Why so serious?: Anuj Bhuwania

Guest post by ANUJ BHUWANIA

Cellphone videos of the celebrations at India Gate after India won the semi-final against Pakistan


So cricket is the opiate of the Indian masses, and India’s left-liberals (henceforth LLs) can’t deal with it. Or with popular cinema or religion, for that matter. All of which are things that these oh-so-serious people can’t quite seem to fathom. The only cinema you should enjoy are art house/multiplex films with the right ‘social message’, the only religion you can profess is Sufism and the only cricket you are allowed to enjoy is West Indies winning a test match, because CLR James has apparently said it’s ‘empowering’ or  ‘anti-imperialist’ or some such. These trivialities – cinema, religion, cricket – are just there to distract people from the really important issues. We should all only obsess about ‘important’ topics like nuclear energy, the 2G spectrum scam or the UID.

I have been following the reactions to the India-Pakistan match with rapidly growing irritation. I wholeheartedly supported the Indian team against Pakistan, like I always have, and would have been devastated if India lost. Does that make me, and crazy Indian cricket fans like me, psychotic, war-mongering and immature? Sure, the media buildup was cynically jingoistic. The post-semi-final madness on Delhi roads, was for example, so aggressive as to appear almost violent. And the crowd behaviour in a few cricket matches, notably the 1996 World Cup semi-final at Eden Gardens, has been absolutely shameful. But the LLs’ inability to deal with India’s obsession with cricket is symptomatic of a greater disconnect. They just cannot understand when people talk of Javed Miandad’s last-ball sixer in Sharjah as a collective traumatic wound, because, for them, it’s false consciousness. There are even those who call cricket a ‘middle class’ obsession in India. Wishful thinking, so that they can flog their India vs. Bharat cliche one more time. Did they see the roads of any major Indian city on Wednesday afternoon?

There is perhaps an analogy here with riotous Indian celebrations of the ‘traditional’ sort. Holi, for example, which is seen as a scourge by most LLs, is indeed a disastrous day when large numbers of women get attacked in many North Indian cities. But I would still say it’s the bhang and the alcohol, the drenched bodies, the crazy colours and the all-round excess that LLs just cannot deal with. Unfortunately, unlike Diwali, they can’t sneer at it as ‘conspicuous consumption’, and nowadays it’s uncool to call something barbaric or premodern, so they just deploy the misogyny stick to beat it with. Which indeed is often not inaccurate, but does that make Holi intrinsically such a terrible thing? Anybody who has had a Holi experience free of fear, in the Jawaharlal University campus for example, or at a friend’s house, knows it can be the most exhilarating festival. One can, of course, go the other route and celebrate Holi for its transgressiveness and carnivalesque nature – which are all good things because, you know, Ranajit Guha and Bakhtin have said so. (The LLs’ fetish for transgression justifies anything done in its name). But must Holi be celebrated because it’s ‘empowering’? Can’t we simply claim it because it’s such good fun? Shocking as it may seem, fun may be not such a bad thing as an end in itself!

I remember going to Chittaranjan Park with an Iyengar friend during Durga Puja a few years back. He was horrified by the crowds and the mela atmosphere and the lack of appropriate religious behaviour. He insisted that in the temples he frequents in the south, its about being in a peaceful place and a quiet communion with God. What he saw during Durga Puja was really a perversion of true religious experience.

The reformatory zeal of the Indian LL elite, to remake the social in its own (boring) image leads it to lament the general lack of ‘maturity’ ad nauseum. When will the LLs stop infantilizing the people they have to work with? ‘The solution’ for them too, perhaps, is “to dissolve the people and elect another?

47 thoughts on “Why so serious?: Anuj Bhuwania”

  1. An Aphorism for AB
    Severe (& the do have very severe demeanors, ugly) LLs do not appreciate the nuances of liberty, desire or … Our comrades dream the dreams of severity so that the liberated remain shackled to their reflections of shame, grief & so on…


    1. Iam one of those LL’s and I hate both cricket and bollywood, but i like celebrations, so i was not even watching the Indo-pak semi but when India won I went out with my Bike gang to celebrate the victory and was eventually in a Traffic jam with crowds Cheering and bursting fire crackers , but the most passionate slogans I heard were that of “Jai-sreeram” and some acrid anti-Pakistani slogans, this happens every time , Be it Ganesh Chathurthi the theme song will always be “banayeengey Mandir” instead of songs about ganesh, I love the wild Celebrations but I hate the general Hate mongering Atmosphere of such festivities


  2. Hey Anuj – A few questions to make me understand your article better: a] If I disagree with you – does that make me an ‘elite LL’? b] Why diss ‘seriousness’ in this flippant way?

    ‘Seriousness’ is a very serious matter. Our social world is in this state because not enough people take things seriously…

    But then, you have actually not left any space for disagreement. It seems that if I disagree, I’ll be a popular culture hating/ Sufi/ elite LL- someone who has no understanding of the ‘masses’ which you apparently do.

    You have obviously adopted a political position for yourself – which I assume is not Liberal Left – then what is it? These categories are so incomplete… at best they create stereotypes… not enough for a critical engagement.

    Enjoy your cricket if you must, but please dont diss other peoples discomfort with the over enthused celebrations – coz its not ‘your’ celebration that’s a problem… its the venom spewing/ 21st century nationalists that are a problem – be they elite/ masses/ and all thats in between!



    1. >> its the venom spewing/ 21st century nationalists that are a problem.

      Aren’t you yourself creating stereotypes? How is that helping any critical engagement? Shouldn’t standards at the least be uniform in application?


    2. Hi Iram,

      Thank you for taking this seriously. I am indeed an LL myself and this is my revisionist internal criticism of my tribe. Though I should have clarified that. (I guess the problem with my post is there is no ‘we’ anywhere and far too many ‘they’s. Mea culpa.) Not liking cricket, Holi or hindi films, is obviously also a matter of taste (which has its own socio-cultural dynamics of course). All I am arguing for is immanence as opposed to transcendence, when thinking of these phenomena. I too cant deal with Priyadarshan comedies or Microphones spewing jagarans, but am just saying that the approach of castigating these entire spheres of cricket, cinema or religion in that sanctimonious judgmental way of us LLs is just supremely alienating, and its like we inhabit a foreign country.



    1. ‘Unknown to you’…. Shivam, my response has hardly anything to do with cricket per se… Neither do I agree with all that Aakar Patel has to say…


        1. Ohho – This ‘you’ is very confusing.. I didnt understand your comment… thanks for clarifying..


    2. @Shivam though at first blush they appear that they could be rebuttals of each other. They seem to be both of the same cloth. i.e. Mindlessly dissing “the other”. This “other” they create and define by themselves. The way it reads I feel myself becoming the other on each occasion which shouldn’t have been possible in their binary classification.

      Oh and since Kafila had previously been a forum for “Pakistanis supporting India and Indians supporting Pakistan” I would like to point out that there is a poll on the Dawn website which is a Pakistani newspaper. The poll asks who we would like to see winning the world cup. Rather than ask India or Sri Lanks it asks Sachin or Murali. Sachin is winning by a huge margin :)


  3. Don’t you think that’s a little unfair.
    I like that this rant is just as pompous as what it attempts to criticise. And am beginning to think rants take centrespace on Kafila these days! I miss the quality stuff.
    With all due respect, I know plenty of LLs who love Cricket and enjoyed the match on Tuesday. In fact, I don’t know any LLs who did not enjoy at least the last few overs, not to mention Bajji invoking every Baba (except Rajnikanth Baba!) that stalked the earth.
    But being conscious that the hype around the India-Pak match is distinctly different from that around the India-Australia match, and that the celebrations are not devoid of communal undertones (that you yourself agree exist) is no crime. Similarly , avoiding the Rama-Ravana good over evil rhetoric would be nice too, Wouldn’t it?
    I for one, a hopeless LL that I am, was very irritated by the fact that people who never watched a single World Cup game were jumping up and down for the Pak match, and are now not interested at all in the Lanka game. Why? Because its Pakistan?
    In my college, I have known Muslim boys for whom it was pretty difficult to watch cricket in the common room without having some bigots accuse them of supporting others, and making them feel awful — my college existed in a fairly secular space.
    And as for Holi— oh that lovely festival that I have never enjoyed not because I am LL but because in my part of the World its a non-festival — why must you whine that someone does not want to get drunk and spend the afternoon washing off the colour? Is that not a personal choice?
    The way the article is written it would appear that if I chose to not play Holi/not watch an AkshayKumar film/not celebrate for team India, I am a useless LL.
    Wah rey non-LL! Tum Mahan Ho!
    PS This is such a waste of time. as for choice of films, yes I would prefer my films to have a social message that makes me think. Why is that a problem?


    1. Deepa, Thank you for taking the time to respond. It is indeed a rant and perhaps overstates much. Like I have said in reply to Iram above, I am an LL myself, just trying here to criticise my own tribe and am aware that there are indeed plenty of cricket-loving LLs around. And of course, not liking Akshay kumar films or Holi is a matter of taste. But I am not talking here about taste as much as an intolerance prevalent among many of us LLs towards these phenomena of cricket, hindi cinema or durga puja/holi, or the guilt/shame associated with their enjoyment. I too am a critical consumer of all of these, and have my own predilections regarding generic variants in all of them. What I am talking about is the all-too-common LL approach of rejecting or approving whole cultural forms based on whether they contribute to revolution or not. Your preference for message-oriented films is not at all an issue. My concern is that all films are evaluated and castigated on this basis, and that films that do not share this approach are rejected wholesale.



  4. The tone of Anuj’s post ends up obscuring the valuable points he/she raises. The shrill pitch ends up being as tiresome as the behavior AB critiques. Mine-eyes-have-seen-the-folly-of-the-left foam takes over the actual discussion AB could have had.

    The Nation magazine years ago did a great cover story few years back on Sports and the Left (in US context) but it was positioned as an open discussion among allies, interested in opening the left’s vistas and making it less humorless. This op-ed could have been that, but instead veers away into triumphalist “gotcha”.

    But I’m sure the catchy “LL” term will lead to a Penguin India book contract before my post even goes live, so it appears we are your monkeys after all.


  5. Anuj-bab, warm greetings from Camurlim, Goa!

    I am sitting, lap top in front of me, staring at a river that’s looking like a sheet of glass only man, some feni packed with ice close by…one small squeeze of lime also I put…

    So I read your mail very carefully man, twice nearly. Solid nice you are writing! I like very much your LL theory and of that only I have been thinking.

    I myself am RLL (RetiredLeft-Liberal) who, maybe because of the feni and the ice, or just the ice, am getting solid twinges of conscience man.

    Like, how I can be sitting here in Goa drinking feni when I’m also reading how they put poor Binayak in jail for opening his bloody mouth and telling everyone what the banias are really doing in Chattisgarh?

    How to sit here in Camurlim man, only bloody wondering how these big white birds are keeping exact time day in and day out – when they’re flying above the river in the morning going to the sea, or when the sun sets and they’re coming back – when I should be bloody walking to Panjim instead and sitting in front of the chief minister’s house and bloody refusing to eat because he and his ministers are taking away the forests in Goa to send mud to China?

    Anuj-bab, tell me the truth, will you and your friends still come to Goa to holiday on our beautiful beaches when all the bloody trees and water and rice-fields are not there? You tell me how I should sit here in Camurlim twiddling my bloody thumbs and not open my bloody mouth about this UID business, when I know for sure, ten years after its put there some bugger in Delhi will know exactly what Anuj-bab is saying, to whom he is saying this, and exactly when and where he bloody said it?

    Then maybe you will know the real meaning of “To dissolve the people and elect another”…

    Anuj-bab, don’t mind me saying this, but there are two types of RLLs. One is like me, old bugger who can only sit here and drink feni, and one is like you, young fellow, but Reluctant Left-Liberal. Actually, retired buggers like me are better, because we jumped into the water; buggers like you are still putting your toe in to see whether the water is hot or not!
    Anyway, leave all that aside. Here in Camurlim, we are crazy about football and don’t even think about bloody cricket. If anyone wanted to watch the match in secret, there was a power cut in the village that day. It is not new: most of the electricity in Goa goes to industrial estates, resorts and hotels and gated colonies by the sea. Now bastards want to put up a nuclear plant in Jaitapur which is even more beautiful than Goa!

    Also, Anuj-bab, I must tell you that in Camurlim thngs are very different. In Forsu’s Taverna for instance, they hate cricket so much, hate all those bloody cricketers making bloody crores of rupees selling soap, phones, condoms, any shit, when most of our fucking footballers have to starve, they’ll back any bloody team playing these cricketers, whether it’s bloody Pakistan or Puerto Rico.

    No flag and all that stuff here, just bloody football…

    In Pedro’s Bar, they’ll shout like mad when India plays football. Maybe they’ll change their mind if India played Brazil or maybe Barcelona. But here also it is not so simple. One Santosh Trophy match when Goa was playing against Punjab, the whole bloody bar was packed, some guys sitting on top of the cupboards also, and Goa was leading 2-0. Then Punjab fought back and equalized and started making bloody circles around the Goan players, and then what do you think happened? The whole bloody bar started cheering for Punjab so hard bastards went and won the match!

    Then see what the village has to say about hockey. Lots of old buggers here played hockey in Bombay and East Africa, some older, even played for St. Pat’s team, Karachi. So here you may get shocked, because everyone, in both bars, will cheer for Pakistan and if you ask them why, they’ll say Pakistan is the only team that plays Indian hockey!

    Maybe you are too young to know of the dictator called Franco. He invented the Spanish professional league. Smart bugger if you ask me. To make sure no one bothered about the problems of dictatorship, he made sure there were five football matches per week. People watched, people didn’t complain. Problem solved.

    Now you see how these buggers are using cricket to fool us, or still you want to be RLL?


  6. Anuj, most of what’s in your post is OK with me. I’m not gung-ho about the WC, or the semi, or the final, but I have no problem with those who are (exception: those who were rushing around my neighbourhood shouting “Pakistan ki ma ki chut” two hours after we won the semi). So no argument.

    … Except for this: “people talk of Javed Miandad’s last-ball sixer in Sharjah as a collective traumatic wound.”

    The only thing I ask is, please don’t make out that it’s my wound too (i.e. by using the word “collective”). I never did feel traumatised by that sixer and don’t particularly intend to feel traumatised henceforth. I can understand rooting for India loudly. I cannot understand a claim that the national psyche was scarred (sorry, traumatised) by one shot.


    1. That so-called ‘collective traumatic wound’ was probably because the Indian cricket team agreed, under instructions from Mr. D, to be ass-raped by the Pakistani team. Everyone knows what used to happen at those shady Sharjah matches, but our cricket-crazies instead of accepting truth prefer injecting their psyche with imaginary traumas, yet we, who see the reality of the game, are the ones who are too ‘0h-so-serious’.. LOL


    2. Dilip, nowhere am I trying to indicate that this collective wound is shared by all, I am just saying its shared by many and it obviously does not include all cricket-watching Indians. And it might be difficult to understand such an irrational, indeed outlandish, claim that so many people could be traumatised by one shot, but thats partly the point I am trying to make here.


  7. Your article is disturbing for what it does.

    For instance, you acknowledge that the media build-up has been cynically jingoistic but dismiss it as if that is of no concern, as if we as a people have not been affected by this media-jingoism and is not a possible reason that we witnessed such raucous celebrations (and even violent in that sacred space that you seem to indicate that JNU is).

    You acknowledge that Holi becomes a legitimate reason to attack women but you dismiss it as the LL’s unfair obsession because otherwise Holi is fun in JNU and in your friends’ houses. I dont think Holi is fun because it makes me scared to go outside and I dont like being afraid. Am I to be held guilty for being un-fun now?

    My point is not to say that cricket and holi are not to be enjoyed – I love it for how it brings people together – but lets not dismiss the obvious political connotations and the violent atmosphere in which these events take place. I object to what seems like a dismissive, uncritical embrace of ‘fun’ and ‘celebrations’.


    1. Swati,
      Thank you for your response and for giving me a chance to explain. I obviously agree that there are plenty of perversities in the way cricket/hindi cinema/holi/durga puja play out in much of India. So if an India-Pakistan match leads to a Muslim feeling insecure in a public screening, or Holi leads to you feel afraid, its obviously an unacceptable situation. If I seemed uncritical and/or dismissive of these concerns, thats perhaps because of my polemical tone here. But I am cognizant of them and just trying to argue that these phenomena should not be rejected wholesale because of these issues. Rather I am trying to articulate a (perhaps hopeless) desire to reclaim them so they can be actually joyously celebrated by whoever’s interested.



    2. the marginalisation of many local sports like volley ball, the national corporate-media nexus and its ivestment in building up cricket fever in 80’s to many areas where it was unheard of etc are not addressed in this account.Any easy postmodern way, when denial of conspiracy theory has become the most fashionable noenesense for admission to the intellectual club. All south indian identity pangs and nonbrahmanic dscourse which suspects Holi is Culpa! Any popular fest in a semifeudal cultural context which entreches/reproduces it , be swallowed uncritically in th eternal repentance of the newleft , where one cannot distinguish betwen anything at all.Wish for (nostalgically) Siriyavan anand’s take on cricket as brahminical(empirically)


  8. Anuj, for your information, there are millions – if not crores – of Indians who are not leftists or very liberal who hate what has become of cricket post the IPL phenomena. And many of them hate commercial cinema, not because they love arty-farty stuff with social messages but because they have been exposed to superior style of commercial film-making of western countries.

    I’m not a leftist (though slightly liberal) and I used to love cricket in my teen years, but after becoming exposed to the darker side of the game – match-fixing & over-the-top commercialization – I cannot stay in denial and pretend that everything is okay.

    What has seriousness got to do with disapproval of mass hysteria? I don’t consider myself a serious person and love goofy, spoofy comedy movies which the general cricket-loving public rejects as pointless and mindless. I love crazy people who don’t follow social norms. I love lunatics and insane people who don’t care about what others think and live their lives the way they want to. I love such people because they are individuals who follow their own instincts unlike the cricket-crazy herds who can be manipulated into a frenzy by our jingoistic media.

    Your over-generalizations in this article are symptomatic of the unthinking cricket-loving masses who don’t have the ability to understand that thinking people arrive at their likes or dislikes by utilizing their own brains and not because they are anti-India, or elitists or left-liberal or any such labels that are hurled at us by them because of their inability to understand how people with brains use their brains.


  9. Dear Anju,

    Please see one news item from BBC hindi: http://www.bbc.co.uk/hindi/india/2011/03/110331_mohali_matam_ml.shtml

    and also this post on facebook someone from JNU, considered by many, a sanctuary of what you describe as LLs…

    “Dear Students of JNU, At 5 pm today, during the last overs of India batting in the India-Pakistan Semi-Finals, I was shocked at something that happened in Sabarmati Hostel. I was watching the match in the Common TV Room, where a few Pakistani students (and other students) were also watching the match, cheering for the Pakistan Team. Suddenly, our Hostel President Abdul Moghni snatched away the remote control of the TV and switched it off, saying, “ye sab yahan nahi chalega (all this is not permitted here)” and confiscated the remote for the duration of the match (at least until right now). I asked him what is his problem and he replied that ‘they’ are cheering for Pakistan. And when asked what is his problem in we are cheering for the team we like to cheer for, he replied again that “Ye sab yahan nahi chalega”. When we protested, he aggressively denied us the right to watch the match in the common TV room and asked us all to watch it on the live screening in the hostel mess which is organized exclusively for the cheerers/supporters of the Indian cricket team (See the posters in subarmati hostel, put up by the organizers of the live mess screening). Who is he to confiscate the remote till the end of the game, and violate the rights of the other students to watch the programme in the common TV room? Who is he to decide which teams we all should cheer for? I implore the JNU community to condemn such behavior and mis-use of position and power. — ”

    And one JNU professor was “literally heckled” at a meeting convened to condemn the above stupidity..

    And finally, I think this piece will show you that sincere and serious people do enjoy cricket, the game, minus nationalistic and communal jingoism…


    But I guess I do agree with you that left liberal politics (which is more than just academia) has difficulty in engaging masses in ‘their serious’ agenda (why I am saying their, those should be the agenda of all of us). But thats an issue which should be discussed separately.

    Not a cricket lover, but follow the cricket news and sometimes watch too…


  10. Anuj,

    You can write this article for any proto-violent, extravagant, uninhibited, drunk mass-celebration of something and then accuse anyone uninterested in participating for being disconnected and uptight.

    The previous commenters have already pointed out how the article seems allergic to disagreement (“you have actually not left any space for disagreement” – Iram, “The way the article is written it would appear that if I chose to not play…” – Deepa)


    I agree with your honest description of the pre-Match and post-Match activity. Pretty grim. The media was “jingoistic”. And “cynically” at that. The post-Match celebrations were “madness on Delhi roads” and “so aggressive as to appear almost violent.
    Now all those who can’t connect with this “madness”, and aggression bordering on violence, suffer from “a greater disconnect”?

    Well, Mubarak ho bhai. For being connected!


    Regarding Holi, you point to people’s concerns about “large numbers of women getting attacked in many North Indian cities“. Now unable to respond to this concern as you know it is legitimate, you accuse them of not exactly loving liquor and drenched clothing. So if anyone doesn’t feel like partaking in a celebration for whatever reason, they are fun-hating nerds.

    [You should check if all LL men are opposed to Holi. It’s not everyday that you get to run your hands over your hot neighbour/classmate’s face, neck and body after getting drunk (in however short bursts) *AND* watch her drenched frame dance to Rang Barse. Shocking good fun and yes, in your words, “most exhilarating“]


    They just cannot understand when people talk of Javed Miandad’s last-ball sixer in Sharjah as a collective traumatic wound

    Yes. They cannot. And neither can most Indians.

    This match happened in 1986. More than half of this country was a year old and more than 65% was aged 10 and below. Not many people in this country even remember that match, without you reminding them over and over again about your traumatic wound. So yeah, most Indians cannot empathize with those suffering from that “collective traumatic wound” because they were too young to be traumatized by it. And in a few more years, that collective traumatic wound will exist only on this Kafila page.

    I watched that collective traumatic wound on YouTube a while ago. Here’s one chap who still hasn’t recovered. Thought you might enjoy some connected company. He posted this 3 days ago – “M**dach**d g*nd** bhain ka L**ra chetan sharma … saaly r*nd** key bachay u give full toss to javed …”
    You can catch the rest here [ http://bit.ly/eV2sqc ]


    Moving on, your claim that some people call cricket a middle class game “so that they can flog their India vs. Bharat cliche one more time. Did they see the roads of any major Indian city on Wednesday afternoon?

    You should’ve posted a video of what you saw on the roads of all major Indian cities on that Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t see the roads on Wednesday afternoon but thank you for showing me at least one road at night at the beginning of this post.

    Bharath and India together at India Gate like never before. Autos, rickshaws, cycles, bikes, scooters, cars, bullock-carts, tractors, wheelchairs, Nanos all out together at India Gate!

    A sight that would’ve made our Preamble shed tears of unmitigated joy!


    And finally, this cheap shot that some people insist that “we should all only obsess about ‘important’ topics like nuclear energy, the 2G spectrum scam or the UID.

    Very nice selection of topics. Neutered so that they provoke no reaction. Here are some topics I gleaned from the last 15 posts on Kafila, a site you could call ‘LL’. Kafila seems to obsess about topics like
    1. Police firing on Minorities
    2. CRPF/Police slaughtering young protesters in Kashmir
    3. Hundreds rendered homeless in Demolition Delhi (Oh how they celebrated at India Gate!)
    4. Possible Nuclear Disaster,
    5. Earthquake in Japan and,
    6. Women taking their own initiative in upcoming Kerala elections.

    Had you included these random ‘LL’ topics in your post, your article would’ve begun to stink. Imagine,
    “LLs think we should all obsess about CRPF/Police slaughtering protesters in Kashmir, Hundreds rendered homeless in Delhi, Minorities being fired at in Hyderabad and possible Nuclear disasters.

    But Nevermind! WE! GOT! CRICKET!”


    Finally, I fail to fathom why you’re not content celebrating on your own. You seem to be have everyone in “every major Indian city on Wednesday afternoon”, everyone at India Gate on Wednesday night and everyone whose houses were demolished in Delhi, on your side. And you’re still not happy?

    You want even that uninterested LL minority, to think and act like you?

    Why so greedious?


  11. Dear Anuj,
    What a revisionist LL take! You may as well also have included in your list, the masses of people who actually demolished the Babri Masjid and the millions who celebrated it!
    It is the easiest thing in the world to demolish Left-liberals these days – a common punching bag – and there are literally millions who will cheer you for it. Bravo!
    I happen to be an unrepentant one (and would not mind even dropping the ‘liberal’ part). Yes, an unrepentant Leftist though of none of the recognizable brands, but what does that matter? Your diatribe envelopes all, as Iram rightly says.
    Many things have been pointed out above by Rajeev, Fernandes, Nesar Ahmed, Iram, Deepa, Swathi and politishq; and I do not want to repeat what they have already said. Some day, hopefully not in the very distant future, we will have to return to this moment of post-political celebration of the ‘popular’; we will have to revisit it in order to uncover its own pathologies. Personally, I have myself been very critical of the old modernist obsession with ‘art cinema’, or high modern art in general, with canons, with the elitism of the avant-garde – and have done all this in print, so I hope you will not lump me with those elitist of the dominant strands of the modernist Left. But what has stayed with me after abandoning that high modernist posture, is a big question: Is the alternative, then to celebrate whatever the masses do? The masses are also thouroughly imbricated in all the ways in which they ‘live tradition’ in the violence of khap panchayats, daily violence against dalits on the one hand and being ‘hurt’ at the drop of a hat (as in the cases of a Salman Rushdie or a Tasleema Nasreen)? So, is there a space here for critical engagement? Is there a space here for any idea of transformation or, are you basically saying that all we can and must do is enjoy the fun of life and those who suffer (who are no less the masses) be damned.


  12. Dear AB:

    Let me at the outset confess to being everything that you have condemned, and more. But what really struck a particularly painful cord (or is it ‘chord’?) was “…microphones spewing jagarans…”. As one who spent my childhood in Delhi, I still recall with horror, half a century later, that ear-splitting and brain-shattering experience. It used to be called a “Vishaal Bhagwati Jagran” then (pardon me for dropping one ‘a’ each in the last two words within quotation marks, but that’s how it used to be spelt and pronounced. Maybe things have improved somewhat now).

    I used to condemn it then and continue to condemn it now, when it is no longer an act of cultural terrorism confined to Delhi and/or North India (I hope your Iyengar friend is reading this). In that sense, India is much more homogenised and monotonised now.

    Coming to cricket, though not much of a sportsman, I hope I am enough of a sport to see, and even enjoy, its merits as a game. But why does an India-Pakistan match have to be seen as a proxy war between the two countries? Why can’t we just enjoy it as a game?



  13. Anuj,
    I think you’ve been sufficiently called out on several points by everyone and pretty well, so I wont add to it as I have no new colourful way of saying those things. As you wish to debate and respond, why haven’t you responded to the connections and a whole other not particularly cricket caring world that Fernandes here has pointed out? Those connections between money and endorsements and the cricketers as the darlings of the nationalists, it’s all problematic at many levels and having brought the cricket mania up as you have, you ought to address it.


  14. Anuj,

    Nice rant. I haven’t read the whole string of comments, but i treat your final question with applause (I don’t think it’s flippant at all) – when will the LLs start taking their subjects/objects seriously????

    I believe ‘transgression’ has acquired weird, weird claim to cultural and political capital in the making of the Indian postcolonial gentry. I met a Google-employed jetsetting Bombay expat on the west coast of the US who made it a point to intersperse dinner-conversation with high-falutin words (including feminism and diaspora politics)- probably to push the point home that she wasn’t exactly the faceless IT-coolie, that I a more easily identifiable LL might mistake her to be. A turn in the story of capital, therefore, occurs when its criticism is appropriated and dressed up to feed back into the logic of capital. In all our criticisms of ‘immature’ citizenries, we only anxiously wish to make one point – the flattenings of capital must not erase our stark historical separation from them. Our espousals of ‘politics’ of the correct (very often, in the language of socialism) genre is pretty much this – I still remain the articulator of the political (read artistic, poetic, sexual and so on) prerogative, and you cast in the shadows of inadequate modernity (caste, religion, woman, tribe, laborer, etc.) still remain castrated in received wisdom. A maniacal modernity of the sort that the LL is built on sadly haunts our postcolonial being. So much so that we touch ‘irony’ almost like a candle-flame – nervously, and with assumed bravado. A once said B about her Mithun Chakravarty posters – I don’t actually like him, it’s just that he is so ridiculous I like to watch him. Speech better than silence – more better than less – big better than small – it is the most brutal tragedy of our postcoloniality that we cannot erase and can only rant about I think. That even the likes of its critics such as you, are constantly tormented by the visual, experiential and textual attacks from peers/neighbors/aunts/lovers, in the construction of the distinct, individual voice. The individual has come to us in this endless one-up-manship, and that is the tragedy. I would actually paint the ‘LL’ into a curiosity of history, rather than as a live political monster.

    But, to add to your rant, I would say we should probably target LL-ness as a social phenomenon in the post-1991 era, rather than good old jhola-carrying LLs. That LLs usually come from somewhat economically elite backgrounds of lost agrarian land, partition memory-laden luxurious poetry, smatterings of theory and urdu, family-owned houses in Jorbagh etc., is of course, an old story. But, LL-ness has a different story I believe.

    I am beginning to think these days that the LL is least about political outrage at dams and wars. It’s about a century-long history in finding modernity in speaking – almost only in speaking – that explains our nervous capitalisms, our anxious resurrections of ‘old money’ modernity, our eager auto-orientalisations – that started with the young Bengali turning poetic and angry nationalist in the early 1900s, with the young Bengali turning socialist in the 1940s, to the young metropolitan hipster finding self-confidence in backpacking and the saree. I am actually worried that soon enough no bright twenty-something will want to be a real doctor or a real lawyer or a real bureaucrat. It is the biggest loss of postcolony, I feel, not being told the biggest secret of European modernity – to see modernity not as battle, but as reflection – to see the boundaries of victory and defeat as blurred – to see it as yet another chapter in long long history of big ideas. I have no shame in aping European modernity (with its brutality and compassion, its affinities and its aversions) – but I do increasingly feel ashamed at being conditioned to practise this bastardised form that teaches endless one-up-manship. Much like comment-wars of the ‘us-them’ variety that we engage in, on cyberspace.


  15. Bitching about liberal leftists and liberal left-ism on kafila.org is like bitching about right-leaning nationalists on bharat-rakshak.org
    The same core certainties, matching sheds full of holy cows, the same ivory bastions peopled with PeopleLikeUs — rich NRIs & Silicon Valley and academics in Indian universitie — the same incredulous, impotent revulsion at the lived existence and actions of hundreds of millions of people — whether it is consistently keeping the right out of power in the Centre or raising a cricket victory against Pakistan into a martial triumph.
    The same obsession about who is a true patriot or true communist/progressive/liberal/leftist.

    But hilariously, it must be said, more liberal posting / commenting privileges on Bharat-rakshak.

    And, oh yes, about as relevant as each other.

    Anuj will be berated and will continue to chant peccavi, peccavi. Perhaps in a year or two you will grant him redemption. The larger critique will, however, go wilfully ignored in outraged trumpeting, in the lust to take down a proposition reluctantly defended, in eager dissection through line-by-line rebuttals.


    1. So there are two sites that have a particular world view and defend that world view the best they can, because they believe in it.

      Hence, both have their politics and constituencies.

      Profound observation indeed.


  16. Ugh. what a pathetic little argument this is. Why is this article even on kafila – last i heard TOI was still in in print. Its so telling that the author would choose to be irritated with the few (too few) critical voices of caution and sanity than be profoundly disturbed by the mayhem that was unleashed. Lets please stop pretending that this country has some innocent passion for a sport. As one article put it,”It is thought that India loves cricket. This is incorrect. India loves India. Cricket gives us the opportunity to express this affection. The local cricket match in India is unattended. Even World Cup matches featuring two other sides will be played without spectators, no matter what the calibre of the players.”
    So dont pretend that cricket is ‘just a game’ and people with an ounce of skepticism are nasty partypoopers. Lets not pretend that wanting india to win against pakistan is just because of a benign cricketing rivalry. What masses are you speaking for? definitely not the 138 million mulsims who are under pressure everytime to demonstrate their ‘indianness’. I live in a DU hostel where students of the North East are always looked at with suspicion during these matches. Devastated if india lost? only if you identify personally with the indian cricket team as a symbol of the nation. Next you will say that the fact that I dont get goosebumbs when I see the tricolour is an insult to the masses. ridiculous.


    1. no one here is pretending cricket is just a game. it is not. and i dare say it is about patriotism. may be patriotism of the lowest and the cheapest order, even the easiest sort. but it still is patriotism. But yes as far as LL’s are concerned patriotsm is a cheap construct. y r u so scared of it. it was once an emotion which made a lot of so called lazy, selfish middleclass do a lot of selfless acts. now this argument about 138 million muslims being targetted by ‘patriotism’!! Dude, are u a little blind! just open ur eyes an look at the Indian team. The members of ur ‘138 million muslims’ r ryt there. y shud there ever b a discord between muslims and patriotism. and those muslims u r specifically refering to, who are pressurised by ‘patriotism’, dont include all muslims in that catogory. there are muslims who have given up their lives for this country and for them patriotism has not been as cheap a construct as you would think.


      1. Naila, about many of those Muslims who gave up their lives for this country…maybe you’ll consider that their children and grandchildren feel insecure in the India of today? In Jungpura (east) in Delhi where I watched the India-Pakistan semi-finals, a victory procession including children as young as five were screaming “Gali gali mein naara hai Hindustan hamaara hai; gali gali mein shor hai, Pakistan chor hai.”
        There are consequences to endorsing patriotism of a ‘cheaper’ variety, as you put it. Hopefully you’ll never have to feel them, but let’s not pretend nobody does/will.


  17. Now I am no LL or RLL or the other RLL or anything.

    But i honestly believe, not only in India but everywhere and relating to almost all matters, there is a very thin line between nationalism and romanticism. And that line is always broken.

    Whether it be pakistan, sri lanka or any other nation. Confirmed by the fact that this post got the maximum likes i’ve ever seen on my home page – ” pehle goro ki mari, phir haraamkhoron ki aur phir sita ke choro ki” i need not say more.

    Though I was truly shaken by the comments I heard while watching the India Pakistan match but hey, we won and thats that and lets be happy about it.

    I don’t love cricket and I hardly watch it but I watched the quarters, semis and finals expecting them to be good matches and they were some what.
    Though we claim to be die hard cricket fans we are just die hard India fans. Cricket has taken an upper hand in the sports domain but I am sure we all will celebrate the same way if we win the Soccer cup someday even though we don’t watch it at all.

    And seriously, someone talk to people like Poonam Pandey! get some sense!



  18. I loved your post. Period. Also, a disclaimer: I am an LL, more of an L(eftist) though, just to assure you that this is not coming from the other side of the table/spectrum. While I detest the binary projection of the world cup –slap and clap, slap for the Pakistanis or Sri Lankans, jingoism, media frenzy and the like (fell off my chair reading the update of a rabid nationalist on my facebook friendlist who put it succinctly –‘Indian team just killed 11 terrorists. Coming Saturday they are looking for Tamil Tigers…..Mission Begins’) and a clap for the Blue eyed boys of the country, I can’t help noticing the imposition of ‘otherness’ on sports/cricket enthusiasts by the LL themselves in another binary world. If you are a critique of India’s occupation of Kashmir, or operation greenhunt or land grab, or in solidarity with subaltern movements, you must, absolutely MUST love film noirs, La Nouvelle Vague, bertolucci, Ginsberg and Howl, Lorca and of course despise petty Bollywood and cricket! And here is another disclaimer–I am not so much of a cricket enthusiast. But loving certain sports, I can fully empathize with the madness associated with games. Also, I can appreciate the rant.

    There is a maxim in Bengali–Je rnadhe se chul o bnadhe, roughly translated which reads–one who cooks, also ties her (or his, to be gender neutral) hair. You get my point?

    On another slightly unrelated note, there is also the problem of collectivization. The war crime trials attempted to individualize guilt from the collectivity to individuals responsible. Karl Jaspers said re the Nuremberg trials: ‘For us Germans this trial has the advantage that it distinguishes between the particular crimes of the leaders and that it does not condemn the Germans collectively’. Many of us (and I say that in a revisionist sense as well) prefer being sick/hysterical at the sound of the terms cricket and bollywood, w/o remembering that it is perhaps fairer to condemn the individual flaws associated with them than to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    P.S. A lot of my LL friends love cricket/bollywood as well.


  19. Anuj Bhuwania must be a thoroughly unique human being who enjoys cricket, Holi and Durga Puja, not as joyfully as others do, because he is constantly pursued by Left-Liberal demons in the midst of those celebrations. I hope by this write-up he has managed to purge himself of his ghosts and can now enjoy future occasions better. I also hope he manages in the future to distinguish between critiquing and caricaturing, because even though he can very well accuse the poor Left liberals for their various shortcomings, he can’t, unfortunately, accuse them for his own shallowness and lack of sense.


  20. I aboslutely LOVED the reply from Simple Simon Fernandes. A lovely piece of writing, particularly the part about the RLL, “dipping the toe in the water to check whether its warm”. Lovely .These days on Kafila (I’ve really been reading some sub-standards posts here off-late and losing will to return to the site, very fast), but Simple Simon, hats off. Well written , well-put and point powerfully made.

    Thanks for Replying. Yes, rejecting cultural forms on the basis of its ‘revolution-quotient’ is not the Best way to go about it, but think about it (and after seeing how rational you are, am sure you have thought about it0: COnsider the ‘cultural’ baggage these festivals carry, the system of religiosity (and by extension caste and ritualistic behaviour) these “cultural” symbols endorse. Be it Holi — where the ‘bura na mano Holi hain’ is indeed a license to grope women, and make them feel petrified. (The safe JNU campus — if that’s even true– is an aberration), or Divali (where the issues are more obvious)
    Given the way the Right works to preserve these structures in the name of culture (and pure fun– as you say), I think there is no harm if a few LLs take it upon themselves to make a statement of not participating in these rituals. In fact, LLs must take it upon themselves to criticise these structures, or they do not serve their purpose.
    An LL who behaves like a ‘regular dude’ who cannot wash off/shed his/her cultural baggage is no good, is he? He doesn’t qualify then for either of the L’s. He is a plain M == a Moron.

    Your preference for message-oriented films is not at all an issue. My concern is that all films are evaluated and castigated on this basis, and that films that do not share this approach are rejected wholesale.


  21. I don’t know how much my comment fits in the ongoing discussion, but I don’t see a better place to express this. I’m not much of a cricket fan, though I did watch much of the final. There was something that particularly disturbed me the very day that Rajapaksa made his arrival to Mumbai in order to revel alongside millions in the anticipation and excitement which is being discussed here.
    Last year, I’d read this book by Agamben titled ‘Remnants of Auschwitz’. It’s one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read. One of the chapters speaks about an incident to which I cannot but draw a parallel. In the chapter, Agamben writes about a special unit in the Nazi camps called the Sonderkommandos whose job it was to check and kill any survivor in the gas chamber, otherwise pluck out any silver/gold teeth, rings, nails or hair of those who were exterminated in there. To think about the millions killed is traumatic enough, but that the Nazi ideology could produce such kind of ‘work’ which people carried out and survived (to survive sifting thousands of dead bodies!) is a crime that we can’t even comprehend. Further still, during interruptions in their ‘work’, these Sonderkommandos would occasionally have soccer matches with the SS troops. Anyone would picture such moments as a return to normalcy. Agamben writes that “This match might strike someone as a brief pause of humanity in the middle of infinite horror”, but he adds “To my eyes, like those of the witnesses, this game, this moment of normalcy, is the true horror of the camp… For we can perhaps think that the massacres are over, even if here and there they are repeated, not so far away from us. But that match is never over; it continues as if uninterrupted”.
    The Nazi genocide is more than 60 years behind us, the partition is over 60 years behind us, and yet the way they haunts us is unnerving because we know its not quite over yet. But only last year, Rajapaksa was single-handedly responsible for the massacre of at least 40,000 innocent lives. The world (including powerful political leaders) knew about it as it happened. For me, it’s difficult to picture 40,000 people. But I think we saw just about those many in the Wankhede stadium? And I thought that more than those many were exterminated using chemical bombs and air-raids just last year, by the same man who sat right next to Patil. As far as I know, Rajapaksa can’t even go to some countries because there’s a crime on his head and he’d be arrested. Having recently visited Jaffna, I can say with complete certainty how oppressive the military presence there continues to be, and the racial anxiety of the Sinhalese in the rest of Sri-Lanka which prefers to have Rajapaksa in power.
    I wonder what the Nazi genocide, the Partition, and the massacre last year even mean to us if this is the way such events as the world cup are celebrated. I didn’t know who to say this to because it would only sound like “here’s another one of those guys who wants to take everyone on a guilt trip”, another party-pooper. But I think there was definitely something very serious happening during the world cup matches, and that we must think about it equally seriously, even when Anuj urges us to claim cricket’s importance simply for the fun everyone had.


  22. would be interesting to know how a kashmiri or the people of north east would be looking at the ‘innocent’ victory cleberation of India’…or ,say, the tribals of Dhoni’s own state with no access to cricket… oh! the innocent sport lovers, for whom Mianadad’s sixor is a national bruise.
    why can’t this innocent just clebrate the victory of a srilanka or Ireland, in true sporting spirit


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