D.D. Kosambi Fellowship

Premise: I have been awarded the D.D. Kosambi Research Fellowship by the Directorate of Art and Culture, Government of Goa for the year 2016-2018. Under this fellowship, I will be researching the genealogies of Maratha and Marathi identities in 20th century Portuguese Goa.

The assertion and presence of Marathi in Goa has always been looked at with certain degree of suspicion. The popularity of Marathi in Goa was the basis on which Goa’s merger with Maharashtra was argued in sixties. The debate was laid to rest following a referendum, popularly known as the ‘Opinion Poll’, wherein majority of the Goans voted to remain as an independent union territory instead of merging with Maharashtra. Goa’s affinity towards Marathi was further seen in the official language movement where Konkani (written in Devnagari script) was instituted as the official language of Goa and Marathi was approved for official purpose.

Goa’s relationship with Marathi is deeply linked to the peculiar networks of caste and colonialism that marked the early 20th century Goa. Several Goan Hindu communities were engaging with Maratha history and/or Marathi language to make space for themselves in the upward mobility race. There were several lower caste communities that adopted a Maratha past and identity. This adoption was as an assertion of a certain caste consciousness. Marathi had a strong presence in the vernacular print as well, alongwith the Romi Konkani, in Goa and Bombay. From the late 19th century till 1961, there were around 82 Marathi periodicals that were started either in Goa or by Goans in British and Independent India. Another major factor that fostered the popularity of Marathi and Maratha history in Goa was Marathi theatre. Goa was part of the larger circuit in which Marathi theatre that was produced in British India was being performed. But more importantly, Goa has had a long standing tradition of Marathi theatre that was at its peak for the major period of the 20th century. These plays were staged in the temple premises itself since the majority of the temples in Goa extend into performing spaces. The themes were predominantly mythological or based on the life and times of the Maratha king Shivaji Bhosale. Marathi also was, and still is, the language of spirituality and worship among the Goan Hindu communities.

‘Region’ exists as a notional construct and not merely as a geographical terrain contained within arbitrary boundaries. Thus, if regions too exist as ‘imagined communities‘, it is imperative to reiterate Partha Chatterjee’s emphasis to define the locus of these imaginations. Goa is site whose histories not only can offer fresh perspectives on colonial empires in South Asia, but also highlight the imperial manner in which post-colonial nations operate at the impulses of its ruling and elite class. This project is driven by the pursuit to locate these genealogies in general, and those that claimed Goa as an extension of Maharashtra in particular.

Update

It’s been a month now that I am back to Goa from Delhi for summer vacations. Nothing much to do in Goa apart from meeting friends for beer but I am not complaning! :p I’ve been catching up on reading and watching films, doing some archival work for the upcoming dissertation (but that’s at a pace slower than that of snail’s) and daydreaming. I so wanted to stay back in Delhi for cultural studies reading group but the heat in Delhi this time is just unbearable. Not much writing has happened though which is scary.

It was a great year at AUD and joining there was the best decision I ever took. It has its problems but I love the vibe and SCCE has the most amazing faculty on campus. It’s such a relief not to answer exams anymore.

The university reopens in August and there’s still a month of vacation remaining but I am already bored. Looking forward for the Hyderabad trip in July for ISTR conference.

Countering hatred

Past few days have been really busy as our new Marathi play, Jatharaanal, enters final leg of rehearsals. A satirical critic of totalitarian state where the king turns into a cannibal, this play is an exciting project to work on since it is a musical we are doing after a very long time. There is a qawwali that has been written which echoes the protagonist’s dilemma to choose between knife and alcohol while the lyrics plays on some interesting pun on the word “Suraa” which means both, knife and alcohol, in Marathi. Towards the end of it, the Qawwal urges everyone to choose “Sur” (Music) over both the “Suraa” as that has a bigger capacity to heal.

The attack on the school in Peshawar has numbed everyone beyond limits. While people wrote very emotional messages on Facebook (and even diplomatic advices to Pakistan), I didn’t feel the urgency to respond to it mainly because I was not able to articulate my feelings. I just felt scared and incapable. The emotional outpour is more because it is children who were killed. What bothers me is this killing and wiping off innocence from our lives while we are living in times when we need it the most. Children seem to embody that innocence that we all yearn for and we must hold onto it as much as we can.

There is some apparent connection I am trying to find between the qawwali from the play and my concern with incidents like Peshawar. I think Music, like innocence, is one answer to counter hatred and we need more of it. Because as Bard said, Music is the food of love and we must play on.

Privilege, Equality and Caste

You cannot help but to upset people when you write about Caste. The reactions to my post on Rajdeep are really interesting and just a reminder that we need to constantly engage ourselves into this debate instead of not talk about it at all calling caste a passé, because it isn’t. This post was initially intended to address the twitter conversation I had with Nilay but now after having received more and diverse opinions on my post, will address some others too. The conversation between me and Nilay started after him tweeting this.

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To which I replied as above. I also asked him if his understanding of privileges was this shallow, I am not interested in carrying this dialogue any further and would rest my case. At this point, the debate suddenly turned into a You vs Me battle which I didn’t see coming. Did he get better education? I don’t know which school/college he went to so no comments there. Can I not buy land in Goa? Of course yes I can but from whom? Who is the majority land owning community in Goa? Temples (and hence Mahajans (Guardians) of temples, who coincidentally happen to GSBs). Are you denied entry to temple? It’s my choice that I’ve almost stopped visiting temples unless I’m with some friends or guests. But I’m allowed entry till a certain point where I can put in money into donor box, pray and leave. Entry to sanctum sanctorum is still denied to castes other than GSBs. But the point isn’t what privileges I’m allowed. Opinions about a big problem like caste cannot be held on such binary of “Me vs You” debates. Nilay further tweeted following tweets


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To be very frank, I was not at all offended by the “People like you” reference in his tweet but it’s interesting that a debate which gets consolidated to level of “You vs Me” from nowhere suddenly elevates to level of “People like you”. Also, people like him and many other have made me conscious about my caste too so that’s levelled. Also, nor do I (stress on I) need an acknowledgment of the injustice that has been done by upper caste towards other caste communities neither am I playing my caste sympathy card. I don’t think I have personal gains from it, apart from getting myself more engaged with debates of caste, class and identity. Also, one is entitled to their impulsive beliefs which were incepted into them. For ex. someone believing in ghosts is also impulsive and incepted by an external agency.

In the due course of the discussion that followed, Sagar mentioned something about “equal footing”, and I think this is where the crux of debate lies. Equality, at least in India, is deceptive. It reminds me of a quote from Swadesh Deepak’s seminal play Court Martial which says, “All are equal before law, but some are more equal than others.” We are equal by law, not by beliefs. And this is a behaviour common across caste and religious communities and not specific to any.

Caste, Privilege and Equality is a vicious cycle. The caste system in India privileged certain communities. Thus they could get themselves educated, acquire knowledge, seek and generate employment opportunities and hence their future generations could also live in a better condition. Equality as a necessary idea came much later into our societal understanding and that concept still struggles to find a space here. What did thousand years of oppression did to the communities who were at the receiving end of it? First and foremost, it injured their morale and self-confidence. My grandfather would recount that if a Bhaadkar (landlord) would walk by, no one was allowed to make an eye contact with him. They would have to remain in whatever position with their eyes fixed to ground. An eye contact with the upper caste landlord would signify breaking of the caste code. And many of these people were labourers in the landlord’s farm so they could not afford to upset him as that would mean no employment for rest of the life. This incident speaks volumes about the humiliation that these people went through. It affected their world view, capability to dream big or even afford to dream in first place. This sense of low self-esteem has passed on through generations. In real sense, we cannot speak of equal footing or merit unless we address this historical oppression of backward communities which hasn’t only affected social and economic emancipation of them but also emancipation of their individual self.

Hence when people cringe about reservations in educational institutes and jobs and instead lobby for merit and equality, I find it extremely problematic because our history doesn’t justify that cringing. “Your ancestors may have discriminated against my ancestors but you haven’t discriminated against me so I shouldn’t be holding that against you” is a flawed argument. Perhaps, in the process of discrimination, your ancestors have hampered my ancestor’s ability to overcome discrimination which might still be continuing in my family. Who knows?

 

PS: I’d pause all the caste debate here for a while due to mounting load of pending submissions that I’ve to do as its end of the semester. We can take the dialogue further on tweets, facebook, email or in comments section here but I will try to reply only when I’m relived of the submission load. My post on Rajdeep’s tweet is here.

Rajdeep, your caste is showing!

When I moved to Delhi from Pune, one thing I was relieved of was not having to answer condescending Punekars asking me my last name. It’s a “not so subtle” way of asking “What’s your caste?” and the tone of the conversation that would follow was largely dependent on whether I was a Brahmin or not. While I was aware of caste discrimination since my days in Goa, I became aware of caste atrocities and how it plays a major role (more than one can think of) in one’s life when I moved to Pune. Social segregation, ghettoization of dalit communities etc. were starkly visible in a Pune where the Brahmins have had a stronghold in shaping it as a city. My relief from being asked Pune’s typical conversation starter “What’s your last name?” didn’t last long until last week when I went to Goa Sadan for the annual “Goa Festival”. This time it was a Goan (a GSB) asking me the same question and all I could do is laugh and tell him what my last name is.

The reason for this post is the latest controversy that Rajdeep Sardesai has stirred by tweeting about his “Sarswat” pride after fellow GSBians, Manohar Parrikar and Suresh Prabhu were inducted into Modi’s cabinet.

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Well I had already called it a sick behaviour from Rajdeep’s side by tweeting that “There’s nothing great in taking pride in people inducted into power who already hail from privileged classes”. While I thought the controversy ended there, Rajdeep has now written a column in HT justifying the tweet thereby paving way for a fresh controversy. And in course of responding to that, GSB sentiments of a fellow twitter user, Nilay Bhandare (@kharobangdo) seems to have been hurt or disturbed. This post is to address the concerns after having read reactions by both and probably address larger problem of caste with particular reference to Goa.

Let’s look at Rajdeep first (Nilay deserves another post) because if not anything else, the article is a bit hilarious too at some level.

“GSB” refers to the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins, a tiny, but highly progressive community of fish-eating Brahmins that I belong to which nestles along the Konkan coast, across Maharashtra, Goa, through to parts of Karnataka.

A “Highly progressive community” that decides how they would talk to a person depending on his or her skin tone and last name. A highly progressive community that controls temple ownership in Goa and denies entry into sanctum sanctorum for other communities. A highly progressive community that asserts their own dialect as an official language onto rest of the state. This list of highly progressive attributes can go on but let’s stop here.

Rajdeep further mentions that

In his valuable book Saraswats, Chandrakant Keni traces the history of the Saraswat community, of the migration from Kashmir, of how they faced oppression from the conquering Portuguese, how they zealously held onto their family traditions and village deities, and placed a premium on education as a path to upward mobility.

While I have not read the book by Chandrakant Keni, I will refrain from making remarks on his arguments about Sarswats but only thing here is that I have problem with is GSBs placing a premium on education as a path to upward mobility. When you are the only community having access to education and knowledge systems and thus denying the right to education to rest of the communities, aren’t you the only one who’s going to ride on the path of upward mobility? It’s like running the race alone or with fellow racers who are handicapped by social structure which you’ve ensured remains intact for centuries and then claiming victory?

The next para would put any standup comedian to shame which read like

Despite the small numbers, the Saraswat community has contributed enormously to the country: In cricket, led by the big two Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, Saraswats have scored more than a hundred Test hundreds; in cinema and the arts, we have the splendid Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, Guru Dutt and the latest Hindi film dream girl, Deepika Padukone; in education, the Pais of Manipal have led the way; and in business and finance, the likes of Nandan Nilekani and KV Kamath have been pioneers.

Of course there is no doubt about Tendulkar and Gavaskar’s legacy but when their hundreds translates into “Saraswats” scoring more than a hundred test hundreds, it does look ugly for reasons more than one. Also we need to think what societal setup that “allows” Sachin Tendulkar to score hundreds while Vinod Kambli’s career gets a halt and gets the tag of “characterless”. It looks like Rajdeep has no understanding of the privileges that upper caste communities in India have always enjoyed. He strengthens this belief further by saying

Casteism is when a caste identity is used to promote hatred and separateness towards the other, when it creates social barriers based on occupation, marriage or inter-dining.

Alas! Paisaa aaya par class consciousness nahi gaya! If it was only that simple. This is the urban elite understanding of “casteism” and Rajdeep seems like a frontrunner of such bullshit that gets disguised as liberalism. Casteism is what happened in Khairlanji and rising cases of atrocities against Dalits. It’s also ridiculing of the Ambedkar followers on 6th December and discussing how these “Jai Bheem” people need to be shown their place who crowd and litter the city of Bombay, which is otherwise clean and devoid of any crowds. It’s also Brahmin students cancelling their admissions from Aurangabad University when it was being renamed as Babasaheb Ambedkar University. It’s also asking someone their last name. It’s also advertising in a local Marathi Daily that It’s a celebratory moment for “Bamons” of Goa because after Parrikar, a Kamat has been made the CM. Reminding anyone of their deprivation by invoking a pride in one’s own caste or directly ridiculing the other, is casteism.

Will just share an incident that happened with my cousin few years back. She studies in an elite school in Margao and scores well enough to come first in the class. A fellow GSB classmate of hers comes second. On the day of results, the mother of this GSB girl asked my cousin, “Your last name is Naik, right? How do you then come first in class?” As if coming first in class (and hence being intelligent and worthy of acquiring knowledge) was a trait peculiar to GSBs. Perhaps Rajdeep never got asked this question. Perhaps he wasn’t denied access to education (and hence empowerment) because of his caste.

One can be ignorant about his or her privilege, it’s only by agency of caste one learns to be proud arrogant about it.

Goa 401 to Delhi 6 via Pune 52

August 2011, I packed my bags and shifted to Pune to pursue my masters in Computer Sciences thinking that I’ll land up with a plush IT job in Bengaluru or in Pune itself. I didn’t know what was in the stores for me until I went to attend my college (It’s more of a factory that produces professional degree holders but more about that later). On the very first day, I was told that I would have to meet the Principal and seek her permission to attend the orientation program because I didn’t wear formals. Till that point, I didn’t know that jeans didn’t qualify as formal attire and being dressed formally is a pre-requisite of being a corporate sellout. My tussle with the course I was about to pursue must’ve began at this very moment.

A weeklong orientation program where people from the IT industry came and delivered speeches how IT would make you richer, throwing the management jargon such as career, growth etc. They also told us how English was important and good communication skills are the “key to success in the corporate world”. As the classes started, we knew we had the most incompetent teachers to teach us. None of them could speak proper English nor were sure about what they were teaching. It was sickening. To have studied in an NAAC accredited college and then straightway landing up into this factory called Sinhgad Institutes which manufactured degree holders by giving them cheap quality blazers to wear was frustrating. Within a month, I knew I had to quit and was looking for other options. But it didn’t materialize.

I was getting disinterested in pursuing the course day by day. In the second year, I shifted out of hostel and started staying in an apartment in Karvenagar. Thus I could keep myself busy doing other things that interested me instead of attending college. The turning point in my life came when I directed a play for the college at the prestigious Purushottam Karandak one act play competition. It was an average show and received mix response but that night, something had changed. The high you get when audience applauds your performance is infectious. Well, love for theatre wasn’t something new for me for it came inherently and ran in family. My grandfather started his theatre company in 1950 which is functioning till date. My father and uncles are well known playwrights and theatre makers in Goa and yet I was apprehensive and chose a safe option to get on the IT bandwagon. But this whole experience of Purushottam Karandak and overall theatre scene in Pune, I rediscovered my love for theatre with a new sense of understanding.

Thus began my quest to explore what I wanted to with my life. Direction, dramaturgy, writing, criticism and research were my prime interests and so I started looking out for options to pursue these interests. I launched an online portal titled “Pune Theatre Guide” where I would write about theatre scene in Pune. Soon, Sunil Chandurkar offered me space at his pan Indian online theatre magazine, My Theatre Café, which took me to places and gave me an opportunity to meet some amazing people doing great work in theatre. Dr. Ajay Joshi, a dentist and a theatre scholar, has been a wonderful mentor throughout this journey and working with him has been a much learning experience.  While on this quest, I visited and studied at some creatively charged spaces such as FTII, NINASAM and met some of the most wonderful people from all over the country, all of whom have collectively contributed to who I am or what I’ll become henceforth.

These and many things happened over a period of two years and I’m officially making a switch from wanting to be an IT guy to someone who would study arts and write about it because he loves to do so. I got selected for a two year Masters program in Performance Studies at Ambedkar University in Delhi and thus begins a new chapter in my life.

पॅलेस्टाईन

तिथे निरागसतेचा खून चाललाय

इथे त्या रक्तसंहाराचं समर्थन चालू आहे

निष्पाप जीवांच्या मरणावर टाळ्या पिटणारी येडझवी मानसिकता

कुठल्या जिहादापेक्षा कमी नाही

आपलं आयुष्य पोकळ म्हणून

दुसऱ्यांच्या दु:खात सण शोधणाऱ्यांना

जेव्हा आपल्या गांडीखाली पेटलेल्या सुरुंगाची चाहूल लागेल

तेव्हा दुसऱ्या बाजूला पॉपकॉर्न घेऊन तुमचंही मरण एन्जॉय केलं जाईल

आणि तुम्हाला मारणारे किंवा मरु देणारे लोक तेच असतील

ज्यांचा आजपर्यंत तुम्ही उदो उदो करत आला आहात

तोपर्यंत चालू राहू द्या तुमचे अखंड राष्ट्रांचे जिहाद

आणि मध्यमवर्गीय कोशातलं कुजकं जगणं

कारण इतिहासापासून धडे घेतले नाहीत

तर तो परत जगण्याचा शाप इथे प्रत्येकाला मिळालेला आहे

Notes from Delhi trip

I recently made a short trip to Delhi just for the sake of it. Idea was to meet some friends who’ve been calling me for a while to visit them and visit JNU, NSD and Ambedkar.

  • Never take a train from Goa to Delhi. Work harder, earn that extra fucking money and buy a flight ticket. Because it’s 24+ hours in a train and shit can get boring if you are travelling alone.
  • Delhi Metro is the thing! Restores my faith that this country can have better infrastructure. It was surprising to see those disciplined queues at the platform to get in, people giving up seats to elder people and ladies etc. Bombay local, watch and learn!
  • Had the fortune to attend a talk by Dr. Salman Akhtar on his father Jahanissar Akhtar at this lovely venue called “The Attic” in CP. (I also learnt that CP is Connought Place and NOT Chanakya Puri).
  • Went to JNU.  Also, saw the Neelgai. *fingers crossed*
  • Went to Ambedkar Univeristy. Was shocked to see that their canteen serves only veg food. So un-leftist!
  • Went to NSD but it rained and kept raining. Couldn’t find the books I wanted nor could I catch any plays.
  • Thanks to Namrata Joshi, finally met Rajshekhar who had penned lyrics for Tannu weds Mannu! Such a sweet person he is. I thanked him almost dozen times for writing “Yun hi”.
  • Dilli haat is boring and it’s so difficult to hunt for Jholas for men in delhi. Talk about gender discrimination!
  • Bongs talk much more when they’re drunk!
  • Air India is not as bad as people portray it. Had a decent flight experience on way back to Pune from Delhi.
  • And I’m in love with Delhi! Especially if you are into food, arts and fabindia, Delhi is a place to be!

Why I left Facebook

facebook_logoAnd when almost all of my family members and (geographically) displaced friends were getting on the Facebook wagon, I just deleted my account for eternity, thus ending a 4 year stint with the world’s most popular social networking site. Out of the thousand odd friends I had (after a regular periodic clean up), only 3-4 people have asked and inquired about my reasons to quit. There are several reasons I can think that made me arrive at this decision. Sharing them with you!

Note: Most of the following reasons I stated here are personal and not actually Facebook’s fault.

1)      It takes much of your time and attention and makes you lethargic. Often I found myself refreshing through feeds endlessly. It scared me for what passive person I was turning into.

2)      It takes away the surprise elements of life. For ex. I know what my friend in Bangalore is upto or he knows what I’m upto here in Goa. So when we actually meet in person, we have very less to talk about other than just verifying what he posted on FB.

3)      You become dependent for content. I realised that I would end up reading content shared by others more than scouting the desired content for myself. My year old bookmarked links are still pending to be read.

4)      I couldn’t subject myself for any further intellectual degradation by reading what people often share on Facebook. It might sound rude and self righteous but some people are overly excited to be on Facebook and publish timely details about their life.

5)      Pointless political debates happening on random Facebook groups is a sure source of headache and solidifies the belief that the average stupidity of people around is on an exponential increase since the advent of Facebook. I’ve taken part in many such debates but have also realized its pointlessness after certain time. People who haven’t realized that yet are busy fuelling a “Congress vs BJP via AAP” discussion while I’m back to sanity.

6)      I feel depressed reading people’s views on Facebook about various issues like racism, casteism etc. There’s sheer absence of basic ethics to engage in conversation. People get too personal and often offensive for absolutely no reason.

7)      It was hampering my patience. I realized I was becoming impulsive (more than what I’m already) and felt a compulsive need to react on everything.

8)      Often it gives you a false sense of achievement by gaining likes and comments on almost anything without doing any solid work.

9)      The need to network either doesn’t exist for me now or that its getting fulfilled via other platforms.

10)   My personal life is going through a colossal transformation. I’ve given up on my decision to become a software engineer (and now wonder why I wanted to be one in first place. More about that later).

11)   It’s also a self experiment to see how long I can go without using Facebook. In past, I’ve done that with internet chats & watching TV to a level that these habits are almost non-existent in my routine now.

I have not given up on social networking sites per se. I’m on twitter/instagram/flickr regularly. It’s just that I’m not comfortable with what Facebook has become or made into.