Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Polls: Ours and Theirs

As the enigma surrounding the Presidential elections of the United States fades, I believe it is the right time to introspect and reflect about the way elections are conducted in India and there. To begin with, our Indian elections are very colourful since there are so many layers to the general elections including propaganda. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, the Presidential candidates are pitted against each other to debate in public viewing facing television cameras. 

Most of our Indian politicians often shy away from visiting TV studios. Similarly, the grace with which a debate in the US is conducted is layered with dignity and finesse and is based on mutual respect. While, in India, if we were to have a debate such as theirs, I fear it would be reduced to a mud-slinging match. 

Secondly, the speech delivered by the newly elected President Barack Obama talks about the great American dream. The President's inspiring speech reminded us that about the fractured mandate that India is facing today and also highlighted all that's wrong with our slowing down economy. How the road ahead towards realization of the American dream is secondary but then that's ultimately how inspiring their speeches are. Somehow, we seem to have been so used to listening to the rehashed sentences from previously quoted speeches that we have become oblivious to it. Coupled with our politicians who fail to rouse any confidence or inspire any emotion among the Indian masses. Even in defeat, Mitt Romney's speech sounded so graceful. It is hard for me to imagine Indian politicians accepting defeat so gracefully without levelling allegations such as the rigged ballots etc. The speech by Mitt Romney proved that compassion and mutual respect are the two most important core values that are missing from India's political theatre today. 

The focus is primarily on the Presidential elections and watching the elections as a viewer is a real delight. The recently concluded US elections have several lessons for countries facing elections. One of them clearly is to be more inclusive and it is a better ticket to win. With 20 million tweets, the Election Day becoming the most tweeted about event in the political history of the United States, it reminded us that the change we need can only arrive if there is an attitudinal change and mindset towards the way elections are perceived. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

To The Welsh Critic Who Doesn't Find Me Identifiably Indian

Arundhathi Subramaniam

This poem "To The Welsh Critic Who Doesn't Find Me Identifiably Indian" takes on the West's demands for ethnic authenticity with a rhetoric that's just about as rustic as a mouth-freshened global village. To begin with, the poem itself is a surprising display of wit and ire. Drawing on her experiences, Arundhathi describes her poem in the following words: "This is a poem addressed ostensibly to a Welsh critic but he's just a peg to talk about. A pet peeve. This is really a poem to all those voices telling us how to belong. How to be post-colonial, how to be South Asian, how to be modern, how to be contemporary, how to be Hindu, how to be woman." 

To The Welsh Critic Who Doesn't Find Me Identifiably Indian:

You believe you know me,
wide-eyed Eng Lit type
from a sun-scalded colony,
reading my Keats--or is it yours--
while my country detonates 
on your television screen.

You imagine you've cracked
my deepest fantasy--
oh, to be in an Edwardian vicarage,
living out my dharma
with every sip of dandelion tea
and dreams of the weekend jumble sale...

You may have a point.
I know nothing about silly mid-offs,
I stammer through my Tamil,
and I long for a nirvana
that is hermetic,
odour-free,
bottled in Switzerland,
money back guaranteed.

This business about language,
how much of it is mine,
how much yours,
how much from the mind,
how much from the gut,
how much is too little,
how much too much,
how much from the salon,
how much from the slum,
how I say verisimilitude,
how I say Brihadaranyaka
how I say vazhapazham--
it's all yours to measure,
the pathology of my breath,
the halitosis of gender,
my homogenized plosives
about as rustic as a mouth-freshened global village.

Arbiter of identity,
remake me as you will.
Write me a new alphabet of danger
a new patois to match
the Chola bronze of my skin.
Teach me how to come of age
in a literature you've bark-scratched
into scripture.
Smear my consonants
with cow-dung and turmeric and godhuli.
Pity me, sweating, 
rancid, on the other side of the counter.

Stamp my papers,
lease me a new anxiety,
grant me a visa
to the country of my birth.
Teach me how to belong,
the way you do,
on every page of world history.