Category: Culture

March 3, 2018 /

Around 00:05 on February 19 2018, Indian armed forces shot dead Syed Habibullah after he allegedly “tried to enter the high security Air Force Station” in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district. The police spokesman said that the man, in his fifties, “appeared to be mentally challenged”—he was not wearing any footwear, had no winter clothing, and did not carry any identity card. Those who knew him told media-persons that “he used to roam from once place to another, not because he was mentally challenged but because he was distressed with extreme penury.” He was laid to rest in his native village of Soibug amidst pro-freedom slogans and clashes with the government forces.
 The name Habibullah translates as ‘the beloved of God.’

March 1, 2018 /

Black Panther, apart from its spectacular reconstruction of an “Afro-future, also encapsulates the reality of indigenous societies of North East India succinctly. I don’t think there is any other popular movie in recent times than Black Panther that has engaged with the questions of modernity and oppression. It may have its problems (after all it is a movie) but the message of Black Panther needs reflection.

February 28, 2018 /

After almost a year of rigmarolic churning of volcanic events – from vandalism, to criticism, to criticism of the vandalism and criticism, and finally full-throated endorsement – Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat seems to have reached a moment of critical enervation, triggering an intellectual sluggishness of monolithic and polar responses. The film, and its legal and extra-legal instances of censorships fomented such frenzied passions that almost all sides of the political spectrum, from the right to the center to the liberal-left to the left…

February 21, 2018 /

If Asma’s vision for Pakistan had ever become a reality, it would be a much better place. But it is hard to talk about dreams. It is the reality of a country which shapes who we make of ourselves. Throughout her life, Asma stood with the oppressed and the marginalized, whether they be women, religious minorities, brick kiln workers or peasants. Asma, like her father, was on the wrong side of Pakistan’s historical consensus.

February 18, 2018 /

We speak Mnar in Jirang, a language so different, mutually unintelligible from Khasi. My training in linguistics tells me this is a different variety of the Khasian languages. There are several of them. While we share so many of the ways in which we talk about the world, about our experiences of it, languages are also different. To call a language a language and to mark variances as dialects, is a political process and very often do not do justice to the variants. If we look at Norwegian and Swedish, they share many more similarities than Standard Khasi and Mnar, and yet they are languages, because they are spoken in different countries. So for historical reasons and political reasons, Standard Khasi has become “the Language”, and all the others, dialects.

February 14, 2018 /

Northeast India is littered with concrete. From winding flyovers to towering churches on village hillsides to surveillance towers housing paramilitary forces, concrete is an integral to the region’s urban and rural landscapes and everything in in between. What can all this concrete tell us? What stories does it open up? What can questions about politics, power, development, and culture concrete rais

February 13, 2018 /

Such videos which claim to address the issue of ‘women’s safety’ post the 16th December 2012 rape are fantastic in their myopia, and deeply offensive, and need to be challenged. In this video, the juxtaposition of the narratives of primarily upper class and upper caste women with random shots of working class men in public spaces, is unacceptable, and adds to reinforcing the construct of working-class men as the only and markedly, perpetrators of sexual violence. It is horrible how in this video, the narrative of privileged women’s experiences that include never daring “to take public transport at night” or talking about “backward mentality” and “patriarchy” are repeatedly counter-posed with random visuals of working-class men going about their daily lives, whether in the sabzi mandi or waiting for passengers in their e-rickshaws or travelling in the back of a truck together.

February 11, 2018 /

RAIOT is pleased to publish this second extract from ‘Chandal Jibon’ (2009) by Manoranjan Byapari. ‘Chandal Jibon’ is the story of Jibon, a boy born into the hitherto ‘untouchable’ Chandal (or Namasudra) community in East Bengal, whose parents flee from East Pakistan and arrive as refugees in India. The story of the boy’s journey to adulthood – is also the story of the experience of the subaltern Bengali refugee community and of caste oppression, humiliation and violence, providing a trenchant bottom-up view of post-1947 Bengal and of Calcutta in the turbulent Naxalite era. It is an epic tale of the indomitable human will to survive.

February 9, 2018 /

The freedom to express and art’s license remain paramount and need to be protected; as a collateral risk, one ends up endorsing even films which valorise and romanticise abominable ‘values’… I take this chance to introduce you to a less-known terrain… a film by the name Tango Charlie, directed by Mani Shankar, a self-proclaimed anti-war film

February 7, 2018 /

On 22 January, on the day of Saraswati Puja, two girls were photographed buying alcohol from a wine shop in Assam. The photograph not only went viral on social media, but also became subject to a news on a popular news channel, News Live, attracting unwanted attention and creating a hullabaloo among the self-professed guardians of Assamese national culture. Assam has been a regular witness of such events.

February 6, 2018 /

Nearly eleven years after the infamous attack on the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda and the arrest and brief incarceration of the student Chandramohan S. and the suspension of the then in-charge Dean, Shivaji K. Panikkar, on 2nd of February 2018 we bear witness to an uncanny event that unfolded in the Vice-Chancellor’s cabin of MSU. Chandramohan had allegedly set fire to the office of the vice chancellor as a marker of his self-consuming frustration resulting from the institutional violence inflicted on him by denying him the basic dignity as a human being.

January 28, 2018 /

This is the opening chapter of Tamil novelist Joe D’Cruz’s first work of fiction, AazhiSoozh Ullagu (The Ocean-Rimmed World) translated by V. Geetha Published in 2004, on the eve of the tsunami that devastated Tamil nadu’s coast, the novel unfolds as a series of events, tales and meditations on the sea, fisher life and the coast, over a period of time, from the early decades of the 20th century to the 1980s.
V. Geetha had translated the 600+ page novel in 2013 and it was all set for publication, when Mr C’Cruz announced his support for Narendra Modi’s candidature as prime ministerial candidate and for the BJP. This upset the translator and she withdrew her translation and decided not to offer it for publication. She has however continued to reflect on her decision, since the novel tells a rich and layered tale and is a great testimony to the lives of fishers, their imagination, powers of endurance and their love of the sea.

January 25, 2018 /

Worried about his prolonged boozing,
His son-in-law once took him to a specialist.
Disgusted to find his parts normal and realizing
He has lost a patient, the specialist inscribed
In his report: Has been drinking for 52 years.
Naturally, I threw away all the pills he gave
Said the man who only smiles but never laughs.

January 15, 2018 /

Yes, we will be hospitable; yes, we welcome you; yes, we will host you; yes, we will feed you well; yes, we will offer you what we have, and yes, we will host you on our terms. Yes, to control of numbers to ecologically and otherwise sensitive areas.  Yes, to local guides, small business, shops and eating establishments.

January 4, 2018 /

An aspect that I have come to associate with Shillong is nostalgia; a longing for a city that once was. This relates to the colonial past, when the city was less populated, greener and cleaner, but also to a more recent postcolonial past. Among middle-aged people – those I mainly socialise with – this longing is mainly for the city of their youth; a city prior to violence and protests, a peaceful and friendly place where you go to meet a friend or watch a movie late in the evening without fear. But as many of my interlocutors lament, this ended in the 1980s with increasing ethnic conflicts, curfews, rallies and underground activities. The past – the 1960s and 70s – appears as a time of innocence, freedom and possibilities in a world that was opening up. While I suppose it is a universal feature to cling to memories of the formative period of one’s youth, Shillongites seem especially besieged by a nostalgic mood, a collective commemoration of the past. That life for many in the city has improved materially doesn’t seem to alter such cravings for the city that once was.

December 30, 2017 /

Ia ka History ngi pule ym tang kum ka jingiathuh khana, hynrei ngi dei ruh ban pynshai shynna (interpret) ia ki jingjia history na kawei ka pateng sha kawei pat. Ki jingjia ha ka history ym dei ba ki iathuh ne kdew tang shaphang ka mynnor, khamtam eh ka History ka don ruh ban hikai bad pyrsad mynsiem thymmai ia ka mynta. Lada don ei ei ban kynmaw ia U Kiang Nangbah ka long kum u nongialam ha ka thma jong ki paidbah (Peoples rebellion).

December 27, 2017 /

First off, though you might be infested with con-men at any social strata depending on what it is they are after, it is generally a problem associated with the middle and upper classes. This is because these strata are easily impressed by fancy-sounding English words and preening talk especially related to big dreams and big bucks.

December 23, 2017 /

It doesn’t snow in my village,
Santa Claus is unfamiliar to us,
though we don’t get Christmas cake,
Yet Christmas is best in my village;

Reindeers don’t roam in our forest,
Exchanging Christmas gifts is not our tradition,
Bethlehem is a place we’ve never seen,
yet Christmas is best in my village.
[Khrismas Ye Niphulo pavi / Christmas is best in my village, a christmas song by Sumi Naga Choral group NAGAGENOUS]

December 22, 2017 /

Around a month and half ago, I was sitting in a restaurant in Cherrapunjee having lunch with my friend Raymond when a group of seven or eight tourists walked in. They asked at the counter, on their way in, if the place served vegetarian food, and on hearing it did, they took a table about 10 feet away from where we were sitting. Then someone at that table probably spotted me eating a leg of chicken. Immediately, all hell broke loose.

December 17, 2017 /

Shillong was really cold at this time of the year. A walk past any row of houses would send fumes of burning coal into the nose-that comforting, slightly toxic smell which was reassuring in the still winters. It seemed the leaves of trees would make a crackling groan when the breeze lightly blew in the evening. The hens were nestled in their coops and the puppies were huddled on old sacks, hiding away their creamy bellies.

December 15, 2017 /

The news of a famous wedding has been hogging all the limelight in the media throughout this week. The excitement over Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli’s wedding to actress Anushka Sharma has been putting even the drama surrounding Harry Windsor’s Royal Wedding to shame. However, Virushka (their moniker, which wins my vote for the worst couple name. As a friend pointed out to me, why anyone would go with Virushka and not Korma is beyond me) is not the significant development in wedding related news to occur this week. The real story, which flew largely under the radar, was about Sankar and Kausalya, a Tamilian inter-caste couple that fell victim to a brutal murder.

December 14, 2017 /

At the background of this piece lies the general political rage, moments frozen in heat, surrounding the developments that concern the overwhelming capitalistic, neo-liberalistic engagement of the non-queer population with the politics of the queer, and queer politics; one, the fact that the Transgender Person’s Bill 2016 is going to be tabled soon in the winter session of the parliament, and two, Presidency University, Kolkata, is going to witness its own version of the Pride as a part of its annual ‘fest’, Milieu 2018, both of which disturb me in their own ways.

December 13, 2017 /

Here is a place where it is a matter of pride to be casteist and a matter of pride to be against people who are not your own creed or clan. With relation to the current election, one thing I heard repeated over and over again by the people I met (privileged upper caste) was that Congress is a “Muslim” party and will bring back the riots of the 80s and we have already shown them their place on the other side of the river and we don’t want them back. 

December 10, 2017 /

Many moons ago, as a 12 yr. old bookworm, I was allowed access to a cupboard full of books in my school. My father was posted in Jowai, a little town in Meghalaya where the marketplace, school, movie hall and police station were at walking distance from each other. With the nearest bookstore some more than 60 kilometers away in Shillong, that joy came occasionally. So when Sister Rose allowed me access to that cupboard, my joy knew no bounds! Her kind soul must have noticed my hunger for the written word and she decided to go out of her way and allow me this luxury. Among the old books, mostly donated from schools in the US and UK, I found a copy of The Room on the Roof. Thus began my tryst with Ruskin Bond.

December 3, 2017 /

Sometimes, through no fault of its own, a neighbourhood picks up a bad reputation. If you happen to visit it on a singularly uneventful day, you will find it roofed with a blue sky, and dark-green pines and bamboos stooping to kiss its dusty road. And although it is true that love was made in all its wintry houses and its dead have been buried in its unruffled graveyard, you would never guess how it earned such a vague hatred from outsiders.

November 29, 2017 /

It is true that Bhupen Hazarika’s political views took a significant turn in his later life and in many ways he became the cynosure of conservative politicians of different hues. We should add to it our collective misfortune that there is no dearth of politicians in this country who can appropriate a cultural capital towards a political end and turn it to material/ military/ electoral gain

November 25, 2017 /

‘Chandal Jibon’ (2009) by Manoranjan Byapari is the story of Jibon, a boy born into the hitherto ‘untouchable’ Chandal (or Namasudra) community in East Bengal, whose parents flee from East Pakistan and arrive as refugees in India. The story of the boy’s journey to adulthood – is also the story of the experience of the subaltern Bengali refugee community and of caste oppression, humiliation and violence, providing a trenchant bottom-up view of post-1947 Bengal and of Calcutta in the turbulent Naxalite era. It is an epic tale of the indomitable human will to survive.