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.