Category Archives: Culture

Civility, Harmuniya Bajaiyke: Prasanta Chakravarty

This guest post was sent to us by PRASANTA CHAKRAVARTY

A recent exchange in a congregation addressing the nature of contemporary civil society caught my attention. This was a formal gathering where there was supposed to be a pitch on an idea tentatively christened civility index: that is, whether it was possible to empirically measure civility and come up with some conceptual conclusions, as well as have more practical usages once such indicators will have been developed. A searching question came from someone who had spent a lifetime fighting liberal centrism and opportunism. “Why do you call the whole thing civility index,” she inquired, “civility connotes propriety and manner and etiquette, when you are interested to scale human capacities, right?”

This is a fundamental and worthy question, especially keeping in mind that certain variants of civil society discourse has caught the imagination of many invested in democracy right now, even as they wish to steer clear of old leftist certainties and eschew easy liberal pluralism at once. Are propriety and etiquette wholly irrelevant to our understanding of modern civil society? Is manner rudimentary to civil society, counterproductive to doing anything worthwhile? Does civility dilute the associational potential of civil society—human capacities being robbed off by issues of mere conduct and comportment? Are traditional societies uncivil by definition? And does civility, more than just civil, civic or public, betray fashionable elitism unabashedly?

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SS Stormtroopers attack OBCs celebrating Shiv Jayanti

(Apologies for posting a mere press release, but it’s something important and yet I don’t think it will be ‘interesting’ enough for the ‘national’ media to pick up. This is not to take sides at all, because there are no sides to take.)



Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, Shiv Jayanti meeting attacked by Shiv Sainiks in Mumbai

The Shiv Sena once again proves that it is a Brahmanical party by attacking OBC’s

Mumbai – February 23, 2009

A meeting that was organized by the activists of the Kurla unit of the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh (RSP) was attacked by Shiv Sainiks. The SS storm troopers, numbering 50, unleashed their fury on the meeting, shouting slogans, attacking the people and throwing chairs. The very fact that the Shiv Sainiks attacked Shiv Jayanti celebrations organized by the OBC (Other Backward Caste) activists, namely the Dhangar community (Shepherds) has once again exposed the Manuwadi – Brahmanical character of the Shiv Sena. Continue reading SS Stormtroopers attack OBCs celebrating Shiv Jayanti

A Kingdom of Crabs…

A kingdom of crabs ascends

here on stones

heavy enough to sink our faith

if we tie it to them.


But a mile away

from this promenade

my friend sucking a succulent crab leg

quips, the only way to pin

these bastards down

is to press with the index finger

their carapace to the ground.


Ah! The heavist thing

these legs carry

makes them a morsel

for a sea screaming I’m hungry!



A Hundred Years to Valentine’s Day

The Manglore-style of violence against women is clearly not the style of the politically powerful guardians of sexual morality in Kerala. But maybe the style is more or less redundant over here: there are very few pub-going local (or local-looking) women over here. How convenient for us women of Kerala that we Malayalees live in social arrangements that insist on sexual segregation in public spaces and institutions.

This is of course related to the particular history of gender and spatiality that unfolded between the mid-19th and 20th centuries in Kerala.Spatial categories have always underwritten caste and gender exclusion in Malayalee society. Take for instance, the derogatory term chanthapennungal (‘market women’) that refers to women who get their way through loud and vociferous argument – who work for their livelihood in market-space and reject feminine modesty. The chanthapennu is the very antithesis of taravattil pirannaval (‘she who was born in an aristocratic homestead’). Thus the woman whose daily life and labours involves traversing spaces outside the domestic and the familial is forever poised at the brink — she is who may, at any instant, collapse into being chantappennu.In traditional Malayalee society, family spaces were named by caste and constructed through caste practices and gender norms. For instance, the Brahmin home was referred to as Illam or Mana; the Nair homestead as Taravadu or Idam.In other words, a generalized notion of domestic space housing the family was absent.  Indeed, the observance of spatial regulations was often taken to be crucial in shaping feminine moral qualities found characteristic of the aristocracy — and hardly vice-versa.

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Will we overcome? Pramada Menon

This is a guest post by PRAMADA MENON

Sundays are days for doing nothing much. Often I sit in front of the television and surf and watch many, many movies until all the story lines start merging into one. It’s fun because it does not require you to think. If one switches on a news channel, the chances are that you will start to splutter like mustard seeds in oil, since there is so much to splutter about – Nirmala Venkatesh, a member of the central government’s National Commission for Women, was put in charge of a three-member panel to investigate the attack on the women at a pub in Mangalore at 4pm in the evening. The way she sees it, Venkatesh is supposed to have said, women have the right to enjoy themselves but should also recognize societal limits. As part of her inquiry, she said, she plans to meet with the attackers, the bar owner and the families of the young women to see whether their parents
allowed them to go out to pubs every night at midnight. “My personal advice: Women should be very careful,” she said. “I can’t just roam after midnight.”

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The meaning of “Obama” and the history of a friendship

At the Mexico Olympics in 1968, this photograph of American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos standing on the victory podium with heads bowed and black-gloved fists raised in a Black Power salute in protest at racism in the USA, became the iconic image of the age.


In the fraught years since 1968, the weight of living through the aftermath put a heavy burden on the friendship of Carlos and Smith. In separate interviews with the Los Angeles Times it was revealed that they have barely spoken to each other since the early 1990s, despite living just a short drive apart in southern California. Smith described their relationship as “strained”. Carlos would call his former team-mate only “Mister Smith”.

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