Tuesday, August 7, 2012

DK Lodh o Bhasha Shikhya.

Chardike fisfis, beparta jotil, "ki hoeche go boudi"..."chup chup sunte pabe, o barir mejo korta'r iye"....ooi iye sunei baki ta bujhe nite hobe, er beshi bola baron. Je bolche aar je sunche dujonei nirobe chokher chauni te byanka hese baki kotha sere felto.Tarpor elo liberalisation er jug...lapmpost er gaaye, sulabh complex er dewale, bus er pichone maae coffee houser sirite tar onucharito uposthiti.  Laal nil holud poster-e protikar er sonkhep, sathe bhubon bikkhato protikaari'r thikana. Jara akhono bojhenni tara aar porben na, karon apni ekhono amader moto peke othenni, otoeb ebar khanto din.

Han amra tar kothai bolchi, Dr. D K Lodh - somosto gupto roger protikarok. Modhyo boyesko ak bhadralok (eta niye torko cholte pare) rastar poth-cholti manusher dike agroho bhore takie achen. Chokhe chosma jano x-ray korchen kon potho-charir tar expert advice er dorkar. Poster dekhlei mone bhorsa jage, jeno mukhe ekta jethu jethu bhab. Sei adi juge jokhon internet er barbaronto hoyni, barite sobe cable eseche, soni robibar raater dike nil chobir akorshon sanghatik, tokhon kolkatar rastae uttejona'r rosod boroi simito. Soddo sekha galagali, chupi chupi debonair er pata ultono aar eei poster-i chilo amader nishiddho uttejona'r khorak. Sei poster dekhei koto notun sobdo sikhechi ebong nijer jibon diye pore ja uplobdhi korechi, jamon -

porikhhar question dekhe haat pa thanda hoye jaoa - sithilata
pora chere meyeder pichone ghur ghur kore hu hu kore marks kome jaoa - shighro poton
college e marpit er somoy palie giye bujhte para ami otota sahosi noi - olpo birjo
porikkhae golla peye babar mare lathi benke jaoa - bokro dondo
kormo khetre team member der kathi kora - khudro dondo

......sei boyeshe sikhechi erom aro koto notun sobdo. Akhon aar se jug nei, khoborer kagojer patae patae protidin akhon sochhar protikaar - ghora chaap, haati chhap, musli power, japani tel, vita x - sob rokom gupto roger hate gorom protikaar, sathe prapto boyosko jubak jubotir uttejok chobi. Ja chilo daktarer chamber e gopon prescription tai akhon khullam khulla bajare bikochhe. Lodh moshaike akhon aar dekha jaae na, mone hoy lojjae tini mukh dhekechen. Majhe majhe bhoy hoy, porer projonmo sudhu chobi dekhe bere uthche, bhasa sikkha ta aar hocche na aar matri bhasa to matri dugdho......(dirgho-shas fele) er protikkar ke korbe amar jana nei !!

~ Byasdeb

Sei Porichito Mukh

Monday, June 4, 2012

Censorship exposes the fragility of the intelligensia and the state

[Article for the thehoot on the Jaipur Literary Festival 2012]Over the last few weeks, as everyone geared up for the largest literary festival in Asia, speculations had been rife regarding the presence of Salman Rushdie at the Jaipur Literary Festival 2012. Unfortunately, on the eve of the second day of the festival, we were informed by the festival authorities that the author ofThe Satanic Verses would not be able to grace us with his company due to a security hassle.

 When Rushdie tweeted that he had been informed about the Mumbai mafia coming down to the fest venue to assassinate him and thus would give it a miss, the attending intellectuals came down on the festival organisers for failing to give Rushdie the requisite protection facilities. Coincidentally, the phrase “freedom of expression” turned out to be the most discussed human right in the talks of the second day of JLF 2012. Rushdie’s shadow had arrived to haunt us.

Tata Steel Front Lawns was the venue of an animated discussion on 'Creativity, Censorship and Dissent'amongst Siddhartha Gigoo, Tahmima Anam, Prasoon Joshi, Charu Nivedita, Cheran; it was moderated by Shoma Chaudhury. While every author condemned the recent instance of curbing of one’s right to voice one’s opinion, the problem of censorship was carefully dissected in the context of various communities and whether instances of censorship can afford for us valuable sociological lessons regarding the state and its subjects.

Cheran, who writes on the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, answered most of the questions with personal anecdotes and his views provided the listeners with two pertinent social problems allied to the notion of censoring literature - the diminishing readership of books and the censorship promoted by the “intelligentsia”.

Cheran doesn’t face censorship among speakers of his mother tongue or the language in which he writes. In fact, his fame rests on the Malayali translations of his works. What is lamentable is that no one reads Tamil literature anymore, and this amounts to an absence of censorship of Cheran’s works in the Tamil literary world.

Picking up from Cheran’s argument, Bangladeshi writer Tahmima Aman raised a vital point that not only does censorship reflect the State in its most fragile condition in dealing with its subjects but it also amounts to books being read, driving people away from the lure of the distracting world wide web/e-books and back to the good old paperback or hardcover editions. Cheran lamented the way in which the intellectuals at a university had come down upon a play he had directed and the conservative culture that’s still in vogue in Tamil Nadu.

Prasoon Joshi, on being asked why enough subversive films aren’t being made in Bollywood, came up with an interesting suggestion for film makers. They should not just throw in cuss words randomly into the script or lyrics or show a couple of explicit scenes just to be subversive. Instead, subversion should occur at the level of plot. He elaborated by saying that the plot should deal with social issues of a subversive nature.

My most memorable incident from this session was the two questions raised by the co-founder of Bangalore Slut Walks. She asked whether an author should seek to be self censoring or should censoring (if at all) happen on the basis of its “consequences,” i.e.-the socio-political response to a text that is being read. Secondly, she wanted to know how authors struggle to balance a personal experience against the over-bearing responsibility of being politically correct. Owing to a shortage of time, the listeners never found out the answers to these two questions.

Next, I simultaneously attended, two talks, one which saw Amy Chua defending her new book “Tiger Mothers” and the other, a very informative debate between Gandhians and Ambedkarites. Amy Chua argued as to why her text should not be read as a self-help manual but as a satirical take on the plight of a Chinese-American woman’s dilemma in bringing up a second generation. She shared her views on how people pass judgment on texts without ever having read them.

This tied up nicely with a widely agreed with comment made by Shoma Chaudhury during the session at Tata Steel Front Lawns. Most people who condemned Rushdie’s misfortune hadn’t read the text for which he had been banned and the audience seemed only too eager to agree. No one urged any publisher or author to launch a campaign for the re-publishing of The Satanic Verses.

It is this idea of reading literature and closely following a particular history of a nation closely which enlivened the discussion amongst Joseph Lelyveld, MJ Akbar, Sunil Khilnani, Aruna Roy, S. Anand; it was moderated by Urvashi Butalia. While S. Anand’s acerbic attacks on the JLF organisers have attracted the mass media’s attention, most of us have forgotten to notice that a pertinent aspect of “freedom of expression” was spelled out in this discussion. That “freedom of expression” should not amount to the hearing of a handful of voices (the leaders of a movement who may be removed from the ground root struggles of his followers) andthat only a section of society condemns censorship of certain texts as long as it doesn’t harm their vested political interests. This talk actually made one wonder whether all the hue and cry over censorship doesn’t stem from a widespread ignorance about the multi-ethnic fabric which composes modern society.

After having waited over an hour for A.C. Grayling to arrive and “defend” the European Enlightenment, I was surprised to hear him speak about the fallibility of reason, its wielder-man, and scepticism which empowers an individual to question widely held dogmas. Freedom of expression was one of the fundamental outlooks of the European Enlightenment, as suggested by Grayling. Steven Pinker nuanced this argument further by suggesting that being rational in the judgment of things, even while freely expressing or questioning certain dogmas, one must see to a proportion being maintained between the critic’s emotions and her/ his reasoning faculty. Every individual who questions dogma must distinguish between the things he can criticise and the inevitable biological truths which if criticised, might purport to an offensive value-less remark.

This seemed like a perfect nugget of thought to call into question some of the language problems discussed in the session on ‘Inglish, Amlish, Hinglish: The Chutneyfication of English'. Here, Rita Kothari, Tarun Tejpal, Ruchir Joshi were in conversation with Ira Pande. Freedom of expression doesn’t only refer to the content of one’s argument but also the form in which the argument is presented to the listener.

Arguably, most speakers seemed to agree that the chutneyfication of English has benefitted both languages and that changing times necessitate changing modes of communication. Hindi has not stayed stagnant, it has modified itself to accommodate the consciousness of a fragmented and geographically widespread Indian society. Some sixty years back, this kind of expressive capability would have seemed impossible to imagine.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


You are behaving a little weird today.

No no, I am really sorry I asked that question. So, yeah, where were we?

Riding Streetcars?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Problems in Censoring The Myth of The Holy Cow (term paper for the Literature and Censorship Course, 2010)

When the French writer Andre Malraux asked Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958 about his "greatest difficulty since Independence" then Nehru replied, "Creating a just state by just means". He then added: "Perhaps, too, creating a secular state in a religious country. (Ahmed)

ON MARCH 4, 2008, two Muslims and a Dalit were stripped, beaten mercilessly and publicly humiliated by Bajrang Dal activists in Shantipura in Karnataka's Chikmaglur district. The three had been declared guilty of having killed a cow. (Sanjana).

After reading the first quotation, one would expect secularism to be one of the basic tenets inserted by the Constituent Assembly in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. Surprisingly, we note that it’s only with the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976, the concept of Secular state found its appropriate place. Even though the politics and ideology of secularism might be said to have exhausted their possibilities (Nandy 67), we can still take a look at the two popular definitions, as evident from the writings of social theorists like Max Weber, Bradlaugh, Ashis Nandy, George Jacob Holyoake. The first definition involves the construction of a selective public space devoid of any religious belief, where people assert their national identity above their religious one. The aforementioned selection is of rationalism and scientific thought over religious faith and ideology. The second one is an accommodative public space, where religious tolerance and mutual co-existence lay down the basic framework. One of the most important issues that problematise both these definitions, and particularly the second one, is the tendency of certain communities to take offence. In the multi-ethnic context of India, the absence of a Uniform Civil Code makes its presence felt every time a fatwa is issued, book burning ritual is carried out or a communal riot breaks out. “Saffronisation” of the curriculum and indiscriminate banning of books is the literary outcome of a political mobilisation, based on a religious ideology. But the problem is not as one dimensional as it seems. The book being on trial or facing censorship is associated with several problematic aspects of multi-textual representation of history, creation of a national identity and a lurking aspect of gaining political power[1]. The censorship of Dwijendra Narayan Jha’s The Myth of the Holy Cow is a classic case, embodying all these socio-political aspects, yet posing a challenge to our faith in the freedom of speech and rational enquiry.
Even though we claim the Indian civilization to be an advanced one, one still observes how an animal is totemised here and political propaganda has aligned itself along the lines of cow protection [2]. A popular misconception is that the Hindutva followers (the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS], Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP], Bajrang Dal, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad[VHP], collectively known as the Sangh Parivar) are solely responsible for it. Cow protection is as much a part of their beliefs as it is of the Indian National Congress Party ( BJP’s biggest critic on secular grounds) and the Telugu Desam Party. Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, justified the need for cow protection as the animal serves multiple benefits in India’s primarily agrarian economy [3]. Article 48 of the Directive Principles of State Policy prohibits the slaughter of cows, calves and other milch and draught animals. M.S. Gowalkar, one of the founder members of R.S.S. conceptualized the cow as the living symbol of the Mother Earth and denounced its slaughter as an insult to national honor. The UP State Cow Protection Commission has claimed that "houses with an outer coating of cow dung could be the safest place to be in during a nuclear attack" (Sorabjee). Over the ages, Congress’ symbol has transformed from a pair of bulls (Ambrett) to “Cow and Calf” (Prudent Indian) and finally the Open Palm Symbol in the 70’s.
However, there are loopholes in the agenda of Hindutva followers as well as those of so-called secular parties. Hindutva.org itself claims:

Ironically for the sake of the cow a Hindu Kingdom was really lost when the defeated army of Mahmud Ghauri smartly covered their retreat by blocking the path of the pursing Hindu army with a herd of cows. The Hindu army did not advance, since they would have had to slaughter (or at least harm) the cows, if they had to pursue the fleeing Muslim army. The cow after all was their mother Go-mata (sic)!! And so the Muslim army succeeded in escaping, only to attack again the following year and defeat the Hindu army and take over the Kingdom. This happened in the year 1191 at Tarain in North India when Prithviraj Chauhan first defeated Mahamud Ghauri in 1191 and then was defeated by Ghauri in 1192 beginning the era of Muslim rule in India. (The Young Hindu Mahasabha team)

The Government under Indira Gandhi refused to accept the anti cow-slaughter petition and characteristically, fired on the Sadhu-led mob. According to Dr. S. P. Radharishnan, Hindu thought is pluralistic, tolerant and borne out by psychological mediation of real life experience (Radhakrishnan). Under such circumstances, how can an ideology claim that Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists are all Hindus and yet refuse to accommodate their dietary habits (BJP)? It has been noted by historians that "Hindus" did not conceive themselves as a religious unity in any sense except in opposition to foreign rule (Wikipedia). The last citation is filled with controversial clauses which will help in the deliberation of my argument. If we question the basis of laying down the ideology of Hindutva, its found that the Holy scriptures, epics and historical records are the tools to reconstructing this myth of the holy cow.
Dwijendra Narayan Jha employs the same tools namely, his reading of the Vedas, Puranas, Dharmashastra texts; teachings of Yajnavalkya and Brihasputi; the Buddhist teachings contained in Brahmanadhammika Sutta and Sutta Nipata; medical treatises like Sushruta Samhita and Charaka Samhita; literary classics like Kalidasa’s Meghaduta and Sriharsa’s Naisadhacharita; the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Right from ‘“Animals are verily food” Yajnavalkya favours beef,’ to the ‘Resume: The Elusive Holy Cow’ the author tries to do away with the veneration of the cow. The first chapter systematically analyses segments of Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads to show that the killing among cow is not included among its list of moral transgressions. In ‘The rejection of Animal sacrifice: an assertion of the sacredness of the cow’ Jha shows how the advent of Budhism and Jainism professed the doctrine of ahimsa and encouraged the rejection of cow slaughter. However, he quotes ample evidence to show that the practice of consuming beef or killing the animal for the same was never discontinued, even during the reign of Ashoka. “The monastic order,” Jha writes, “was practical enough to realize that it was living in a flesh eating non-Buddhist society and that it was not easy to break away completely from contemporary dietary practices. The pragmatism of early Buddhism is best reflected in Kassapa Buddha’s statement that ‘defilement comes not from eating meat but from sin’ and encapsulated in the doctrine of the Middle Path preached by Gautama Buddha who refused to make vegetarianism compulsory for monks. . .”

Jha brings to our attention an interesting rite repeatedly mentioned in the texts of the later Vedic period, relating to the reception of guests and is called arghya, or more popularly, madhuparka. The killing of the kine (cow) to honour guests seems to have been prevalent from earlier times. The Rigveda (X.68.3) mentions the word atithinir, which has been interpreted as “cows fit for guests”, and refers to at least one Vedic hero, Atithigva, meaning literally “slaying cows for guests”.
The cow was also killed on festive occasions like marriage. A Rgvedic passage, for instance, refers to the slaughter of a cow on the occasion of marriage and later, in the Aitareya Brahmana, we are told, that “if the ruler of men comes as a guest or any one else deserving of honour comes, people kill a bull or a cow”.

In “The Later DharmaShastric Tradition and Beyond,” Jha repeats Prajapati’s holy words on the eternal life cycle, as to how the unending food chain is lucidly explained in the Shastras. The Dharmashastras are silent about whether the carcass was to be eaten or not but Jha does cite the popular penances, forbidding beef consumption and cow slaughter. These include doomed to hell for as many days as the hair on one’s body, bathing in the water of the Holy river Ganges (that too from specific banks), and anointment with the Pancagavya- a mixture of Cow Dung, Gomutra( urine of the cow), milk, curds and ghee .

Apart from the exhaustive research which has gone into writing the book, Jha’s deliberative rhetoric is worthy of mention. What is evident from the book is that the scriptures are not just a bit contradictory, rather, with progression from the nomadic pastoral lifestyle to an agrarian and trade based one, economic issues have modified the customs and laws of the state. Jha strives to show that the non killing of cows and abstention from eating its flesh could not have been a mark of common identity for the Brahmanas or the Brahmanical moral order. He never disregards the literary corpus establishing the sacredness of the cow. In the Introduction to his book, he sets down explicit references to the work of both Western and Indian scholars. H. H. Wilson’s opinion on gomedha and aswamedha has been offset by William Crooke’s 1894 ethnographic findings. The strong case for cow protection, set forth by L. L. Sundara Ram in 1927 has been given ample scope, even though it preached the biased notion of Muslims being responsible for cow slaughter. Jha proves that he is part of a long continuing discourse of writing on the Hindu practice of beef consumption in early India. Almost all the individual subtopics in Chapters 2 and 3 are ended in a note similar to, “Be that as it may, there is substantial evidence against the inherent sanctity of the bovine including the cow”. For the lay reader, his continuous references to the ancient texts might seem a bit tiring but the book is primarily written as a serious historical tome. By lay reader, I allude to a person who hasn’t read the cited texts in Sanskrit or Pali. Nonetheless, Jha has furnished us with all the actual non-translated passages in his endnotes. From the Book Cover and Preface of the book, its evident he is writing under the pain of death and hence uses all the figurative languages of a person evading the censors. His refutation of the Myth of the Holy Cow is never one sided, rather the controversy lying at the heart of the book prefigures the discourse.
The Wikipedia page on the book asserts that the book is still banned in 5 states of India, including Andhra Pradesh (A Hyderabad Civil Court ruled against its publication):

Even before his book could hit the stands, the VHP exhorted its cadre to confiscate and burn copies. The BJP followed suit: one of its MPs, R.S. Rawat, wrote to the Union home minister demanding not only a ban on the book but also the arrest and prosecution of its author and CB Publishers. But before the book could be burnt or banned, the Jain Seva Sangh stepped in. Outraged by Jha's reported assertion that their founder Mahavira ate meat, the Hyderabad-based organisation sought a court injunction against the book, leaving the nonplussed historian without the words to fight his war. (Reddy)

The Cover page says that it’s a book that the Indian Government wanted to be ritually burned (that is when BJP was in power, in 2001). Failing to get it printed from Delhi by either CB publishers or Matrix Publishers, Jha felt that a “self appointed custodian of ‘Hinduism’” has sentenced him to death. Finally, Mr Tariq Ali and Verso books came to his rescue and helped him publish the book offshore, outside the jurisdiction of the Indian government. Even though the book claims to have generated as much controversy as The Satanic Verses of Salman Rushdie, it’s not known whether, being caught in possession of the book can lead to a serious offence. Interestingly, only the second Verso edition of the book is available in the reference section of libraries around the country. First hand copies are few and possessively treasured in personal collections.

Golwalkar’s call for a national ban on cow slaughter still rings true as various Hindutva forces mobilize themselves against Dalits found in possession of cow hides or even a live cow. This happens on the belief of Hindus uniting for a common ideal of patriotism, and the Jha’s book attacks right at the root of it. Identity politics has confused our notion of raising arms against a fellow being. The Jhajjar killings of October 2002 are not a solitary incident, riots by the Namdhari sect in 1870’s, communal riots in 1880’s, 1890’s, 1970’s justify that 14.39% of the cases of communal violence in India, is due to cow slaughter. The masses would have succumbed to Jha’s theories completely and questioned the Hindutva forces, if not for other scholars rising against the contents of his book.

Even though the Indologists were the first few people to scientifically lay down the history of India, today their works are under the scanner, on grounds of authenticity. Their factual inaccuracies and ignorance of Indian customs and traditions has almost stigmatized every Western Scholar who tries to work on India’s “silent and evasive pasts”(Nandy). In recent times, Paul Courtright, Wendy Doniger, J. W. Laine, no one has escaped the wrath of the mob. Unfortunately, D. N. Jha has been accused of citing from Western scholars’ translation of Hindu texts and he has failed to provide a just counter argument. Even though some of the translations from Sanskrit to English were done by him, he did rely heavily on Max Mueller and P. V. Kane’s texts. One of his most acerbic crtics, B. D. Ukhul says:

Twelfth mantra [of the Rigveda] emphasizes on the qualities of the warrior and its translation is as follows:

They who crave for the meat of a horse and declare the horse fit to be killed should be exterminated. Those who keep the fast horse well trained and disciplined deserve to be praised by us for the strength of their character and perseverance. (IT CLEARLY DEMOLISHES THE THESIS OF JHA AND PROVES THAT HE HAS MERELY QUOTED CITATIONS AND HARDLY CARED TO LOOK AT THE ACTUAL TEXT BUT INSPIRED BY THE FOLLOWING TRANSLATION OF WILSON):
“Let their exertions be for our good who watch the cooking of the horse; who say, it is fragrant; therefore give us some: who solicit the flesh of the horse as alms”. (WHAT AN IMMENSE DAMAGE TO THE SPIRIT OF THE MANTRA).

Jha is accused of being unaware of the interpolations and inflexions of Sanskrit to translate the texts for himself and verify his claims. A single word could have multiple meanings and Hindutva scholars ask for a spiritual, personal interpretation of the text. This again questions the function of texts like Dharmasutras, Grhyasutras whose primary purpose was to instruct in the day to day activities of a common man in Ancient India.

Interestingly these arguments never arose before the book was banned by an elected government in what is meant to be a democratic polity. The BJP government did not institute a committee to look into the factual correctness of Jha’ argument and pronounced its judgment, keeping with the popular sentiments. The proceedings of the Civil Court in Hyderabad are not available to the public. The freedom to hold an intellectual debate in an atmosphere of uncensored thought and in the spirit of rational enquiry, was largely found missing. On the other hand, Jha is not sitting still and is raring to take a pot shot at politicised religious beliefs with his forthcoming book on the adulterous gods and their inebriated women (Reddy).


[1] “Fundamentalism is the upholder of status quo and while defending its own version of religious faith, it has its eyes on a larger objective of capturing state power.” For further elucidation of this view point see Kumar.

[2] Exterior to Australia, totemic institutions were found and are still observed among North American Indians, as well as among the races of the Polynesian Islands Group, in East India, and in a large part of Africa.” Firstly, when it comes to economic growth, we are far ahead of all the Australian aborigines, African tribes or races of Polynesia, yet our governance remains enshrouded in totemic customs. Secondly, I am deliberately shelving aside the inherently sexual implications of totemism, as it is irrelevant to my present discussion. (Freud.)

[3] Mother cow is in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth. Our mother gives us milk for a couple of years and then expects us to serve her when we grow up. Mother cow expects from us nothing but grass and grain. Our mother often falls ill and expects service from us. Mother cow rarely falls ill. Our mother when she dies means expenses of burial or cremation. Mother cow is as useful dead as when alive.(Gandhi)


Ambrett. “Congress Party Poster: From the 1950s.” Flickr. Web. 28 April, 2010.
< http://www.flickr.com/photos/22955235@N00/1389841667/>

Ahmed, Mohib. “India is not secular.” Wichaar. Web. 28 April 2010.

Freud, Sigmund. “The Savage Dread of Incest.” Totem and Taboo: Resemblance between the Psychic Lives of Savages and Neurotics. London: Pelican Books, 1938. 15-40. Print.

Gandhi, Mohandas K. An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Trans. Mahadev Haribhai Desai. Michigan: Beacon Press,1993. 387. Print.

Jha, Dwijendra Narayan. The Myth of the Holy Cow. London: Verso, 2004. Print.

Kumar, Girja. “Fundamentalism and Social Censorship.” The Book on Trial: Fundamentalism and Censorship in India. New Delhi: Har-Anand Publications Pvt. Ltd., 1997. 15-28. Print.

Nandy, Ashis. “The Politics of Secularism and the Recovery of Religious Tolerance.” Time Warps: The Insistent Politics of Silent and Evasive Pasts. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001. 61-88. Print.

Prudent Indian. “‘Naveen Cow and Calf’ Congress, Nation at a Glance and Ram Rajya.” Wordpress. Web. 26 April, 2010.
< http://theprudentindian.wordpress.com/2009/10/2naveen-cow-and-calf congress-nation-at-a-glance-and-ram-rajya/>

Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. The Hindu view of life: Martha Upton lectures. London: G. Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1927. Print.

Reddy, Sheela. “A Brahmin's Cow Tales.” Outlook 17 September, 2002: 60-61. Print.
Sanjana. “Curse Of The Holy Cow.” Tehelka. Web. 4 April, 2010.

Sorabjee, Soli J. “War, Cows and Gossip.” Love4cow.Web. 27 April, 2010. < http://www.love4cow.com/articles4.htm#War, COWS and gossip- Soli J Sorabjee>

The Young Hindu Mahasabha team. “The Demand for a Ban on Cow Slaughter from the Go-raksha Samitis” Hindutva.Web. 26 April,2010.

Ukhul, B. D. “Clouds over understanding of theVedas-II: A rejoinder to the book 'The Myth of the holy cow' by D.N.Jha.” Love4cow. Web. April, 2010
“Hindu Nationalism.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Web. 27 April, 2010. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_nationalism>

Friday, January 15, 2010

Entering Theatrical Space Episode 1

Optionals are never really what they seem to be, because none of us truly have an iota of control over our fates. In the second semester of my undergraduate studies, I was offered a particular course which i would have never seemed interested in.

Drama In Practice.

There were many reasons behind this like no prior experience of acting, a negative self image, a body which moves largely outside my neural control.

Still I took it, thinking it might be nice to spend some more time with people I like. The only inspiration which I had to fall back upon was a Macbeth adaptation, which I was a part of.

A little digression,

About the challenges I faced when i adapted the role of the second witch for the Act 4 Scene 1 sequence of Macbeth.

In 1591, King James authorized the torture of suspected witches in Scotland

Scotland's witch-hunting had its origins in the marriage of King James to Princess Anne of Denmark. Anne's voyage to Scotland for the wedding met with a bad storm, and she ended up taking refuge in Norway. James traveled to Scandinavia and the wedding took place in at Kronborg Castle in Denmark. After a long honeymoon in Denmark, the royal newlyweds encountered terrible seas on the return voyage, which the ship's captain blamed on witches. When six Danish women confessed to having caused the storms that bedeviled King James, he began to take witchcraft seriously. Back in Scotland, the paranoid James authorized torture of suspected witches. Dozens of condemned witches in the North Berwick area were burned at the stake in what would be the largest witch-hunt in British history. By 1597, James began to address some of the worst prosecutorial abuses, and witch-hunting abated somewhat.

In 1606, Shakespeare writes a play, which begins,

Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches

First Witch:   When shall we three meet again
                         In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second Witch:    When the hurlyburly's done,
                             When the battle's lost and won.

Third Witch:       That will be ere the set of sun.

First Witch:          Where the place?

Second Witch:       Upon the heath.

Third Witch:         There to meet with Macbeth.

First Witch:           I come, Graymalkin!

Second Witch:        Paddock calls.

Third Witch:           Anon.

ALL                      Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
                              Hover through the fog and filthy air

It was a weird phase in the history of Great Britain. You always led your life on tenterhooks, not knowing who might bear a grudge against you, who can curse you to your death. And the death will never be pleasant. First, during the trials they will throw you into a water filled ditch, and a really deep one too. If you drowned, then they would just feel sorry about killing you, as you were human enough to drown and not save yourself with supposed witchcraft. On the other hand, if you didn't you would be subjected to diverse methods of torture, depending upon your gender. You might be even thrown off a cliff and if you bounced and lived, you were dubbed a witch.

After this rigorous phase of identity determination, if you thought that you lived to see the light of the day, you are WRONG. If you were a man, they would first hang you, then tear your limbs apart, chop you into five pices, and put your head on top of a tower of the Westminister Bridge. A signifier of sorts.

If you were a woman, you would be simply burnt on the stakes though.

Knowing these socio-political issues helped me to gauze how frightening my character should be. If you are putting up such an interesting scene and your only resources are your body and voice, you really have to master the fine art of spreading fear.

A childhood experiment in singing Judas Priests' "Painkiller" (and nailing it to some extent) helped me create a high pitched and hoarse voice my character. It was a bit of problem always projecting my thoughts in this foreign vocal set up and volume issues arose. I was fortunate enough to not have contracted a cold during this period. I drank litres of warm water and just sang Painkiller :D
To anatomise the process, I would say first speak in the highest pitch you can and then contract your larynx so that it alternately opens and closes. Your vocal chords also need to be trained accordingly. The first few days your throat will experience a tremendous burning sensation if you actually manage to do it.

Later practionners of the revised Stanislavski methodolgy will remember the art of using physical actions to activate the affective memory. I actually experimented with that principle here. Did it work?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Entering Theatrical space (trailer)

Wordslime bubbling in soundproof speech-balloons over the battle. My drama has
not taken place. The script was lost.