Monthly Archives: November 2009

Some are more Google than others

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Following is an interesting post at techgross.com about the discriminatory awards by google. Check out.

Are we children of a lesser Google? Or is the Indian market less important? Perhaps Bing has the answer.

Google: Less value prizes for Indians
By Shalini Singh

Google has done much to democratize our world and improve our quality of life.  It has even donated tens of millions of dollars to charitable causes.  Google pays and treats its employees well.  That is why it is difficult to understand why the same Google contest offers winners in USA and UK substantially more than kids in India.

Google India had launched a ‘Doodle 4 Google – My India’ contest in August. The Doodle is the logo design you see on the Google homepage. The theme of this competition was ‘My India’.  On November 12, Google India announced at Taj Ambassador Hotel that tech hub Gurgaon based 4th standard school kid Puru Pratap has won the competition.  Puru’s doodle ‘My India – Full of Life’ was absolutely brilliant and featured on Google’s home page on Nov 14, 2009 (pictured above).  Everyone loved it.

Apart from the satisfaction of seeing his brilliant creation on the Google home page and of getting a gold star on his resume, young whiz kid Puru Pratap won a laptop computer for himself,  a t-shirt with his doodle and Rs. 1 lakh (approx 2100 US dollars) for his school.

But his counterparts in USA and UK won substantially more. According to Google their US winner “will win a $15,000 college scholarship to be used at the school of their choice, a trip to the Google New York Office, a laptop computer, and a t-shirt printed with their doodle. We’ll also award the winner’s school a $25,000 technology grant towards the establishment/improvement of a computer lab.”

Admittedly, an Indian rupee will buy more in India than the dollar in USA.  But if the American child can get $15,000 towards their college education, why should not the Indian child also get a minimum of $2000 towards their education?  Why $2100 for the winner’s school in India and $25000 for the same school in USA?

It is too idealistic too expect total parity.  But perhaps some kind of pro rata would be fairer.

But there are many competitions run by American and European companies that offer equal prizes wherever you live in the world.  American software testing company uTest has a community of 14000 professional testers in 151 countries.  The uTest Bug Battle offers the same prize whether you live in America or India.

Vodafone Europe has just announced an Appstar competition with prizes worth 1 million Euros.  Indians can participate and Vodafone will give them the same prize what they offer contestants from UK and Germany.

The US Department of Defense has announced $40,000 prize to anyone in any part of the world who can detect their 10 balloons moored in ten fixed locations in US.  This competition will take place on Dec 5, 2009. If an Indian scientist wins this he will get the same prize as his counterpart in NASA searching for the 10 moored balloons.

Google owned YouTube has international competitions where the prizes are equal.

Perhaps I am overreacting and being oversensitive.  Perhaps we should happy with whatever prizes are given to us.

Lukacs, Tagore, Gandhi

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Reading Lukacs’ reflections on Tagore one would be reminded of the harm that a colonial atmosphere could bring upon a mind irrespective of from wikipediaideological alignments. It is silly simply to say Lukacs is blinded by colonial optics. What however is significant is the intellectual apparatus available to Lukacs, or better still, that Lukacs chose to avail himself, is incapable of cognising significance beyond certain European structures of views and feelings.

It would be interesting to read Amartya Sen on Tagore after reading Lukacs. Here is Sen, a fellow Bengali, who finds in Tagore a vision of multiculturalism. Both are good reads.

George Lukacs on Tagore:

Tagore himself is — as imaginative writer and as thinker — a wholly insignificant figure. His creative powers are non-existent; his characters pale stereotypes; his stories threadbare and uninteresting; and his sensibility is meagre, insubstantial. He survives by stirring scraps of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita into his works amid the sluggish flow of his own tediousness.

Read more.

Amartya Sen on Tagore:

Rabindranath did come from a Hindu family—one of the landed gentry who owned estates mostly in what is now Bangladesh. But whatever wisdom there might be in Akhmatova’s invoking of Hinduism and the Ganges, it did not prevent the largely Muslim citizens of Bangladesh from having a deep sense of identity with Tagore and his ideas. Nor did it stop the newly independent Bangladesh from choosing one of Tagore’s songs—the “Amar Sonar Bangla” which means “my golden Bengal”—as its national anthem. This must be very confusing to those who see the contemporary world as a “clash of civilizations”—with “the Muslim civilization,” “the Hindu civilization,” and “the Western civilization,” each forcefully confronting the others. They would also be confused by Rabindranath Tagore’s own description of his Bengali family as the product of “a confluence of three cultures: Hindu, Mohammedan, and British”.1

Rabindranath’s grandfather, Dwarkanath, was well known for his command of Arabic and Persian, and Rabindranath grew up in a family atmosphere in which a deep knowledge of Sanskrit and ancient Hindu texts was combined with an understanding of Islamic traditions as well as Persian literature. It is not so much that Rabindranath tried to produce—or had an interest in producing—a “synthesis” of the different religions (as the great Moghul emperor Akbar tried hard to achieve) as that his outlook was persistently non-sectarian, and his writings—some two hundred books—show the influence of different parts of the Indian cultural background as well as of the rest of the world.

Amartya Sen: “Tagore and His India”

Read more

Tagore links:

Free Tagore books at Project Gutenberg.

Tagore special issue of Parabaas journal.

Buy Gitanjali at Amazon.

Tagore on Gandhi buy from Flipkart

Ashis Nandy’s discussion of the divergence between the attitude toward nationalism in Tagore and Gandhi is interesting. His book on this is: “Illegitimacy of Nationalsim: Rabindranath Tagore and Politics of Self.”

Derek Walcott – Two Poems on Love

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Bits of Derek Walcott here.from google images

Love after Love

 

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread

 

Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

 

Another take on love:

Blues

 

Those five or six young guys
lunched on the stoop
that oven-hot summer night
whistled me over. Nice
and friendly. So, I stop.
MacDougal or Christopher
Street in chains of light.

A summer festival. Or some
saint’s. I wasn’t too far from
home, but not too bright
for a nigger, and not too dark.
I figured we were all
one, wop, nigger, jew,
besides, this wasn’t Central Park.
I’m coming on too strong? You figure
right! They beat this yellow nigger
black and blue.

Yeah. During all this, scared
on case one used a knife,
I hung my olive-green, just-bought
sports coat on a fire plug.
I did nothing. They fought
each other, really. Life
gives them a few kicks,
that’s all. The spades, the spicks.

My face smashed in, my bloddy mug
pouring, my olive-branch jacket saved
from cuts and tears,
I crawled four flights upstairs.
Sprawled in the gutter, I
remember a few watchers waved
loudly, and one kid’s mother shouting
like “Jackie” or “Terry,”
“now that’s enough!”
It’s nothing really.
They don’t get enough love.

You know they wouldn’t kill
you. Just playing rough,
like young Americans will.
Still it taught me somthing
about love. If it’s so tough,
forget it.

A fragment from ‘Fragments of Epic Memory’:

Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole. The glue that fits the pieces is the sealing of its original shape. It is such a love that reassembles our African and Asiatic fragments, the cracked heirlooms whose restoration shows its white scars. This gathering of broken pieces is the care and pain of the Antilles, and if the pieces are disparate, ill-fitting, they contain more pain than their original sculpture, those icons and sacred vessels taken for granted in their ancestral places. Antillean art is this restoration of our shattered histories, our shards of vocabulary, our archipelago becoming a synonym for pieces broken off from the original continent.

And this is the exact process of the making of poetry, or what should be called not its “making” but its remaking, the fragmented memory, the armature that frames the god, even the rite that surrenders it to a final pyre; the god assembled cane by cane, reed by weaving reed, line by plaited line, as the artisans of Felicity would erect his holy echo.

Poetry, which is perfection’s sweat but which must seem as fresh as the raindrops on a statue’s brow, combines the natural and the marmoreal; it conjugates both tenses simultaneously: the past and the present, if the past is the sculpture and the present the beads of dew or rain on the forehead of the past. There is the buried language and there is the individual vocabulary, and the process of poetry is one of excavation and of self-discovery. Tonally the individual voice is a dialect; it shapes its own accent, its own vocabulary and melody in defiance of an imperial concept of language, the language of Ozymandias, libraries and dictionaries, law courts and critics, and churches, universities, political dogma, the diction of institutions. Poetry is an island that breaks away from the main. The dialects of my archipelago seem as fresh to me as those raindrops on the statue’s forehead, not the sweat made from the classic exertion of frowning marble, but the condensations of a refreshing element, rain and salt.

Deprived of their original language, the captured and indentured tribes create their own, accreting and secreting fragments of an old, an epic vocabulary, from Asia and from Africa, but to an ancestral, an ecstatic rhythm in the blood that cannot be subdued by slavery or indenture, while nouns are renamed and the given names of places accepted like Felicity village or Choiseul. The original language dissolves from the exhaustion of distance like fog trying to cross an ocean, but this process of renaming, of finding new metaphors, is the same process that the poet faces every morning of his working day, making his own tools like Crusoe, assembling nouns from necessity, from Felicity, even renaming himself. The stripped man is driven back to that self-astonishing, elemental force, his mind. That is the basis of the Antillean experience, this shipwreck of fragments, these echoes, these shards of a huge tribal vocabulary, these partially remembered customs, and they are not decayed but strong. They survived the Middle Passage and the Fatel Rozack, the ship that carried the first indentured Indians from the port of Madras to the cane fields of Felicity, that carried the chained Cromwellian convict and the Sephardic Jew, the Chinese grocer and the Lebanese merchant selling cloth samples on his bicycle.

The complete text and a link to the audio of the lecture here.

A few links to Walcott books:

Selected poetry By Derek Walcott (at google books)

Another life By Derek Walcott (at google books)

Derek Walcott By John Thieme (at google books)

Derek Walcott: Politics and Poetics  Paula Burnett (at google books)

Conversations with Derek Walcott William Baer (at google books)

Nobody’s nation: Reading Derek Walcott by Paul Breslin (at google books)

Questioning the Conceptual Validity of Nativism

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Among the literary critics in India are some who feel that the quiet acceptance of the Euro-American critical models in literary criticism in India is a problem. They insist on developing native models of literary criticism.  This school of thought is less pronounced these days though some years ago it was in circulation more prominently. I am unsure of the conceptual validity of this school of criticism. My article on the issue “Violated Spaces: Questioning the Conceptual Validity of Nativism”  was recently published in The Atlantic Literary Review, January-March 2009 issue. Below is an extract of the article.

What is nativism? It is a bad question. Because before completing itself as a question, it takes on the shape of answers. These become visible if we attend to its parts: the first part ‘what’ is already imposing a structure to the possible answers as ones that offer an essence, an identity as against, say, a time, a space or a mode. The second item ‘is’ presupposes singularity, presence, not something past, yet complete, total and definite. Contrast it with ‘are’, ‘may be’. The third item is a name, indicating an already formed entity, the ‘ism’ suggesting its reaches as a model and programme of action. The symbol item ‘?’ asserting it to be a question despite the answers already posited, presenting the sentence as a seeker of answers but that are within the structure of the question itself. There is yet another item which is unstaged in the sentence: that is the asker, the seeker who may also be the provider, the one structuring the answers. Thus the question is an act – a performance, an action in time/space, a pretence and in its insistence on structuring, a law. Some of the difficulties alluded above are implicit also in the conceptual field bearing the name ‘nativism’.

Why should we talk about nativism? I consider this concept a major departure from the imperial and brahminic paradigms of cultural criticism in India. In sentiment, nativism is both anti-imperialist and anti-brahminical. But practically, in some of its manifestations I am here considering, it is neither entirely free of the structures of thought that are entangled in imperialist or brahminic discourses, nor does it have the potential to be a pan-Indian theory in literary and cultural criticism. While the conceptual terrain of nativism makes the claim for a native theory of being, of cultural self, the very condition of the proposition and its field of operation are violated by the simultaneity of the singularity of self and the extensive plurality of everyday life. In this sense, the hope that nativist thinkers entertain, of inhabiting an uncontaminated homogenous space, is always already violated. This paper is concerned not so much with the merits of nativism, whatever those might be, as the problems with the concept.

The journal is published by the Atlantic Publishers, New Delhi.

Free access to academic journals

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PKP, Public Knowledge Project, is an initiative to make possible free circulation of knowledge produced through public institutions such as universities. It is a gateway to several academic journals in diverse disciplines. No registration required either. Select articles from the participating journals are placed on free access. Here you go.

Those interested in international English studies will be interested in this site that provides access to articles from ARIEL, a fine journal in the field of literatures in English. Jstor and Project Muse also do not give access to ARIEL, if I am not mistaken, hence this free access to ARIEL is welcome. For postcolonial and cultural studies ARIEL has been a central Journal for decades now.

An excellent journal for Comparative literature buffs is CLC – Comparative Literature and Culture. The site maintained at Purdue University, gives free access to current and past issues. The journal publishes highly esteemed work in the area. Here is the ticket.

Muse India is an e journal associated with the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore. It publishes creative and critcal writing. V. good people associated in bringing it out. Overall a good site for Indian literature enthusiasts. Go here.

Culture, Society and Praxis is another free access journal. Go here.

Culture Machine is an electronic journal with theoretical stuff on culture, technology… Here is the ticket.

Embedded Imagination and Otherness in Shashi Deshpande’s That Long Silence

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Intersections is a journal maintained by Australian National University’s Gender Relations Centre. The current issue is a special issue on “Face)t)s of Woman: Gender in the Indian Cultural Context” guest edited by Subhash Chandra. The journal’s editor is Carolyn Brewer.  It has several interesting articles including those by Joya John, Malashri Lal, Chaitya Das etc. Access to the journal is free. My article on Shashi Deshpande’s That Long Silence appears in the issue. Below is the basic argument I make in the paper. Here is the link. Do visit.

Shashi Deshpande’s novel That Long Silence, through details of everyday practices, routine, mundane, and particular stories, engages with issues of collective identity. The novel explores how images of nation are embedded in the ordinariness of lives and how the nation-state through an affective mechanism of individuals’ imagination institutes them as citizen-subjects. Through this exploration the novel develops a critique of the patriarchal construction of ‘nation’ and contests the legitimisation of the male discourse as the ‘normative’ national discourse. I wish to argue in this paper that the equalised terrain of the victimisation of women that the novel presents glosses over the cultural marks of the women characters represented in the novel leading to the appropriation of the cultural other into a universalised brahminical ‘woman.’ This critique is further supported by calling attention to the way there is a belittling of female discourse in the novel.

About Namdeo Dhasal

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Dilip Chitre is a poet of significance both in English and Marathi. He is a painter too. His contribution as a translator is also great. Of his from: navayanatranslations,, two noted works are his translations of Tuka in Says Tuka and his translations of the Marathi Dalit poet Namdeo Dhasal. Tehelka had published an interview with Chitre about Dhasal in 2007. The interview was conducted by S Anand of navayana. Read the complete interview here. One of the questions Anand asks relates to the perennial question of the obscurity of the poem and their political stance. I like the way Chitre answers it.

 

S Anand: There’s something I’ve wanted to ask you, Dilip. His political followers — as you’ve told me — when he’s in hospital, there are some two hundred Panthers outside. Do they read his poetry, do they have an understanding of it? Or is there a split between Namdeo the poet, and this other, political, person?

Dilip Chitre: I don’t see it as a split in Namdeo; it’s the one-sidedness of his multiple audiences. His Dalit audience sees him as a charismatic leader, but they may not possess the literary sensibility demanded by his poetry. He’s not someone like Gadar, who will write these very simplistic poems, and some of them rank bad poetry, and express revolutionary sentiments and rouse people and so on. A middle-class person approaching his poetry does not know the Dalit situation, he does not even want to know. So he misses part of the poetry…

Namdeo dares you, as a reader, and as a translator. There’s something I describe as aesthetic subversion. Namdeo subverts bourgeois sensibilities, and that’s what appeals to me. A subversive act tries to undo the entire system on which your values are based. Namdeo is a guerrilla poet. In one phrase, one line, he’ll juxtapose dialect and the slang of Kamathipura with European references in very sophisticated Marathi.

Links to good books from India

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I wish to share some links here. These are publications that are off beat hence it is likely that books published by these publishers are not easily found. While Flipkart and other such online stores have the titles, good old book shops are not likely to keep too many of the titles brought out by these publishers. But they publish some of the best work being done in India.You can find a lot of well researched books with honest scholarship. The range of books published covers virtually all fields of contemporary scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. Some of the best translations of books from Indian languages into English are available with these publishers, esp Seagull. Film scripts, plays, diaries, autobiographies, anthropology, cultural studies, fiction… list goes on. You can order books online or browse the catalogue. Happy hunting…

Please recommend links to your favorite  publishers. navayana

navayana

seagullindi

permanent-black

tulikabooks

threeessays

womenunlimited

zubaanbookszubaan_books

 

 

 

 

leftword

stree-samyabooks

The collective distributing set up some of the leftist publishers have:

ipda

Blog links

tulikapublishers

navayana

Chinua Achebe’s Poems

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I have been fascinated with Chinua Achebe for a log time… well ever since I from: wikipediaread, what else, Things Fall Apart. His fame quite strongly is built on his novels. But I like his poems a lot too. He is forthright in his poems. They are clearly political and display the same poise of mind that empathizes with the miserable, criticises the exploitative yet is not intolerant of humanity whatever its colour may be. Here is one of his poems I like a lot: Butterfly. I like the kind of symbolic value that Achebe brings on to butterfly while celebrating its meekness. The apparent criticism of anthropomorphism really targets in this poem the nature of force in society. Firmly based in a contemplation of the human society, Achebe in this poem questions the terminology of ‘value’.

Butterfly

** Chinua Achebe

Speed is violence
Power is violence
Weight is violence

The butterfly seeks safety in lightness
In weightless, undulating flight

But at a crossroads where mottled light
From trees falls on a brash new highway
Our convergent territories meet

I come power-packed enough for two
And the gentle butterfly offers
Itself in bright yellow sacrifice
Upon my hard silicon shield.

Another poem that really hits us is Refugee Mother and Child. I think this poem captures the sentiments of love and hope amid extreme misery. Yet Achebe is very clear that what he is doing is writing a poem about it. He is very often ironical. If it is the figure of ‘I’ that receives ironic treatment in Butterfly, in this poem it is the images of the society outside the refugee camp that reads about it in newspapers, and where normal life goes on with school life and the rest. But the focus in Achebe’s poems is always on empathy rather than on irony. I think this is a great quality. That is one of the reasons I like his poems.

Refugee Mother and Child


No Madonna and Child could touch
that picture of a mother’s tenderness
for a son she soon will have to forget.

The air was heavy with odors
of diarrhea of unwashed children
with washed-out ribs and dried-up
bottoms struggling in labored
steps behind blown empty bellies.

Most mothers there had long ceased
to care but not this one; she held
a ghost smile between her teeth
and in her eyes the ghost of a mother’s
pride as she combed the rust-colored
hair left on his skull and then –
singing in her eyes – began carefully
to part it… In another life
this would have been a little daily
act of no consequence before his
breakfast and school; now she
did it like putting flowers
on a tiny grave.

Below are some links to Achebe treasure: readings and interviews.

Go here to listen to Achebe reading his poems.

Or here.

Achebe on  Youtube here.

Read about this interview at African Writer here.

Amazon has Chinua Achebe’s collected poems.

For an interview with Achebe go here:

Chinua Achebe in Conversation with K. Anthony Appiah here.

No Madonna and Child could touch
that picture of a mother’s tenderness
for a son she soon will have to forget.
The air was heavy with odors
of diarrhea of unwashed children
with washed-out ribs and dried-up
bottoms struggling in labored
steps behind blown empty bellies.
Most mothers there had long ceased
to care but not this one; she held
a ghost smile between her teeth
and in her eyes the ghost of a mother’s
pride as she combed the rust-colored
hair left on his skull and then –
singing in her eyes – began carefully
to part it… In another life
this would have been a little daily
act of no consequence before his
breakfast and school; now she
did it like putting flowers
on a tiny grave.

To dig a well with a needle – Orhan Pamuk on writing

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from: ambassodor.netOrhan Pamuk, the Turkish writer, I think is a major writer of our times. The sense of complex texture he brings to his writing is amazing. A book like Istanbul is remarkable both for the rich kernel as for the fine fabric that it is woven in. He takes us in circles: book about book, book within book, story of story etc. His Nobel lecture is very interesting too and  again it is a writing about writing. He compares writing to digging (reminds one of Heaney) a well with a needle. Read more here or here. The lecture is titled “My Father’s Suitcase”. Translation from Turkish by Maureen Freely.

A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words. This man – or this woman – may use a typewriter, profit from the ease of a computer, or write with a pen on paper, as I have done for 30 years. As he writes, he can drink tea or coffee, or smoke cigarettes. From time to time he may rise from his table to look out through the window at the children playing in the street, and, if he is lucky, at trees and a view, or he can gaze out at a black wall. He can write poems, plays, or novels, as I do. All these differences come after the crucial task of sitting down at the table and patiently turning inwards. To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy. As I sit at my table, for days, months, years, slowly adding new words to the empty page, I feel as if I am creating a new world, as if I am bringing into being that other person inside me, in the same way someone might build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone. The stones we writers use are words. As we hold them in our hands, sensing the ways in which each of them is connected to the others, looking at them sometimes from afar, sometimes almost caressing them with our fingers and the tips of our pens, weighing them, moving them around, year in and year out, patiently and hopefully, we create new worlds.

The writer’s secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where it comes from – it is his stubbornness, his patience. That lovely Turkish saying – to dig a well with a needle – seems to me to have been said with writers in mind. In the old stories, I love the patience of Ferhat, who digs through mountains for his love – and I understand it, too. In my novel, My Name is Red, when I wrote about the old Persian miniaturists who had drawn the same horse with the same passion for so many years, memorising each stroke, that they could recreate that beautiful horse even with their eyes closed, I knew I was talking about the writing profession, and my own life. If a writer is to tell his own story – tell it slowly, and as if it were a story about other people – if he is to feel the power of the story rise up inside him, if he is to sit down at a table and patiently give himself over to this art – this craft – he must first have been given some hope. The angel of inspiration (who pays regular visits to some and rarely calls on others) favours the hopeful and the confident, and it is when a writer feels most lonely, when he feels most doubtful about his efforts, his dreams, and the value of his writing – when he thinks his story is only his story – it is at such moments that the angel chooses to reveal to him stories, images and dreams that will draw out the world he wishes to build.

Arun Kolatkar – Butterfly

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from: amazingsahyadri.com

There is no story behind it.

It is split like a second.

It hinges around itself.

 

It has no future.Yogesh Butterfly1

It is pinned down to no past.

It’s a pun on the present.

 

Its a little yellow butterfly.

It has taken these wretched hills

under its wings.

 

Just a pinch of yellow,

Yogesh Butterfly3

it opens before it closes

and it closes before it o

 

where is it?

 

 

Pictures; Yogesh Kardile at http://www.amazingsahyadri.com

Raja Rao’s Kanthapura, nationalism and caste

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Raja Rao’s Kanthapura enacts some of the motifs of postcolonialism. In my previous post here I point out that Raja Rao critiques the simple position al010that the discourse of colonialism instituted a notion of the natural superiority of the colonising race and this was internalised by the colonized. In the second piece on the novel I point to how the novel problematizes viewing colonial modernity as having had a liberating impact on the Indian society. Let me take this reading further.

The problematising potential of the novel extends to anti-colonial nationalism too. In order to examine this let us turn to another dimension of the novel. The emergence of novel as a genre in 19th century India raises the question of whether it is derivative. While there is a debate on this issue, the novel’s role in enabling the notion of nation-state to take shape is an important one. Benedict Anderson has argued that novel is partly responsible for a community to imagine itself as a nation. The novels written in 19th century and even beyond in India may be used to support this claim. While in Kanthapura, the action is restricted to the village itself with none of the characters venturing too far out, yet the village is not insulated against the happenings in other places. In fact, the stimulation for action is not local. The grand events that form the focal points of the novel take place in response to events elsewhere – Lahore, Bengal, Gujarat, etc. The village community moves from an insulated identity towards a national identity. In one sense, Kanthapura chronicles the formation of a national identity within a remote village. This thematic is also supported by the manner in which the village becomes a kind of a microcosm of the nation. The narrative tends towards mythicizing. For example Moorthy’s fast, Ramakrishnayya’s death, the receding of the flood, and nationalist struggle itself are mythicized. The narrative takes recourse to Vedantic texts and Puranas and inserts nationalist struggle into them. For example, in a harikatha, Jayaramachar brings in an allegory between Siva, Parvati and the nation. The three eyed Siva stands for Swaraj. Later Rangamma standing in as the commentator of Vedanta after the death of her father reads the Puranas allegorically, interpreting hell as the foreign rule, soul as India and so on. Shall we say nation is thus constructed hermeneutically?

The process of imagining a community – of imagining nationhood – also underlines the homogenising tendency of nationalism. The congress workers, who so vehemently are ‘swadeshi’ and give up anything foreign, unwittingly embrace the European model of nation. This notion requires a nation state to have a singular form. A nation is a community of people who have a common language etc. Thus in Kanthapura, Congressmen including Moorthy follow the same model of the nation-state. Sankaru epitomises this: his insistence on speaking Hindi even to his mother instead of the local language Kannada; his fanatic resistance to the use of English and so on. This conception of the nation informs that of everyone: e.g. the narrator visualises Moorthy {when in prison} to be wearing kurta pyjama instead of dhoti. The Hindi teacher is not from any Hindi speaking region but a Malayali [Surya Menon]. Thus, the very conception of ‘Nation’, which is conceived after the European model of the nation-state, undermines the ‘Swadeshi’ spirit of nationalism. Any pure form of nationhood untouched by colonialism is seriously questioned.

Another problem arises when this novel is read as a record of a nation-in-the-making.  It would seem to exemplify Jameson’s argument that third world literature is necessarily a national allegory. When we keep in mind that Benedict Anderson’s thesis about the emergence of nation-state is a work on the emergence of nation-state in Europe, Jameson’s argument seems to put third world literature in the past of European literature. This only re-enacts the familiar theme that comes across in the colonialist historiography of Indian nationalism: that Indian nationalism is a learning process as has been pointed out by Ranjit Guha (Subaltern Studies I). This particular view of nationalism characterises Indian nationalism as a response to the stimulus of colonial administration. The view of the history of the colonised society as a march towards the teleological goal of becoming ultimately ‘Europe’ places them always at a past time in relation to the colonisers present time. The denial of coevalness of time is a necessity in the discourse of colonialism.

This view of India’s history being bound to Europe takes us to Dipesh Chakravarthy’s thesis that as far as history as a discourse is concerned, Europe remains the sovereign theoretical subject of all histories, including the one we call Indian (Provincialising Europe OUP, 2001). Further, he says, as opposed to other narratives of self and community, history is the meta-narrative that looks to the state/citizen bind as the ultimate construction of sociality. Other constructions of self and community speak an anti-historical consciousness. With modernity, history becomes the site where the struggle goes on to appropriate other collocations of memory. In Kanthapura, the narrative in the beginning reflects an ahistorical consciousness. The description of the village life is as a timeless continuum in the form of Sthalapurana. Or the Harikatha wherein nationalist figures become mythical. Whereas, colonialism disrupts the narratives of the community and introduces ‘history’. In as far as the change in the narrative technique, which becomes more linear while narrating the freedom struggle in Kanthapura, history really begins with Europe inhabiting Kanthapura. This is most clearly suggested in the loss of mythicizing tendency of the narrative in the later part when the arrival of newspapers, novels and pamphlets has exposed the first person narrator to techniques of historicizing.

This whole reading of the novel harps back upon the exchange between the coloniser and the colonised. The interesting insights offered by the novel are about the immense complications and violence that attend the arrival of colonial modernity in India.

The novel highlights with no subtlety the collusion between colonialism and Brahmanism. The manner in which Moorthy becomes an outcaste in the Brahmin quarters with his campaign against untouchability indicates the tension between Brahmanism and nationalism. For Brahmanism, the colonial ruler is not the enemy but Gandhi’s anti-untouchable movement is. The collusion between Brahmanism and colonialism is suggested through the alliance between Bhatta, Bade Khan the policeman and the Sahib of the Estate. Swami, who is waging a war against ‘caste pollution due to this pariah business’, sees British rulers as protectors of the ancient ways of Dharma. Swami receives a large amount from the govt as Rajadakshina and is promised that he would receive moral and material support in his war against caste pollution.

While this reading posits nationalism in conflict with brahminism, something more interesting is available if we push our reading a little further. Moorthy’s politics in the village mobilises people of all castes for the struggle against colonisers. In so doing Moorthy radicalises his sociality by visiting the untouchable quarters, and even having milk offered by one of them. Interestingly after this he is troubled by his action and takes a bath. Though he does not change his sacred thread as then he would have to do it daily, he does take a little Ganga water and we are promised that he would do that every time he visits the pariahs. His politics aims at assimilating the lower castes into the nationalist movement. This may also operate as a move towards containment. For example, the discourse of nationalism meets the discourse of religion at different levels in the novel. While Bhatta, Swami and their followers {who have often material motives such as Venkamma) resist Gandhism in the name of religion, in Kanthapura, the nationalists increasingly employ the religious discourse and customs and symbols for nationalist purposes. Religious resources are mobilised for the politicisation of the people. But the customs, rituals and symbols that become tools of nationalist mobilisation are primarily Brahminic: arthi, puja, conches, bells, Vedanta, bhajan etc. They do not include the cultural practices of the lower castes though their participation is prominent.

The overall idea I have of the novel is that it is an immensely clever novel that very ably reflects much of the nationalistic themes including the patronising attitude towards the lower caste society. The novel, much like hegemonic Indian nationalists, deploys anti-caste postures to dissemble the projection of brahminical culture as the legitimate national culture.