Alchemies of Art and Resistance in Kashmir

Bertolt Brecht, was to write

“In the dark times

Will there also be singing?

Yes, there will also be singing.

About the dark times.”

Violence, persistent and unending, creates an alternative reality, a festering, perverted, horrible, surreal reality. Violence, unending and unrelenting erases all memories of times past, Memories of times when another reality existed, It is this alternative reality that begins to redefine imagery, ideas, sensibilities and begins to creates a new grotesque discourse, a discourse in which the ugly face of fear and death becomes the normative. I’ll give you one example of how this works. Continue reading “Alchemies of Art and Resistance in Kashmir”

The Gurgaon Deluge Is Only A Taste Of Things To Come

This article was first published in The Huffington Post.

What happened in Gurgaon two days ago is only a foretaste of what is going to befall Delhi. The same fate awaits all other regions surrounding Delhi in the broader National Capital Region, if we refuse to draw appropriate lessons from the deluge that short-circuited the virtual dreams of those who had bought the chimera of the Millennium City.

 A short recap of what led to the deluge will help place the entire issue in perspective. The low-lying plains of the area receive precipitation run-off from the Aravalis and the Chhattarpur area of Delhi. All this run-off used to flow through the Badshahpur Nala.
Map: Shehla Hashmi Grewal Drainage pattern of Delhi
Map: Shehla Hashmi Grewal
Drainage pattern of Delhi

Evening out the Odds, Learning from the BRT Fiasco

The Chief Minister of Delhi has come out with a very practical idea, an Idea, whose time has come as the American would say. Anyone who says that Delhi’s air is a killer is only putting it mildly. The number of those dying of respiratory ailments on a daily basis stands today at 23, this translates to 161 per week, 644 per month and 7728 per year. The figures were half this 4 years ago.

Even if pollution levels do not worsen in future the cumulative effects of exposure to these high levels of pollution will keep pushing up the death rate and increasingly it will be the kids born today who will grow into wheezing asthmatics, inhaling this deadly cocktail of pollutants increasingly becoming unfit, as they grow, for doing anything that calls for even mild exertions. The resultant costs on medical expenses incurred by their families, in the face of the rapid withdrawal of government spend on public health will assume the shape of a horror movie gone real and it can only get worse unless something is done and done fast. Read the full article, published in Catch News, here

The Sheepification of Bakistan: Mina Malik-Hussain

We are reproducing this piece by Mina Malik-Hussain, which appeared in The Nation (Pakistan) as it deals with an important issue which concerns the changes that are taking place within subcontinental Islam. The piece underlines the great cultural battle underway within Islam which, in the final analysis is about being Muslim in many different ways. Mina Malik-Hussain is a feminist based in Lahore.

When we were small, there was a month and it used to be called Ramzan. It was Ramzan on television, it was Ramzan in the newspaper with the sehr-o-iftar timings and while nobody had a cell phone or Facebook to wish anyone, it would have been Ramzan Mubarik nonetheless. Sometimes if one was being quite linguistically adventurous it would be Ramazan, but nobody seemed to mind.
And then, insidiously, The Arabs crept up on us. It wasn’t like the return of Muhammad Bin Qasim, but somehow Ramzan became Ramadan. Nobody knew exactly how it happened, but almost overnight our crisp z’uad sound became a lisping Arab burr, and we—a nation of language speakers with no apparent consonant pronunciation difficulties—were flung into the downward spiral of an affectation obsession. Now it was cool to sound Arab, and soon enough it began to be increasingly desirable to look it. Cue Al Huda, cue our streets being lined with gangly palm trees that do nothing, either in terms of beauty or shade, cue the availability of the most bling Islamic cover-up gear you’ll see this side of Dubai.

Still, as a nation we were still fairly open-minded about this, so we fasted year after year and didn’t really pay attention to the semantics of it. We were busy trying to live our lives and be regular Pakistanis, but The Arabs kept making inroads onto our cultural minds. One year ‘khuda-hafiz’, that old and comfortable way of saying goodbye and Godspeed, became ‘Allah hafiz’ with the dubious reason of having to specify which deity to whose protection one was recommending you. Because here in multi-religious, multi-cultural and secular Pakistan there was actual leeway where one would wonder who exactly Khuda is, and perhaps not want to be entrusted to a pagan god. Some people resisted, and continue to resist Allah hafiz and keep saying khuda-hafiz with the logic and hope that whatever His name, He will still protect and love them. Also if it was good enough for one’s grandfather and great-grandfather, it was just fine for them too. Read the full article here

Chhering – A Guiding Star

This article has appeared in the June issue of Terrascape

Travelling with a knowledgeable guide makes a trip worth it. And if the guide is someone like Chhering, you’ll cherish the trip all your life.

Kee Monastery, Spiti
Kee Monastery, Spiti

Broadly speaking there are two kinds of human beings, the inquisitive and the conformist. It is the inquisitive kinds who try new things; experiment, ask questions, make most discoveries, travel to unchartered territories and constantly venture into terrain, geographic and cephalic, where angels fear to tread. The conformist does none of the above. They travel only the well-trodden path, visit places where the food, the hotel, the weather, in fact nothing whatsoever has the potential of throwing up a surprise.

The world cannot exist without either. The inquisitive opens up the world, both physically and in terms of ideas, while the conformist fashions new territories – geographical and cerebral – habitable and familiar for others and prepares the ground for the next generation of the inquisitive to venture beyond what has by then become familiar.

It is a fact that I am not one of those who can be included among the ‘inquisitive’, not in the sense in which I use the term here. It is equally true that I do not want to belong to the category that I have chosen to describe as the ‘conformist’. Why I do not want to be placed in the second category will be revealed once you go through this episode placed below. Your perusal of the same would perhaps justify my reluctance to be counted among the second category. Continue reading “Chhering – A Guiding Star”

The pasts in our present

This piece has appeared in the May issue of Terrascape

A quest for those mountains where a true seeker of truth can find solace and solitude – and a lesson in geology

I had grown up being told, as were most children who grew up in the times when I did, about great spiritual seekers, sanyasis, sufis and such like who had chosen to seek truth and to give up everything that tied them to the mundane concerns and attachments of this world. The stories of all these seekers of truth invariably ended with many of them finding what they sought in the mountains.

The mountains they visited were not the mundane, run-of-the-mill mountains, that ordinary mortals like us visit. They went in search of mountains that gave meaning to words like desolate, forsaken, remote, impassive, distant and words that created similar impressions. It was mountains such as these that the gods had chosen as their abodes, it were these that invited the seeker of truth within their folds. The seekers immersed themselves completely in the contemplation of the unknown and the unknowable, and emerged years later wiser and all-knowing.

As I and other children of my age grew up, we were drawn away from the spiritual and into the thick of the knowledge of the ‘this worldly’. We studied the secular sciences and gradually came to acquire a totally different understanding of  the mountains.

Spiti3

Continue reading “The pasts in our present”

All Is Not Well at AUD: Natasha Narwal

Guest post by NATASHA NARWAL

Ambedkar University Delhi, a recently established State University in the NCR, has become the new buzz in the academic circles of the Capital. It is seen as space full of creative opportunities by an academic community exhausted by bureaucratic regimes and the sheer weight of established institutions stifling any real creativity and innovations in most central Universities. In a recent article in Economic and Political Weekly, Janaki Nair described AUD as a ‘viable, vibrant space of thinking and learning, striving to provide affordable and yet sustainable fee structures and encouraging creativity and non-hierarchical structures of learning.’ To be fair, such perceptions are not entirely baseless. As it is a recently established University, almost everything, from the various schools, courses, syllabus even physical infrastructure is in the making without very rigid contours. All this gives one a sense of an innovative and fluid space. Many of the faculty members indeed do strive hard to design courses in consultation with students and give them space to express themselves. But beneath this, on the grounds, all is not well at AUD. Continue reading “All Is Not Well at AUD: Natasha Narwal”