked 'did the villager write all these?' The BLO lady responds 'some reaction is expected isn't it sir? Especially when your village is burned down!'

Yes, during my fieldwork days I have seen places where Maoists are the sole help providers, running parallel government because state never looked at them, never cared for. There are other places where people are kicked of regularly by both the Maoists and the state.

In sum, newton portrays the naked reality of the entire issues of governance, human rights and helplessness as framed in AC rooms and executed top down. It also projects the experiences of a few people who still wants to work and bring changes. Newton  as a black comedy brings laughter to the spectators because doing what is right is increasingly seen as stupidity. Perhaps this is the time we think, rethink and try to internalise the over used quote 'be the change you want to see!' I am not sure if this quote even holds any significance especially after watching Newton and seeing the parallel movie among the spectators in the theatre, but yes we can and we should hope.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Phenomenology and its problems with serinity and nostalgia - The story of lonely travels and frozen moments

What is special about travelling alone? Well of course, you enjoy freedom of choice, you are with your own pace and peace. It might just be the other name for narcissistic pleasure, just like the selfie mania which affects billions in different ways. I am not interested to explore the late capital pleasure seeking souls or its insatiable needs and requirements, rather I wish to see what happens with lone travels even when we barely move but explore in macros - the moments has gone, the moments yet to come.

The return of the repressed and frozen moments:

How do you find a frozen moment? It is usually there and touches you at the most unpredictable point of your life. Often you encounter something else - bigger and more holistic than the mere material appearance of your being-in-the-moment. It often extends as you keep thinking about the moment that is over - quite like the way you think of a moment of pleasure and pain that comes back just like the repressed returns. The past, and nostalgia haunts you - kills you. Kaleidoscope as an individual often allows such moments to come back and to make him overwhelmed. He discovers newer dimensions in the same old moments as his memories accumulate. The impact of such moments might differ for different persons. People's exposures, their age and location shape them - so do their frozen moments.

There are two kinds of such frozen moments:
1. The repressed or overwhelmed dimensions of moments in the past or an imagined future.  These frozen moments are there inside your brain waiting to overwhelm you.

2.  However, there are other moments that overwhelms you right during the creation of such moments in itself. Those represent precisely the moments when you are inside the fleeting pace of time and space. That moment is simultaneously frozen and moving on. It can haunt you, please you and touch you forever. One thing that will happen for sure is your clinging position between real-surreal boundaries forever.

Setting the clock somewhere in time:

Lets assume two persons who couldn't finally went on spending their life together by sharing the same balcony, having coffee in the same table or reading the same book together, met once again. They know they have two different pathways which can perhaps never meet. May be, they aren't even interested to share the same balcony any more. Lets assume, they met and had some time to spend together. Several possibilities are there, some of them are beautifully worked in movies like Before the Sunset or Café Society! The one thing that happens for sure is the setting the clock in somewhere back in time and space. Its like doing or reliving the essential dimensions of the relationship. This can happen in nostalgia to a person, to a place, to a moment and in any combination or level between these three. Such clock setting happens every time you tend to think. With frozen moments you can actually rewind and replay as Kaleidoscope does quite often. He goes the point where he dropped her lover, left the river, smelled and made love and listened to the stories of fallen lives of the forest library. Some are captured in the camera as Kaleidoscope roamed around the world alone and explored world more serene, a lot more moments, however, are actually lost in time, or did they? The precise point in the mundane history has not been jotted down, after several years the time would be more holistic and engulfing but those clock setting moments are there forever to relive.

Your everyday phenomenology:

How do frozen moments and their potential relivability become accessible to the mode of observe - construct - contend on which the social scientists have faith for centuries? Understandably, of course, it should be done through a combination of Husserlian being-in-world and being-in-itself/being-for-itself simultaneously with Sartre's being-for-others. The person looking for the frozen moments must travel through these three stages to find out essence of the experience - essence of the phenomena. The first order construct of mundane everydayness in Husserlian natural attitude needs to be accessible to the thinking souls so that these can be questioned, dealt with and brought down to their immediate experiences and exposures. The first order constructs are the moments when you are experiencing it at your immediate being-in-itself. A slight analytical distance would land you to being-for-itself. As you live on like Kaleidoscope, you relive the moment once in a while and you tend to create the second order constructs and like that of a phenomenology inspired researcher you can (if you try) find your being-in-the-world - the subject-object, subject-subject, object-object interplays. Here, lies the typical phenomenological descriptions that supersedes interpretation or explanations to give rise to third or fourth or perhaps 'n' number of dimensions and constructs. One can actually follow a standard qualitative methodology to describe and find out schema of human experience rooted in the phenomena of being-in-the-world.

However, the problem persists as long as one is overwhelmed and engulfed by the moment in itself as he tends to live on - typically the second categories of frozen moments as already discussed. The fleeting pace of time and place, the simultaneous frozening of moments and experiences on the move! The phenomenology takes a break and paradoxically suspends itself from what it wants us to suspend, i.e., the natural attitude, the preconceptions, the constructs. As the phenomena in its origin is overwhelming,  its later phenomenological intervention engulfs the entire experience once and for all. It perhaps calls for a new methodology or otherwise remains to be superficial to limits of the second order constructs. Even when such frozen moments are auto-ethnographic, they could never address the crisis of representations - too much to the writing culture groups - perhaps way to much to the objectivists and even constructivists.

There isn't any solution to this problem as of now than to immerse oneself once again to the circle of reasons, circles of constructs and circles of human cognition.

Meanwhile the interplay of time and space/ past and present, experience and constructs continue, continue to amaze every now and then - making the world a beautiful place with memories.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Walking through a river: After a drink or two

Now is the time for you to see beyond focus, like you always have after a drink or two.

While there are moments of juxtaposed boundaries kaleidoscope like to call as postmodern, there are also materialistic times that make focus disappear once and forever.

What does it entail? A pair of wet eyes because of a departure whether you had expected or not, or an overworked late capital dream that hardly finds time for the better things of life, but continues to subscribe to the dream meanwhile lose the eyesight.

How does it do? There lies a pair of legs that drags the bloody machine still busy with a handheld device hardly getting a time to see the spectacle of the festival over the waste water canal that goes to the river nearby. Ah, River! the word echoes for a while. The pair of eyes look up for the smell and sound of water kissing the shore. A screen engaged eye cannot see the world outside.

The spectacle remains so does the river in the distant past. Like ghosts from the colonial past kaleidoscope listens once again the lines he uttered-"Now is the time for you to see beyond focus, like you always have after a drink or two."

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Real-Virtual interface: "ViewCart" and postmodern boundaries

It was just another moment of consumerist pursuit when Kaleidoscope met a screen attached to a real cart. Yes, he knows that he indulges the e-carts regularly but this is the thing which makes real-virtual interface -literally possible and takes us to a completely convoluted and juxtaposed world of disappearing boundaries. God bless technocaratic society in which Kaleidoscope like others has to live on.

The ViewCart

The view cart is nothing but a regular shopping cart with a screen attached to his handle. The screen plays continuous series of advertisements. See the photograph:

An imagined story:

Imagine kaleidoscope begins his shopping extravaganza because of his discontent self within the mundane everydayness. Of course, Kaleidoscope is like that 'shop girl' of Adorno who visits the cinema not because she believes that the fantastic events of the cinema could happen to her, but because only in the cinema can she admit that they will not happen to her (Adorno 1992: 49-50). Yes, Kaleidoscope might well buy things which he needs to sustain life and then will glance through things which he cannot buy because of money (or because of health!). He might end up to the wine-shop corner to pick up a pocket friendly bottle to enjoy the transcendence. Now imagine he is carrying all the items in to that "ViewCart" with a screen always displaying one thing or the other. Now he is supposed to "watch steps" as he roam around the shopping mall therefore, the screen of the viewcart would continue to attract his attention. Imagine he bumped onto something and than looking at the front like the dumbest persons in the world to find out what? An attractive person? no, life is not a scripted love story - he will end up watching another advertisement or product which he can never have. Perhaps the attractive person would also remain inaccessible. Kaleidoscope knows my body, your body and availability of it - like most of the others - and of course he doesn't have the guts to offer like Guan Antonio in "Vickey Christina Barcelona"!

Antonio in Vickey Christina Barcelona directed by Woody Allen

The real lack of control:

Enough of the creative imagination inspired by otherwise serious looking Adorno, Kaleidoscope met the Viewcart like many others simultaneously. While he took a photo, others tried to control over it by playing fingers over its screen. Yes, it is not a touch screen device and hence you really cannot manipulate your choice over the device. Hence, no matter how hypocrite such supposedly freedom of choice might entail - even that amount of control is absent with the view cart. It definitely going to take you to the world of the imagined future, possible products and make you act on your possible fantasies. It precisely the moment in history when several boundaries like virtual/real, perceived/imagined, conscious/unconscious, subject/object are dissolving.

What is so special in ViewCart?

The fundamental question, what is so special in ViewCart? especially when we are totally immersed in the late capital rise of consumerism and we are actually embodied by and embodying products, brands, consumptions and what not - in sum the symbolic capital or the class. However, the ViewCart is different in the sense it is more aggressive. ViewCart with the uncontrolled display of the screen gives a consumer a little choice of not to become a consumer. See, when you are inside a shopping destination you are already into the world of products. You live in a virtual air-conditioned environment covered by the walls of products or walls of your images (when there are mirrors) and images of the products. The only connection to reality is while you walk. Since, you have to move you have to occasionally watch your steps and that is "reality connect." The "ViewCart" is perhaps destroying one of the last resorts of such connections and taking you faster to the world of empty matrix of imagined products, your consumerist aspirations and your utopic happiness.

Yet, as Freudian analysis of dreams, the pursuit of consumption is an illusory solution to the real problems of social life. Hence, we buy a music CD, a book or a bottle of alcohol for some future leisure day and we believe in the future leisure for which we continue to toil. Now, when we would be buying things for an imagined future, the ViewCart will show us what more can we buy and should we buy and we ought to buy.

Therefore, next time you bump up to a ViewCart with attached screen remember Kaleidoscope and don't forget to look at the ground as you walk.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Coffee cups in central mall and pause of a mundane history

How would you see time? Is it the irreversible moments which are over once and for all? Or does it entail a much complicated and convoluted endless succession of memories and imaginations? So that each time we construct world of past from a different narrative than the existing one - precisely the reason for which history is nothing short of an interaction between past and present -  no wonder E  H  Carr is remembered every now and then by historians.

The imagined dimension of history gives a creative dimension to the past or perhaps present and future as well. So much so that when Kaleidoscope talked to clive gamble in his arguments related to 'our archaeological imagination' he knows this is the place where the conflicting dimensions of time are resolved.

Therefore when he sees things and locations the entire space embodies dimensions more complicated than the mere appearances of the artefacts.

Therefore, the couple of coffee cups on a glass table relives a moment of intense or if mundane conversations. The coffee that travelled hundreds of miles to ultimately processed in the coffee crushers of the Central shopping mall, kolkata and could hold a conversation between two.

Imagine a little more, the setting sun might just have cut short the conversation and before the person designated to dismantle the moment once and for all by taking away the coffee cups there seems to be a pause - the moment of history that covers an ever-changing dimension of space  but two artefact intact in precisely the location where the conversation - exchange - promises - a whole range of moments confined.

This is Precisely the reason for there are untold interactions, paused moments and lovely departures.

Perhaps this is why space speaks with time and moments are created with endless successions.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Carnivalesque in Viswakarma Puja: Narratives of Festivities of Alcohol and Music in Kolkata and its suburbs

Carnivalesque and the present time:

Early anthropologists like Max Gluckman (1963), Edmund Leach (1961) and Peter Burke (1978) represent generation of classical studies of festivals. Gluckman’s (1963) findings conceptualise role argues role reversals where among African tribes are seen as represent transcending transcendence over local taboos to protest against social order. Leach (1961) documents upside down and chaotic world in festivals.Burke (1978) using these anthropological findings formulate carnivalesque, theorising carnival as institutionalised disorder with rituals of reversal. Lefebvre (1991a,b) focuses on the rationalisation and commodification of life which is associated to the demise of pre-modern carnivals and indigenous festivals. Echoing Durkheim’s (1973) conception of mechanical solidarity Lefebvre argues that festivals are examples of spontaneous, ecstatic and identity-producing cultural practices, which is a feature of per-modern society. Lefebvre (2002) sees impact of capitalism in transforming the pre-modern festivals to spectacles and rise of new modes of consumption including culture, entertainment, tourism and leisure.

The memories of a transformation of carnivalesque

In our childhood it was the Kali Puja or the worship of Goddess Kali that used to assume the carnivalesque nature – the transformation of cityscape upside down. On that day it was virtually alright to drink a lot and do some weird behaviour. Goddess Kali herself receives wine (usually offered to her, a pint of Rum) and her followers usually have whatever they like. The unusual queue at the wine shops a few days before reflected the trend. However, those things have intensified and now cover almost every festival of the state. Young generation is fond of going frenzy on every occasion with hint of alcohol. Thereby, it is severely changing the concept of carnivalasque through wine in the cityscape. Other features of the carnivalesque might include the changing space allocation, spectacle building, changing routine of the spectators, sudden rise of consumption and so on. In this regards one might (quite justifiably) say Durgotsav is the biggest carnival of the city and its surroundings. In this blog post I would rather say Durgotsav and today’s Kalipuja too represents a balanced carnival of the ‘Bhadralok’ – the gentlemen and the true upside-down effect lies in other apparently lesser studied festivities.

The most prominent among them is the spurring rise of Viswakarma Puja – the worship of the Lord of Machines/engineers/factories. While West Bengal has observed steady decline of industries the hotbeds for worship of Viswakarma click here:, there is a parallel rise of informal economy and consideration of such economies as production oriented economies and hence the worship has assumed a different form for last couple of decades. While I have seen large-scale celebration of Viswakarma in different factories in Port city of Haldia for almost six years, where the government offices remain closed for a couple of days, in Kolkata, Viswakarma has assumed a different form of community based worship. The communities are mostly informal sector workers involved in transport. Hence, there is a celebration at every corner of the localities with a rickshaw/electric ricksaw (popularly the TOTO)/Auto/Taxi/Bus stands. Sometimes when there is a simultaneous presence of two or more categories of vehicles there is an overlapping spatial allocation for two or more pujas.

The most conspicuous nature of Viswakarma puja is the nature of music used, patterns of celebration opted and display of emotions. These three represents distinct subcultures and the “Bhadralok” group could never know such existence until there is a Viswakarma puja nearby. Hence, for a couple (or more) days there is a rise of alternative music. These forms of music represent a distinct quality – often with rural tune, language and often with somewhat direct portrayal of sexually charged messages mixed with high bass fast music. More recently there is an inclusion of Bhojpuri songs. I have listened to a few and here are a few links. These songs are filled with symbolic portrayal of sex and body.

In practice on the night (even in day time as well) of Viswakarma Puja there is a bunch of people dancing with these songs after having some alcohol. It continues. Everyone, willing to go out for last minute shopping has to depend on their private cars and of late Ola or Uber as there is near complete absence of public transports. You will encounter fewer traffic polices too!


Most prominent feature is the nature of ambiance created by the use of music and related performance. Viswakarma Puja represents one of such occasions when people from the bottom show that they don’t want to be regulated and display their distinctive subculture subsets. For two or three days they do not do what they otherwise do for earning their livelihoods. They refuse to go on hire and most often do not even bring their vehicle. While the sophisticated “Shyama Sangeet” has completely transformed the nature of Kali Puja and use of traditional Bengali musics including Rabindrasangeet has made Durgotsav a disciplined anarchy of Bengali “Bhadralok” possible – Viswakarma Puja has become one of the true alternative spaces for Carnivalesque. One can get updated about the subculture that exists parallel to the middleclass value oriented Bengali self, just by having a close watch on Viswakarma Puja. Viswakarma Puja blurs some of the essential boundaries of Private/public, rural/urban, good/bad, day/night and many more.
                                              This video of Viswakarma Celebration has been received in Whatsapp

Ps. I could go through several Puja pandals in the night without much hindrance in an UBER, which I am sure I could not have if it was the “Bhadralok” infested Durgotsav! You know, we live in multiple worlds of categories – truly. 


Burke, Peter. (1978) Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe, London, Maurice Temple Smith

Leach, Edmund. (1961). Pul Eliya, a village in Ceylond: A study of land tenure and kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lefebvre, Henri. (1991a). The production of space, trans. D. Nicholson-Smith. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Lefebvre, Henri. (1991b) Critique of Everyday Life. Volume 1: Introduction. Translated by J Moore. London: Verso

Gluckman, Max. (1963). Order and rebellion in tribal Africa. London: Cohen & Wests.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Everyday politics in west bengal 1: the case of mathkol autostand

Post 2011 whenever i made field  visits to different places of west bengal a distinct form of showmanship in development was discussed. It was symptomatic to see so many flexes depicting who did what, under whose inspiration and whose allocatation to the development as examples of such a mechanism of politics.

Of course, the blue-white colour combination for every government infrastructure was a masterstroke. Now,  everyone even in the remotest corners of the state knows about the development of public infrastructure and the rest can be done with words.

Well there seems to be a substantive and parallel development of occupancy inspired politics. I have seen several mechanisms and instances of party office transformation, partisan attitude of undermining every competing channels of public transactions to continue in Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya's sense of the term "party society".

However the mechanism is furthered to become even more aggressive and one of the examples is readily visible in Mathkol stoppage on Belghoria expressway. Mathkol is an inspiration for the people who stay nearby places to avail metro rail from not so conspicuous noapara metro station. I have been availing this route for some time now. In july 2017 there has been an initiation of the construction of an auto stand (refer to the photograph). I was told by the auto drivers that this was purely a community based initiative by the auto drivers and owners to help passengers and the drivers themselves to deal with killing sun.

Today a poster containing four trinamool congress leaders have suddenly appeared. Being inquisitive i asked one of the auto drivers and suddenly a group discussion took place with  group of drivers.

Me- do they help you with the construction

Drivers-  no, it was purely made by us.

Me- then why did you allow their poster, make a flex of your posters here.

Drivers- how can it be possible? Its a TMC ward. They wanted to project it as their achievement.

Me- and you allowed them to do so?

Drivers- they have told us that they will provide chairs for sitting arrangement but frankly we made the plinth precisely for this reason, now the flex is actually preventing everyone to be able sit on the plinth.

Me- how much money did you invest

Drivers - it was about 40,000/- each of the owners gave Rs. 300/- and drivers gave Rs. 100/- additionally we have some outstanding dues.

Yes, I know in a few week time the details of this transformation will be erased and we might see another blue-white public infrastructure not quite public in practice.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Postmodern encounters: Juxtapositions from classrooms to shoppingmalls

What makes culture so fascinating? Several answers you might encounter but the most fascinating one for Kaleidoscope is the filter effect that culture entails!

Kaleidoscope, when started studying diffussionism and later on encountered Rirzer with globalisation and mcdonaldisation always wondered what makes people from all over the world become the same? and then he encountered glocalisation as an accomodative space. However in postmodern times while there is a rise of global spread of capitalism and forces that make seemingly dissimilar people to become similar to a large extent, there is also a parallel rise of identity consolidation and rise of newer  and micro identities.

School days 1995-1996

Kaleidoscope can remember one of his teachers at his rural and least known school, who always promoted anti-superstitious narratives. He often talked of how easy it is to explain things scientifically. Kaleodoscope often relives that day when the teacher showed both of his hands saying "see boys, i dont wear any ring containing fortune bringing stones! Do you think that i am any less fortunate than those who bear them?"  Yes the impact was massive! The teacher along with several others brought 'Viggyan Manch' - the platform for promotion of science and rational mind to the school. It institutionalised such mindselt among many!

Kaleidoscope, however, lost that impression as he could also remember the same teacher uttered 'you know muslims are by race a bit aggressive'. Kaleidoscope couldn't relate this statement with his muslim friends and their families but nevertheless he continued to have a mixed and confused impressions.

Mall Days 2017s and the like

Kaleidoscope in continuation to his yearly marketing extravaganza today went to one of the important malls 'Mani Square.' When his store instructed him to comeback after 30 mins for the items he bought needed alteration, he went to food court and found what is presented in the photograph (see below).

Yes, a palmist and fortune teller in a shopping mall with an immediate backdrop of Coca-Cola. Kaleidoscope took the photo when the person left the chair for a moment- yes, no prsonal game here lets accept reality Sui generis!

Juxtaposed Kaleido

The filtering effect is continuing with all forms of juxtapositions, multiple realities and expressions of dominant forms of cultural filters. Capitalism makes it all possible in 2017. All are sold, from crossword to palm reading from potatoes to pizza.  Kaleidoscope could feel the strong presence of essentiality of cultural filters. Filters always surrounding you - filters that shapes you - makes you and breaks you.  While belief and cultural filters in 1990s have enabled the Viggyan manch inspired teacher to discard stone bearing rings but embrace the stereotypes about Muslims today one can actully read Einstein or Marx in the second floor order a piza at food court and explore his/ her palm and then take a ola to go back home and count number of likes on the facebook life. Meanwhile kaleidoscope like many othrs knows it is postmodern chaos wrapped in late-capital wrapper with jucy layers of feudal past.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Letting go 16: an accident, a song and dealing with the past

It was one fine winter morning that Kaleidoscope started another journey to the the field. It was part of his project that began with river and ended underground - yes you have guessed it right it was his project on irrigation. Funded adequately by the ministry of water resources and kaleidoscope could even hire helicopter if needed. However, he was happy with a travera - big enough to take everything you need if you have to spend the night inside the vehicle.
Yes, he had to face severe disruptions because at one part of bardhaman local administration arrested illegal opium cultivators and hence he had to spend the night inside the vehicle at one of the connecting roads to the NH 2. Now thats another incident but this one is more serious than that!
Next morning half awaken kaleidoscope along with a small team of special research group started his journey towards another village. Kaleidoscope sitting on front was careful enough to use his seat belt. The driver his beloved and skilled Chhotu directly hit a truck from the backside. Kaleidoscope's forehead stopped inches away from the bend brass made flag hoister used by the owner of that travera once in a while to express his gratitude to the country.
Kaleidoscope survived because of the seatbelt.
Did he? He was blinded for a while and then all he could listen to was the famous song 'Mauja hi mauja' from the wonderful movie 'Jab We Met'.
The entire team for the last one weak was enjoying this particular song whenever their travera speed up in the highway. It was 2007.
Since then kaleidoscope has always tried to avoid this brilliant song. He changed the television channel, turned off the radio and never kept this song in his computer or other devices.
Of late kaleodoscope started exploring google play music online and on his way to work he had to listen to this song once more. At first he thought of switching off google play online but somehow he liked the tune of the song once again!
He could actually go back to the song once again. He could go back to the moment before that accident and there are no other moments with the song after the accident.
It took roughly a decade to settle down. It takes time. It does. But kaleidoscope knows life goes on. Like 'Mauja hi mauja', moments can be relieved, moments can be dealt with!
One can actually repair, relive.
PS. No one was fatally injured and the everything was in order except for the windscreen and bonnet and that song!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Market- plaza and kaleidoscopic space

Kaleidoscope on his yearly puja shopping is once again roaming around different shopping destinations.

His first destination was uttarapan the ghostly state build market corner with a handful of good shops, often govt sponsored ones. Yes wonderful ways to explore sarees and punjabis where you feel the heterotopia from juxtaposition of 'resham shilpa' shop with fully clad plaza effect and a near broken shanty like shop lacking even a proper signboard. While he crosses the staricase, smell of ammonia reminds him the public urinal nearby. But yes, its peaceful. Handful of people in proximics, a few uninterested shopkeepers and gloomy 1980s market appearance. When kaleidoscope crosses the staricase entrance of the first floor he sees four mid 50s men discussing politics over 'bidi' - the country made cigar.

To complement the mood of the space there are broken ceilings, iron skeleton of a few pillars looking at kaleidoscope, demanding his unintended attention and a few words haunts him for the space. The delhi'e durbar restaurant has been closed down years ago but no one seems to be interested to begin new initiative at the abandoned space. Such facts perhaps remind kalieodsocpe to be informal in the space once again.

As he comes out and sees the conspicuous state central library he asks, does it signify heterotopia or should he look at the space in concert? Otherwise why should there be the failed restaurants, ghostlike market place, historical dreams (largely has remained dream)in Damodar Valley Corporation and finally the library where very few people come and whoever comes gets disappointed with the reluctance of the staff (well a story of half of a decade old, Kaleidoscope is sceptical if it has changed). Then there is ESI hospital where kaleidoscope once met people who are living for months as they have no one to take back home. Finally the graveyard!

Now kaleidoscope takes a yellow cab (not uber) complementing with the mood of the space to reach at nearby pantaloons. Yes, it is formal and meticulously designed to make kaleido self conscious. There are so many mirrors to look at you! If it was the uninterested shopkeepers and juxtaposed 'reaham shilpa' shop at uttarapan, for pantaloons its kaleidoscope himself who made him feel alienated with a heterotopic self. Its him everywhere looking and asking uncomfortable questions. At one mirror there is kaleidoscope and just beside him there is a Hollywood hero. Hence, kaleidoscope is challenged with his looks and body. At another there seems to be a faceless body and price tags.

While kaleidoscope could feel the self-space interface he knew it was a concerted effort to alienate and isolate be it kaleidoscopic self, the space or his being.

Love for Richardson's Being in the market versus being in plaza 1982 continues.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Imagined communities to long distance nationalism: Kaleidoscope meets Anderson again

Kaleidscope like many others of his generation has a bunch of friends settled abroad. Kaleidoscope knows about a few of them who will never come back and another few who are looking for a parallel opportunity to come back availing the next available flight. Kaleidoscope grew up in a nothing exceptional sub-urban place overshadowed by the noise of Airport and that might be one of the motivational factors that pushed many of his childhood friends to board on an aircraft and fly off to a distant place. It is good have friends abroad because when they return they often bring expensive bottles, great smelling cigarettes and stories which Kaleidoscope listens to - often unmindfully.

Kaleidoscope will first classify such people who left India. They are primarily of three kinds (Note. these are not exclusive categories, there are many exceptions and don't blame Kaleido, you have made yourself appear like this only):

A. Settled and will never come back

B. Settled but looking for an opportunity to come back

C. Went for a few weeks of work

The category A and C are two extreme examples which Kaleidoscope finds amusing. Category C suddenly finds everything in India nasty, Indian's uncivilised and indiscipline. They keep on blaming people-government-history-geography and then also DNA and genes! This goes on for a few weeks until they accept their positions and their inabilities. The flow however, often erupts in family and friends gatherings. Kaledoscope finds amazing similarities between life-cycle rituals and category C people's once or twice in a life time foreign tour.

Now, the most interesting thing about category A is that they always pretend to belong to category B. They blame on the lack of opportunities in the country of their origin and some of them keep harping on the fact that they are forever refugees struck in diaspora. They usually make an annual or bi-annual or a five-year planned visit to their family to exchange gifts explore their native places, refresh and create memories only to go back again. Category A people usually are less talkative about the place where they stay - I don't know if they are afraid of inviting unwelcomed guests - frankly, people here would never think of paying a visit to Silicon valley or for that matter London unless they are old enough to find such a missing feather in their crown.

Anyways, the most amusing (until today) thing to Kaleidoscope was the interest of elections, leaders and politics back home! - even among the category A people who actually will never come back.

Taken from 

"Imagined Communities" and Long Distance Nationalism:

It was in 2008 when Kaleidoscope first started to read Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities at IIMC library keeping aside several "important" ministry related assignments and could never stop reading it. It was a stormy day and he could no longer meet his supervisors and continued to read this book. Later on Kaleidoscope could understand how the owners of Verso must have adored Ben for having that best seller book! Anyways, one thing that Kaleidoscope could identify regarding his quite different idea of national sentiment is that he was receiving similar news with more or less similar priorities like his fellow citizens.

Anderson wrote this book in 1980s and then Kaleidoscope like others have seen the proliferation of social media and revolution of internet. Here comes Kaleidoscope's second meeting with Anderson through his brilliant "Long distance nationalism." Yes, Kaleidoscope's fellow friends belonging to category A and B are behaving according to what may be termed as transcendence of territorial nationalism. Kaleidoscope's sincerely hopes that his readers remember Modi's speech among the diasporic crowd in New York and London.

Hence, no matter how dry it appears, Kaleidoscope once again love those facebook posts which sincerely criticise his country's policies-politics-corruption by people whose life it affects distantly  in remotest possible ways. Yes, you get it right - Kaleidoscope loves this international trans-boundary dimension of nationalism - even if like all long distance relationships its a pain in the ass.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Centre vis-à-vis state

Oxygen -

Centre-cow gives it hence no beef
State- Keshto has lesser amount hence no media please

Water -

Centere- river linking, thats it.
State- Fuck rivers drink ground water.

Food -

Centre - have patanjali that's saffron prashad
State - eat telebhaja help industry

Centre - fund research to extract gold from gaw-mothr's urine
State- jug therapy

Corruption -
Centre- stand on the ATM queue
State- Smoke more

Centre- seek cure in gaw-mother
State- beat up doctors

Equality -
Centre - hindu halfpants
State- support instant triple talaq

Support mechanism-
Centre -bhakts (often known as chaddis)
State- goons (often known as taja chhele)