Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

At the end of most days, V. and I sit down to dinner with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. We record the episodes everyday, and though our recorder is almost full, we are reluctant to delete a single episode.

Jon Stewart is the one who first got me interested. The Daily Show... with Jon Stewart airs on Comedy Central. The humour of the show derives chiefly from showing the ridiculous inequitable and self-preserving aspects of the American socio-political process. Stewart is smart and passionate, a great combination. He mostly pillories the conservative, subaltern-hating American politicians and thinkers, who are both more outrageous and more popular than one would have imagined. Though not technically news, it has become the major source of news for a majority of its audience.

One of the candidates for the Republican Primary floated the idea of having an electric fence around parts of the American border to stop illegal immigration from Mexico. Another suggested that "kids of people who live in inner-cities and do not work", code for African-Americans, should be given jobs "cleaning toilets in schools" so that they "know that there are job options beyond being prostitutes, pimps or drug runners". One would think such outrageous remarks were jokes thought up by a comedian, but these are all suggestions by potential candidates for President, and the one who is outraged is the comedian.

Here is a video that gives some idea of the daily show:

There are very few videos from The Daily Show and of The Colbert Report on Youtube, though there are interviews and speeches of both Stewart and Colbert. All of their videos are available on their website, but are unavailable here in Australia. If they can be viewed from your location, I recommend:
http://www.thedailyshow.com/collections/best-videos-2011?itemId=394982 and http://www.colbertnation.com/

And then there's Stephen Colbert. Ah, Colbert! While it was Jon Stewart who drew me in, we are now both on team Colbert. Colbert was a writer/presenter on The Daily Show before he got his own show, and Stewart is the executive producer of Colbert's show. In The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert plays a character called 'Stephen Colbert'. This persona/character is a parody of conservative political commentators like Bill O'Reilly. Colbert's character is an ill-informed, prejudiced, xenophobic person who has strong opinions on everything and everybody without needing any facts to back those opinions up. Colbert rarely misses a beat, and he's always in character.

The intelligence of the writing on this show shines through. Colbert's willful ignorance is a constant satire on lack of thinking, and he takes right-wing positions to an extreme, highlighting their insecurity, foolishness and hostility. Not just that, Colbert loves playing with language at every opportunity, which I love. The show started in 2005, and the Bush Presidency was grist to Colbert's mill. He coined the word 'truthiness', which is a "truth that you know instinctively, from your gut, without regard to evidence." It is truthiness which supports the Iraqi invasion, for truthiness reassures you that there are Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. My favorite is 'wickiality', which is 'when Wikipedia becomes our most trusted reference source, reality is what the majority agree upon'.

Colbert frequently takes on the political system. American political parties can be supported by a Political Action Committee (PAC), and a SuperPAC, which can spend an unlimited amount of money on a candidate, making ads and so on. Colbert has started his own SuperPAC, done it legally and step by step on the show. Over episodes, the SuperPAC segments have revealed the bare bones of how big money influences the political process.

In 2006, Colbert was invited to speak at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and I wonder how many heads later rolled for the invitation. He stayed in character throughout, and at the height of American dissatisfaction with the American invasion of Iraq, he proclaimed his admiration for President Bush while making him squirm. Here's the entire speech:

Colbert is hilarious, and I've reached a point where I start smiling as soon as I see him, before he's said a single word. V. gifted me a copy of Colbert's I am America (And So Can You) for my birthday this year. And I am going to gift him a T-shirt that says "My wife only married me because she couldn't marry Stephen Colbert." Stewart and Colbert make me laugh at things while simultaneously despairing over them, illuminating the sordid nature of the beast we all inhabit.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Disappointing Picture

Silk Smitha, underneath the facade of being a semi-porn actor, was only looking for love and acceptance. Aren't we all?
My disappointment with The Dirty Picture is not that it humanizes a person supposedly outside the bound of respectability, but in the way in which it does so. This is how the film goes: Silk wants to be an actor, but becomes a sex symbol when being an actor does not work out. She is not apologetic about it, instead making the most of it. Her life goes on a downward spiral later, which is narratively tied up with two heartbreaks in her life. This is familiar narrative territory: after all, women are emotional, vulnerable to exploitation as they do not learn from heartbreak and go on trusting men. As for the men, almost all men are exploiters. I honestly cannot decide which sex should be more offended by such reductive categorization.
At the same time, there is always one notable exception to the exploitative man - and if the film is a romantic comedy that man is the one the woman will end up happily ever after with. In The Dirty Picture, that man is found too late for the happy ending. Even if the story is about them, corrupt women, though usually redeemed by remorse, are unlikely to be shown as living happily ever after. Think, too, of the pressure on love: as an eternal saviour it operates as replacement for deity in a secular world.
Commodification of the self is not restricted only to actors. We all sell ourselves in certain ways in the workplace. Some people sell the idea of themselves as sexual objects, some as intellectual objects and some as service providers. In the capitalist marketplace, we are all threatened by younger, more attractive or smarter replacements. That threat does get a token nod in the film. Silk may have been losing roles and money, but it is emotional betrayal that gets the most prominence as the reason for her depression and eventual demise. In such a situation, desire for love, and by extension, acceptance, is a way of re-inserting the heroine into respectable bourgeois morality and into universality.
At one point in the film, Silk declares that she only looks at her pictures in newspapers and keeps the good ones, but never reads the accompanying articles. When she does finally read them, she is upset about what is being said about her. The film had shown her laughing at the conventional morality used to judge her, but at this moment it affects her. This moment marks the beginning of her downfall. She becomes acceptable by accepting how unacceptable she is, not by questioning the strictures that mark some people as outside acceptability.
After Love, Sex and Dhokha I had expected more from Alt Entertainment. Should I be thankful that they did not show a dying mother and/or sister to justify Silk's agreement to be a sex symbol?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

My best friend's wedding

I remember my first evening at my Delhi room. I had left the hostel and was living on my own for the very first time. I sent a text to all my friends: “I have understood what being grown up means. It means having to do the dishes in the evening after dinner.” Most people sent commiserating or ‘you’re funny’ kind of replies. A., my best friend, sent this: “And not complaining about it! ;)”. It’s a small exchange, compared to other, more meaningful conversations that we’ve had over the years. It is an example, however, of how delightful even our most trivial conversations were.
A. is getting married in Delhi today. A. and D., congratulations :) I'm sure your wedding will be as wonderful as your life ahead. I have known A. for over 8 years now and she is one of the most independent, smart, funny, caring and passionate people I know. The fact that I did my M.Phil dissertation on time and well is thanks to her. She and I have enjoyed many trashy movies and shows together, giving to popular culture the respect and serious critical engagement it deserves. Her grace and dignity, even in the most difficult situations, is inspiring. As for her sense of humour, it is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
D., you’re incredibly lucky to have found her. The price I pay for living so far away is that I’ve never met you and she has never met V. One day, the four of us are going to meet, and then all this time in-between will be as if it never existed at all. Here’s to that someday!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Revolution will not be televised

I've discovered a new voice - an exciting poet and singer, Gil Scott-Heron. And this is the poem/song via which I discovered him. Its beautiful - I love the power and the anger of the lyrics, the urgency to them.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Taking the post-Western seriously

I have not been able to post here the past week as I've been caught up with preparing for a conference that our Centre (MnM) is hosting. It is the annual conference of the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (CSAA). The conference is titled "Cultural ReOrientations and Comparative Colonialities". Those interested can check out the conference's homepage here . I am presenting a paper at the conference, on Wednesday. Typically, I still have to begin writing this paper but I'm hoping to get it done in time! Here's my abstract:
Taking the ‘post-Western’ seriously
In this paper I explore the category of the ‘post-Western’. This category occurs in the context of a world inscribed with the hierarchy of the West and the non-West. In such a context, theorising the post-Western is a decolonising enterprise as it attempts to challenge the hierarchy inscribed by colonialism. Articulating the post-Western is, accordingly, the successful horizon of the decolonisation project. Specifically, I address two questions: 1) Is the post-Western here? 2) If it has happened, what would be different? Superficial attempts to understand the post-Western locate it within the context of various crises: 9/11, the financial decline of America and Europe, the relative stability and growth of the Chinese, Indian, Russian and/or Brazilian economies and so on. The focus on these ‘new’ economies is sometimes ‘positive’, which is a recitation of all the things that they are doing ‘right’, such as education or IT, with a corresponding bewailing of Western backwardness in that field. An underlying anxiety about the rise of the non-West can be read in arguments that ‘rising’ economies will not continue to be as prosperous, and so though America may collapse, no other single country will replace it as the pre-eminent superpower, i.e. the future world is multipolar. Needless to say, the nature of such predictions usually depends on one’s current position in the hierarchy. I would argue, however, that to take the post-Western seriously is to examine its radical challenge to the global hegemony and the implications of the dismantling of that hegemony. The very articulation of the concept of the post-Western challenges the hegemon, showing its constructed nature. What it means to be ‘western’ or ‘non-Western’, as signifiers, are open to change in this moment of the political.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

In memory of a jajabor

I was saddened to read of Bhupen Hazarika's death this morning. This blog is to celebrate his music, though my limited knowledge of Assamese means that there may be many gems that I do not know about. His "Moi eti Jajabor" is a masterpiece.


The Hindi version has Gulzar speaking of the difficulty of translating the word 'jajabor'. The Hindi version seems a bit forced, but helps me understand the Assamese and Bangla versions. I love the idea of a world traveller, seeing and searching the world, who "quotes Gorky at Twain's cemetery". Ultimately, there is no other destination apart from being-in-motion. The mention of rivers makes it especially fascinating, since I've recently fallen in love with reading ancient and medieval history. Rivers are where human civilisations begin, and look where living together in clusters near sources of water and developing language has brought us.

There are so many wonderful Hazarika songs that I could post here. There is "Ganga", "Manush manusher Jonene" and of course as composer there are the songs of Rudali, the wonderful Dil Hoom Hoom Kare and Jhoothi Moothi Mitwa Aawan Bole. However, the one other Hazarika song I would like to share here is Dola.


The song is about 'doli-carriers', those who carry people on their shoulders. Again, the Hindi version helps me understand the lyrics of the Bengali one. The line "Zindagi Kahar ki, chadte pahar ki' is so evocative, though the Bengali version's pace gives it an urgency missing in the Hindi version. There are very few songs about poor people anymore. After all, India is a rich country now and there are no more poor people left. At least, not where you can see or hear them.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Of Birthdays

I turn 30 today. A friend once told me that your 30s are the best decade of your life. Another friend was a bit concerned about the idea.
For my part, I am happy to be 30. As I look back on my life, I realize that apart from my Dad's passing away, there is not a single thing I would want changed. Everything has been more or less good, and when there have been difficult times, I've learnt from them. There is nothing that I would not do if I had the chance to live my life all over again.
Today I'm making a presentation of my PhD research proposal. I couldn't think of a more fitting thing to do on my birthday. Here's the abstract for the presentation. Do tell me what you all think:

Becoming India: Contingent National and Regional Identities

The state of Gujarat came into existence in 1960 when the erstwhile Bombay state was split into Gujarat and Maharashtra. It is argued that the Bombay Congress Committee, dominated by Gujaratis, had not asked the States Reorganisation Commission for a separate state of Gujarat in 1956 because they did not want to lose the city of Mumbai. But language riots and other agitations ensured subsequent linguistic redistribution. That is one history.
Here is another history: prior to Independence/Partition, there were approximately 562 large and small princely states in India, which had the option of being a part of India, a part of Pakistan or becoming an independent entity in the Commonwealth. A retrospective look at the process of accession highlights the contingency of the Indian nation. To say today that the nation is constructed is to state the obvious. But what are the implications of this contingency and how do they shape historiography?
In telling the two histories above, chronology and primacy were deliberately disregarded. Gujarat came into being ‘after’ India whereas one of the ways in which national identity is constructed as the primary allegiance is through the designation of regional identity as secondary if not inferior. Tracing the relationship between the national and the regional allows one to explore different ways of imagining and re-imagining India. A decentring of grand narratives need not mean a decentring of big questions and it is one such big question that I shall attempt to tackle: how does one write a history of India without taking ‘India’ as pre-existing one’s analysis?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Of libraries and librarians

I recently saw a documentary titled The Hollywood Librarian: A Look At Librarians through Film. The title is misleading, in that the documentary is more about librarians per se than on librarians as seen through Hollywood. Amusingly, the film treats Hollywood just as Hollywood treats librarians, relegating it to the background while the main story is taking place elsewhere.
Being a librarian (librarianship?) is an under-rated profession, a perception derived from the ‘no effort’ argument, i.e. there is very little work involved in it, apart from shelving books alphabetically. The perception is not restricted to those who are not librarians. Apparently, Melvil Dewey, who invented the Dewey decimal system, felt that it was ‘perfect’ for women, as it did not require brains to implement. But being a librarian is about more than shelving books. We live in times of information overload, where anyone with an Internet connection can use Google to locate information. What librarians have is the skill to distinguish between immense amounts of information in terms of relevance and insight, and where to locate the exact thing you need – not throw all information, unfiltered, at you. The film mentioned that librarians (mostly women) get paid almost 25% less than people doing similar jobs in other fields – such as researchers for law or technology firms. This is patently unfair, like most other things in the world.
One interesting contrast that I have observed in Adelaide, which also came across in the film, is that Western libraries carry out many other public service functions, unlike Indian libraries. They hold reading and storytelling sessions for children, sessions and workshops on computer literacy, language skills and so on. These are especially useful for immigrants and senior citizens, thereby helping those who have become outsiders to assimilate better. In India, the big name libraries, such as the British library (in Ahmadabad, Delhi and Mumbai) and the American library in Delhi, are expensive. Public libraries are not so expensive, but it is difficult to find good public libraries in Indian cities. In the West, on the other hand, libraries are free, so that in principle access to reading is available to all.
The film developed a strong sense of urgency as it looked at two different kinds of pressures on libraries. For one, there are financial pressures. Due to lack of funds and the dominance of the worldview that nothing should ever be free, libraries are forced to either close down or become profitable concerns, which means that libraries have to reduce the services they offer or charge money for them, thereby restricting them to only those who can afford them.
The second pressure seems straight out of a conspiracy novel. The passing of the Patriot Act of 2001 in the USA, one section of which is referred to as the “library records” provision, allows security agencies to access a wide variety of records of individuals: financial, medical and so on, including library records. The idea is, of course, that what you read indicates potential threat – if you read or write revolutionary poetry or Marxist theory, you need to be watched. It is not only libraries, academics and universities are similarly pressurized to monitor student research, as this brief digression highlights.
A Nottingham University student who was doing Masters and wanted to do a PhD on counter terrorism tactics of the UK downloaded an Al-Qaeda training manual. Given that there is a lot of research on terrorism, and on Islam in the Western academia these days, chances are that quite a few people research similar terms and items. However, the student in question here was Muslim, which could strongly be why he was arrested and held for six days:
Not just that, the lecturer who criticized the way the student was treated was suspended http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/may/04/nottingham-university-row-after-lecturer-suspended. Information later came to light that the University routinely filmed student activities, if they belonged to a certain part of the world: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jun/11/nottingham-university-secret-films-students?CMP=twt_gu. The police recently paid damages to the student http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/14/police-pay-student-damages-al-qaida The outside settlement suggests that the police knew that they could not defend their case in court. While this is good for Rizwaan, a judicial discussion on the systemic abuse of preventative counter-terrorism laws shall not now take place.
To return to the librarians, librarians, unlike other professionals, challenged the demand for information under the Patriot Act,
http://motherjones.com/politics/2008/09/americas-most-dangerous-librarians and http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news/2004/09/64945?currentPage=all. This resistance is an ongoing battle, since the Obama administration recently signed a 4-year extension of certain provisions of the act, including the “library records” provision.
In spite of such and other pressures, what came across very strongly, was a sense of happiness in their jobs. One woman said “I’m a very lucky person” and I thought that I would say something similar with reference to my work. We’re both lucky in loving what we do, in being able to read, write and think for a living.

The trailer of the film:

Friday, 30 September 2011

Of Urdu titles and Muslim socials

It was great to see the name of the movie in English, Hindi and Urdu in both Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Mausam. Using Urdu in film titles is something that is lost in Indian cinema, along with the film genre called the 'Muslim social'. Muslim socials were being made up to the 1990s, such as Salma Pe Dil Aa Gaya and Sanam Bewafa. The last examples of Muslim socials that I can remember are on television, which is where all archaic film genres go, and they are Henna and Khwahish. Tees Maar Khan did have an Eid song which went mostly unnoticed. These films and soaps were not thematically different or qualitatively superior to usual Bollywood films and soaps. The only difference, which today seems major as it has gone missing, is that the characters, settings and contexts of the film were Muslim.
For those who remember Muslim socials, or wish to:

Films where the major characters are Muslim and/or speak Urdu gets made only within certain contexts - to make 'serious' films like Kurbaan (which, for all its good intentions, conveys that a Hindu girl is never safe marrying a Muslim guy, even the most seemingly progressive Muslim professor teaching a course in Islam will turn out to be a terrorist), My Name is Khan, or, to go back a few years, Fiza. A film, however, wherein the lead characters are Muslim and the story is about love or marriage, Muslims customs and festivals, the usual staple of Bollywood cinema in fact - when did you last see that? [I know Mausam features a Muslim heroine, and I'll do a separate blog post about it sometime soon].
A Muslim social made today would seem anachronistic, but that is not because Muslim culture has disappeared from India. Muslim culture still exists, in different ways that need new cinematic interpretations. However, such a film would seem anachronistic, it seems to me, for two different reasons.
The first is, of course, the way in which Indian identity has become conflated with Hindu identity, and with mostly North Indian (Punjabi, Sikh, Jat, UP, MP, 'from Delhi' etc.) or West Indian (Gujarati or 'from Mumbai') identity in cinema. When did you have a lead character from Assam or South, except again in an 'issue' film? This conflation is dangerous in its erasure of forms of difference. As a friend pointed out to me recently, it is not just Muslim identity, but all other religious identities - Christian, Parsi, Sikh - that have disappeared from cinema. At the same time, this conflation of India with Hindu is not as simple as it sounds, given that the most popular actors playing these generic 'Rahul' 'Raj' 'Rohan' 'Chulbul' are Muslim.
What I want to focus in this blog, however, is on the second reason. Any film that emphasizes religious identity in a non-issue based context seems anachronistic because what we understand and see as 'natural' or 'real' is a depoliticized, non-religious space. Muslim characters in films today are like Imraan in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Imraan knows Urdu literature and poetry (apart from Javed Akhtar's poetry, he quotes another Urdu poet, will check and update here), but his being a Muslim is incidental and does not essentially affect his being in any way.
Is it conservative to talk of religious identity? Isn't it better to have one's religious identity as a de-political, 'cultural' aspect of one's life? After all, doesn't fanaticism lie in a valorisation of religion?
I am not advocating an unquestioning return to traditionalism. Traditionalism is often used to continue exploitative positions, and the disappearance of the Muslim social is also partly due to the traditionalism of conflating India with Hindu identities. But I would like to question this relegation of religious identity to the private sphere.
When you are stuck in a situation where the other person only sees you in terms of your religion, it does not matter if you were more religious or more 'cosmopolitan'. At that time, your religious identity is an issue, whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not.
Liberalism would have me celebrate the individual - the glorious, depoliticized, de-ethnicized individual who is the same the world over - whose difference exists at the surface level - in terms of clothes, food practices and so on.Religious identity, in this formulation, is 'cultural' rather than political - it affects the personal sphere and is to be kept strictly away from the public sphere. Difference, thereby, is always containable as difference, is never contentious or disturbing, i.e. there is a line, wherein difference on one side of the line is 'multiculturalism', is celebratory. And once difference crosses this line, it becomes threatening and fanatic. Because this line is never clearly defined and is subjective, that which is once a marker of cultural difference can become a source of threat. Examples of this include the veil in European societies or the turban in post 9/11 times in America.
I am not comfortable with such homogenization and sterilization of difference. Neither does my feminism sit well with a split between the public and the personal. It was challenged by feminism as enabling exploitation. Today, when religion is seen as essentially a private matter, maybe it is time to challenge this split again.

Saturday, 3 September 2011


We saw Bodyguard. That's 2 hours 32 minutes of my life that I'll never get back again. Sigh.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The 'controlling bitch' v/s the 'free-spirited woman'

Call it homesickness, call it lack of social options, call it what you will - V. and I watch almost every Bollywood movie that releases. We saw Delhi Belly and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. While watching them, I enjoyed both these movies, but something kept bothering me, which I think I have now figured out. In both movies, the female characters are ostensibly more 'independent' than usual Bollywood heroines - they function as more than love interests. However, within this larger rubric, there seems a duality in play - the 'controlling bitch' opposed by the 'free-spirited' woman. The 'controlling bitch' is the one you have to get away from, while the free-spirited and independent, secure with herself woman is the one you have to be with. Shenaz, Vir Das's girlfriend whom you remember as 'chudail' rather than by a name and Kalki are the 'bitches'in these two films, while Katrina and Poorna Jaganathan are the evolved modern women.
My problem with this is that the idea of independence in these scripts is not independence in itself, but rather an independence that functions to make the woman more attractive to the man. They may not be 'only the love interest', but the implication is "Become your own person. It makes you way more cooler, i.e. makes you desirable."
In contrast with this is Anushka in Band Baaja Baaraat. Shruti is independent and her own person, but unless you hit Bittoo on the head with that fact, that is not how he is going to articulate his attraction towards her. Does that mean that all male leads have to be Jat boys for the women's independence to be 'of itself?' I don't think so. I think it needs better writing, a bit more thinking. As far as the writers of these movies are concerned, they do seem well-intentioned, so here's hoping we can see less forced oppositions and more multilayered characters in the future.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Rajnikant's letter to Harry Potter

This image is courtesy

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Vividh Bharti ki Adelaide Sewa

Among the many things that I miss about India is Vividh Bharti. OK, and a little bit of radio mirchi, radio city and so on and so forth. I also miss music generally playing about - in shops, in autos, the diversity of ring tones and caller songs.
To get around this deficiency, I turned to youtube and started making playlists. I was eventually faced with a dilemma that I have since learned is classic filer's dilemma - fat files or thin files? That is, should I just put in all kinds of songs in one playlist or should I make separate ones for different composers, different time periods? Since I was trying to replicate the experience of listening to the radio, but still didn't want A R Rehman to follow Rafi, I have come up with the following playlists, though I keep shuffling things around.
So here are my playlists, in strict alphabetical order (drums roll, trumpets sound)

1. Angrezi - As the name suggests, all the English songs are here. This playlist is a bit of a mess, because if you turn the shuffle button on, 'Wouldn't it be lovely' could follow 'Riders on the Storm'. I've been recently toying over the idea of diving this list into Angrezi phillum and angrezi gaane, but have not really done it yet. This is the playlist that I listen to the least. Its a nostalgia thing - I like these songs, but whenever I want to listen to music, I want to listen to the music that I cannot hear on radio, tv etc. here.

2. Bhasha - This is the first playlist I made. The various languages are some of my fondest memories of friends. There are Gujarati songs, but I didn't grow up listening to Gujarati songs. It was only when I had shifted to Delhi that I missed hearing Gujarati spoken, and discovered Gujarati songs on the internet. And as mom got more involved with Gujarati cultural societies, she would take me to concerts whenever I visited Gandhinagar. The Assamese songs remind me of Prachi, the Bhupen Hazarika ones of Saumya, the Oriya songs of Rakshi and Anubhuti and the Bengali ones of Arunima, Monjita and Dr. Basu. The Punjabi songs on the playlist work at two levels - there are the Rabbi songs, i.e. the good songs, but the others are courtesy Delhi car drivers! Finally, the Telugu and Tamil songs are courtesy Vipul. He introduced me to Telugu and Tamil movies, and I have come to enjoy them a lot. I find their movies frequently more realistic, and some of their actors totally charming. (Siddharth, I mean you!) So here is one video from the playlist with subtitles, and a relatively easy one to get started on - since it talks of friendship.

3. Contemporary choices - The name is pompous and a mistake, since I started this playlist in 2009 and so it keeps getting less contemporary each day. This is the one where all the new songs go in, though new is debatable since it has songs from Dahek (Saawan barse tarse dil) and Rules Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula (Uljhano ko de diya hai tumne jo mera pata, waise pyaar ke naam pe toh yaaro sab hua hai and chodo na mujhe yun bekraar sa). It also has songs from Euphoria, Indian Ocean and Strings.

4. Learning - This one is the smallest playlist, with only an Urdu alphabet jingle and some interviews, some introductory lectures and so on.

5. Melodies - This is where the line between this one and contemporary songs gets blurred further. This one has songs from Bazaar, Gharonda, Mausam, Aandhi and a lot of Gulzar songs. At the same time, it also has Amitabh Bachchan songs and Rishi Kapoor songs and songs of the 90s that don't seem as good when heard in such august company but are still dear to me nevertheless. The better songs from the 90s include Kareeb, Zubeida and QSQT, but putting them in the same playlist as Jhuki jhuki si nazar and tu chanda main chandni teri tempts me to break the playlist by decades or something. Here is one song that I had completely forgotten but remembered courtesy youtube:

6. Nostalgia - This is the biggest playlist of them all. All the old songs, especially the black and white ones, go here. There are just so many songs that I love in this playlist that listing or embedding one or two seems impossible. Here's one anyway:

7. Saadho - This is the one with songs from Kabir, Ghalib, Harivansh Rai Bachchan's Madhushala sung by Manna De, the Kabir dohas from Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhe Se and a few classical Indian songs. This is a recent playlist and I'm enjoying the music that I am discovering through it a lot. Papa gave me a CD of the first song on this playlist, and I often listen to it over and over again. It is Kumar Gandharva singing Kabir's Ud Jaayega Hans Akela and is beautiful:

8. Shlok - The title is self explanatory. This one has shloks sung by Pandit Jasraj and a few bhajans from films. Am I an atheist or a believer? I have no idea. I do have this playlist though, that I play once in a while, about the only religious thing I do.

9. Tempo - This is the title that I'm proudest of! Tempo has all the dance numbers, but it also has all the songs one would hear in a tempo, in a DTC bus etc. But all my secret pride at this name was shattered when I discovered that Vipul has a playlist called 'Gheuntak' which has all the Govinda-Karishma songs! I think that is a better title than mine.

So these are my playlists. Do I sound like I have too much time on my hands and nothing better to do with it? Probably. However, on most mornings I switch the computer on, select a playlist, put it on shuffle and then open my eyes. That is what makes a good day!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wednesday afternoons

Reading for my PhD is most difficult on Wednesday afternoons, because we have our weekly seminars on Wednesday mornings, and they are usually mentally exhausting. That may be why I started the blog on a Wednesday afternoon - it is a way to postpone reading.
For our seminar this morning, we read the introduction to A Modern History of the Islamic World by Reinhard Schulze. The most interesting point of the discussion was when we talked about language as representational vis-a-vis language as constitutive. If one takes language as representational, facts can exist while if one takes language as constitutive, they do not exist independently of theoretical schema. For Schulze, facts exist outside of discourse, which is something that I am no longer comfortable working theoretically with. I have thought about this a lot, and I see myself as moving towards anti-foundationalism, which is where I want to locate myself and my PhD. I shall probably keep writing about it here as I keep reading further.

Original title for this blog - Rethink

Rethink. Think again. Think again about presence on the internet.
I had four conversations with friends yesterday, and three of them asked me to return to Facebook. I'm happy without it, and I don't want to return to it. Will blogging serve as a viable alternative?
I do realise that choosing blogging over social networking suggests a greater desire to listen to your own voice rather than having conversations with others. However, I prefer this illusion of meaningful conversation over that one.
So here's this blog, dedicated to coffee and conversations.