Guest post by AKHIL KATYAL
Ashiya Begum, an elderly widow, had worked as a road construction labourer after her husband’s death. She recalls that when all the workers used to have lunch by the construction site, she tried to sleep under the bushes as there was no food and it was better than seeing others eat. When the pangs of hunger grew insistent, she would drink a lot of water and then tie her saree end tightly around her stomach and continue to work. At night if the children cried and she had nothing to feed them, she peeped out of her tent to neighbours’ utensils and used to beg a glass of ganji (water which is to be drained out of rice once it is cooked) from them. Everybody got 5-6 spoonfuls of ganji before sleeping. Sometimes in the evening, after the road construction work, she cooked in other people’s houses. They gave her four rotis that the entire family ate…‘Even if I tell you (what we eat to survive),’ she told the researcher, ‘will you ever be able to feel what we eat?’
– from the ‘Study on Destitution and Hunger’, Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi
Old age mostly inspires the sentiment of the universal in us, the aesthetics of the general, so much so that when we speak of the old, we often let go of the specific and relish statements that tend to be as wide-ranging as they could be naïve: the old are wiser, we say, the age is just a number, our frames turn more literary, more contemplative, it is the dusk of life, we think, or sometimes being metaphorical, we consider to be old to be in a second childhood. The last one is Aristophanes, no less. Continue reading Resisting the Second Childhood: Towards Universal Pension in India
Ahead of the Commonwealth games, the capital city of the country with aspirations towards being anointed First Side-Kick to the only super-power left in the world, is busy cleaning up. Beggars, protesters, poor-looking people in general, out, out, all out.
Pholpata, her child and a friend inside a mobile court in a mini-bus, caught begging and brought before a magistrate who will decide whether to jail them for a year or release them. [The Independent on Sunday]
Also, see Partha Banerjee’s post on this in his blog The Real Slumdog Story: India’s Ghastly Commonwealth Cleanup.
Meanwhile, of course, the labourers working day and night to complete the endless amounts of construction required to host an event of this magnitude, are “working and living in highly dangerous and deplorable conditions; earning less than the stipulated minimum wage; with no access to basic sanitation and health facilities; and, lacking safety equipment”, found a Committee appointed by the Delhi High Court.
Continuing the saga of national triumph, below, we have AKHIL KATYAL and SHALINI SHARMA on the forced evictions of protesters from Jantar Mantar.
The Delhi State Government and New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) seem to have a particularly limited vision of a beautiful city. In the run up to the Commonwealth Games, Delhi is seeing a massive beautification drive which is really about an intolerant attitude towards democratic dissent and towards the urban poor. It is an idea of beauty that deals with urban protest or poverty simply by excising it from view.
Continue reading Levelling the playing field before the Commonwealth Games
This is a Guest Post by AKHIL KATYAL
To make our point let us begin with a story of a salon. It might have all the necessary noise of being new and first-of-its-kind but finally it is quite an unremarkable story. Of ‘NYC’ in Hauz Khas market in Delhi. It sells itself as India’s first LGBT salon. Its owner S. Mehta recently filled up all possible online LGBT forums with its ads, mass mailed on to Delhi list serves and dropped tiny text-ads into unwitting facebook groups, robustly selling it as the latest asset of Delhi’s LGBT community. I am not quite interested in how an otherwise 7 month old – some say not-doing-too-great – business venture is viably repackaged as a LGBT paradise in the wake of the Delhi high court judgment. After all, post the repeal of Sec. 377 in July we are only to expect more of this happening around us, more spectacles of the pink rupee. Nor am I presently interested in how a reigning sense of an LGBT community is proffered by such spectacular announcements of things shared – be it historic events or commercial joints, shared among few or many – but instead, I am interested in the all too common rhetoric that this salon uses in its publicity. A rhetoric that is becoming so widespread as to become almost commonsensical and this is the rhetoric of comfort.
Continue reading Notes on Comfort: Akhil Katyal
This is a guest post by AKHIL KATYAL
Topicality is a homage one pays to the short-term memory that the new media both triggers and complains against in its customers. In the long-term of course, where trend is all important, the topical is only a category of the banal. But it is under the shelter of such a necessary topicality – the topical is always necessary – that I hope to sneak in a scandal.
Everyone is talking about the queer pride marches that are going to happen in four cities in India at the end of this month. Most liberal reportage is obviously supportive, if not triumphant. For these cities themselves, it is seen as a step into a liberal urban culture which tolerates, even enjoys difference. All the talk about the ‘gay community’ or ‘lgbt community’ that the Indian media – and the activists – have been dabbling in for at least a decade now, seems to be reaching its logical climax: the community is expressing itself. Every city seems to have its own pet lgbt community or at least aspires to.
Continue reading On the Eve of Pride. Are We Going the Right Way: Akhil Katyal