Sunday, September 27, 2009

Three Poems of Pash

Translated by Rajesh Kumar Sharma



I have never desired
the wind to sway to beats on Vividh Bharati
and play
- away from my view -
hide and seek with silk-soft curtains

I have never desired
tinted lights to filter through the glass pane and kiss
my songs on their lips

Whenever I have dreamed
I have seen myself console a weeping city

I have seen cities multiplying against villages

And I have watched
folded worker hands
closing into fists

I have never longed for cushions on a car seat

My dreams have never wandered
beyond the borders of a rickshaw puller’s
sleeping on a board outside some shop
and craving a bidi’s draught

How can I desire the wind to sway
to beats on Vividh Bharati?

I watch fodder crops burnt by scorching winds

How can I think of sweet luscious eyes
when I see lightless eyes raised towards heaven
and begging for rain?


From Cards

(Cardan Ton)

I am acquainted with the sand-built wall
of venerable customs

Scolded by parents
I will not cry

When I surrender myself to your embrace
your memory so fills the mists of sensation
I cannot read any news
against me

I know the old coppers with holes in them
are current no longer
and yet, like relics of the dead,
they have gone, leaving their conspiracies behind

And man remains as small as he looks
through the old copper’s hole.


Out of One’s Insecurity
(Apni Asurakhya Chon)

If the country’s security means
that one must murder conscience
as a precondition to live
that every word other than ‘yes’ looking out of your eye
must seem indecent
that the mind must bow in humiliating submission
to a depraved time --
we then stand in danger of the country’s security

We had thought the country to be something sacred
like one’s home,
free from any sultriness,
a place
where man moves like the sound of falling rain in streets,
where he sways like stalks of wheat in fields
and grants meaning
to the magnanimous vastness of the skies

We had thought the country to be some experience
like an embrace

We had thought the country to be some intoxication
like work

But if the country is a factory
for exploitation of the soul
if it is a laboratory
to produce morons --
we then stand in danger of this country

If the peace of the country only means
that we should break and crumble
like stones rolling down mountains
that the unashamed laughter of prices should for ever spit
on the face of earnings
that bathing in one’s own blood should be
the only holy virtue earned --
we then stand in danger of the peace

If the country’s security means
that strikes must be crushed to dye the peace in deeper hues
that the only martyrdom should be the one attained on borders
that the only art should be which blossoms on the ruler’s windowpane
that the only wisdom should be which waters the land from the authority’s well
that the only labour should be which sweeps the floors of royal palaces --
we stand then in danger of the country’s peace.

26 September 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

What's the Matter With Cultural Studies?

A timely article, a semi-obituary. . .

But I still have hope that the history of cultural studies might matter to the university—and to the world beyond it. My hopes aren't quite as ambitious as they were 20 years ago. I no longer expect cultural studies to transform the disciplines. But I do think cultural studies can do a better job of complicating the political-economy model in media theory, a better job of complicating our accounts of neoliberalism, and a better job of convincing people inside and outside the university that cultural studies' understanding of hegemony is a form of understanding with great explanatory power—that is to say, a form of understanding that actually works.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Call for Papers

“Identity and Cultural Dynamics
Tribes of South Africa, Nigeria and North East India”

Rajiv Gandhi University, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, India

October 28-30, 2009

A three-day International Multidisciplinary Seminar on “Identity and Cultural Dynamics: Tribes of South Africa, Nigeria and North East India” is being organized by Rajiv Gandhi University, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, India in collaboration with the African Studies Association of India, New Delhi, from October 28 to 30, 2009. Papers are invited on any of the sub- themes of the seminar. Please send in the abstracts (not exceeding 300 words) by 30th September 2009 and full research papers by 15 October 2009.

For further details please contact:

1. Dr. Shreya Bhattacharji
Seminar Coordinator

2. Mr. Miazi Hazam

“Identity and Cultural Dynamics
Tribes of South Africa, Nigeria and North East India”

Concept Note

Multiple extraneous dominations, politico-economic, socio-cultural, as also lingual; invasion, onslaught, influx, slavery, settlement, colonialism, contemporary neo-colonial-consumerism; the violation of tribal cultures world over, is brutal and varied. Today tribal socio-cultural traditions, whether in South Africa, Nigeria or North East India, are either extinct or deeply threatened. These mostly kingless, casteless and creedless tribal orders, where communal ownership of land combined with communal ethics and collective consciousness to prevent the creation of coercive state apparatuses, are unfortunately bowing down to the hierarchical diktats of supposedly superior hegemonic mainstream cultures. “Age-grades”, remarkably egalitarian community welfare organizations found in almost all tribal orders are fast vanishing as are the vastly tolerant, reconciliatory traditional law courts. And the three very powerful, very vocal, all women grass root organizations of traditional tribal Igbo Society in Nigeria are nearly nonexistent today. Tribal languages both oral and with distinct scripts are fast-eroding.
Colonialism with its imposition of alien exploitative politico-administrative super structures onto traditional orders, aided and abetted by an ambitious religion doggedly determined to win more and more converts shredded the very matrix of tribal societies. And neo-colonial consumerism covertly packaged in glossy terminology exuding a heady fragrance of easy money has wrecked havoc with all psyches and identities world over, whether tribal or mainstream.
Perhaps it is not too late to redeem the past, to rise above the politics of exclusion and distortion sported by dominant cultures in connivance with master narratives and master languages, to unearth and mainstream fast-vanishing tribal traditions, whether in India, Nigeria or South Africa. Perhaps it is not too late to awaken contemporary nation states to the realization that only through the re-establishment of such democratic, reconciliatory, gender friendly grass-root tribal traditions could one create a more equitable, more just world order. Perhaps the time has come to amplify long marginalized voices. Perhaps the time has come to foreground Caliban in Prospero’s narrative.

Sub Themes of the Conference

1. Master Narratives vs Tribal Counter Narratives
2. The Problem of Identity: Who is a Tribal Today?
3. Of Nationalisms and Arbitrary Borders: Insane Cartography and Tribal World Orders
4. Located at “Triple Negative”: The Tribal Woman
5. Who Cares for Tribal Pasts? Dying Tribal Socio-Cultural Institutions
6. Lee Cooper Jeans and Ray Ban Sun Glasses: Neo-Colonial Eco-Cultural Invasion of the Tribal Youth
7. The Game of Linguistic Politics: Tribal Vs Mainstream
8. Learning from the Margin: “Amaechina” May the Path Never End

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Are You Married?

By Rajesh Kumar Sharma

It was a tight, neat cabin. Files were piled up like trophies against a wall. An air-conditioner peeped out of the twisted mouth of a window. Across the table sat the gatekeeper, the all-potent PA, chattering with some malevolent soul on his elegant white-gray telephone. “I am like a mongrel’s carcass, torn to shreds by those vile crows,” he said with the touching vanity of a poet who has just discovered himself. The tall man looming over him with a file and a smile frowned at the comparison, unable to determine whether the first simile was more honourable or the second. “VIP after VIP has been tearing into my flesh, but I tell them I can’t get them an appointment with the Sahib. At least not yet.” I was amazed at the range of images his uneven head could harbour – from disintegrating dogs and scavenging crows to exhausted courtesans! Keats’s negative capability, or the ancient seers’ aham brahmasmi? Had I yielded to a fit of that idiotic sentiment which sometimes fuels our acts of choice, I would have cast off my academic robe and donned the glorious gatekeeper’s costume. If he can empathize so readily with such a variety of creatures, there must be something in his calling. I read poetry, but he lives it!

Six of us sat across that overworked table of his, which defined his universe. What a noble and humble way to live your life.

And then a seventh person pushed open the short, creaky door, and dragged herself in. She was a youngish woman, with a file in her hand. “I have come directly to you, hoping you will help me see the Sahib.”

He looked through her file and ran his tongue tentatively over the lips in several directions. “But I see no cause of action that should compel a meeting with the Sahib. You may leave your file on my table. I will put it up.” But she was not going to be shooed away so conveniently. “I have been facing harassment for a year and a half. They have made my life hell. I can’t take it any more.”

The PA raised his eyes to look into hers. His lips quivering, he paused with the pause of hills, before turning on the humble tap of his ancient wisdom. “Are you married?” he asked. “Yes, I am.” “Then you should be tolerant. Marriage teaches women tolerance.”

My colleague, sitting behind me, exploded, “What a stupid thing to say! By God, what an idiot!” But the “idiot” ducked the explosion, pretending not to have heard the angry woman’s compliment at all.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

On Teaching

Memories come like winter sunshine when the mind turns to those who have been my teachers. Now that I have myself been a teacher for several years, I have begun to realize how difficult – impossible even – it is to become, and remain, one. Teaching, like learning, begins – as the story of Nachiketa and Yama hints – with dying. The will to know, which sprouts in the will to be, must crash against the farthest bounds of being. To seek is to eternally destroy and create your being. It is to be, like Nachiketa, the flames of yajna agni (sacrificial fire) . . . even as it is to be Yama, the one who lives dying.