Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Is This India? (Links potpourri)

Ah Thanksgiving break. Perfect to take an hour and catch up on some blog-reading, eh?

First up, Ms. World has posted some reflections on her experience in India. She's visiting some places that are a little off the Bombay-Agra-Delhi tourist map, and taking the train. It's been a mixed experience for her: she's spent time with Uma and Anand, but also had some difficult moments. I'm not terribly surprised she's gotten some nasty looks and catcalls -- traveling through India as a single black woman is pretty brave.

Her most biting (and insightful) comment might be this one:

One scenic and hectic bus ride later, I was in Pushkar, one of the holiest Hindu cities in India. However, I didn't feel very spiritual in Pushkar but more like assaulted by life going on in the streets. Pushkar was a bitch-slap in the face to an urbanite like myself. I thought Bombay/Mumbai was India. But Pushkar is India too and it is the India you may have read about. It is organized chaos, the Brahmin priest who really doesn't seem very priest-like, the cows, the dogs, people trying to get their hustle on, people asking for money. There is so much more to the description but I can't put it into words. Is this India?

I like the phrase "get their hustle on."

And to answer Ms. World, actually there is no one India. All of the stuff you're seeing (including the unpleasant stuff) is part of the picture. But there's sweetness and light there, too. Keep looking.

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2. Jabberwock attends a wedding.

While Ms. World has been in India, Jai Arjun from Jabberwork has been in England, for a cousin's wedding. His account is alternately hilarious and biting.

Start with hilarious:

The reception is the best part of the week, and not just because it marks the end of all things. The speeches are superb, especially the taking-the-piss one made by three of the groom’s best men, where they spend 20 minutes recalling every embarrassing moment in their friend’s life for the benefit of the large audience. (Placed beforehand in an envelope on every table are old photos from a costume party, Neal dressed in drag: “You aren’t losing a daughter,” one of the best men shouts out to the bride’s father, “you’re gaining one.”)

And then biting:
In times past I had jested with friends that Jayalalithaa’s foster son (and later Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter) would never be at liberty to get divorced, so expensive and elaborate were their weddings. But there’s more truth to that joke than I’d realised. This is the secret to a long and successful married life: wear the bride and groom out so much that they’ll never, ever consider untying the knot.

Hm, ouch.

(Anyway, read the whole post; guaranteed to be entertaining.)

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3. Hooch and Hamlet

Sonia Faleiro published a great, detailed story in Tehelka, based on her visit Chharanagar area of Ahmedabad. I had mentioned this issue a few weeks ago in a post on Shashwati and Kerim's documentary project, Hooch and Hamlet. Happily, my own little post on the project seems to have at least partly inspired Sonia's story on the Chharas.

On a related note, Kerim reports that they've found a well-known producer to work with them as an adviser on the documentary, and that the fund-raising for the film has been going well (though they are still a ways from their goal).

And Dilip D'Souza has written on the Chharas as well.

Reading Dilip's and Sonia's stories, I find myself with a bit of journalism envy: I too want to travel around the world, meet people with interesting stories, and then write about it.

(Then again, talking to college students about literature for a living isn't so bad... No complaints here...)

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4. Talking Tamil/Tamizh
Tilotamma on Tanglish (Tamil-English); her source is Vish.

And speaking of Tamil/Tamizh, check out Sunil Laxman's post criticizing the absence of strong language/literature programs in Indic languages in India. It was triggered by his encounter with a Chinese student at his university who had had a frustrating experience attempting to learn the Tamil language in order to read classic Tamil literature in the original. The absence of a standardized program of study belies the Tamil revival movement of recent years:

But this made me think of a deeper issue. In Tamil Nadu, the “Tamil” revival movement (and the Dravida movement) dominates the political scene. For over 40 years, the state has been ruled by one Tamil party or the other. They shout hoarse about Tamil being denied it’s classical rights and pride of place. But if someone wants to come in and learn Tamil, there’s hardly any place he or she can go to, and there’s mighty little these so called champions of Tamil have done for Tamil language or culture (except shout hoarse that if girls wear jeans or if girls and boys talk, it’s ruining Tamil culture. Sorry, I couldn’t help that dig). If it is to study Tamil classics, it’s even harder. To the best of my knowledge, there are no dedicated centers for research and study on this area of priceless history. There are no dedicated university departments, or endowed chairs in universities for academics to pursue this research (if there are some, I haven’t found them). The few language departments have no incentive to teach, publish or research this area.

I’ve found this true for almost any major Indic language (Sanskrit’s priceless legacy at least has a few study centers of excellence).

Contrast this to the situation here, far away in the States. Some of them have outstanding programs in Indian languages, and carry out excellent research.

Read the whole post, Tamilians and Tamil-watchers.

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5. Get Your Flash On
Nina Paley, the mad genius behind Sita Sings the Blues (also an art professor at Parson's), is offering private classes in computer animation -- Flash and Final Cut Pro. If I were still in the New York area, I might sign up.

1 comment:

Manorama said...

Ah, the Adela Quested approach to seeing India! She should have read Forster before her trip.