Poor but enterprising… hip hip hurray to piracy

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Following came as an email attachment, sent to me by my friend, writer Sucharita Datta-Asane. I don’t know if it was really written by Shekhar Kapoor, I have no reason to doubt it either. But, I post it here, because this is entirely probable as an incident and, I also see the underlying point about piracy and the corporates’ shameless hunger. I for one stand by the ingenuity behind most piracy. This is also ethical hacking. Hack, Hack and Hack… hip hip hurray to piracy.
Why India Works – written by film director Shekhar Kapoor.
A greater ‘hole in the wall’ you cannot imagine. A small fading sign on the top saying “Cellphoon reapars” barely visible through the street vendors crowding the Juhu Market in Mumbai. On my way to buy a new Blackberry, my innate sense of adventure made me stop my car and investigate. A shop not more than 6 feet by 6 feet. Grimy and uncleaned.
‘Can you fix a Blackberry ?”
‘Of course, show me”
”How old are you” ‘Sixteen’
Bullshit. He was no more than 10. Not handing my precious blackberry to a 10 year old in unwashed and torn T shirt and pyjamas! At least if I buy a new one, they would extract the data for me. Something I have been meaning to do for a year now.
‘What’s wrong with it?”
‘Well, the roller track ball does not respond. It’s kind of stuck and I cannot operate it”
He grabs it from my hand and looks at it
“You should wash your hands. Many customers have same problem. Roller ball get greasy and dirty, then no working’
Look who was telling me to wash my hands. He probably has not bathed for 10 days, I leaned out to snatch my useless blackberry back..
” You come back in one hour and I fix it’.
I am not leaving all my precious data in this unwashed kid’s hands for an hour. No way.
“Who will fix it?”
‘Big brother’
‘How big is ‘big brother?’
‘big …. Umm ..thirty’
Then suddenly big brother walks in. 30 ??? He is no more than 19.
‘What problem?’ He says grabbing the phone from my greasy hand into his greasier hand. Obviously not trained in etiquette by an upmarket retail store manager.
‘Normal blackberry problem. I replace with original part now. You must wash your hand before you use this’. What is this about me washing my hands suddenly??
19 year old big brother rummages through a dubious drawer full of junk and fishes out a spare roller ball packed in cheap cellophane wrapper. Original part? I doubt it.  But by now I am in the lap of the real India and there is no escape as he fishes out a couple of screwdrivers and sets about opening my Blackberry.
“How long will this take?”
”Six minutes”
This I have to see. After spending the whole morning trying to find a Blackberry service centre and getting vague answers about sending the phone in for an assessment that might take a week, I settle down next to his grubby cramped work space. At least I am going to be able to watch all my stored data vanish into virtual space. People crowd around to see what’s happening. I am not breathing easy anyway. I tell myself this is an adventure and literally have to stop myself grabbing my precious Blackberry back and making a quick escape. But in exactly six minutes this kid handed my Blackberry back. He had changed the part and cleaned and serviced the whole phone. Taken it apart, and put it together. As I turned the phone on there was a horrific 2 minutes where the phone would not come on. I looked at him with such hostility that he stepped back.
‘you have more than thousand phone numbers ?”
‘yes’.
‘backed up?’
‘no’
‘Must back up. I do it for you. Never open phone before backing up’
‘You tell me that now?’
But then the phone came on and my data was still there. Everyone watching laughed and clapped. This was becoming a show. A six minute show. I asked him how much.
‘500 rupees’ He ventured uncertainly. People around watched in glee expecting a negotiation.
That’s $10 dollars as against the Rs 30,000 ($ 600) I was about to spend on a new Blackberry or a couple of weeks without my phone. I looked suitably shocked at his ‘high price’ but calmly paid him. Much to the disappointment of the expectant crowd
‘do you have an I-Phone ? Even the new ‘4D one ?
‘no, why”
‘I break the code for you and load any ‘app’ or film you want. I give you 10 film on your memory stick on this one, and change every week for small fee’
I went home having discovered the true entrepreneurship that lies at what we call the ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Some may call it piracy, which of course it is, but what can you say about two uneducated and untrained brothers aged 10 and 19 that set up a ‘hole in the wall’ shop and can fix any technology that the greatest technologists in the world can throw at them. I smiled at the future of our country. If only we could learn to harness this potential.
‘Please wash your hands before use’ were his last words to me. Now I am feeling seriously unclean.

February 14 – Free Speech Day

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Vikram Seth, speech at the Kolkata Book Fair on Kolkata, Kobi, Constitution and Kolom:

I will now go to the fourth ‘ko’ or Kolom. I have touched upon the word in law and literature. But especially when one thinks of Tagore, one also thinks of the word as a graphic form, a form of art. I am very happy that Sunil Gangopadhyay and I—as part of this inauguration—were asked to write the word ‘kolom’ in black paint on those white boards there. As you can see, Sunil Da has written it in Bengali and I have written it in English and Urdu. It is interesting that three of the world’s great civilisations, the Hindu, the Islamic and the Judaeo-Christian, are thus incorporated on those boards, just as they are part of our common discourse. This is the richness of our country; we cannot allow it to be filtered and thinned. This is the strength of our country; we cannot allow it to be contorted or distorted.

Let me end with the two opening lines of a poem by Tagore that I have known—in his own English translation—since I was eleven years old. It was one of our school prayers and it expresses his aspirations for India.

‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free.’

Let me repeat that: ‘Where knowledge is free.’

Those who try to cloud our minds with fear are the enemies of both knowledge and freedom.

We cannot let our republic, our beloved republic, our constitutional republic, our free and free-speaking republic, be hijacked by fear. It happened once in the Emergency. It must never happen again.

We cannot let them close our mouths and eyes and ears.

We cannot let them break the pen or ration the ink.

Kolome kali jeno na shokaye.

May the kolom flourish.

 

More here.

CFP: Caste, Gender and Sexuality in Asia

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Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 33

Call for Contributions on Caste, Gender and Sexuality in Asia

For centuries now, caste system has been one of the most influential and deciding factors as a pattern of social stratification and segregation in most of the Asian countries. The system is so deeply rooted that each and every aspect of human life in these societies is affected and shaped by it. Each caste in the hierarchy comes up with its own social and cultural norms for the members of its community. Women are the most vulnerable and the worst affected members of the caste based societies. While women in general suffer internal oppression and gender bias, women of the casteist societies bear the multiple burdens of their caste, class, religion, region and work apart from gender discrimination. Moreover caste not only prescribes the roles but also assigns duties and responsibilities and prescribes food, dress and other codes of conduct for people, especially women. In a similar manner is constructed the male gender with different set of roles and responsibilities. The sexuality of genders is also defined and decided according to the caste hierarchy. In some contexts, certain genders and gender roles are forcibly thrust on people to perform certain roles depending on their caste and vulnerability to exploitation. In recent times, these societies are transforming gradually owing to political, cultural, economic and social developments. In this context, caste and gender have become some of the most important concepts of the social and cultural discourse. While on one hand there are efforts on for casteless societies, on the other hand assertion of caste identities is also becoming a crucial strategy of resistance against caste and gender hegemony. We look forward to discuss the following issues in INTERSECTIONS:

  • How does caste system contribute to the construction of gender roles and sexuality?
  • How do the narratives of gender oppression debate framework of caste and vice-versa?
  • How do the rewritings, retellings and translations of classical/canonical texts write alternative histories from gender and caste perspectives?
  • How does oral tradition construct or deconstruct caste, gender and sexuality?
  • How are the creative representations of sexuality influenced by notions of caste and gender?
  • How do the various movements and voices centered on caste and gender intersect or conflict in changing societies?
  • How are politics and governing influenced by caste and gender?
  • How have the developments like globalization, liberalization and English education influenced the categories of caste and gender?
  • What is the role of religions in shaping the gender and conversion in caste-ridden societies where both caste and religion define gender and sexuality?
  • How does the postcolonial debate function in terms of caste and gender?

These and any other questions related to caste, gender and sexuality are welcome to be discussed.

The online nature of the journal allows for added flexibility in including images, video clips, and other supplemental materials.

Deadline for submissions: 1 March 2012

Go here for submission details.


A poem by Surjit Paatar

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Candles

Light these candles.
Rise, light these candles.
There will remain,
These quarrelsome winds,
But you should light these candles.

May darkness not think the moon scared.
May night not think the sun dead.
Light these lamps to honor life.
Rise, light these candles.

Granted, the night’s reign may be stubborn,
But rays of light still survive.
On dark pages, verses revealing life.
Rise, light these candles.

These cruel whirlwinds will remain,
The fall will shake away the leaves,
But this does not mean that new leaves will not grow.
Rise, light these candles.

Unafraid of the poison that spreads daily in the wind,
Nature continues to do its duty,
Of transforming poison into nectar.
Rise, light these candles.

Girls, do not cry, this is the time of Rahiras.
Do not linger on death, reflect upon the passage of time.
These difficulties will pass away.
Rise, light these candles.

 

Translation Courtesy: Wikipedia

Generic Conditions of the Novel and Nation

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Published in Journal of School of Letters, JNU, Delhi, Volume 13, 2010.

This article aims to rework two very famous formulations on novel and nation. It has become necessary for students of literary discourses to take into account Benedict Anderson and Frederic Jameson while studying novels. In this essay reviewing their positions, I try to rework their theses by tracing certain commonality between nation and the novel as structures of organisation. I argue that novel is a parasitic category forming itself through forms other than itself just as nation as an identity category devours and re-configures pre-existing forms of collective identities. This generic similarity alerts us to the historical connections between the novel and nation and requires us to deploy this factor in our studies of novels. In connecting the novel with the exclusionary conditions of the production of national identity via the generic commonality between the novel and nation we also begin to notice that novels position themselves in the conflictual site of the ideological battle between contesting nationalisms. Therefore, novels may be studied to discover the implicit construction and contestation of nation.

 

The novel is one kind of narrative with which we world our worlds. Narratives do not just word our worlds but also world our words. Our cognition of our own being in the world is enabled by the stories we gather up in our existence in the world. This ‘worldliness’ enters into our structure of feeling and our structures of expressing. It is in this sense that our words are already a part of the world we inhabit.

This paper examines one of the ways in which the study of the novel as a genre may be contextualised in the figure of ‘nation’. I aim to rework two very famous formulations on novel and nation. It has become necessary for students of literary discourses to take into account Benedict Anderson and Frederic Jameson while studying novels. In this essay reviewing their positions, I try to rework their theses by tracing certain commonality between nation and the novel as structures of organisation. I argue that novel is a parasitic category forming itself through forms other than itself just as nation as an identity category devours and re-configures pre-existing forms of collective identities. This generic similarity alerts us to the historical connections between the novel and nation and requires us to deploy this factor in our studies of novels. In connecting the novel with the exclusionary conditions of the production of national identity via the generic commonality between the novel and nation we also begin to notice that novels position themselves in the conflictual site of the ideological battle between contesting nationalisms. Therefore, novels may be studied to discover the implicit construction and contestation of nation…