Thursday, 29 September 2011

Off the Beaten Track

It recently dawned on me that my living room bookshelf houses nearly everything ever written by Salman Rushdie, Alain de Botton, bell hooks and Gail Jones. What an assorted collection of nationalities (British-Indian/Pakistani, Swiss, African-American, and Australian, respectively), genres (magic realism, new-age philosophy, cultural theory, and poetic fiction), and personalities (I won't try and pin that down). Does this say anything about me? Other than I like reading postcolonial fiction, feminist tomes, philosophical essays and lyrical prose? Perhaps it is also a marker of the different stages of growth I have been through in the last decade or so. The story it is telling is one that I have written and imbibed, but one that is also accessible to those who visit my place. It is likely that each one of these visitors picks up a different version of the bookshelf story, yet it is a rare insight into my inner world for someone new in my life. For that reason alone, I am loathe to remove or add a volume for the sake of conjuring up a certain impression.

What does your bookshelf say about you?

Mine, along with my eclectic collection of necklaces (yes, jewellery on a "serious" blog) from around the world is likely to be a legacy for my kids in case I happen to have them or adopt them. That is one hell of an inheritance off the beaten track. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

India - assertively and repressively itself

I've just come back from an attempted visit to my sister's college in Bangalore which I shall not name here. Despite being fully clothed, I was stopped by the guard because of my three-quarter pants (the girls have to wear full-length bottoms with a long shirt, and the boys professional attire as part of the institutional dress code). As I disappointedly turned away, I marvelled at the young ones' displays of confident sensuality, even sexuality in their ostensibly conservative clothes.

This seems to parallel India's unique strain of traditional modernity that I am seeing unfold on my current trip more than ever before. The medium I have chosen to investigate this phenomenon, namely, television, is both reflective of, and an aggressive participant in the building of an urban middle class that simultaneously worships at the altars of consumerist aspiration and primordial identification. Needless to say, Anna Hazare's much-publicised anti-corruption campaign has captured this class precisely because it appeals to both of the above sentiments. Even though the news networks suggest this is a homogeneous group of people, confessional yet strangely puritanical about the systemic corruption in their lives, a closer look at the streets, malls and airports tells a more nuanced story. Yes, I think there is more agency behind that struggling facade than we are willing to admit.