Bhaskar Parichha reviews ‘India Dissents: 3,000 Years of Difference, Doubt and Argument’ calling it an invaluable guide in the long fight for an open society and the full realization of the fight for the freedom of Indians in a free India.
Edited and with an introduction by: Ashok Vajpeyi
Publishing House: Speaking Tiger
Year ofPublishing: 2020
Dissent – expressing opinions at variance with those commonly or officially held – is very much in the air these days. Sure, it has always been there in the Indian context. Dissent is not evil after all. Seeing through the Gandhian prism, for example, dissent might actually bring out the best in the Government against whom the right to dissent is being exercised.
When you have a whole book on dissention, it is bound to be of more than ordinary interest. Edited and with an introduction by poet, essayist and literary critic, cultural and arts administrator, and a former civil servant Ashok Vajpeyi,‘India Dissents: 3,000 Years of Difference, Doubt and Argumentis a politic book on the question of dissension except for a load of recent voices of opposition.
The morning was still chilly when the krishnachura tree saw the two sitting on a pile of rubbles by the large playground near the school building. They were about five or six years of age. The boy was in navy blue shorts and white shirt. The girl was dressed in blue. The two small figures obviously knew one another well. They were comfortable in each other’s company and sat there dangling their legs. The boy suddenly held out his palm and offered something to the girl. She looked at it with curiosity, but then shook her head. The boy scratched his head, baffled. He looked at the small item in his palm and took out a piece of cloth. He cleaned it carefully and then offered it to the girl again. “It’s clean now. Take it.”
In this personal essay, Anwesha Basu dwells on the courtyard of her childhood home in which she has fond memories with her brother and how as they grow up those memories become distant.
The first fifteen years of my life were spent at our rented apartment in Amherst Street, Kolkata. The façade of the hundred year old building was almost peeling away, while intertwined telephone and electrical wires crisscrossed across it. It resembled your average Central Calcutta buildings; aging early due to lack of maintenance. Our ground floor apartment in this building was nothing like the 2 bhk flats we see today. Think of an inverted-U shaped apartment, with a corridor running around its borders. The two vertical arms of the inverted-U housed the rooms, whereas the horizontal strip on top was the small ‘uthoon’ (the common Bengali word for courtyard). For both my brother and I, this uthoon was our favourite part of the house. It was the only place from where one could see a bright blue rectangular portion of the sky.
From early childhood to adolescence, the uthoon was the centre of most activities in our family. As babies our red, plastic bathtub with colourful beads on its sides, was carefully placed in that part of the uthoon where sunlight streamed in abundance, Ma acutely aware of the importance of vitamin D in the otherwise damp rooms. From the photographs carefully preserved by my parents, I can gather that the one year old me did have a gala bath time playing with those sun kissed bubbles. The first vivid memory I have of my baby brother was the day I was allowed to push his pram around the uthoon. I have always been able to recall that moment so clearly: his gurgling laughter, Ma’s anxious face and even the strong smell of ‘panch foron’ (Bengali five spices) being fried in mustard oil wafting in through the kitchen. I wonder if it had actually taken place or was it a dream constructed conveniently by my brain from a concoction of myriad related memories.
Arun A.K. reviews Srikanth Srinivasan’s Modernism by Other Means – the first book-length study of the films of Amit Dutta, renowned as one of the foremost filmmakers working in experimental cinema today.
Publisher and Date of Publication – Lightcube, 2020
Amit Dutta is regarded as one of the foremost filmmakers working in contemporary experimental cinemawith his films shown in major festivals and museum programs across the world. In the last decade, he has had over half a dozen retrospectives in India and elsewhere. Even so, there has not been a single book-length study of Dutta’s work—a lacuna Srikanth Srinivasan’s book—Modernism by Other Means: The Films of Amit Dutta, seeks to remedy. Part of the reason for this gap is the difficulty in accessing Dutta’s works. Not one of his films has had a commercial release in India. It is only recently that a retrospective of his works has been made available for online streaming in India on the OTT platform —MUBI. Even abroad, they have had very limited circulation outside of festival screenings and retrospectives. It is lamentable that contemporary experimental audiovisual practice in India has been sidelined by disproportional critical and scholarly focus on mainstream and ‘parallel’ cinema.
In this short story, Smitha Murthy explores the fragile and tenuous relationship that develops between a lonely woman and the cleaner at the restaurant she frequents.
There’s nothing glamorous about this restaurant. It’s a regular highway restaurant you might find on many an Indian road, serving cheap food. You are meant to walk in and walk out fast. No romantic lingering, and asking for a menu is unheard of. The tables are granite, and the plastic chairs squeak when you pull them out. But the place is busy. At all hours. Every day, hundreds of people pile in and out of its open doors. As you enter, on the left is a chaat and juice shop. The watery juices it makes are only for desperate times. The chaat stall only opens up in the evening, and the food there is no better than the beverages.
But considering where I stay – in Bangalore’s “emerging” suburbs – this restaurant is all I have. It meets my needs just fine. A quick bite or two. A sip of coffee. Maybe, chapatis for takeaway once in a while. It is enough.
In this personal essay, Priya M transverses through a plethora of human emotions and captures life, in its most fragile form.
The dust had hardly settled on the ground, before another car sped across the road. The siren was now clearly audible. I braced myself for the inevitable wave of nausea. Even with the ambulance so near, the vehicles on the road jostled for space, struggling to get away before it became absolutely necessary to wait for the emergency van to cross. I tightened my grip on the handle of my Scooty and made a sharp swivel to the right side of the road.
Ignoring the volley of honks and insults, I abandoned my vehicle and crouched next to the footpath. As the ambulance turned the corner onto this road, that telltale flash of red at the corner of my eye was too much for my fluttering heart. I heaved and my guts spilled along the side of the footpath.
Dion D’souza talks about E.V. Ramakrishnan’s Tips for Living in an Expanding Universe (Poetrywala, 2018) and shows how it has acquired even more relevance today.
In Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977), the protagonist Alvy Singer, having found out as a child that our universe is expanding, decides to give up mundane activities like his homework. What’s the point, he demands petulantly, if it’s just going to blow up one fine day? (The universe, that is, not his homework.) And suppose one could travel into and back in cinema time (as the older and heartbroken Alvy does in the film) and slip the boy a copy of EV Ramakrishnan’s Tips for Living in an Expanding Universe, would that in any way serve to ease his anxiety? I doubt it. But what I can vouch for is the fact that Alvy’s excuses for not turning in his assignments would have been more innovative than the standard go-to of an unruly pet’s voracious appetite.
But, man of wavering faith as I may be, why, in this particular case, do I doubt? To put it simply, the vision of a capricious universe that Ramakrishnan offers us is not very reassuring: one where “nothing is permanent, only sorrows and stories” (‘Local Gods’) and “the end [is] always imminent/but the narrative, like a coroner’s/report on a mass suicide, drags on” (‘To a Writer in Exile’). Reality and identity are in a state of flux; and violence, disease or a natural calamity can at any moment rip through our fragile and illusory sense of order and stability. However, this is a vision we must face up to of necessity. (And have now been forced to…thanks, 2020!)
An exclusive excerpt from Fractured Forest, Quartzite City by Thomas Crowley, jointly published by SAGE Publications and Yoda Press under the Yoda-SAGE Select imprint. (Published in September2020)
Spirits: Transcendence, Sacred and Secular
Love of marijuana is yet another commonality linking the Sufis to the yogis. In many of the tantric texts, the virtues of the intoxicating plant are extolled. One text avers that marijuana is essential to ecstasy. The plant is referred to as “victory” and “Gorakhnath’s root”.And, as Sufis gather at Qutb Sahib’s shrine to smoke, sway and (occasionally) scream and shout, groups of Nath Siddhas convene close by, on the northern edges of Sanjay Van, where three Gorakhnath Mandirs have been erected.
One of these temples, by far the biggest, adjoins the main road and regularly holds large gatherings, culminating in a biannual mela that draws significant crowds. The smallest of the temples, by contrast, is just a low brick wall surrounding several idols, protected by a solitary priest who sleeps beside the temple in a makeshift tent. The third temple combines the remoteness of the small mandir with the sociality of the big one. It is set back, away from the paved roads, in the midst of the jungle of Sanjay Van. It houses a small community of Nath yogis, who receive regular visits from devout Hindus residing in the nearby neighborhoods.
I have a habit of staring at horizontal lines. Railway tracks always fascinate me.
These railway lines which align trains, crisscrossing and bisecting each other in their paths, are made of the metal – iron. It seems to be yesterday my father had tutored me on the need for a man to be made of iron, so as to overcome the pitfalls that life brings in its wake.
“You’ll never know the truth, son of mine! But when you’ll reach an age, when reflection and contemplation become your only activities, then you’ll realize that you’ve indeed come a long way.”
A long way. But how long is l-o-n-g? This conversation was held many years ago, when I had gone home for my vacations. My parents had decided that a boarding school education and discipline would smooth away the rough edges of my youth. But however much they tried, the edges had remained rough till I had maturity!