Privilege, Power, Colonialism, and International Development – Part 1

Numa identifies as Bangladeshi-Austrian for the sake of convenience, and works in the field of International Development for which she sometimes gets paid a living wage. She has the ambition of engaging and encouraging wider dialogue on development from a dusty perspective and hopes that she can contribute to making the world less fail in one way or another. She is trying to blog regularly on awkwardatbest.wordpress.com but mostly has a very short attention span.

I grew up in a multicultural bubble where the idea of discrimination because of race, gender, class, ability, and sexuality was never discussed openly. It wasn’t until 2006-7, at university, where I started reading about privilege and oppression, that I discovered the tools to process my own experiences as a WOC. I realized that it wasn’t so much that my environment growing up had been free of racism or sexism, but that I had just  never been primed to recognize any -isms as such.

My immigrant parents were not equipped to help me deal with my experiences as an ethnic minority. They had grown up in a country where they were not the Other, and so subtle racism, or institutional racism didn’t really register with them. The only type of racism that they had learned to recognize, was the blatant “Get the fuck out of my country, you dirty brown foreigner” type of racism.

So I what I internalized was that discrimination was always blatant and happened out of ignorance, out of a lack of education. “Ignorance” was also code for “poor”, and for the longest time I genuinely believed this incredibly classist explanation. I really thought the only people who could be racist were uneducated, and thus, poor.

I realize now that this was a badly thought out, almost instinctive, coping mechanism where my class privilege was used as a form of protection against the forms of oppression I faced, namely racism. It was a bit like “Ha, I may be brown, but at least I’m not poor!” sort of thing, where oppressions are pitted against each other.

This kind of attitude also helped insulate me against the racism of my peers and immediate environment. As long as racism was only perpetuated by a group I never had to deal with, then the things that felt like racism invoked by my peers, were a different kind of creature. I was able to maintain the illusion of safety and lead a relatively untroubled existence.

Unfortunately for me, this meant that I once realized the actual pervasiveness of racism and other kinds of -isms, I found myself surrounded by people who had never had to think about any of these issues either. If it hadn’t been for the internet, I would have never have found the resources to help me make sense of my experiences with oppression and privilege.

By the time I started my postgraduate studies at the end of 2008, I was already well-versed in issues of discrimination. However, I had not yet thought about how oppression and privilege manifests itself within international development. When I started my degree, I was still naïvely under the impression that since the very concept of international development was about ensuring global economic and social justice, development theory and practice would be critical of all kinds of oppression. Like some kind of -ism free utopia…

(more…)

Caught Between Colonised Consonants

These last few weeks have been rather stressful for me, so by the time I get home, I’m more than exhausted, crash on my sofa and let the TeeVee numb my LadyLobes into oblivion for a while. This is around the time my grandmother’s favourite soaps are aired and we’ve developed a routine between the two of us. I help her to get dinner going (in my limited capacities as a non-cook) and she fills me in to whatever I missed in the first 10 minutes of the show. Over these weeks, I have now become familiar with the plotlines of more than seven shows, each predictably depicting middle to upper middle class Hindu households, where the protagonist, generally a virtuous woman battling a myriad of obstacles  from abusive husbands to nosy-parker neighbours, this Indian Daughter In Law suffers and endures rather vapidly, always quoting from some scripture or following orders to a T. This is TeeVee land after all, where women go to bed in saris and with their full make-up on, where the idea of a ‘diverse’ family is a multilingual Hindu family — what? have a non-sterotypical Muslim or a Christian character? Never! The TeeVee roars back — and where always, good triumphs over evil, after about every 200 episodes. Of course, when I’m watching these soaps with my grandma these quips are contained in my LadyBrain as she genuinely enjoys these shows. Plus if you saw her blushing the way she does when a Dude and a Lady on the screen brush hands, you’ll get it too.

Yesterday I noticed something interesting in one of these shows; it reminded me of my other grandmum that I lost a few years ago. One of the senior actors on the show had the exact expression as my grandmum would get when I’d start rambling too quickly in English; like many MudSquatters she too could read and write English quite well. Though she was the one who introduced me to Austen and the Brontës; when it came to sounding the syllables she fell short. The actor on-screen was making an exaggerated effort to understand her grandson as the child blathered on in the Coloniser’s tongue – with the American accent no less!—when this grandma of mine looks at me and teases me, “Isn’t this like us? You and your English books, always ranting in that language! Going so fast that no one can even understand! God knows what you must be saying in that language about us!”. While my parents and I converse in English relatively easily, for my grandma this language remains an unexplained pun, as she correctly guesses our tones but the words and their exact meaning escape her. For her not learning English remains her way to defy the Empire, while today I believe in smashing the Empire from within, using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house and caught in the middle are people from my mum’s generation who learnt English to get jobs and status. My parents have a more intimate relationship with our Mother Tongue than I do, for English remains a means to an end for them, as for me English is one of my primary expressions; it’s alienating, frustrating and yet the only tongue I can dream in. The debate of ‘Whose English Is It Really?’ can continue forever. What interests me today how this language is used to cut, to prod, to break into and make room for new dichotomies to absorb. I’ve noticed how my tone changes when I’m speaking to my friends or students, while at home even my English shifts its tenor, it slows down. Here, a few words from my Mother Tongue blend in, the way I leave questions open is again extremely specific for my community, the language flows more smoothly till the transition to speaking entirely in my Mother Tongue has been made. Sometimes when my Mum and I don’t want to let the maid know we’re talking about something that concerns her, we shift unanimously and almost subconsciously to English and then step right out again in a similar manner. Here, English is used to show and maintain class and to an extent caste supremacy whether we’re aware of it or not.

Till date, English remains as a ‘gift’ and ‘boon’ granted by the coloniser to us dusty colonised people, we don’t own it, command it, manipulate it. We swim in, forth and sideways at best; which only further cements the concepts of ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds. Even while re-reading canonical texts as Austen, Dickens or T.S. Eliot and many others¹ from this camp, the one thing I’m constantly looking in this dance of conversations between the Master and the Slave is where is the end of one and the exact beginning of another’s border. As to tell the history of the Other is to expose and ‘deal’ with the limit’s of one’s own history; this is where the obsession with defining the Empire and its Colonies becomes visible as our bodies are written upon as ritually as possible by narratives of literature and media. Similarly, the Mother Tongue is heavily washed with English till all is left are Anglo-Saxon and Nordic sounding syllables in the place of well-woven langues that are birthed from Sanskrit. And this ‘conflict’ is of a Lady who belongs to the upper echelons of society — caste and class wise — where the negotiation between my Mother Tongue and English doesn’t seem as violent as it really is, as erasure ‘progress’ that comes packaged in Disney and Beatrix Potter books masks the harshness. People who aren’t as privileged as I, who are forced to learn English and are told that their ‘worth’ will increase to that of a human only if they speak in English, their transitions into our Collectively Colonised Skin is much more painful and gory². And the few who scrape pieces of themselves from this system, they are rejected later for ‘poor English’ pronunciation, ill-formed grammar regardless of what their potential is.

Here all previous notions of ‘dismantling’ or breaking the Empire go void, for words and sounds that were never yours to begin with cannot be called back or used to ‘talk back’ to and dreams of a ‘new tongue’ are long gone. What remains are shards of sounds, words, alphabets with which the POC has to start building a ground that has to move out of its previous feminised sphere — hence available and penetrable — and work to a negotiation that rests with neither the colonised nor the coloniser, the concept of ‘nation’ has to be reconciled with neither the subjugator nor the subjugated skins is the solution to interrupt and resist imperial narratives. The question that haunts me today is just how far do we force ourselves to indicate this ‘OtherLand’? All I can hope so, this defining doesn’t result in a pompous show of appropriation and tokenism. Like in the case of my two grandmothers, English has to move beyond a forced ventriloquism, a dubbing of tongues or all we will be left with will be tongue dumb tongues³.

——

1. Ask F. R. Leavis. If you can resist puking at the Wikipedia page that is.

2. Most first-generation learners of English are people from ‘backward’ castes and indigenous tribes.

3. Thank you Nourbese Philip!

 

On Charting Invisible Bodies

As a Lady born on the brink of globalisation, English is something that comes to me as naturally as breathing. As a kid, I had access to all sorts of books, movies and songs from the ‘Center’ of civilisation — U.S. and Europe of course! — and was encouraged to speak in English as much as I could. Apparently, an English speaking person is a marker for a ‘civilised’ and a ‘cultured’ individual, even roughly about 50 years after the The White Buggers Left India Alone And Took Their Annoying Bulldogs With Them. There was a sense of shame or even guilt when my native tongue Gujarati would be brought up; I went as far as to believe that the person speaking Gujarati was a different ‘me’ than the one fawning over Austen and Disney and somehow they must be relegated into different spheres of seeing and believing. It took a few years for me to realise the dynamics of the DoucheColonial Gaze I had internalised and am still trying to see the person inside who speaks her native language as a fully fleshed organism rather than something out of visions E.M. Forester had in a Passage To India.

Memories of reading Wordsworth’s Daffodils are clear, so is the sense of disappointment that settled in when I realised I’d never see the flower on Indian soil, but I have very few memories of easing in to my native language, letting it unfurl against and within me. Till date, I dream think talk rant rave in English and occasionally in French — for having one language colonise you is simply not enough, the Queen said — and the person who I am in my native language sits inside and aside. This weekend, while watching a performance of Wilde’s ‘A Lady Of No Importance’ and hearing people thunder and applaud at the ‘perfected British and American accents’ did Caliban’s idea of ‘red plague’ and the notion of turning language to curse at the coloniser¹ came to its full appeal for this LadyBrain. Numerous instances where people feel embarrassed to sound ‘Indian’ come to mind, where you perform an accent and a manner of speaking till all that is left behind are dregs of another being rather than you. While there is no one way of speaking a language you don’t belong to — too bad geographical proximity doesn’t count, for that way I should speak American as I live obnoxiously close to the WorldWide Embassador of America: McDonald’s — or can ever dream of ever possessing fully regardless the number of degrees you have in this said tongue. Most of my favourite authors are from the Center, hard to undo the cannon and numerous whinyarsed problems in the same vein can be talked of time and again. What really sticks with this LadyBrain is how as post-colonial subjects anything we consume today, from the copiously auto-toned baritones of Taylor Swift to Foucault’s Genealogy,  we’re inevitably fixed sideways, invisible, alloted the space of the Proverbial Other. Even in spaces that are decidedly ‘intersectional’, colouring the Other invisible is a game we play right after the first rounds of Subtle Cultural Appropriation and before Packaging The Other As One Of Us.

As a ‘invisible body’, being in such spaces and cultural texts is a duplicitous position to hold namely because there is no specific direction or position to occupy in theory, whereas literally you’re fixed and pinned down in borders and boxes. Like Jane Eyre, I can sometimes slip in and out of these texts and corners, if the Omnipresent DoucheColonial Liberator is present like she did in and out of rooms and moors. At the same time, the ‘bestial’ Bertha still awaits my position beside her as the Woman of the Other World. The problem is, “I don’t always want to be Bertha, to be castigated and locked off” like one of my students put it. This isn’t to insinuate the internalisation of colonialism is a strictly one-way process, I’d like to think it’s a negotiation, despite how silently it’s whispered. There is an overwhelming desire to identify and even step right into the coloniser’s shoes, to feel giddy with the power, to be free and disseminate agency and rights among Othered, lesser spaces and individuals. Like George Bernard Shaw, it would be nice to be socialist and endorse FABIAN ideals while keeping the eye glazed whenever any talk goes beyond the borders being English, it would be nice — where nice translates to nausea — to have such cultural amnesia, to constantly slip up and about the boundaries of deciding who is ‘oppressed’ and to what degree. I won’t lie that I’ve never dreamt of a world that wasn’t Eurocentric, dedicated to keeping and maintaining the ‘Up‘ status-quo or thought of everyone speaking Hindi the way the world does English or if everyone was simply happy with their designated borders.  But when reality sinks in, I still break myself up while speaking in this NotMotherTongue and alienate myself when the overbearing gaze of the native tongue that is evaporating daily from my mind and body sets its hold on me. And the bigger problem that this ‘splitting into half’ is how much of this conflict is welcomed, or even self-inflicted. As an ‘invisible body’ it would be reassuring to categorise the Coloniser as the ultimate source of All Things Evil; especially for bringing to this LadyBrain’s mind the legend of Pandora before The Curse of Yellama (which is the MudSquatter version of Pandora, perhaps two shades more dustier). Like Caliban, the impulse to bite back at the oppressor is equally overwhelming as well. And stuck somewhere in the middle is the invisible body.

If I were to map the invisible bodies on the globe, a majority would take up The Third World; and the other half would take up half the world’s population that is biologically or culturally inclined to being feminine. Imagine if you’re a Double Invisible Body and then someone, magically, gives you a pen and you start reclaiming your body and space; only to realise that body you mention is already in someone else’s possession — namely capitalisation, neo-colonisation and cultural appropriation — and that space never existed but between the cracks of your own mind? Only when we stop fixing, cartologising, mapping and charting both ways — our and the Coloniser’s identities — do the gaps and breaks help us build a cohesive language of silence, expressed through feeling and not saying.

in

finite

absences the spaces we con

struct

build and

no one comes

the silences — speak volumes

the gaps start creaking songs

of virtual ashes

bytes unto bytes.

—–

1. You taught me language, and my profit on’t/Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you,/For learning me your language!. Who knew I could even like Shakespeare at times? Wonders never cease.

 

 

Cartologising Contraception Edition Of Cemented Stereotypes

Since the advent of the industrial revolution, there are apparently only the two sects of people in the world, the People With Machines and the People With Farms and Dung if I were to believe Marx for every word he ever wrote — and I don’t — between all the fine print where he justified colonisation as a system that would oppress the MudSquatters to the level that they’d achieve the level of the European proletariat to fully become human and worthy of attaining the shiny badge for unbourgois workers and other places where he seems downright uncritical of imperialism. But it seems that the world does endorse this view, so we have extremely clear dichotomies that pit these two kinds of people against each other to the extent they become different species and even speak different languages. After about 150 years (and more) we still relish these manufactured differences a tad too much; not because Marx still drives us so but because of the underlying ulterior motive we’ve planted in there, facelessly¹.

I remember reading the words, “India is an agrarian economy” from my school years in almost every geography book, at the same time being unable to imagine more than 80% of the population slaving away on the fields, having never seen a field myself, outside of a Bollywood film that is; till I realised most of these fields are located somewhere in Europe as well. As a member of the privileged class who has never had to do any manual, back-breaking physical labour in her life, or ever worry about meals; as a child I’d have a tough time imagining how the villagers must look like, what they must sound like and so on. For quite a while, media representations were my primary and the only source to form deeply tilted view of ‘them’. Typically the bumbling village idiot, speaks in broken English, zie represents Old India or Orthodox norms and then the city would civilise him — raise your hand people of the Olde Interwebes if this sounds ridiculously close to colonisation — or an urbane protagonist would, disseminate proverbial knowledge and wisdom akin to the (ironic) role of the ‘Good Native’. Where the villagers are plot devices to further the UberLiberalHumanist tendencies every urban character inherently is born with; sort of like a DesiDoucheColonial enabler on zie’s own and the villagers welcome this taking over of bodies and idea with vapid simplicity. Some ‘liberal’ films will show the villager as a loyal servant to his ImperiallyKind Babu to the extent that boundaries between Master and Servant are blurred and they hop and skip all over the realities of bonded labour, zamindrai exploitation and systematic bankruptcy in the span of a two-minute dance number. Conversely, ‘edgy’ films made from the villager’s point of view — produced, written and directed in the city, of course —  place the urban antagonist in the coloniser’s shoes, critique the ‘loss of Indian-ness’ and ‘our values’ while lamenting in the previously mentioned European fields where the scenes are shot. Any way this LadyBrain looks at the dichotomy, both groups are determined to lock each other out, only to the satisfaction of the Center that openly rejoices and engages in further wall-building.

This week while watching T.V. with my mum and her progenitor, we saw a contraceptive ad furthered by the government to educate the masses about the safety and availability of contraceptives . Here the discourse of contraception takes place between two rural women, drawing water from a well — for what is more stereotypical of the village native than the Olde Water Drawing Trick? People in cities have taps and other modern things. Apparently — talking about not taking responsibility for the next child one of them is carrying. Then her friend suggests a visit to the DoctorLady (because a dude doctor would be so uncouth in a situation like this, obviously!) for a box of trusty contraceptives. At first, I came very closely to cheering loudly as having women firmly stating they didn’t want further children reeked of agency to me and was enough for my uterus to sing. Only on further analysis, I remembered a similar ad from a while ago and the problems came rushing back.

This video is another Government funded video encouraging the use of contraceptives.

Here too, the discourse is gendered and controlled, women discussing contraceptives, each firmly rooted in all sorts of locks, clasps and binds of Indian Femaleness, being wives and mothers. Both dress and talk traditionally, bowing down to all forms of sanctioned patriarchal expression. The thing that irks this LadyBrain the most in this ad and many of its genre is how words like ‘choice’, ‘agency’ and ‘freedom’ are strategically missing from the discussion and ‘family planning’ is used in its place, blunting whatever effect having two women talk about their reproductive choices had. The LadyFriend who ‘educates’ the other — and the viewer by extension — is fully or will show hints of urbane-ness. From a glazed accent, to perfect diction to attesting superior knowledge (here signifying she is a doctor) places her on a pedestal and immediately reveres her to the afore-mentioned coloniser’s superior shoes.

Perhaps the most disturbing and striking message of these ad films is ‘Only Married Ladies Talk Contraception’, as if pre-marital sex is a fantasy West-inclined people have made up. Sort of like Coca-Cola or Equality, “such things exist only there. India has moral values, we’re not like those culture-less Western buggers”. Obviously, this attestation flies in the face of all “honour killings”, but somehow we never talk about that. And I can see the anxiety over untutored feminine sexuality that keeps up the DudeCouncil up at night (innuendo not intended); for if a dude doesn’t regulate your sexuality, can you, a mere Lady be trusted? If you chimed in Yes! Of course! then I suggest you read the part where the DudeCouncil is anxious again. In such a context, imagine an ad that depicts two unmarried women discussing contraception and then picture the Collective Shattering of Supposed Cultural Values; for even hinting at female sexuality, let alone choice, consent or freedom is a recipe for disaster. And on top of that, ‘Those Sluts! How Dare They Not Be Punished For Every Time They Exchange Bodily Fluids (even voluntarily!)  Outside Of Marriage?’ type of societal moral indignation is a tad hard to deflect, especially when the majority chimes in at the exact spot. Even more so, if that majority is the policy-maker for your State.

While I don’t resent the depiction of rural women as having quasi-agency — even when shielded by ‘family planning’ — what doesn’t sit well with me is the idea and the conception that Urbane Feminine Sexuality is inherently deviant when contrasted with rural or married women’s sexuality, precisely because it is largely unministered by the DudeCouncil. By concretely codifying feminine sexual mores into dichotomies in the Urban and the Rural slots, we’re further fissuring very notion of women’s sexuality, rigidifying some sexual behaviours and consciously making a few others invisible.  Like the poet Radhika Gujjala points out, “representing absences does not make the absent present/ but re-presents (to us) absence”. The Woman With Choice roars in her cage, and we pretend she doesn’t have a voice.

1. Ask Barthes, okay? He’ll explain.

 

Re-Making While Break-ing Bodies And Meanings

The past few days have been emotionally as well as physically taxing, as I prepared for a seminar, re-wrote, re-edited and then wrote again my paper. Then deleted it and started all over again. A few years ago I had the nasty habit of never saving any of my writing, so I went along and got me an auto-saving program. Now all I need is a program that will swat my hand away every time I try to delete my writing. So you can understand, dear reader why I didn’t want to open or even read any of my TrollMail. Turns out, had I opened it earlier I wouldn’t be comatose in front of the computer screen, losing the battle against writer’s block. Some days, the universe just provides you fodder, while on other days it spews slander all over you and your virtual space.

Questions like, “Must you use such harsh language, when you talk of your body or anyone else’s body?” or another states “It’s not proper for Indian women to talk of the body in such terms. You sound Western when you do write like this. Indian women don’t and shouldn’t talk of their private organs so blatantly. This isn’t our culture”. And I edited this one, because I distinctly remember my LadyBrain slammed itself shut after these lines. Forgive me for not reading any of her remaining eight e-mails for my eyes blurred over as soon as she started defining what “Indian women” should do or rather shouldn’t do. And just as I start to write this, another e-mail scurries forward bearing the words, “What is the point of breaking up your body to show what you mean? Aren’t you mutilating yourself, under the name of using poetic devices? Also, isn’t this an extremely Western method of articulating ? Doesn’t this stand against everything you supposedly believe in?”. As I mentioned before, the Interwebes can smack any semblance of the Writer’s Block right out of you, on a day like this.

First of all, where does language lose its trappings of ‘beauty’ and enter the realm of the ‘grotesque’? As far as I can see, there are no specific boundaries as one of the biggest dangers of any art is its ability to transform tragedy into something aesthetic or beautiful. This is probably why I like Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ so much, despite the fact it is the man’s last painting before his suicide. Or the fact I like Sadat Hasan Manto’s grotesque short fictions, even though they leer so close to brutality, madness and often just plain violence. The one poem that speaks to me is where Emily Dickinson manages to write, “They shut me up in Prose –As when a little Girl/They put me in the Closet –Because they liked me “still” –-” leaving me with the image of muffled words and inconsequential mumbles. All of these artists use macabre to further their crafted skill. This doesn’t mean I don’t get goosebumps when I see Starry Night, read Colder Than Ice, the above poem or any other work that hovers on tragedy and yet manages it to make it beautiful. The tragedy or the violence of these works don’t reduce because of its aesthetic value. To my mind, they become even more beautiful and jagged, pierce deeper than they would have had they not been so brutal. Do you think this painting loses its value just because of how raw or harsh it is? In fact, one of the most basic components of ‘Trying-To-Let-The-Silenced-Speak’ is to accept a certain conceit as well as “darkness” in their writing. For after years of silence, when the ‘voiceless’ speak, zie is hardly going to bestow praises to the oppressor. Outside of a Margaret Mitchell book that is. To write off someone’s word as too dark, too harsh, too loud, too blunt is nothing but another form of silencing; reducing them to be less than worthy to have — let alone use — their voice.

Secondly, policing bodies is probably a tradition older than time. Religious texts across cultures as well as literature insist on shaming, labeling and prodding the body — be it human or otherwise. When you hide something away, create a taboo around a part of your body; you further ensure silencing. Why is talking about one’s ‘private organs’ such a faux pas for people? And Indian women in particular if I’m looking at the second TrollMail? And just who is this Indian woman every troll — virtual or otherwise — surely brings up? She sounds like she is completely SpineLess, devoid of any inkling of choice or consent and extremely happy to be a broken doll. Eternally malleable, manageable and has no more potential than a masquerade. If there is a specific person behind her existence? If yes, could I have a long conversation with them and perhaps smack them with common-sense till they get it that creating such dichotomies, ideals and definitions, they are trapping hordes of bodies in the realm of the ‘impossibly Indian’? This Indian woman serves to keep us in our place, one step below everyone else. She is that ever-elusive ideal that isn’t achievable. I shudder to think of the army of doormats women this ‘Indian Woman’ has the potential to produce. Kind of a female culture-factory. Even the visual stuns me into silence; to expect me and all ‘Indian women’ to adhere to this norm is more than a little naïve. Another thing that irked me was the troll’s insistence that “this isn’t Indian culture”, for who defines Indian culture? Historically speaking, it was a few privileged dudes who decided how everyone else behaved. Today, perhaps quite a few women have internalised this misogyny giving the illusion of choice while ironically they are still dancing to someone else’s tunes. Also culture isn’t a monolithic or fixed ground — for what is culture without its people? And if we are still to adhere to “original Indian culture” — which was first translated and recorded by German Indologists — then we should declare an infinite war against modern plumbing. But I digress. Policing and controlling this ‘Indian woman’s body’, by telling how she should sit stand walk sleep jump sprint eat move be swim follow dance run bend talk sound hear see do is like placing her in a box without holes and asking her to blow glass inside. And, by giving it the appearance of ‘culture’, the need to have ManMadeWomen, as desired so by people is hidden away.

Coming to the third TrollMail, I was rather surprised to see zie could be as presumptuous to say, “everything you stand against” as even I don’t know what things I don’t like on a fixed basis. But the most obnoxious statement was when they said I sound ‘Western’ — because that is the worst any Oriental would ever want to be. Even if it means choosing between terrorism and opposing the West, any sound-minded Oriental would pick the West. I hear they have nude beaches there. So you can see our indignation with you — because of my choice, form and use of words. It never fails to amaze me how many people want to believe that everything was perfect before they came; ‘they’ can mean the Greeks, Persians, Portuguese, English invaders (pick one according to your mood!) and regard everyone who doesn’t subscribe to this view as ‘Westernised Trash’. After being colonised for more than 200 years, after being told that we have no culture or anything at all, by people who ironically originate from ‘Barbarians’ themselves (as St. Augustine would agree), it’s a tad difficult to not be Western. We speak in a language that is not ours, go by laws that are fundamentally based on Western principles,  study in schools that still insist on teaching children ‘Daffodils’ by Wordsworth as essential poetry though we will never see that flower on our land, perceive the world through the Coloniser’s eyes. Our sense of what is ‘proper’, ‘public’, ‘private’ comes from our oppressors, even if it was Nehru behaving as the mouthpiece. And just for kicks, if I start speaking in the DesiTongue, will I become more ‘Indian’? Or perhaps I should pepper my posts with actual spices, for what screams more Indian than chillies (which we stole from the Mughals by the way)?

It is while experimenting with words, sounds, senses and meanings I can negotiate with my heart into believeing that somehow I’m articulating who I am, or am trying to be in a language I don’t belong to, that breaks me up every time I write. To deny me that space, to criminalise my chosen method, judge me based on what YOU think I should do is to ask me to  stop thinking and breathing. For it is after very long that I’ve managed to pry the blindfold off; and I have a few things yet left to see.

[Cross-Posted]

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