Category: Culture

May 13, 2019 /

#ArundhatiRoy
“I have never felt that my fiction and nonfiction were warring factions battling for suzerainty. They aren’t the same certainly, but trying to pin down the difference between them is actually harder than I imagined. Fact and fiction are not converse. One is not necessarily truer than the other, more factual than the other, or more real than the other. Or even, in my case, more widely read than the other. All I can say is that I feel the difference in my body when I’m writing.”

April 14, 2019 /

At the National Seminar on “Dalit Literature: Texts and Contexts”, organised by Delhi University’s English Department over three days, like at any other seminar, a buffet lunch was served. As happens at most such events, the sole meat dish, or nonveg as it is called, was kept a part apart. At what was deemed a safe and agreeable distance from the other pure-veg stuff. Safe for and agreeable to whom? It was not clear if the Manu Smriti or Narada Smriti or DU’s rulebook designed by some long-dead registrar had been consulted as regards the decorous distance to be maintained. I asked an aproned cateter on whose orders this had been done. We do as some saheb tells us, he offered. Besides this is how it’s always done, another said. But how can this happen at a Dalit Literature conference?

March 30, 2019 /

I have learnt from the Facebook that Ranjan has shot Lord of the Orphans in his I-phone. He admits at Dhaka this time that about 20% of the film is shot in 7+ and 8 models of I-phones. Rest was done in Sony Alpha 7S2 camera. Both are light-weight. So called professional camerapersons would not perhaps even dream to use them. Ranjan is professional nonetheless. He kept his profession aside for a while. This actually was the illness he was suffering from. He planned Lord of the Orphans while recuperating.

March 27, 2019 /

“No one wants to be a hawker; no one is born a hawker”, says Basudev and yet all are caught in the machinic routine of railway life, time-tables at the tip of their tongue and every train remembered by its own sound. Unlike jobs in the corporate and government sectors, this routine assures no dignity and does little to take away from the legal and existential precarity of running hawkers.

March 15, 2019 /

When I say that Jesus was a socialist, I am not referring to the communal ownership of the means of production. This aspect of socialism is certainly consistent with Jesus’ message, and one could argue that it is a logical outworking from it for an industrial society, but it is not something Jesus ever specifically addressed. However, the socialist principle that positively saturates Jesus’ gospel is the idea of fair distribution of wealth, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” And that is what I will be defending in this article.I advocate this variety of socialism in no small part because I see it as being so well aligned with what Jesus taught. However, democratic socialism is an ideology particular to our time and culture, and I do not presume it to be exactly one and the same as Jesus’ teachings. Jesus was a socialist in principle, but he left all manner of room for us to figure out the specifics of applying that principle today.

March 12, 2019 /

When the Tang family returned to Shillong, they found that their shoe shop had been confiscated by the Custodian of Enemy Property. The only compensation that the family received was about 500 rupees, which was only a fraction of the thousands that the building and merchandise were actually worth. Nothing else was given back to the family, not even the sewing machines.It goes without saying that life was hard after returning to Shillong. Mr. and Mrs. Tang had to work hard in order to regain what had been lost. But their story is unlike other internees’ stories in that Mr. and Mrs. Tang were offered help—and they accepted it. Though the couple had struggled to make ends meet, the local Khasi people in Shillong and the missionaries there were extremely kind and generous.

February 14, 2019 /

Manoranjan Byapari, the Dalit Bengali novelist who has written searingly about the continuing travails of the Dalits in India, recently spoke along with Kancha Illaiah in Kolkata Book Fair. The conversation turned into a bit of a debate about Dalits learning English. Manoranjan Byapari shared his thoughts about the book fair encounter on his facebook page. His FB status was translated from Bangla by Arunava Sinha and then edited by Rahul Bannerjee. 

February 11, 2019 /

Every winter Sumi Pegu, a fifty year old Mising woman runs the single ply yarn into exquisite horizontal patterns. A narrow paddy field in Gohpur’s Mising-gaon (about 230 kms from Guwahati in Sonitpur District, Assam) leads me to her loom. If you walk some kilometres further, you can get a serene view of the hills of Arunachal. The sound of working looms takes over the chirrup of tiny local sparrows looking for some grains to chew. The grain providers, mostly neighbours of Sumi, have to tend to the poultry and pigs regularly. Their children go to the nearby primary schools and have picked up the dominant Assamese tongue fluently—yet, all through the year, there is someone or the other tending the fibres of the loom.

February 2, 2019 /

Why an Iraqi and an American in an Indian play, somebody asked me? Not to difficult to figure out:
I wanted an Indian army officer, Rajiv Kapoor, playing the part of the American, Robert Klarmann; I wanted a Kashmiri, Anwar Mir, playing the part of the Iraqi, Raza Husain. I would play with locale, idiom, make it real for us in this country, tell ourselves that we are no different from Robert and Raza.
Then I thought to myself, would the goons of the hyper-nationalistic ABVP, actually allow this to be staged? No way. I’ve seen how they operate, spitting venom, ready to cripple and kill.
Not important. Let the locale be Indian, let the characters be American and Iraqi. Maybe watching Soldiers’ Silence, audiences will put two and two together and say, hey, this could be happening in Kashmir too.

January 26, 2019 /

The cup has been around for a while. Its popularity, although slow in number, is immense in intensity. Every woman I know, who uses the cup, has shared and proclaimed its wonder on social media. It gives freedom, it saves the environment, it saves money. Basically if you are a cool-ass new-age thing that bleeds voluntarily at regular (well almost) intervals, you have to do the cup. Many years of feeling uncool last week I got the opportunity to see a real cup, hold it and hear panegyric about it from a user’s mouth. Although, it would have been more convenient if vaginas could talk. But there were technical issues and it was in public.

January 25, 2019 /

Absolute ‘consistency’ is perhaps not a desirable quality and much more so with questions and figures of culture. But Bhupen Hazarika’s jajabor/nomadic inconsistency, and so perhaps the ups and downs of the journey of those whom he sang for and about, is historic. Riding on the energy of the communist-led peasant uprisings which lasted up to the mid 1950s in Assam, Hazarika’s radicalism borrowed directly from the ‘people’s singer’, the communist legacy of Comrade Bishnu Rabha and Jyoti Prasad Agarwala…
With the ever more naked rightist turn in the political life of Assam’s middle classes in the late 1990s, Hazarika followed suit. With the formation of the NDA government (Asom Gana Parishad or AGP was part of the coalition) in 1998, his political journey came to its culmination with viewing the rabidly communal RSS as the authentic agent of social transformation. He even contested a Lok Sabha seat from Guwahati (which he fortunately lost) on a BJP ticket in 2004, with its cadres blaring his humanist plea ‘mahuhe manuhor babey, jodihe okonu nabhabey…bhabibo kunenu kuwa, xomonia’ (‘if man doesn’t think of man … who will?’) on their election vans…

January 24, 2019 /

So, from the lazy and anti-nationalbunch of Raioteer, another belated new year gift of Shillong’s ethnically mixed up celebrities. Samrat Ray and his nostalgic graphic world of ML05‘s local memories are once again here. You can click on the images to view the gallery and scroll down to download high resolution pdf of the calendar to print. Also, remember that we make this gift for personal purposes – any profiteering idiot wanting to sell the hardcopy will be appropriately dealt with.

January 10, 2019 /

I got to know about Bandersnatch when I chanced upon its trailer on Boxing Day on the show’s Facebook page. Like any other devout fan of the show, I was eagerly looking forward to the ‘film’. On the appointed day, I opened the Netflix website. I hovered my mouse over the Bandersnatch icon. The blurb showed that its about 90 minutes long. This appeared to me as usual. A Black Mirror special is not really of any longer duration. Bandersnatch, however, proved to be anything but the usual. It took me over three hours to finally ‘finish’ the film and over 90 minutes to actually understand that the director of the story is not David Slade.

January 7, 2019 /

A Stand Up set by Abhineet Mishra from Golf Links, Shillong. There is no comedy here, no jokes. If you are looking for humour, read up on the rescue mission to save the 15 miners (or 17) trapped in an illegal coalmine in Ksan, East Jaintia Hills Meghalaya. 15 lives (or 17 trapped) for 23 days  We could do better!

December 15, 2018 /

What makes an artist, or at what moment, does the realization of artistic gift happen? Moments of epiphany, or realization, are always, especially for artists themselves, difficult to pinpoint; even with hindsight and retrospection. It’s best left to interpreters – filmmakers or memoirists; and fiction, that with all its allusions and suggestiveness, can help shed light, on what makes possible the creative process. This piece looks at some films on writers; how their lives were shaped indelibly by their art.

December 7, 2018 /

Let’s start with the positives – a novel about the Bengali experience in Shillong, especially during the troubles, is always welcome. The novel has some nice passages and some wit at times, for example ‘…..he transformed himself into an amalgam of Devdas and Descartes—a perpetually intoxicated mathematical genius, composed, in equal parts, of alcohol and algebra’, to describe Debu’s tutor, Professor Bose… The novel’s treatment of the Sylhet-Calcutta divide imbibes it with an angle that will be new to Khasi readers while the episodes around the first TV in Upper Jail Road and the Bengali fish embargo during the troubles are well recounted. The loss of home or the lack of it, the longing and sorrow that emerges as a result and the plight of people who have suddenly become outsiders in a place they love can be felt throughout the novel and is movingly rendered in parts. But the novel also fails on many fronts. It surrenders too easily to stereotypes and it miserably fails to overcome the tropes that have become a bit tiresome in novels about Shillong…

November 25, 2018 /

I was in Cherrapunji for three years. It was in my 2nd or 3rd year there that I was taken to a camp in Bamundi, Kamrup, Assam. It was winter and we had to get up at 4 in the morning and practice various exercises, with a bamboo pole (lathi), big knife (chaku) and other such weapons. We were trained to attack and also to defend. The camp must have been for about a week, I vaguely remember. But one thing I remember for sure was the salute with the right hand on the chest singing, “Namaste sada vatsale matribhumi…” So I definitely think it was a RSS camp, though I was not aware of it then. Was I scared? Did I enjoy it? Well… I don’t remember.

November 19, 2018 /

Death (or perhaps rituals post-death) has a unique way to bring out one’s ideology in the open. This happened recently, when I lost my father to cardiac arrest, a month before the assembly election in Tripura was announced. My father would want me to come for casting of vote and to be with the family for a few days and relish the winter in Agartala. Perhaps, winter is the only season that people, especially in Agartala really look forward to, since summer and monsoon bring drought and massive waterlogging across the city.

October 21, 2018 /

We’re still lacking a language in which to talk honestly about the forms of everyday sexism different women face in families, intimate relationships, and friend groups. As feminists we need to learn to take everyday struggles seriously, break out of the polite silence of the “private” sphere and be frank about the roles we ourselves play. This essay muses on just why it’s so hard to even talk about sexism and silence when it’s happening very close to home.

October 2, 2018 /

So many people instinctively cheered upon hearing that the Indian Supreme Court has ruled that women of all ages must be granted access to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Even I was thrilled that the court’s decision came down on the side recognizing women as equal to men even in religious spaces. However, on further thought, I’m afraid I’ve revised my opinion to a more unpopular or contentious view: I don’t believe that upholding a woman’s right to worship as she pleases in any one particular temple is more important than the principle that state law cannot and should not attempt to regulate religious belief systems. Doing so is entering very dangerous territory that is ultimately likely to backfire in some unexpected and deeply damaging way. Our constitution grants us freedom of religion for very good reasons.

October 1, 2018 /

What qualities should such an honoured servant of society exemplify in his person? In my opinion an ideal Bhangi should have a thorough knowledge of the principles of sanitation. He should know how a right kind of latrine is constructed and the correct way of cleaning it. He should know how to overcome and destroy the odour of excreta and the various disinfectants to render them innocuous. He should likewise know the process of converting night- soil and urine into manure.

October 1, 2018 /

Gandhism is a paradox. It stands for freedom from foreign domination, which means the destruction of the existing political structure of the country. At the same time it seeks to maintain intact a social structure which permits the domination of one class by another on a hereditary basis which means a perpetual domination of one class by another. What is the explanation of this paradox?

September 19, 2018 /

Maulana Bhashani remains a much demonised figure amongst a certain section of North East India for leading the movement for immigration of Bengali land hungry peasant into colonial Assam. So who was Maulana Bhashani? A rustic pir? A vulgar peasant leader? Scourge of Colonial India and Post colonial Pakistan & Bangladesh state? Communist? Islamist? Today, socialism and Islam are often viewed as incompatible. Does the career of Maulana Bhashani, “the Red Maulana” of Bangladesh, offer a corrective to this view?

September 17, 2018 /

Every year on 18th September, Khasi & Jaintia Hills gets a public holiday for Unitarian Day, a day when Hajom Kissor Singh Lyngdoh Nongbri led the first real Unitarian church service in his home in Jowai in 1887. Apart from the small and influential population of Khasi-Jaintia Unitarians for whom the day has historical and personal meaning others just enjoy the holiday without knowing the historical significance of the Day. For a small faith group worldwide as well as locally, Unitarians suffer from ignorance of society at large. Are Unitarians Christians? What do Unitarians believe in? What does Unitarian mean? So here it goes – a short guide to Unitarianism for you to read this 18th September.

September 16, 2018 /

In what are my twilight years, when I ought to be spending my sanyas listening to MJQ and tending the basil and strawberries on my terrace, I do not know whether to laugh or cry at this vicious right-wing surge – this attempted Hindutva putsch that has targeted Urban Naxalites I know, I respect and I love.

September 12, 2018 /

Being different is no crime. Being gay is not a sin. And for a gay person to desire and pursue love and marriage and family is no more selfish or sinful than when a straight person desires and pursues the very same things. The Song of Songs tells us that King Solomon’s wedding day was “the day his heart rejoiced.” To deny to a small minority of people, not just a wedding day, but a lifetime of love and commitment and family is to inflict on them a devastating level of hurt and anguish. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that Christians are called to perpetuate that kind of pain in other people’s lives rather than work to alleviate it, especially when the problem is so easy to fix. All it takes is acceptance. The Bible is not opposed to the acceptance of gay Christians, or to the possibility of loving relationships for them. And if you are uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in love, if you are dead-set against that idea, then I am asking you to try to see things differently for my sake, even if it makes you uncomfortable. I’m asking you to ask yourself this: How deeply do you care about your family? How deeply do you love your spouse? And how tenaciously would you fight for them if they were ever in danger or in harm’s way? That is how deeply you should care, and that is how tenaciously you should fight, for the very same things for my life, because they matter just as much to me. Gay people should be a treasured part of our families and our communities, and the truly Christian response to them is acceptance, support, and love.

September 10, 2018 /

The feeling sank into my stomach like a stone. This wasn’t the city of my childhood vacations anymore. Had I grown up so quickly as to quietly absorb this pinching away of the dearest part of my treasure of memories? Or was this gross erasure an external change taking everything and everyone over elsewhere as well as in the city? I wasn’t so corrupted with knowledge then as now. As any child of eleven, I too didn’t bother to explain or philosophise. I only felt the difference with my senses: the cattle-touched smell of earth was gone; and it had taken with it a school-ridden child’s hyacinth and vine-covered paradise of her imagination and escape. I had lost something irretrievably. And it wasn’t even my fault.

September 1, 2018 /

You are told you write depressing poetry
You answered “The trick is to read newspapers incessantly”
You didn’t tell them “The trick is to feel every death in your bone”
The familiar blackout is not because of load shedding, now it is your choice because electricity is prepaid.
In another time I am sure
they’ll treat you with electricity
coursing your skin or maybe they did.

August 31, 2018 /

An important historical record of a traumatic period in India’s recent political history, PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE by Anand Patwardhan focuses on the State of Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi from June 1975 to March 1977. During the Emergency the media was muzzled, over 100,000 people were arrested without charge and imprisoned without trial. But political prisoners existed before the Emergency, and they continue to exist even after it is over.

August 30, 2018 /

In 2018, the musical North, West, East and South of Shillong have all combined to give us this very talented group of young musicians whose EP ‘Tempted’ is out now in all the world’s digital stores. They call themselves Blue Temptation and comprise, at some point or the other, Gregory Ford Nongrum, his elder brother El Nathan Ford Nongrum, Shepherd Najiar, Manavon Massar and Vincent Tariang (also of Soulmate). These five young men encapsulate Shillong’s old histories and musical geographies but, as they should, also burn them to the ground. Greg, El Nathan and Shepherd (Shep) are from ‘the West’ but they barely remember the Highway Band anymore and their journey into the blues was as simple and complex as the music itself. Manavon is a keyboard player/sound system blaster/DJ from the ‘Roots Region’ and his dreadlocks and patois, are therefore quite historically grounded. Vincent too is a direct descendant of the ‘Roots Region’ and I’m sure, his father Rudy Wallang must’ve played a small part in his love for the blues.