How Gully Boy appropriated Azadi from the marginalised

On the eve of the launch of Gully Boy, the much-awaited Bollywood biggie of this quarter, “Khane ke bade bill se Azadi! #GullyBoy,” read a notification from a food delivery application on my phone as loud chants of “Azadi” raised by students protesting (against the detainment of AMU students on charges of sedition) resounded through the streets of my residential campus at JNU. Now this slogan is not the reserve of JNU students; it never has been. Chants of “Azadi” have been raised in women’s rights movements, anti-caste movements and other movements seeking social justice. We, the students of JNU, unlike Zoya Akhtar and the cast of her film, do not attempt to appropriate the cry of the marginalised to suit any of our whims.

Gully Boy is the rags-to-riches story of Naezy (Murad), a slum-dweller in Mumbai’s Dharavi. The musical drama follows him as he struggles his way out of class oppression, familial discord and relationship problems to achieve his dream of becoming a rapper. His rap captures his angst against a society which impairs his creativity with financial burden. All he has in his support are his doting girlfriend Safeena and his mentor MC Sher (whose uncanny resemblance to Drake is hard to be ignored). His lyrics are sympathetic to the pain of class immobility, but the film is not.

For a narrative which criticises economic disparity, Gully Boy fails to uphold the very ideals it encashes on. The motif of class inequality it seemingly revolves around, falls through in the numerous marketing gimmicks such as the not-so-subtle presence of a JBL headphone here and a Bira mentioned there. If you were to watch a YouTube video around Valentine’s Day, chances are that you did come across a Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk commercial starring Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh. Ironically, they do this to promote a film which valorises the rise of an underdog and depicts the everyday negotiations made by a female medical student in a conservative patriarchal family. This sadly renders the story apparently themed around class oppression into yet another instance of romanticisation of poverty by Bollywood.

Ultimately, the film is no better than Slumdog Millionaire (which allegedly exoticises the poverty of Indians in Dharavi, Mumbai) which it explicitly cries down in its rhythmically charged rap number. Unlike Slumdog Millionaire, the protagonist does not win a lottery here; instead, he rises up the class ladder through hard work and grit. This further enshrines the neoliberal doctrine that if one is industrious enough, one shall succeed. Material success is the ultimate goal in this framework and it seems as though once it has been achieved, all problems in life will automatically be alleviated. It completely ignores that the collateral damage which, according to the film, poverty brings along – polygyny, domestic violence, drug peddling, child labour and theft, are related to larger structural issues. Poverty is the villain of the story and it is expected that once one gets rid of it, peace content will ensue gradually in all spheres of life.

I am not certain which is more surprising – the fact that Zee News vehemently attacked (by branding as “anti-national”) such students of JNU as Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid three years ago for raising slogans of “Azadi”, or that the same Zee Music has commercialised a carefully doctored version of a speech by Kanhaiya Kumar into a form acceptable by majoritarian forces. The song “Azadi” astonishingly does not comprise the phrases originally used by Kanhaiya – “bhukhmari se azadi” or “jativad se azadi” or “punjivad se azadi” or “brahmanvad se azadi” or “manuvad se azadi”. The filmmaker argues that she has excluded these words from the song because they do not pertain to the theme of the film. The actors conveniently state that they have nothing to do with politics. Their apolitical stance is a brazen reminder of privilege.

While the director, who has so far made movies about the ultra-rich (for example, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Dhadakne Do), claims to come from a point of sympathy for the economically downtrodden, the actors are admittedly comfortable in being unaware of politics. They claim to be “happy bunnies” when asked how they reconcile their real life (where Ranveer Singh hugs Prime Minister Narendra Modi) with their portrayal in reel life. For them, “Azadi is yet another musical verse which they would like to hum once they wake up in the morning. They attribute their apathy for politics to their acting skills.

The privileged detachment of the actors from politics and their open refusal to engage with it is reminiscent of the bourgeois performance of the characters in the film who drive through Mumbai late at night spray-painting body positive slogans on billboards. Body positivity is not a theme the movie centres around, but somehow, unlike the omitted words from the “Azadi” chant raised by Kanhaiya Kumar, it finds its way in a well-orchestrated scene. This token act of political awareness stands for the stance adopted by its makers.

Politics pervades all spheres of life. To be apolitical in times of mass turmoil is synonymous with being on the side of the oppressor. A perusal of the political opinions of the actors and the director (who represent this movie) reveals that “Khane ke bade bill se Azadi!” is the most sense they could make of a powerful word like “Azadi”. However, as Akhtar herself proclaims – the chant “belongs to everyone” – I too hope the word does not lose its emancipatory potential by the time this film becomes a hit and the Gully Boy: Live in Concert hits Amazon Prime with the opening phrase “The revolution is here.”


Featured photo courtesy: The Free Press Journal

Yoga: the key to a healthy life

Celebrate the goddess in you and your loved ones by ordering at Deivee, an active wear brand for women.

I can still recall the first time Maa held my hand to my first ever yoga class. Clad in a tee and yoga pants, I was pretty excited to learn a new thing. However, I was also skeptical about how much physical effort it would require me to do. I was never the fit and agile kid. I was skinny and shorter than my friends (I still am). So, my parents had decided to make me join yoga so that I would physically develop healthily and, well, be productive. (I led a very sedentary life as a kid; I still do.)

To my utter surprise, I found yoga not as physically strenuous as I had expected it to be. As I was more and more into it, I made it a part of my daily routine so much so that I practised even on off days. I enjoyed yoga. I never emerged as winner at championships, but I always took yoga seriously. As I went to the advanced levels, I found some exercises as really challenging to catch up with. Then there were studies and more studies and I do not remember exactly when I stopped attending yoga classes. Yet I never lost touch with yoga through Art of Living classes in high school.

I was admitted to college in 2015 and completely lost the habit of not just yoga but also exercising in general. Toward the end of 2016 when I had a session break, I realised that it was telling on my health and it was when I had a writer’s block that felt I needed a positive way to channelise my energies. So, I made a new year resolution to practise yoga on a regular basis. (I am one of those people who take new year resolutions seriously.) One of my friends advised me to use the products by Deivee.

Launched in 2017, Deivee is a women active wear brand. The brand ranges women’s active wear with the objective to ensure comfort during the work outs. In a nation where sanitary napkins are charged 12% tax while condoms are tax free, this brand is setting an example by making active wear more affordable for women. Not only are the products affordable, but they are also fashionable. Since I am hard on deciding what’s fashionable and what’s not, I really testified it from some friends who understand fashion better than I do.

Deivee is the brainchild of one of the most inspiring fitness evangelist and model of all time, the Iron Man of India, Milind Soman. He has advocated active lifestyle not just by preaching but by showing the way with the launch of Pinkathon, the only women’s marathon event in India.

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Now that they had given me confidence about the brand, I bought some apparel from Deivee. The fact that they make organic yoga wear motivated me to try them out. In the movement against global warming, producers and consumers have something to contribute. Deivee ensures that their organic cotton comes from nature, directly from the hands of the farmers providing as many benefits as possible. All of their factories offer fair wages and follow strict welfare schemes. Since Deivee is doing its part, I though I should do mine too. I urged all my friends to try out Deivee and I have not received any negative feedback so far. They are all wanting more.

What I love the most about Deivee is that they have this conviction that there is a Devi in every woman. Deivee is derived drom the Latin word Dei and the Sanskrit word Devi meaning goddess. Gender is a fluid concept and Deivee actually helps women of all sizes and identities gain the confidence that propels one to stay inspired in life. It has collections for all body types – be it apple, hour glass, pear or rectangle. I admire this kind of inclusiveness.

Ever wondered why you’re getting obese? It may not just be your food habits as much as it is inherent in you. There are many types of people with different kinds of metabolism. Read more about it here.

While eating healthy and metabolism are two factors, you can opt for another way that has tremendous positive impact on your health. (Reminder: Quitting tobacco is the first step to a healthy lifestyle.) Start practising yoga and share this idea with your friends to make them healthy too. Sharing is caring.

As you age, you will realise the benefits of yoga. It ameliorates back pain. It relaxes your mind and body. Yoga also rejuvenates and makes you ready for work and all the challenges in life.

Yoga reduces stress and expands your leisure. It helps one reduce stress anxiety. What’s more, it is easy on the pocket because it saves you the money for a gym membership. So, if you want your friends to stay fit, suggest them to start yoga daily. Make it a part of their routine. Nothing is more blissful and fulfilling than setting out early in the morning with your friend, placing a mat on the grass and taking up a yoga posture while the sun rises.

Why you should save the date for Cultural Cocktail

There is a lot to expect at the cultural restoration programme ‘Save the Language’.

Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust has embarked on the five-city Save the Language Campaign Tour. As part of this tour, Cultural Cocktail, conceptualized and created by young artists with roots in Jammu, would take place at the Showshaa Hall, Kingdom of Dreams, New Delhi on June 17 from 5:30pm to 9pm.

What’s on the Cocktail Menu?

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Prem Jamwal Youth Art Innovation Award

This PAN India award instituted in the memory of Mrs. Prem Jamwal, will be inaugurated during the event. Mrs. Jamwal, the wife of Kunwar Viyogi was a par excellence painter and stage performer. She was the youngest daughter of Joint Commissioner Hira Singh and niece of national hero, Martyr Brigadier Rajender Singh.

The award will be presented for creative presentation of unique world literature and art forms, aimed at widening the cultural reach and relevance for the younger generation. The award endeavours to motivate the youth in fulfilling their creative pursuits, while at the same time providing them with a platform so as to help them showcase their talent worldwide.

Ghar, Prem ki Gaagar

Kunwar Viyogi was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award for his long poem Ghar. It depicts the intrinsic nature of love. The physical and emotional aspects have always been connected and represent the Divine Law. the spiritual aspect is embodied in the imagery of courage, beautifully powerful, the depth of which forms desire that guides human interaction in love. Eternally present, love never dissipates in humanity that comprehends its intrinsic nature. “The heart always finds its home in love.”

Sanchita, who has done her Master’s in Public Policy and Management, university of Melbourne, is a disciple of venerated Kathak Maestro Padma Shri Guru Shovana Narayan. She has performed on several renowned international platforms. In early 2014, she founded Rasadance, an organisation in Australia, building a bond with the centuries-old tradition of storytelling through dance.

The role of Sutradhar will be performed by the curator of Cultural Cocktail Ayushman Jamwal. A graduate of the Cardiff school of Journalism, he has authored Chameleon Lights. His book is a collection of 20 poems and features among the top ten best-selling books of English poetry on Amazon.

The music has been directed by Madhav Prasad. He and Jitendra Ji are the singers. With Mahavir Gangani on the Pakhawaj, Yogesh Gangani on the Tabla, Vinay Prasanna on the Flute, Mussrad Khan on the Sarod and Salim Kumar on the Sitar, the performance is definitely something to look forward to.

Taboo –  A Jazz Dance Performance by Anmol Jamwal

This piece is a stylized Jazz and Funk Choreography showcase that fuses contemporary Indian and International music. It’s a celebration of expression with no inhibitions or fear presented through the medium and theme of underground jazz clubs and free-conversation-like style movement.

Anmol Jamwal is a jazz dancer with over six years of work experience with the Danceworx Performing Arts. He started training with the Danceworx Performing Arts Company at the early age of 11. He featured in multiple showcases, performances and music videos and joined in full-time at the age of 19.

The co-performers are Mohit Raj Thapa, Tanya Suri, Denis Barwa, Saniya Jaiswal, Aastha Rana and Amala Sivaji.

Hindi Adaptation of Twelfth Night
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Aarushi Thakur Rana, an MA in International Politics from Leicester, University, United Kingdom, is the recipient of the first Prem Jamwal Youth Art Innovation Award for staging the Hindi adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s popular English plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the 2016 Kunwar Viyogi Utsav. She is a trainee from Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Rana, the daughter of Padma Shri awardee Balwant Thakur, has directed the Hindi adaptation of Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare.

It is the most famous Shakespearean Comedy with a twist that hinges on mistaken identity and role-reversal. The story revolves around the central character of Viola, shipwrecked and in search of her missing twin Sebastian.

This play is believed to have been performed for the first time in 1961 in front of Elizabeth I even before it was published in 1623, seven years after the death of William Shakespeare.

The Dogri Language

Dogri is one of the many languages in the world that are dying slow deaths. It is spoken by about four million people in Jammu, Himachal Pradesh and northern Punjab. Dogri served as a source of livelihood for many and defined the socio-political relevance of the region is desperately clutching on to its lost glory for a fleeting existence. While the caretakers of the language attempt to revive Dogri through traditional mediums, the youth consider it ‘unpopular and unattractive’, shunning it for its perceived lack of relevance, viability and sustainability in today’s changing times.

Dogri that nurtured diverse legendary talents like Allah Rakha, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, singer/actor K.L. Seghal, Padma Shri poet Padma Sachdev, renowned painter Dina Nath Walli, to name a few. It was the foremost identity of the generation gone by and continues to remain a home for those who are willing to embrace it.

The fact that despite producing one of the greatest talents in the world, the language had to wait for decades to be included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, is testimony to the pitiable state of the language. Intensive lobbying in 2003 did help the language attain its rightful status. However, the sustainability of Dogri was not ensured. This is why we need to Save the Language.

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The Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust has been instituted in the memory of renowned Dogri litterateur editor, columnist and Sahitya Akademi Awardee Late Group Captain Randhir Singh, popularly known as Kunwar Viyogi in literary circles. Apart from its present responsibilities and commitment to preserve and share works, thoughts and life of Kunwar Viyogi, the Trust also aspires to promote among others cultural and artistic subjects/works like literature, painting, music shows, dramatic performances and dances reflecting/exhibiting Indian cultures/traditions.

The Trust acknowledges that a language is not just the expression of the mind and of culture, but also a machine to perpetuate the traditions of a society. It is the strings that binds a geopolitical setting together. It is because of a shared language that literature and various art forms flourish.


Kolkata Bloggers is proud to be associated with this event as its Social Media Partner. You can call 9971009337 or book tickets on BookMyShow and find the event on Facebook. A quick recapitulation of the event details is as follows.

Venue: Showshaa Hall, Kingdom of Dreams
Date: June 17, 2017
Time: 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM


Photo Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

The discrimination we are blind to except during admission season

It is only during college admissions that the middle class in India is reminded about caste.

In the age of Facebook activism, your wall may be adorned with posts where you scream your lungs out about why we need feminism; you may be shouting from behind your computer screen about how transphobia and homophobia are thwarting the progress of India. Our social media profiles are often a way of consciously constructing our identities and proclaiming our support to certain convictions.

In posing as liberals, we, the middle class English-speaking urban millennials of India, are sensitized to many an expression of social discrimination but there is one particular form of discrimination that seems to resurface only when we need to get admitted to an institution or course, more often a coveted one. In case you forgot about the existence of this kind of discrimination, let me remind you that I am about to address the elephant in the room, viz. caste.

It’s that time of the year again. Students who have just got or are awaiting their board exam results, are spending sleepless nights wondering if they will get through their dream college. When they come to know the intake rates of some of the best colleges in the country, they usually notice to their disappointment the percentage of seats reserved for the so-called “lower” castes such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.

You must have understood by now that I am conflating the category, student with a particular breed of students here – urban middle class students who are usually not first generation learners.

In this regard, it is not surprising to note that 75% of more than six million children currently out of school in India are either Dalits (32.4%), Muslims (25.7%) or Adivasis (16.6%).

Given that these statistics are from the India Exclusion Report (2014) by Centre for Equity Studies, I can vouch for another corollary fact that is almost self-evident from this finding; most of the Indian middle class and upper class is also “upper” caste. In such a scenario, it is but obvious that caste and class coincide to a great extent in the country and it conveniently goes unnoticed or is intentionally overlooked.

Why otherwise will jokes such as the one in the following image do the rounds on your news feed in and around the time of CBSE, CISCE and state board results? (Just look up Google Images with the keywords of caste or reservation system and you will know what I am talking about.)

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Image Source: Facebook

It is not just upper class but also upper caste privilege which makes board examinees lament the reservation system in modern Indian education system. The system has definitely got its own set of loopholes. Instead of pivoting reservations around only caste, if the focus was on a combination of caste and class determinants, then the angst of the current youth during admissions would have considerably decreased.

Caste-based politics in India is a murky terrain. With many a dominant caste in several states of India fighting for the status of reserved castes simply to avail the benefits of reservation rightly deserved by the underprivileged, the AIDMK totally losing its basis of identity politics related to caste issues and so in, caste seems to just be a ladder for economic gains to many. To the rest, however, it is a Rohith Vemula or the rape of a Dalit working class woman you will never quite know of.

It is undeniable that caste exists even in “educated” India. How else would you account for the ephemeral benign neglect of teachers towards students from marginalized castes? Which other kind of discrimination would you classify asking Dalit villagers to clean themselves before meeting Yogi Adityanath as?

It is my conviction that it is more the fact of being accustomed to caste privilege that leads to insensitivity towards marginalized castes than the reservation system. I am tempted to mention one of my favourite quotations here.

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

This pretty much explains the anxiety of so many general category students who, not as a mere coincidence but by the historic oppression of marginalized castes, have enjoyed middle class privileges in India, stand staunchly against reservations. The hypocrisy starts here when “those people” in class sit in separate groups even in what are called some of the most elite educational institutions in the country and ends with a momentary crocodile tear or two on social media about Dalit suicides and that too only when the said Dalit is articulate and academically accomplished.


Featured Image Courtesy:  The New York Times

Why you can relate to Chameleon Lights by Ayushman Jamwal

The universal appeal of Chameleon Lights by Ayushman Jamwal attributes significance to the book.

It is unlikely to imagine that the senior output editor of CNN-IBN can create poetry. It is, however, not surprising that the poetry has something most of us can relate to. The universal appeal of Chameleon Lights by Ayushman Jamwal attributes significance to the book.

The book deals with a wide array of themes ranging from love to despair to peace and revelation – all in twenty poems written over ten years.  The poems are not about rocket science or exceptional experiences but of a journey of the self through events that keep recurring in our daily lives.

The poem Modern Love marvels one with how it depicts the drudgery in love that is caged in the world of technology through lines like

Speaking only through the tap of your fingers.

Expressionless on a distant plane

The approach to self-discovery that Jamwal has portrayed is old-school. For instance, hair like flowing cascades of brown water is reminiscent of how O. Henry described Della in The Gift of the Magi. The poetry gently touches the heart before one realises. The book can be completed in one sitting but its insight lingers in the mind of the reader  for long after it has been read.

The writing sounds majestic when read out aloud. This is owing to the language used in the verses. One example of this is in the following lines from Prophesy of Fallen Heroes.

Untouched by the surge of vengeance,

Builds supremacy, on the pillars of weaklings,

Only the heroes walked in the dark, with an aged thought.

The book offers self-reflection through poems like The Unlikely Pilgrimage and A Destined Tale while also illustrating love for animals in general and dogs in particular through Canine Love which seems to be written for the poet’s golden retriever named Leo. The essence of moments fleeting by as captured by the poems is sure to entice readers who find themselves in a world that is changing fast.

The book is published by Authorspress. The cover art is aesthetic and aptly symbolises the journey of the soul.

The Chameleon Lights by Ayushman Jamwal was launched at Oxford Bookstore, Kolkata. The launch was partnered by Kolkata Bloggers and supported by the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust which is named after the poet’s grandfather and Dogri writer Kunwar Viyogi, whom the book has been dedicated to.


Click here to find the book on Amazon.
Featured Image Source

How 24-hour stories came to capture ‘life stories’

The 24-hour stories on social media platforms reinstate the transience of life.

“The life that you live in order to photograph it is already, at the outset, a commemoration of itself.”
-Italo Calvino, Difficult Loves

First Snap stories, then Instagram stories, followed by WhatsApp statuses; and now Messenger Day seems to be the newest kid on the block. With the most frequently used social media platforms doing the 24-hour story game right, it seems like it won’t be long before our social media experience will be engulfed by the anxiety of posting, checking who viewed the posts and viewing others’ posts.

For instance

You go to have pizza with friends, one of whom has to leave in 30 minutes. You are all killing time until the pizza arrives. In those 10 minutes, one of you takes her phone out and starts clicking pictures/shooting Boomerangs while you don’t notice them doing it. You start doing the same. The others do the same. This is how all your other friends get to know within seconds that you all are hanging out to have pizza.

Each of you upload stories on Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. Considering an average of 2 minutes spent on each application, you spend a total of 8 minutes in posting stories if you do not want  to be the one whose stories deliver nothing new to followers. By the one who reluctantly started sharing stories 2 minutes after the others did, completes the business, the pizza is here.

Once the pizza is served, each one posts a story of it. These were pictures of the entire pizza, mind you. You also have to post a picture of after your slice is on your plate. Assuming this process took you 4 minutes in all, the friend who’s got to leave in 30 minutes has 16 minutes in hand. She starts eating her food. Before you realise, she has to leave but before she leaves, “let me click a selfie”.

In the entire time spent with friends, when did you stop to talk to each other?

You discussed about how the pizza tastes, which place offers better pizza and when you last ate at this particular eatery. Did you discuss how your heart ached at three this morning for a moment that will never return? Did you recall memories of the time you first met each other?

Aesthetic Consumerism

Photographs, which are meant to be souvenirs of experiences one has already had, have now become a means to actualize the experience. This is something Susan Sontag had foreseen long before the dystopia we are living in had been materialised.

You live in an economy that runs on envy.

If the picture of the delectable pizza posted by your friend did not water your mouth, you would not go to that eatery the next weekend itself. If you did not envy the quality of pictures your friend posts with an iPhone, you would not have bought an iPhone. If you did not envy the car your neighbour drives, you would not have bought your second car.

The culture of consumption that willingly or unwillingly we are a part of, demands that we struggle for a better pizza, phone, car. It demands that we make our lives look worth envy with post-processed photographs. It may increase the illusory aesthetic quotient of our daily experience, but it is certain to create an experience of reality as we desire it to be.

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Image Source

Why post stories?

Why post stories when you can actually make posts that stay permanently on your Facebook or Instagram wall? The answer is nothing you have not known till date. Stories let you post many times without actually spamming anyone. They let you post stuff that you would not want to keep on your timeline either because they are not aesthetically very pleasing or because they capture in essence the transience of the moments you want to show to the world.

However, the most important reason for posting stories is to capture moments that you know won’t last long. You are living a moment which your followers are not.

This is a subversion of the very idea of photography and videography because instead of capturing moments so that they last for a long time, one now captures moments simply to share them with the rest of the world for a short period. This moment in history is one of self-reflection – it reveals that we lose the moment in the attempt to immortalise it. It reminds us of the transience of life itself and questions if one really document a life story in public moment through social media stories. It makes Emily Dickinson all the more relevant:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

Featured Image Courtesy: Visual Hunt

Excuse me, Life- The Art of Letting Go

This is an anatomy of the process of letting go of a part of my heart and returning to normalcy.

 

The past never sleeps. It keeps following you till you are dead. It’s like that Pandora’s box filled by each person with the memories they make with you. The fact that in every moment of our life someone or the other is making marks in the box makes the drill difficult because it implies that you cannot easily shut the box and dispose of it.

We all lose a lot in life. Be it the wrapping paper from the twelfth birthday or the favourite pencil box from fourth standard or even people; we are used to losing. In some cases, despite the best of efforts, letting go is inevitable. There are so many mechanisms we deploy to cope with losses. However, there is a difference between losing material objects and losing people. In case of the latter, the realization of having lost is gradual. This is what makes the process all the more excruciating.

To be the most candid and the least metaphorical, I would say it sucks. The feeling of becoming a lesser priority absolutely sucks. I really have no better way of expressing it. Having recently lost someone I once thought I could not live without, I can freshly recount some of the strategies that I used in a rough chronology comprising denial, hankering after attention and withdrawal.

Denial

Alright, so infinite number of may-be-she-is-busy-elsewhere’s, I-should-show-that-I-exist’s (this is your needy worst), am-I-asking-for-too-much’s later, you begin to come to terms with the fact that you have been relegated to a place less important than the one you used to have.

During this time I used to listen to ‘I Forget We Where We Were’ by Ben Howard on loop without even realizing. Looking back at it, I feel like I was being that teenager with an unrequited love passing through my Christina Perri phase, but I also know that it is just all right to love and expect someone else to love back. It really is one of the most human things one can do.

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Image Source

Hankering after attention

Now we plunge into the second phase of hankering after attention (read love) from the previous one which can somewhat be called denial. This period is a new low you hit in terms of your self-esteem (well, at least I did). This is an extremely foolish self, trying to remind the other about its existence. Two things can happen- the person may reconcile for a happily-ever-after out of a fear of losing you or they may simply deny you further.

What makes this part significant in the scheme of losing a person is that it ascertains the future of the bond. I think reciprocity in relationships has been highly undervalued. You may feel that there is nothing wrong with loving without expecting to be loved back. A gentle reminder I came across on the internet: If someone loves you, they wouldn’t put themselves in a position of losing you. This should bring you to the next phase.

Withdrawal

This begins in misery and ends in wisdom. The moment you realize that you deserve better emancipates you to the point of knowledge that come what may, you can make your emotions a priority. This is what makes letting go so much more impactful than sticking around. It makes looking back at the coping mechanism worthwhile. This is when you feel like saying, “Excuse me, Life.

I am not sure if I should call this a reality check but it definitely helps one come to terms with what has actually happened. The fog is now out of your vision. There is no obscurity. You begin to value relationships, personal talents, books, metaphors (and beverages) you had earlier belittled. This is not an escape from the Pandora’s box of memories- there is no evading it; it’s an attempt to learn how to share space with it.tumblr_maf5h0trei1rp3n0ao1_500

Writing it out, I feel, is not an act I would relate with sitting at a busy crossroad and whining about the scheme of things. I feel writing about it is a way to tell yourself- I am more than the grief; I am above letting myself down, and most importantly that I can make an anatomy of my feelings to never repeat this self-rejection.

Who am I kidding? I am certain to cry buckets the next time something like this happens, albeit with a monster called retrospection fitted in my eyes.

5 Reasons Why Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya is the Ultimate Love Anthem

“Why be afraid when you are in love?” is what Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya literally translates to. It appears in the iconic film Mughal-e-Azam which was released in 1960 after 14 years of production. Here’s why it might just as well be termed as India’s song of defiance.

1. It defies persistent gender roles

Gender, as Judith Butler (1960) contends, is constructed through a set of repeated performances. The dance by Madhubala’s Anarkali serves the male gaze appropriately- you will find the camera focusing on her many a time during the sequence. However, Anarkali does not shy away from this gaze. She confronts it and this is a major point of departure from what would otherwise be expected out of a woman of her times in India. She liberates herself from the framework of gender that she operates in.

2. A symbol for LGBT rights movement

Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya has now become a slogan for the emergent LGBT (Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual, Transgender) rights movement in India. It is an anthem about the triumph of love across social boundaries. The song surpasses time and space. It has gained significance as a form of protest voiced by more than an Anarkali. Madhubala’s Kathak is today a symbol of love against conservative forces. It is not long before this song can be an effective answer to those who are so worried about love-jihad.

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A line from the song on a poster for Rainbow Walk on Delhi Road. Image Source

 

3. A Drag Queen of sorts?

A drag queen is a man who ostentatiously dresses up in women’s clothes. Going by queer theory, a male drag queen in stylizing normative femininity simultaneously deconstructs it too. Madhubala’s drag queen not only challenges dominant discourses of power contained within a patriarchal nation-state, but she also threatens the discourses on sexualization of the body. She is aware of her class, religion, nationality and gender, yet she chooses to digress from the destiny paved for her.

Like all women who do this, her demise in the tale is also not very surprising. The song is that struggle for the identity of the subaltern which keeps returning to the Bollywood celluloid.

4. Anarkali is a brave subaltern

She is a courtesan. She is Muslim and what’s worse is that she is a woman. In short, she embodies all that you would not like to be in a royal setup comprising men during the Mughal period in India. Salim had, in fact, just before the performance, accused her of being a bujdil laundi (cowardly slave). A play of power recurs through the song-and-dance performance but even that fails to deter the spirit of love in the status of a subaltern that Anarkali finds herself in. She is a woman with little agency dancing across an empire’s patriarch.

5. The sequence reflects India’s tryst with destiny

Anarkali’s performance for the court can be compared to Bollywood’s performance for Jawaharlal Nehru. The movie Mughal-e-Azam opens with a baritone proclaiming, “I am Hindustan”. The then Hindustan was associated with sentiments different from those it now is. The film was made during India’s period of nation-building. Despite being set in the Mughal period, the sequence vividly portrays what was despised by the nationalist elites of post-colonial India- films (they were equated with gambling). What is now called the Golden Age of Indian cinema was then not a cakewalk for the film industry because it used to be regarded more as a perversion or disruption to advancement than as a form of cultural expression. This hurdle is encountered by Anarkali as well.


The song is a breakthrough from several dominant social norms. This does not make it any less appealing to the masses. It enthralls audiences all the same despite being as revolutionary as it is. This is what makes it the ultimate love anthem.

Do share if you find any other reason why this song-and-dance should be called so.

The Republic of Cowrashtra

Ours is a nation which imagines the mother in the cow and the nation in the mother. I wish to disintegrate through this article the dual concepts of Bharat Maata (Mother India) and Gau Maata in light of the recent events happening across the nation.

Why I don’t have a Bharat Maata

The symbol of a mother is often used to identify a nation. This is in view of the analogy that women can conceive and land can sustain the lives of its denizens. This kind of an analogy essentially leads to a very patriarchal kind of nationalism which necessitates women, the incarnation of the Bharat Maata to be protected. Who are going to protect them? The answer is one that history has time and again implied in various ways- men. Men who are the soldiers and martyrs of the nation are supposed to protect Mother India’s honour from being violated by outsiders.

Implications of the woman-nation analogy

The nationalist and patriarchal agenda converge at this point. Both either implicitly or explicitly suggest that women, the weaker sex, need to be protected by their stronger counterparts (?) men. This takes away considerable amount of autonomy from women who, under these agenda, are seen as potential mothers and caregivers. It seems to be almost natural that women are destined to be mothers. Hence, some feminists have called this a ‘protection racket’.

Moreover, the nationalist agendum of protecting the mother from outsiders who may squander with her assets (honour thought of as the most valuable asset) is loaded with its own exclusionist implications. It views as the other anyone who does not protect cows- a nationalist symbol of motherhood.

Towards a Cowrashtra

Cow protectionism is not new to us. Even when our ancestors were fighting the freedom movement, this issue created quite a communal rift. Little has changed over the centuries. The Rashtriya Swayamshatru (yes, that’s what I prefer calling it) Sangha (RSS) has made sure that everyone who is involved in the consumption or production of beef, is treated as the other. This other includes not just the Muslim who is otherwise the eternal other of India, but also the Dalits whose occupation is to skin dead cows. What can objectively be called brutality has been meted out to these people while an otherwise vocal leader of the nation has chosen silence as golden when it has come to this issue.

There is of course no problem if a particular religion attributes motherhood to an animal. It is, however, problematic when the Hindu identity is conflated as the Indian identity and Indians across other religions are homogenized as Hindus who should not consume beef.

Forced Nationalism

A similar kind of forced nationalism was witnessed when the Supreme Court ruled on November 30, 2016 that everyone needs to rise when the national anthem is played in theatres. This indeed is nationalism and I dare say that it may be jingoism as well. Patriotism cannot be forced. Nationalism does not necessarily culminate into patriotism. If it’s a matter of individual discretion as to whether or not one would watch a movie, it is also a matter of patriotism that one feels towards their country which determines whether they would stand during the national anthem whose lyricist himself dreamt of a time

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls

I have elucidated earlier that modern-day nationalism has started to take the role of a religion per se. This is one contribution that India seems to be successfully making to the rest of the world, especially the United States of America. If Indian nationalism is a religion, it is increasingly being coloured saffron to the exclusion of minorities. It is up to us whether at this crucial moment in history we choose to be just bhakts or Desh bhakts.


Featured Image: “The Saffron Queen”- Janine Shroff’s reinterpretation of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ for Elle India Nov

What I Talk About When I Talk About Murakami

In a world where literature has crossed the boundary of books to be found in lyrics, Nobel Prize or no Nobel Prize, Murakami, for me, is the Bob Dylan of literature.

Imagine a world where cats can talk, fish rain from the sky, where a woman is omnipresent, where the soul is divided and wells are empty. Neither is it a Hogwarts nor a Wonderland; it’s not a dream, nor is it a crude reality. Far from a world of “abnormal things happening to abnormal people” or “normal things happening to normal people”, Murakami creates “stories of abnormal things happening to normal people”.

Such events and the impressions they leave in the minds of people are emotionally resonant, and universally so. I, for one, have this reminder written somewhere on my study table:

As time goes on, you’ll understand. What lasts, lasts; what doesn’t, doesn’t. Time solves most things. And what time can’t solve, you have to solve yourself.

– Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

These are oft-forgotten simple words, almost making it ironic that despite change being the only constant in our seemingly 9-5 lives, we do need to be reminded of change. This Japanese storyteller lacks a concrete plot. The events in his tales unravel in an abstract form which is only reminiscent of life itself.

Does life have a plot? Do the characters that appear in our neatly scheduled calendar-lives each have a specified function to play? If yes, are we clear in our minds about their functions? What about that man you had casual sex with on last Saturday? What about all the sleepless nights spent after a particularly tyrant schoolteacher flashes in your nightmare? That’s when Murakami outlasts the pages and slips into your very being.

 

The world of Murakami’s novels is inhabited by characters with Japanese names. They remind you of Salinger’s Holden. They make you feel Kafkaesque. Yet, for the first time in the literary history, these characters hail from the East of high rise buildings and modern shamans. The West, to them, is the source of jazz which constitutes a recurring theme in the sagas of these “everymen”.

This world is devoid of the homogeneity of the West as has been imposed on the East for the longest period in history. This world is of an erstwhile jazz café owner who, while being based in his native setting, stands out as a universal voice of inspiration without one didactic sentence. It’s as much your world too. It’s in the way he narrates his experience in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running that motivates you in the way your friends’ advice sometimes turns out to be more effective than that of your parents on the same issue.

On lonely nights, I read his works. I read his works on silent afternoons. I sometimes secretly aspire to write in simple language that connects to the hearts of many someday. On other occasions, I read Murakami to seek fulfillment from such sentences that make me feel as though the author was with me while writing them:

Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.

–Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

In a world where literature has crossed the boundary of books to be found in lyrics, Nobel Prize or no Nobel Prize, Murakami, for me, is the Bob Dylan of literature.


If this article makes you want to read more of Murakami, or has introduced you to him, do share. I would recommend A Walk to Kobe on Granta magazine for curious beginners who do not have immediate access to Murakami’s works.