Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Between Chadis and Saris

Sagarika Ghose has a good piece on the choice presented between "Panties and Perverts" by two very divergent groups in India, the "rootless elite" and the Shiv Sena. Two Indias are pulling in different directions

Both the zealot and the sex symbol claim to be the defining face of a new India. Pramod Muthalik, Sri Ram Sene chief says that he represents a tidal wave of public revulsion against western culture. In sharp contrast, bare midriffs and cleavages stare down from every hoarding as if to declare proudly that it is they who represent the aspirations of every young Indian. A Facebook group, `A Consortium of Pub-Going Loose and Forward Women' (a group to which your columnist also belongs) is now planning to send "pink chaddis" to Pramod Muthalik in protest. No one doubts that the Sene's actions are loathesome and unacceptable, but sending pink underwear to perverts is pretty undignified too.

In fact, therein lies the dilemma of most educated Indians today. Most of us are scandalized by the Sri Ram Sene's actions, horrified at being told that "love" is foreign to India. We would like to remind the Sene that the love stories of Shakuntala and Dushyant or of Roopmati and Baz Bahadur show that some of the greatest love stories of all times were made in India and in our country love has always been a socially revolutionary force destroying taboos of caste, class and religion. St Valentine is only a newly arrived upstart in our centuries old experiments with romance. Also, where does one draw the line at the "western" influences on India? Does the Sene know that the potato and even cottage cheese from which mithai is made, were, among other foodstuffs, "foreigners" to India, being introduced here by Portuguese traders? The custodians of "hindu sanskriti' are not just absurd, they don't know their history.

Yet the dilemma is that groups like the Sri Ram Sene force the thoughtful Indian to defend things he may see as a fundamental right, but does not necessarily want to defend. However much we may hate the Sene, upholding the commercially-driven Valentine's Day as a supreme cultural resource, or seeing the pub as the shining symbol of our social "freedom" may not be forward movement for India. If young people are choosing urban lifestyles that are desi imitations of Sex And The City, this is hardly a matter of celebration. In fact, today, fears about "westernization" are so deep that with the exception of UR Ananathamurthy, few of Karnataka's galaxy of public intellectuals have come to the defence of the young women drinking at the Amnesia Lounge in Mangalore on 24th January.

Politically, there is even a consensus on the moral failings of "pub culture, " with even the BJP's ideological opposites, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and health minister Ambumani Ramadoss expressing energetic disapproval of pubs. When union minister Renuka Chowdhury urged that there should be a "pub bharo" campaign against the Sene, several of her own Karnataka Congress leaders protested that drinking was against their norms. Already, in Karnataka, the "rootless cosmopolitamism' of the IT industry has been the focus of much cultural criticism. Two years ago when the national anthem was played and not sung at an Infosys function, Kannadiga intellectuals said that software tycoons embodied a certain type of English-speaking cosmopolitanism that was far removed from the realities of India. At the recent IPL auctions, the stark exhibition of glamour and wealth in an economy where 5 lakh workers have just lost their jobs, was an unabashed spectacle of rootless elitism.

History shows us the dangers inherent in an elite pleasure island floating in a sea of deprivation. The Iranian revolution of 1979 was a political movement against the repressive Shah, but it was also was a massive conservative-religious backlash against an elite perceived to be too rich and too westernized. Khomeini's class war soon became a cultural war. Today groups like the Sene have no mass support but the fact that militant traditionalism is now the calling card of thuggish youth shows a dangerous fusion of cultural as well as class hatred. This is a class war expressed through culture.

Which is why India's globalised westernized elite, or those who are its most visible face, are under attack in many parts of India. They are being attacked by those who have a grievance not just against modern women but against the new economy. The Sri Ram Sene, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Kannada Rakshana Vedike or other myriad 'religious' or 'cultural'groups are all targeting "secular" plays, fashion shows, the Information Techonology and Bio Technology sectors or migrant workers. Every aspect of public life that is characterized by freedom and affluence is under threat and a potential target of violence. The chasm between the two Indias-the India of the pubs and the India of the Sri ram Sene is growing wider by the day and as economic transformation produces more social unrest, the emerging elite might face many more such attacks.

Which is why the battle for freedom and the battle for progress must be a sensible and a rational one; it can't be a trivial battle where we fling coloured underwear at maniacs. We must learn from the Nehruvians of the 40s and 50s who were incredibly westernised, but deeply rooted; many of whom were rich but lived modest tasteful lives. They drank, they smoked and they romanced, yet they were discreet and embodied a tradition of Indian elitism that was rooted in both excellence as well as tradition. C. Rajagopalachari was considered a scholar in three languages-Sanskrit, Tamil and English. Rukmini Devi Arundale may have been deeply influenced by the Theosophical Movement but dedicated her life to reviving Indian dance and music by founding the Kalakshetra academy. Sarojini Naidu's favourite poet was Shelley but she took pride in the fact that she could speak Urdu, Telegu and Bengali. However westernized their minds, India's nationalist elite could not be accused of living in a cocoon of extravagant privilege or having their pleasure spots guarded by armed commandos.

Maybe India's young instead of trying to be like characters from Sex In The City, should try to emulate Sarojini Naidu and Jawaharlal Nehru. While the ghastly cultural hoodlums must be dealt with sternly by the law and handed out exemplary and speedy punishment, the lifestyle norms we choose, especially in public places, must be attuned somewhat at least to our surroundings. If we persist in trying to create a mindlessly imitative mythical Las Vegas, we will not be able to defeat the Sri Ram Sene, however many pink panties we may throw at them.

Sardar Bhagwant Singh

Monday, February 16, 2009

RIP Bare Papa

we love you

a mans perspective on marriage and relationships..

A wonderful guest blog post on Devis with Babies, by a man and how he works on his relationship.

My son was born a nearly bewildering three years ago. My amazing wife of almost seven years is due to give birth to our precious baby girl very soon. My wife's jovial father lost an excruciating two year battle with cancer at the beginning of this year. My own father underwent double bypass surgery four months before my wedding day. Life delivers perspective with all of the subtlety of a woman in labor demanding an epidural.

It's this perspective that I've learned to try to keep in mind as I wage war on myself and others in my role as a son, father and husband. I'm no wiser or less fallible than any other man or woman, nor do I try to be. I'm simply satisfied knowing that I attempt to live each day so that at its end I can say that it was, in sum, a happy one (not a perfect one). Not that they have always been or will always be happy days (I can recall many tough days and nights during the first year of marriage!). But it's the goal of happiness for me, my wife and my children, and the example set by my parents, that helps me make better decisions and take better actions than I might otherwise. I'm blessed to have a family that I adore, a job that's more fun than work and friends that I cherish. When I have those things, how much can it really matter that I do more chores around the house than I would like to do or that I have less time to play golf with the boys than I used to have? Those seem like small sacrifices, when I can remind myself to have perspective.

Unfortunately, actually remembering is certainly harder to do than just wanting to remember. But hey, I'm just a man, and we know that no one (especially women!) expects us to get it right all of the time!

So in the spirit of "Desiderata" and "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," two of my favorite guides to life, here is my far-from-complete list of reminders for maintaining the perspective needed for a successful marriage. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!

Marriage is work. If you don't, it doesn't.

Listen (with your ears AND eyes). Women talk to be heard. Men act to be heard. Neither wants to be ignored.

Bend but don't break. It's hard to repair shattered glass.

Let go of expectations. Expectations are usually based on assumptions. And you know what they say when you assume. So assume nothing.

Over-communicate. On the stuff that matters to you. Pick your battles. Know when to say you're wrong, even if you're right.

Ask, don't tell. No one likes to be told to do something. Or how to do it.

There are no wrong feelings, only those that you don't understand. Don't try to understand them or change them. Accommodate them.

Sex. There can never be too much (yes, even the oral kind).

You are important. You can't make anyone else happy unless you are yourself. Find your other passion and chase it. Your spouse and children are only part of what defines you.

Make time to live like newlyweds. Your children will thank you.

Say thank you (often). For the big and small. To each other and your kids.

Kids are built to survive. You will do more good than harm, as long as you try.

Want it all. But take your time getting it. Our parents had less but seem somehow to have gotten pleasure from more.

Perspective. Cling to it. Everyone is both worse off and better off than you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Carme Chacon

Visibly pregnant Spanish Defense Minister Carme Chacon reviews an honor guard of Spanish troops.
Thanks Nayan for the link

Monday, February 09, 2009

in exquisite thought

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cake time

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Roxy and Leanne

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baby trayson

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buttering toast

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sujata masi and noya aunty

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rachel and anabele

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bindi time

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birthday girl with Pisha

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bed for baby thankyou Noya aunty

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am presents music set from pisha and bhua

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mango souffle pre birthday party

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pankha and light bulb

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mucho caliente

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ai caramba

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plastic tablecloths

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ms perfumado

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dancing at ms favela

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roll ups

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dancing brazilan stye

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Lata Mani

Sheba Thayil, writes about Lata Mani's latest book Sacred/Secular and her interesting experiences after her accident.


Inner journeys


Author and cultural critic Lata Mani talks about how a horrific accident changed her lives in more ways than one.

I was being taught to open to every one of life’s experiences as being inherently meaningful. We all live in such a productivist environment that unless we are seen to be doing something, we do not recognise the value of our existence.

To be reading Chris Hitchens’ God is not Great and then get a copy of Lata Mani’s SacredSecular is one of those moments when you have to believe there is no such thing as coincidence. Their style is as wildly differing as their substance but when you learn that to Mani, God is the love that visited her on a hospital bed, you tend to understand better than ever what the Hitch meant when he said religion is man-made. Mani sees it from another angle. “The sacred,” she says, “came looking for me.”

Mani was a teacher in America when Something Happened, as Joseph Heller once so heartbreakingly told us. In the same Helleresque way, what happened was, in one sense, tragi-comic, in another full of the most dramatic consequences you could imagine. It led Mani on an inner journey with her A-ha moment being that All is Connected, and a physical one that brought her to Bangalore.

While SacredSecular, essays on faith, globalisation, cultures, may be hard-going for some readers, with phrases like “an urban conurbation” and “poststructuralist theory” being thrown in as readily as sentences like “Was India’s trajectory properly mapped as an in-progress evolution from religious pluralism to secularism, a progression disrupted by Right-wing forces (whether conceived of as being obscurantist or post-modern)?”, there is a reason for it.

Focused attention

“I was trained in cultural criticism, as a historian, so it is much more natural for me to write non-fiction than to write fiction. Additionally, about 15 years ago I was in an accident and had a head injury. The result was that a prolonged period of concentration is difficult. In that context, I developed the short essay as a form with which to experiment and explore whatever I wished to write about. In fact, my second book Interleaves, the story of my head injury, is told by juxtaposing short pieces and the story developed across them. I adopted the same form for this book

“It may be hard on the reader but it enabled me to take a fragment of something that is far more complicated and pay the kind of attention to that fragment that is possible in about five or seven pages. The hope is that the reader may start anywhere but, as the essays unfold, the reader is invited to come on a journey with me, and the intention is that one can open up some questions for discussion without being didactic, or preaching, to try to build the process of contemplation into the very form.”

She doesn’t think she was searching for something, or that a happy accident, so to speak, supplied a missing link into her life. “I was your typical Indian rationalist, deeply formed by Catholic school from nursery all the way to University (Jesus and Mary College in Delhi, Sophia Polytechnic in Mumbai). On the other hand, I was extremely disenchanted by institutionalised religion where a certain notion of godliness seems to be very comfortable with shooing away the beggar outside. I found that was very hard to reconcile with so I was never much drawn to religion.”

And yet, she found another kind. “In the context of the head injury, there was a spontaneous experience which sometimes happens to people with head injuries. It took me into a different dimension. The process invited me to enter another realm. I could have refused, but the love I was experiencing was so deep and profound I felt I had no choice.”

To some, this may sound like la-la-land, but to Mani “It was not MY emotion, but a feeling of love coming towards me and I sensed it enveloping me and I was startled, bemused, not fully understanding it and yet simultaneously, and here’s the mystery, deeply recognising it as something familiar. How can something you have never cognitively experienced before seem so familiar?”

The thoughts “arising in my consciousness, I use these words advisedly because I was not thinking them”, centred around an invitation to “die out of everything you’ve known yourself to be and be born anew”. She accepted. Few of us would have gone the same route, seeing a vengeful force at work in the absurd horror that gave rise to the situation she found herself in.

Right before she was hit (by a Pepsi truck driven by a disturbed individual) on her way to teach Women’s Studies and History at UC, Davis, with a colleague, she had been talking about the riots post-Babri Masjid in Mumbai. She had just finished saying “I am very angry with God” when she saw His vengeance bearing down on her in the rear view mirror. How did she really see it? “My first experience of something arising in my consciousness was the words ‘It’s not time to die yet’.”

Home-bound, she was later “prompted from within to record my experiences partly as a way of documenting a counter-narrative to the usual sense that an injury or a cataclysmic event like this is an unmitigated disaster. I was being taught to open to every one of life’s experiences as being inherently meaningful. Not to seek their meaning in terms of social approbation or what society would consider useful or productive. We all live in such a productivist environment that unless we are seen to be doing something, we do not recognise the value of our existence. In a sense, my experience was requiring me to take that social construction head-on.” Somewhat literally. “The inner voice kept saying it is important to speak of the texture of this experience, of the nature of the suffering…. open to it as an experience, just as inherently creative, useful, valuable, as the experience of being a painter, writer, mother, doctor, academic.

“I was starting to leave the world of the body which had kept me very engrossed and to move outside of it. As I started to encounter various social issues I wanted to write about it. It seemed to me my prior training was not irrelevant. People see these kinds of moments as a complete rupture, where the past falls away and a new life has begun. My notion of interconnectedness was being deepened and made more profound as a potential for understanding things. This book is the fruit of that experiment.”

Mani tried another by returning to her homeland. Her voice becomes soft as she says, “I love India. I always thought of my stay in the U.S. as an interruption. I refused to buy a vacuum cleaner because I was always ‘heading back’. As soon as I started getting better, I did. I feel nourished by India, challenged by it, I feel in deep conversation with it.”

Her newest venture is in the realm of children’s books, brought on by a promise to her four-year-old nephew. These stories are “not plot-driven,” she says. “Children are so driven by activity. My most cherished memories of my childhood are doing nothing, looking at the sky, tracing some shapes in the mud, throwing a ball up and down, lots of time for my mind to breathe and float like a kite in the Bangalore sky. Children these days are so programmed, taken from one activity to the next and I thought ‘Is there a way in which one can write stories that built in a sense of…contemplation in a very simple way that invites children to do nothing?’ And yet there is so much richness in allowing your mind to wander and see your relationship with Nature.” That is what she has tried to do with The Tamarind Tree and her latest The Spider’s Web, about a boy learning the difference between looking and seeing, through his father’s camera.

In Delhi, for the launch of SacredSecular, Mani held a workshop for feminist activists on bridging the sacred/secular divide. What does one have to do with the other?

“Feminists have dealt with religious bigotry and religious violence but issues of faith have not often been addressed. (After the Babri Masjid riots), discussion at some slums had the women saying, ‘For the first time, you are allowing us to talk about our faith.’ That gives us some sense about the disjunction between the language which feminism has been comfortable, for reasons that are historically comprehensible and specifiable, and the language that people that feminists would most like to work with, use in speaking about things that are meaningful to them, which is not to say that only the sacred is most meaningful to most women.

“It is clear to feminist activists that a certain secular critique of communalism, of religious bigotry, has run its course. We need a new imaginative language to address the issues we are confronting right now…One way could be to share the possibility of a different kind of conversation,” which is what her book tries to sustain.

“My life,” she says, “reads like the life of Job.” But only if someone reads the Bible with discernment and understands the parable as it is meant to be understood, she adds. She is grateful for having unearthed “a fecund source of inspiration for navigating the tiniest things about life, cooking, dusting, cleaning as well as broader questions on how to live, how to take one’s place in a world that is so complicated that it is not always possible to know what one’s impact could possibly be. How can one embrace the very real humility and modesty of a single life and what it can offer alongside a recognition that no act however infinitesimal is irrelevant? How does one walk artfully and with a lightness of touch (knowing this)?”

Her learning has freed her to speak of things as she sees them. “I offer them as a poet might offer a poem, or a painter who might offer a painting.” What fascinates her is “The idea that one cannot be the last word, but like the monk with his bell, in the process of writing a piece, just float something into the air and see who might be interested in receiving it.”

The success of Mani’s life may be that the child who saw thoughts as kites grew up to be a monk with a bell.

Single mothering

Babble has an article on single motherhood by actress Kimberly Elise.

What's important to you as a single parent?

I make sure my daughters know they have no limitations, that everything about who they are is an asset. Being black is an asset. Being a woman is an asset. I also want them to know they should never let anyone tell them anything about them is a liability. And I think it's important to let them explore the world and to investigate what speaks to them, not point them in any specific direction. But I also want to give them exposure so they can find things and not feel limited.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

thought for today from J krishnamurti

What is this fear?

Why are you, why is anybody, afraid? Is it based on not wanting to be hurt? Or is it that one wants complete security, and not being able to find it - this sense of complete safety, of protection, physically, emotionally, psychologically - one becomes terribly anxious about living? - so there is this sense of uncertainty. Now why is there fear? You have been hurt, haven't you? And out of that hurt you do all kinds of things. We resist a great deal, we don't want to be disturbed; out of that feeling of hurt we cling to something which we hope will protect us. Therefore we become aggressive towards anything that attacks what we are holding on to for protection. As a human being sitting here, wanting to resolve this problem of fear what is it that you are frightened of?

Saanen, 7 August 1971

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


CM's blog has a document by Ensaaf on Violent deaths and Enforced disappearances during the Counterinsurgency in Punjab 1984 to 1993.

Fragments of bone and clay

3qd again on the blend of Japanese and Sri Lankan Ceramic traditions.
by Aditya Dev Sood

From my window, I can see the illuminated window of a shop named Dankotuwa, which promises ‘world-class tableware.’ It seems a dated claim, one that we’ve stopped making in India. I’m in Colombo on work, but this seems a fateful time to be in Sri Lanka. My ride in from the airport was interrupted at three different checkpoints, and at each of them the identity cards of my driver and his companion were checked and my passport was scrutinized. I’d been fantasizing about renting a motorcycle and driving around the countryside on my free Saturday, but there is a tension in the air, and a surfeit of paramilitary presence everywhere. Earlier this week, a Letter from the Grave was published around the world, and the Sinhalese Army is said to be on its way to finally wiping out the Tamil L.T.T.E. It’s looking like Dankotuwa might be all I’ll be doing on Saturday morning.

The next afternoon, after a field visit, I ask my Sri Lankan colleague Harsha about Dankotuwa, and learn of Sri Lanka’s unique contemporary tradition of ceramics, which began with the Japanese joint-venture, Noritake, then Dankotuwa and now a new one, Midaya. Several hybrid cross-cultural Ceylonese-Japanese families now nurture this trade. I should buy a set for my own home, I am advised, for this is the finest tableware in the world, and here it will be available to me at Sri Lankan prices.

Come Saturday, I step inside and look around, and am flooded with waves of memory and dream-like associations.

our body is our home

Home is whee the body is