Category: Culture

October 3, 2018 /

So many people instinctively cheered upon hearing that the Indian Supreme Court has ruled that women of all ages must be granted access to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Even I was thrilled that the court’s decision came down on the side recognizing women as equal to men even in religious spaces. However, on further thought, I’m afraid I’ve revised my opinion to a more unpopular or contentious view: I don’t believe that upholding a woman’s right to worship as she pleases in any one particular temple is more important than the principle that state law cannot and should not attempt to regulate religious belief systems. Doing so is entering very dangerous territory that is ultimately likely to backfire in some unexpected and deeply damaging way. Our constitution grants us freedom of religion for very good reasons.

October 2, 2018 /

What qualities should such an honoured servant of society exemplify in his person? In my opinion an ideal Bhangi should have a thorough knowledge of the principles of sanitation. He should know how a right kind of latrine is constructed and the correct way of cleaning it. He should know how to overcome and destroy the odour of excreta and the various disinfectants to render them innocuous. He should likewise know the process of converting night- soil and urine into manure.

October 2, 2018 /

Gandhism is a paradox. It stands for freedom from foreign domination, which means the destruction of the existing political structure of the country. At the same time it seeks to maintain intact a social structure which permits the domination of one class by another on a hereditary basis which means a perpetual domination of one class by another. What is the explanation of this paradox?

September 20, 2018 /

Maulana Bhashani remains a much demonised figure amongst a certain section of North East India for leading the movement for immigration of Bengali land hungry peasant into colonial Assam. So who was Maulana Bhashani? A rustic pir? A vulgar peasant leader? Scourge of Colonial India and Post colonial Pakistan & Bangladesh state? Communist? Islamist? Today, socialism and Islam are often viewed as incompatible. Does the career of Maulana Bhashani, “the Red Maulana” of Bangladesh, offer a corrective to this view?

September 18, 2018 /

Every year on 18th September, Khasi & Jaintia Hills gets a public holiday for Unitarian Day, a day when Hajom Kissor Singh Lyngdoh Nongbri led the first real Unitarian church service in his home in Jowai in 1887. Apart from the small and influential population of Khasi-Jaintia Unitarians for whom the day has historical and personal meaning others just enjoy the holiday without knowing the historical significance of the Day. For a small faith group worldwide as well as locally, Unitarians suffer from ignorance of society at large. Are Unitarians Christians? What do Unitarians believe in? What does Unitarian mean? So here it goes – a short guide to Unitarianism for you to read this 18th September.

September 13, 2018 /

Being different is no crime. Being gay is not a sin. And for a gay person to desire and pursue love and marriage and family is no more selfish or sinful than when a straight person desires and pursues the very same things. The Song of Songs tells us that King Solomon’s wedding day was “the day his heart rejoiced.” To deny to a small minority of people, not just a wedding day, but a lifetime of love and commitment and family is to inflict on them a devastating level of hurt and anguish. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that Christians are called to perpetuate that kind of pain in other people’s lives rather than work to alleviate it, especially when the problem is so easy to fix. All it takes is acceptance. The Bible is not opposed to the acceptance of gay Christians, or to the possibility of loving relationships for them. And if you are uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in love, if you are dead-set against that idea, then I am asking you to try to see things differently for my sake, even if it makes you uncomfortable. I’m asking you to ask yourself this: How deeply do you care about your family? How deeply do you love your spouse? And how tenaciously would you fight for them if they were ever in danger or in harm’s way? That is how deeply you should care, and that is how tenaciously you should fight, for the very same things for my life, because they matter just as much to me. Gay people should be a treasured part of our families and our communities, and the truly Christian response to them is acceptance, support, and love.

September 10, 2018 /

The feeling sank into my stomach like a stone. This wasn’t the city of my childhood vacations anymore. Had I grown up so quickly as to quietly absorb this pinching away of the dearest part of my treasure of memories? Or was this gross erasure an external change taking everything and everyone over elsewhere as well as in the city? I wasn’t so corrupted with knowledge then as now. As any child of eleven, I too didn’t bother to explain or philosophise. I only felt the difference with my senses: the cattle-touched smell of earth was gone; and it had taken with it a school-ridden child’s hyacinth and vine-covered paradise of her imagination and escape. I had lost something irretrievably. And it wasn’t even my fault.

September 2, 2018 /

You are told you write depressing poetry
You answered “The trick is to read newspapers incessantly”
You didn’t tell them “The trick is to feel every death in your bone”
The familiar blackout is not because of load shedding, now it is your choice because electricity is prepaid.
In another time I am sure
they’ll treat you with electricity
coursing your skin or maybe they did.

September 1, 2018 /

An important historical record of a traumatic period in India’s recent political history, PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE by Anand Patwardhan focuses on the State of Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi from June 1975 to March 1977. During the Emergency the media was muzzled, over 100,000 people were arrested without charge and imprisoned without trial. But political prisoners existed before the Emergency, and they continue to exist even after it is over.

August 31, 2018 /

In 2018, the musical North, West, East and South of Shillong have all combined to give us this very talented group of young musicians whose EP ‘Tempted’ is out now in all the world’s digital stores. They call themselves Blue Temptation and comprise, at some point or the other, Gregory Ford Nongrum, his elder brother El Nathan Ford Nongrum, Shepherd Najiar, Manavon Massar and Vincent Tariang (also of Soulmate). These five young men encapsulate Shillong’s old histories and musical geographies but, as they should, also burn them to the ground. Greg, El Nathan and Shepherd (Shep) are from ‘the West’ but they barely remember the Highway Band anymore and their journey into the blues was as simple and complex as the music itself. Manavon is a keyboard player/sound system blaster/DJ from the ‘Roots Region’ and his dreadlocks and patois, are therefore quite historically grounded. Vincent too is a direct descendant of the ‘Roots Region’ and I’m sure, his father Rudy Wallang must’ve played a small part in his love for the blues.

August 24, 2018 /

This article focuses on practices among us—that is, among seemingly liberal, educated Savarnas who seem to decry casteism in theory, in principle, and even in practice (i.e. academically-transmitted critiques bolstering our claims to caste innocence). But, we are simultaneously deeply invested in unseeing, denying, deflecting or defending our casteist practices in everyday and institutional life. My goal is to highlight these practices of denial and deflection as acts of caste terror and I want to suggest that everyday caste terror and everyday claims to caste innocence are two sides of the same coin, both of which help liberal savarnas project upper caste castelessness.

August 22, 2018 /

The thrust of the Bill was to ensure that there is purity of race (a discarded concept) by forbidding marriages outside the community. But by leaving out Khasi men marrying non-Khasi women the cat got out of the bag. Racial purity (supposed) is going to be disturbed if any foreign element is brought in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from the men’s side or the women’s. The answer to this dilemma was given by one of the panellists in one of the TV debate held on the issue. “The problem doesn’t arise because the seed comes from the man” argued by one who was in support of the bill. Not surprisingly it was a man who said it.

August 19, 2018 /

JUNE 2002.
IT IS raining on the morning he leaves Shillong. It has rained for the past three days, alternating between drizzle and downpour. He looks out of the bathroom window as he brushes his teeth—grey skies, rain, pine trees on the far hills, red tin roofs—and feels an indefinable sadness in his heart. He quickly bids farewell to his mother and brother and walks through the rain with his bag to the car where his father waits.
He is dropped off at Police Bazar where a long line of Guwahati-bound Tata Sumos wait for passengers, their engines idling. A swarm of young touts encircle him as he gets down from the car; he allows one of them to lead him to the second Sumo in the line. He clambers into the last row where there is just one person at the moment.

August 15, 2018 /

There are political rights; a government is set up in the land. Democracy functions with total success. An election is held every five years. But for the people in this land there are no names. So for the nameless citizens the nameless representatives govern the land of the half-humans. Because whether to give human names to the head or to the body — no one can decide. A land such as this is very much in the news, a land much talked about.

August 10, 2018 /

There was a time when people from the Northeast, settled and studying in different cities of the country would call home for one reason only, to talk about their cravings for home food. Home was then, a place tucked very far away, and a chance of visiting home was awfully hard to come by. However, things have been slightly different in the past few years with the growth of the Northeast stores in Delhi.

August 8, 2018 /

DNA tests would suggest a truly pure “Khasi” as an impossibility, giving how people constantly mix with each other through migration, immigration and so on. This makes “Khasi” an abstract, a notion we built in our minds that may somehow, find a place in our hearts (figuratively, of course).
In realising this, one finds that “Khasi-ness” as defined by the “Khasi jingoists”/ “Khla Wait Ka Ri” makes it corrupted, toxic and deplorable. To them, “Khasi-ness” attains a divine status that further implies the delusional belief of “Khasi” as a superior race. For these Khla Wait to sustain the delusional superiority in being “Khasi”, it almost seems necessary to instil fear and hatred of the “non-Khasi” through lies, propaganda, and punishments.

August 7, 2018 /

The Bakarwal tribe is a Muslim nomadic pastoral tribe in Jammu and Kashmir also found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is one such tribe which is facing numerous challenges which are posing a threat not only to their livelihood but also puts into question their existence. Following is an interview conducted on a pleasant evening as part of my study on the tribe exploring the lives of Bakarwals, a tribe which came into the limelight after the Kathua rape case.

August 6, 2018 /

The idea that races are part of our existence and daily experience, especially those of us living in multicultural societies, seems to be just taken for granted by many people. But are races real or simply social/political constructs? Is there any scientific evidence they exist in humans? Or are some scientists just being politically correct in denying their existence?

August 5, 2018 /

Members of my father’s house, languages mix like the marriage of clattering utensils. Members of the house, you folded your mats and gave yourself up to another religion. Members of the house, let us not pretend that we are one thing and one thing alone. Together we brewed in the cauldron of that kitchen or have you chosen to forget? We will never be just one thing again. Never again will there be enough to burn to purify the impure in us.

August 4, 2018 /

Nagamese has been for close to a century and a half the lingua franca of the people of Nagaland and parts of Assam. A hybrid of Naga languages, all of which belong to the Tibeto-Burman family and Assamese, an Indo-European language, Nagamese occupies a distinct space in the region and plays a unique role serving as a connector between the various Naga tribes. It also facilitates communication between the Nagas and the Assamese. To understand the origins of Nagamese, it is essential to briefly dip into the history of the Nagas as a people and the history of their contact with the Assamese.

July 31, 2018 /

The Lineage Act is flawed because it fails to cover customary male privileges and this is the reason that there is so much confusion and frustration and economic imbalance amongst the Khasi males today. Now to amend the 1997 Act by stripping away the Khasi status of a woman who enters into marriage with a non Khasi is not only regressive but morally wrong. This is no justice at all. This approach is very Taliban in nature. It is my humble request to the Governor to perceive and give a careful thought to the kinship aspect of my Matrilineal System…
KHADC, please stop the massacre of our unique culture by codifying certain customs and overlooking others. Or else this act will be just a goldmine of the lawyers. This action of yours is an embarrassment and the entire world is laughing at us.

July 31, 2018 /

The Proposed amendment clearly seeks to excommunicate and ostracise a Khasi woman who marries a non Khasi and her children, in contravention to our customary practices, Human Rights law and our Constitution. The bill is being justified on grounds of protecting the Khasis against economic exploitation and land alienation, but this was done without proper and diligent research and the proposed amendment will not in any way resolve what is sought to be projected as being the crisis in Khasi society. In fact legislations such as the land Transfer Act and The Benami Act already exist to protect and curb economic exploitation and land alienation. These need to be strictly implemented in letter and spirit. Further there is an urgent need to bring a Land Ceiling Act such that rampant land alienation leading to landlessness especially rural landlessness is immediately checked. Given the serious nature of the lapses and violations to the many constitutional provisions and our customary practices we sincerely urge you to withhold assent to this problematic amendment bill.

July 29, 2018 /

Hato, haba lah ïaid kato ka bill lyngba ka KHADC ngi lah poi ha ka phang ba ngin hap ïai sngewthuh ïa ka jinglong Khasi. Ka jinglong Khasi kam shong tang ha ka snam ba hiar pateng, bad ruh ha ka jingtip-kur-tip-kha bad ka shongkha-shongman. Kaei kaba lah buh u Khasi myndai ka long kata kaba lah ohshrong ha u maw kiba ngi iohi mynta kum kita kiba ngi khot ki mawbynna. Ka ktien ‘kynmaw’ ka don kata ka ktien ‘maw’: ki Khasi ki dei ban kynmaw iakata ba la ohshrong ne lah pynsahdien da u longshuwa-manshuwa. Haba ki shna kane ka bill, ki kynmaw ne em balei ba ngi shim jait kmie? Ki kynmaw ne em balei ba ki mawbynna ki don kita ki maw kiba pynsahnam ïa ka Ïawbei, U Kñi bad U Thawlang jongka?

July 28, 2018 /

To a noble MATRILINEAL tribe
I am an unclean woman, lost in her love for the outsider or anyone deserving of her MATRILINEAL love 
This morning the outsider (who may be a shiteng jait or a half this half that, a riff-raff uncertain of ITS own identity) and I contemplated starting a new super tribe
Sorry but not everyone is allowed in

July 28, 2018 /

I have withdrawal symptoms.  The end of the football World Cup is making me put pen to paper. The World Cup has always been an important personal reference point. Growing up in Goa, right from class 1, my friend wanted to be a footballer like Romario. He is now a full time footballer who played in the Indian Soccer League and is now at a football league in Mexico. My consolation was that I grew up to be a wildlife biologist and have had a diversity of football related experiences. This World Cup got me hooked in three places. I was in the land where “football” bears no resemblance to o jogo bonito, while being part of the conversations from the Eastern Himalayas where I work, and the seaside state of Goa where I was born and raised.

July 17, 2018 /

In media reportage and in everyday conversation, the use of the word lynching typically tends to conflate all kinds of violence. Such a conflation is often accompanied by two other commonly held views – the current government has intentionally created an environment where law and order have no sanctity and is replaced by vigilantism. The other is that somehow digital technology and its irresponsible spread has resulted in uncontrollable violence. It is obvious that these two commonly held views are contrary to each other. The former view assumes a strong Hindutva movement that has immense control and power so as to design and execute seemingly arbitrary acts of violence across the country whereas the latter view absolves politics completely and deposits all the blame on platforms like WhatsApp or even the Internet.

July 14, 2018 /

Most books in English on the subject matter are about Muslims and address non-Muslim readers—painstakingly defending or decrying Islam. Till Talaq Do Us Part by Zia Us Salam is refreshing in also addressing Muslim readers. It is positioned as a primer on the issue of Talaq busting myths of all kinds and making a strong case for potential for gender justice from within Islam.

July 12, 2018 /

From the flaring of the anus to unresolved mommy issues, various theories and sciences have sought to produce the homosexual definitively. The homosexual was the very being of sexuality is why each time the homosexual is caused, he is by a philosophy of sexuality. Take for instance medicine that has an imagined balance the body is in as tabula rasa. There is a minimum and an optimum. Some mix of anatomical unity, hormones and secretions, and (later) chromosomes reveal to the specialist who we are. Any incoherence only involves the restoration of this balance. The homosexual, for the longest time, could be found and cured in the same way since sexuality itself accrued from the alignment of these things that could be seen and extracted by magnifying glasses, needles, and tubes.

July 11, 2018 /

SOLVE FIVE FOOTBALL WORLD CUP MYSTERIES
1. Why do people suddenly “get into” football during the World Cup, when usually they’re not interested?
2. Why do people cheer and yell during a match in a way they never normally would?
3. Why do we criticise our country’s team so much, but feel annoyed if someone from another country does it?
4. Why do we enjoy it when a team that’s not meant to be very good wins a match?
5. Does the World Cup always causes conflict between different countries?

July 2, 2018 /

Most of the problems and social conflicts experienced by the Khasi society today are due to misinterpretation of traditions and acceptance of colonial innovations as sacred and God-given traditions that existed since time immemorial. Let us discuss on one of these colonial innovations which remains in force today through modern legal instruments, but stands in perpetual conflict with the deep-seated cultural sentiments of the people. Khasi elders of old said that the Syiem was appointed in a Raid or Hima because the Bakhraw, as leaders of the founding clans refused to take over the properties of extinct clans, to inflict punishments on criminals, thieves and murderers. The Bakhraw also thought that it was dishonourable for them to live by begging for free gifts, donations, or to fill one’s coffer by fees, fines and taxes levied on the products of others in the markets. Hence, all these reprehensible functions and unholy sources of income were handed over to the Syiem.   

July 1, 2018 /

Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, artist and author of the autobiographical Finding My Way (2016), found himself at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London speaking on 21 June at a seminar on “Indigenous Media, Self-Determination and Cultural Activism”. This poem came to him then as he first typed out Hindi in Roman script on his phone and sent it to his friend and accomplice S. Anand, publisher at large at the small Navayana. Anand felt impelled to find the words in English just like he did when working with Venkat on his autobiography. Venkat’s work has been exhibited worldwide, including at Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, in 2013.

June 30, 2018 /

“Bhairavi was trying hard to concentrate on her Haruki Murakami novel as she kept tossing on her mahogany bed. But she was frequently getting distracted by the beautiful sharp notes of Himachali folksongs she played on her laptop just a short while ago.
At that moment, she suddenly heard a hiss hiss sound coming from the window near her. She was dazed to see an enormous python creeping through her window railings and slipping along its body towards her room. A chunk of his large smoky body glittered in the mid-day sunlight.

June 28, 2018 /

At a book reading in Kolkata, about a week after my first novel, The God of Small Things, was published, a member of the audience stood up and asked, in a tone that was distinctly hostile: “Has any writer ever written a masterpiece in an alien language? In a language other than his mother tongue?” I hadn’t claimed to have written a masterpiece (nor to be a “he”), but nevertheless I understood his anger toward a me, a writer who lived in India, wrote in English, and who had attracted an absurd amount of attention. My answer to his question made him even angrier.
“Nabokov,” I said. And he stormed out of the hall.

June 22, 2018 /

Today is “Rev. Thomas Jones Day”, gazetted as a Special Holiday for all State Government Offices and all revenue and Magisterial Courts and Educational Institutions across the Khasi and Jaintia Hills and the Ri-Bhoi District. What might this 22 June holiday mean, individually or collectively, for Christian or non-Christian, in that shape-shifting ground between the past and the present?
The 22 June holiday commemorates Thomas Jones as a founder, a father, a first. The idea of historical “firsts” often drives a popular understanding of the past— and more pertinently, the political use of the past in the present—but is not always helpful in really getting to grips with complex and interconnected historical processes. There’s not necessarily a ground zero moment when it comes to cultural change. Hero worship, furthermore — though it comes with a feel-good factor— can be rather unhelpful.