The Unapologetic Indian Muslim: Sabiha Farhat

Guest Post by SABIHA FARHAT

These are tough times for muslims in India.  But now that I look back and shed my ‘liberal’ prejudices – muslims were never acceptable as ‘who they were’ in Indian society.  I had always blamed my mother for not giving me proper lunch box to carry to school.  But the truth is that even in class 5, no student ate from my tiffin and gradually I started going to the play field in recess rather than enjoying a meal under the big Peepal tree.  After that I took tiffin only when I prepared it myself, that was class 11 & 12.  But even then the girls would hardly eat from my lunch box.  We did sit together but no one touched my food.  Was I the Untouchable?

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Who will get the hot roti in the Delhi assembly elections?

My friend Guddi has a great story about a Gujjar wedding she attended recently in Ghaziabad. It was a typically chaotic event, marked accurately by the swirling crowds around the dinner stalls. If Gujjar weddings are chaotic and the dinner doubly so, the scene around the tandoor is triply compounded chaos. Barely concealed competition amongst overmuscled Gujjar men in overtight pants for that precious hot roti ensures that none but the most Hobbesian men remain, circling the tandoor like hungry wolves, periodically thrusting their plate forward like fencing champions and shouting obscenities at the harried servers. In such a heart-stopping scenario, a young server had as Guddi recounts, figured out the formula to keep everybody from killing each other (or him). As soon as the roti would be pulled out of the tandoor, seductively golden brown and sizzling, this man would hold it high up with his tongs so everybody could see, then in an elaborate dance-like ritual, touch each of the empty extended plates in front of him with the roti, and finally, in a mysterious but authoritative decision, place it respectfully on a randomly selected plate. Repeat with every single roti that emerged from the tandoor. A hushed silence followed by nervous laughter followed every such flourish.

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Take back the Poison-Rain: Ambikasutan Mangad’s Swarga

Swarga_300_RGBWhen I first encountered Enmakaje, it was already much praised in Kerala as the powerful little book that aroused the Malayali’s moral conscience towards the unspeakable tragedy wrought by the unbelievably-callous aerial spraying of the insecticide Endosulphan in north Kerala, over some of the most lush, verdant areas of the State. It was criticised by some for what I thought was a very interesting experiment with form: it begins as fiction, slowly shades into a historical account of the beginnings of the anti-Endosulphan struggle in north Kerala, and then shades back, in the end, to fiction again. For me, Enmakaje was much more than an activist tale. It was a determined effort to renew the Malayali self, through a prayerful weaving and imaginative retelling of the many stories that have shaped us. Reading of Neelakantan’s and Devayani’s stories, one remembers these stories, but differently. For example, what if Raman and Seetha left Ayodhya forever, renouncing its sickening power games? What if Adam and Eve voluntarily renounced Paradise? What if Vararuchi’s wife had rebelled in the origin-story of Kerala, of the Parayi petta panthirukulam?

Juggernaut has just published my translation of this gem of a book, and the title of the English version is Swarga: A Posthuman Tale . Below is an excerpt from the book.

 

It was past midnight.

Jayarajan started from his sleep and sharpened his ears for sounds from outside.

He shook Neelakantan, who was fast asleep, awake. Neelakantan woke to darkness assailing his open eyes. He was frightened.

‘What is it?’

In a trembling voice, Jayarajan said, ‘Something is happening outside. I can hear noises.’

Neelakantan’s throat was parched. He asked in a loud voice, ‘Who is there outside?’

Jayarajan noticed his fear in the dim light of the lantern.

‘Not human beings. Something like a storm and strong winds . . . I can’t make out much . . .’

Neelakantan’s breath returned.

‘Oh, that! Must be the wind . . . I’ve been scared ever since you came in . . . it’s just that I didn’t show it. You lie down, I’ll see you off tomorrow morning; put you on the first bus back. It is not at all safe for you to come and stay here again.’

Jayarajan got up.

‘Come, let’s go out for a bit.’

Neelakantan yawned. His voice was lazy. ‘The rain and wind will go their own way. You should lie down.’

Jayarajan took his hand and made him get up.

‘I’ve seen quite a bit of rain and wind too . . . but something extraordinary is happening outside.’

Neelakantan began to listen, alert now. There was a whole symphony of unpleasant sounds rising outside.

Taking care not to wake Devayani, they opened the door and stepped out.

They saw the most unbelievable sights on top of the Jadadhari Hill.

The huge trees were shaking hard, writhing, in the wind. From the clouds above, golden-coloured lightning-snakes descended, falling on the tops of the massive trees and enveloping them. As if from the impact of the lightning, the tall trees bowed as low as the ground, seeking to shake off the golden serpents . . .

In the next moment, the wind came hurtling like a demon’s hand, swooping up the trees. The branches clung and cleaved to each other as if in a paroxysm of desire, and shivered as though in the throes of an orgasm. And then, the lightning-serpents returned, and the whole cycle began again.

Startled, Jayarajan asked, ‘What is happening up there?’

For a few moments, Neelakantan had no words. He kept watching the hill’s frenzied dance and then said, ‘Terrible thunder and lightning. And the wind and rain besides. All of it together, that’s all.’

But even as he said those words, he knew how inadequate they were. Human language was too limited to describe this miraculous phenomenon. It was too vast to be comprehended by puny human consciousness.

‘Look, it is raining on top of the hill,’ Jayarajan pointed out. ‘Some of it is falling here too. But just see – there is not even a sign of rain or wind anywhere near here. Here the trees are still as if they have stopped breathing. It is a miracle . . . let me call chechi.’

‘No, she will be scared.’

Jayarajan remembered Devappa’s words. ‘On the night of the Kozhikkettu in Bhagyathimaarkandam, no one goes out!’

‘Two years ago, on a night like this, I heard the jungle sway like this around midnight. I thought it was a storm and did not go out.’

‘I think,’ Jayarajan said and stopped.

‘What?’

‘Is this really Siva’s dance of destruction, the thandava? Isn’t this the Jadadhari Hill?’

Neelakantan asked, ‘Are you a believer?’

‘No. What about you?’

‘I haven’t been to temples or shrines after I began to see things differently . . . In my view, Siva is Nature itself. Siva exists in every leaf, every flower. The thandava that you mentioned–’

‘The dance of destruction of Siva, who swallowed the divine serpent Vasuki’s deadly venom! This is it! Is this thandava- Jadadhari Hill’s, Nature’s – that means Siva’s – own attempt to shake off the terrible chemical poison, so like Vasuki’s venom, the Kalakoota?’

‘You tie up everything to your consciousness of the environment!’

Jayarajan pointed out: ‘See, the wind’s grasping fist now eases. The lightning retreats. The rain and thunder depart. The trees stand up straight once again.’

Neelakantan nodded, his eyes wide open and filled with the magic in the air. Yes, the dance of destruction was now ebbing.

Excerpted with permission of Juggernaut Books from Swarga by Ambikasutan Mangad, translated by J Devika available in bookstores and on Juggernaut.

 

Slimes Group Vice-Chairman Ameer Jain accused of molesting SOI employee Aaj Faker Shah? Breaking Faking News: Shehla Rashid

Guest Post by Shehla Rashid

Mar 21, Delhi: In a shocking revelation that has triggered panic amongst the media fraternity, renowned media tycoon, Ameer Jain, who is Vice-Chairman of the prestigious Parrot, Caveman & Co. Ltd, has been accused of sexual harassment by an employee of The Slimes of India newspaper, namely Aaj Faker Shah. Parrot, Caveman & Co. Ltd. (PCCL) is the group that owns Slimes of India, Slimes Now, Economic Slimes, Radio Tirchi, Movies Now and Then, Dhoom, Navbharat Slimes, Mumbai Broken Mirror and numerous other media outlets.

After the sexual harassment case filed by an employee of a major news magazine against its high profile editor some years ago, this is the most high-profile case of sexual harassment at the workplace in the media fraternity and is likely to result in a public spectacle, as the complainant, Aaj Faker Shah, has taken to Twitter to publicly make serious accusations of sexual assault against Jain. Normally, in cases of sexual harassment, the complainant must be accorded due anonymity. However, Shah reasons that he was forced to take this extreme step because the Slimes Group, in total violation of the norms prescribed by the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act (2013), sat on his complaint, victimised him for speaking out against Jain and even threatened to sack him. This reflects the state of implementation of the Workplace Harassment Law, rules for which were notified in 2014. Continue reading “Slimes Group Vice-Chairman Ameer Jain accused of molesting SOI employee Aaj Faker Shah? Breaking Faking News: Shehla Rashid”

Free the Maruti Workers: Maruti Suzuki Workers Union

 

Guest Post by Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union

[This is a statement and an appeal by the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union condemning the unjust handing down of a life sentence to 13 workers of the Maruti Suzuki Manesar Factory for a ‘murder’ (of an HR Manager) that the prosecution could not prove that they had committed. Here too, the prosecution, and the judgement, relies on a chimera, ‘the reputation of make-in-india’ to justify a harsh punishment. Those who have watched this space will recognize that this recourse to figures of speech in the absence of evidence is a familiar move. It has happened before – to satisfy the hunger of a ‘collective conscience’ when a so-called ‘temple of democracy’ was attacked. This time it has been invoked to defend the ‘fake-in-India temple that houses the deity of a rising GDP’, which would of course otherwise be besieged by insurgent workers.

This text contains a hyperlink to a detailed reading and rebuttal of the prosecution’s arguments, which demonstrates how money and muscle power can always be an adequate replacement for legal acumen in the State of Haryana. Please do follow that link. For the further edification of our readers, we append a short video interview by Aman Sethi of the Hindustan Times of the special public prosecutor, which spins some imaginative legal theory and also radically updates our sense of class struggle. Please do have the patience to view that video. We promise that this will be rewarded. – Kafila Admin.]

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Looking ‘Right’, Talking ‘Liberal’ – The Twists and Turns of Makarand Paranjape: Anirban Bhattacharya

Guest Post by ANIRBAN BHATTACHARYA

[This missive to Makarand Paranjape, who is a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, comes in response to his recent op-ed piece in the Indian Express where he comments on the events at Ramjas College, Delhi University on the 21st of February and in their wake, in Delhi University, on the 22nd of February]

Mr. Makarand Paranjape. In your analysis of the post-Ramjas fallout in Delhi University in Indian Express on the 4th of March, one can see that you have donned a “liberal” cloak. But there were way too many holes in that cloak to go without a counter and hence this response.

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