Category: Culture

February 12, 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 3, 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 27, 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 8, 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 16, 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 22, 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 3, 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 2, 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 2, 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 20, 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 18, 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 13, 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 2, 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.

September 1, 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 31, 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.

August 24, 2018 /

This article focuses on practices among us—that is, among seemingly liberal, educated Savarnas who seem to decry casteism in theory, in principle, and even in practice (i.e. academically-transmitted critiques bolstering our claims to caste innocence). But, we are simultaneously deeply invested in unseeing, denying, deflecting or defending our casteist practices in everyday and institutional life. My goal is to highlight these practices of denial and deflection as acts of caste terror and I want to suggest that everyday caste terror and everyday claims to caste innocence are two sides of the same coin, both of which help liberal savarnas project upper caste castelessness.

August 22, 2018 /

The thrust of the Bill was to ensure that there is purity of race (a discarded concept) by forbidding marriages outside the community. But by leaving out Khasi men marrying non-Khasi women the cat got out of the bag. Racial purity (supposed) is going to be disturbed if any foreign element is brought in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from the men’s side or the women’s. The answer to this dilemma was given by one of the panellists in one of the TV debate held on the issue. “The problem doesn’t arise because the seed comes from the man” argued by one who was in support of the bill. Not surprisingly it was a man who said it.

August 19, 2018 /

JUNE 2002.
IT IS raining on the morning he leaves Shillong. It has rained for the past three days, alternating between drizzle and downpour. He looks out of the bathroom window as he brushes his teeth—grey skies, rain, pine trees on the far hills, red tin roofs—and feels an indefinable sadness in his heart. He quickly bids farewell to his mother and brother and walks through the rain with his bag to the car where his father waits.
He is dropped off at Police Bazar where a long line of Guwahati-bound Tata Sumos wait for passengers, their engines idling. A swarm of young touts encircle him as he gets down from the car; he allows one of them to lead him to the second Sumo in the line. He clambers into the last row where there is just one person at the moment.

August 15, 2018 /

There are political rights; a government is set up in the land. Democracy functions with total success. An election is held every five years. But for the people in this land there are no names. So for the nameless citizens the nameless representatives govern the land of the half-humans. Because whether to give human names to the head or to the body — no one can decide. A land such as this is very much in the news, a land much talked about.

August 12, 2018 /

Much before the world caught up with V S Naipaul’s Brahmanical rants wrapped in exquisite prose, Nissim Eziekiel, Indian Jewish poet and essayist of Bombay,  had figured out Mr. Naipaul. This classic review of An Area of Darkness, Naipaul’s ode to defecation, which appeared in Imprint, has to be the pirated RAIOT obituary for Sir Vidia.

August 10, 2018 /

There was a time when people from the Northeast, settled and studying in different cities of the country would call home for one reason only, to talk about their cravings for home food. Home was then, a place tucked very far away, and a chance of visiting home was awfully hard to come by. However, things have been slightly different in the past few years with the growth of the Northeast stores in Delhi.

August 8, 2018 /

DNA tests would suggest a truly pure “Khasi” as an impossibility, giving how people constantly mix with each other through migration, immigration and so on. This makes “Khasi” an abstract, a notion we built in our minds that may somehow, find a place in our hearts (figuratively, of course).
In realising this, one finds that “Khasi-ness” as defined by the “Khasi jingoists”/ “Khla Wait Ka Ri” makes it corrupted, toxic and deplorable. To them, “Khasi-ness” attains a divine status that further implies the delusional belief of “Khasi” as a superior race. For these Khla Wait to sustain the delusional superiority in being “Khasi”, it almost seems necessary to instil fear and hatred of the “non-Khasi” through lies, propaganda, and punishments.

August 7, 2018 /

The Bakarwal tribe is a Muslim nomadic pastoral tribe in Jammu and Kashmir also found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is one such tribe which is facing numerous challenges which are posing a threat not only to their livelihood but also puts into question their existence. Following is an interview conducted on a pleasant evening as part of my study on the tribe exploring the lives of Bakarwals, a tribe which came into the limelight after the Kathua rape case.

August 6, 2018 /

The idea that races are part of our existence and daily experience, especially those of us living in multicultural societies, seems to be just taken for granted by many people. But are races real or simply social/political constructs? Is there any scientific evidence they exist in humans? Or are some scientists just being politically correct in denying their existence?

August 5, 2018 /

Although the amendment Bill has been returned by the Governor, we have become betrayers: for simply asking for a re-consideration. We haven’t even taken a non-Khasi spouse yet. From personal attacks to violent threats… we don’t need to delve into the dark web to find a bunch of people abusing and threatening one of their own.