Category: Culture

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.

November 17, 2017 /

Unlike Meghalaya, in Japan cherry blossom culture is “natural”, it has been celebrated, in some form or the other, over hundreds of years. It didn’t grow out of a need to impress tourists or to be an “international” PR event. “International” is the new buzz word which hurts my ears! And then I have to ask, why cherry blossoms? Why not ‘sohphoh’ blossoms? (a member of the apple family found widely in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills) Those blossoms are quite beautiful as well. At least the hardy and indigenous ‘sohphoh’ gives you fruits as well. Many locals use it to make jams, preserves and ciders as well so I am for the ‘non-international sohphoh’.

November 14, 2017 /

Five hundred years ago, on the eve of All Saints Day, 1517, an obscure professor and cleric at an upstart university in Electoral Saxony published a lengthy list of scholarly debating points over the theology of indulgences.
The “Ninety-Five Theses,” as they came to be called, catapulted Martin Luther into the centre of a controversy that would soon affect all of Europe in staggeringly diverse ways — from great wars and religious persecution to massive educational renewal and marriage reforms.

November 12, 2017 /

Drag today must respond to the exclusion of clubs, to the transphobia and femmephobia of gay men, to the respectability politics of our savarna movements. Drag to be drag – exciting, critical, entertaining – must be dangerous. Imagine, drag queens lipsyncing for their lives as the house of patriarchy burns in the background!

October 31, 2017 /

Soibam Haripriya is being abused into accepting her status as a woman from “within the community” who the men can punish and lay claims over. Nationalism requires pious and submissive women to create a “pure” community. Women such as Soibam Haripriya through their work and politics exemplify the transgressive women which threaten to destabilise the nationalist aspirations of a community. Any such criticism puncturing the myth of Northeast exceptionalism of being an ‘egalitarian’ society immediately injures the patriarchal ego of the keepers of such myth and nationalisms.

October 21, 2017 /

He started his career in music at a very young age of 6 Years playing in church services and winning many music competitions at a very young age.
At a time when many of his school mates where preparing for their final exams, Manfulson was busy playing as a session musician in studios making music for iconic albums like those produced by the Khasi Students Union. He continued playing for bands like Conbrio and others. Meanwhile he continued playing in gospel albums produced by the Bible Society India Shillong Auxilliary and innumerable other albums.

October 20, 2017 /

We have almost become numb to the many lynchings that happen on a regular basis in India these days, especially of Muslim citizens (men, mostly). But, the lynching of a Manganiyar musician was almost like a personal affront. I have had a memorable encounter with the Manganiyar or Merasi community in 2014 and I always wanted to write about them. I never knew of their caste structures and hierarchies till I visited them in their village. I am just going to write here about this Merasi musician, Dapu Khan, and my encounter with him. The Merasis are the voice of the desert, they have been and will remain so.

October 18, 2017 /

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organizations that fall under the umbrella of the Sangh Parivar have grown roots in the United States and have become active in fundraising and propaganda activities. Taking advantage of their status as an ethnic minority, these groups nakedly pursue a majoritarian Hindu agenda in the west and lash out against institutions and individuals that critique India’s Hindu nationalist government or it’s leader Narendra Modi.

October 10, 2017 /

The panel discussion, the worst that television news has invented – the half-hour/one hour compact spectacle performed with incensed verbose flying statements, filled with multiple screens, presenting zero logic but finding increasing traction amongst the audience – is what is plaguing Indian journalism and journalism education in particular.

October 7, 2017 /

The man was arrested because he laughed.
He laughed at a time when laughing had been strictly prohibited. It was an unusual time, when people were not supposed to laugh, or even open their mouths. They were only meant to listen; it was only a select few who would do all the talking while everyone else simply listened – that was the rule in those days.

This interview by Amrapali Basumatary & Bonojit Hussain was taken in 2016 December, just two days after Akhil Gogoi was released from his 78 days of imprisonment by The Assam Government. For various reasons the interview couldn’t be published during that time. However, with the recent re-imprisonment of Akhil Gogoi under the National Security Act (NSA) in September 2017, we feel that it is important to bring this interview to public domain.

October 4, 2017 /

Gauri Lankesh was one of the Karnataka’s most prominent and fearless journalist. She was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru on the night of 5th September, 2017. Gauri spoke out against communal forces in the Country and represented dissent and freedom of speech. The film is more than a personal tribute and follows her political journey, envisaging what she stood for and her struggle for communal harmony until her last breath. And her life story has become the history of Karnataka’s fight against right-wing communal forces.