Showcasing My Friends-2

(For the second post in this series, for which I have been interviewing people I am close to, I emailed Lokesh a set of questions. His responses have been reproduced here. I hope that you would like the idea and enjoy the conversation. The series is to be continued with other friends as and when possible. Sincere thanks to all readers who commented on and appreciated the earlier post). 

Dharaji, a village facing submergence by Omkareshwar Dam project

It was some fourteen years ago that we finished high school. Lakkhu Bhai Pathak – as most of the classmates called him, was everyone’s friend . Often seated on the back benches, I remember him as a quiet and shy but not so shy student lost in thoughts about everything other than what was being immediately taught. His ‘areas’ were quite varied- international affairs, literature, art, cinema and sports! At least that is what I can recall right now. I could be wrong and Lokesh should excuse me for any exaggerations here J

Having finished school, both of us came to Delhi for higher studies. Lokesh studied Political science (he had to!) and then went for a degree in law. In all these years, the occasions on which we met each other can actually now be counted on fingertips. In spite of such an apparent gap in communication, we have remained so much in touch. Looking at the thinker and the artist that Lokesh has evolved into, I have realized the package of talent and creativity he is. His simplicity and the “I am lost in this world” look that he wears all the time impress me the most. A voracious reader, painter and now an equally accomplished photographer (all the photos in the post are his own!) he is someone who continually chooses to defy most conventions. On the occasion of the new year, it is my sincere wish that Lokesh succeeds in all his ‘out of the box’ endeavours and continue to be the amazing individual and friend he has always been.

Lokesh now lives in Bhopal where his projects-actually several of them- continue to take shape.

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Personal Concerns- Thank you Lokesh for agreeing to respond. To begin with, I want to mention to the readers that you recently changed a part of your name. Could you tell us something about this journey- from Lokesh Pathak to Lokesh Malti Prakash?

Lokesh- Adding Malti Prakash required lots of deliberation and overcoming certain hesitations. It required rejecting certain norms and accepting certain others over and above them. To put it straight, what I love most about this journey from Lokesh Pathak  to  Lokesh Malti Prakash is this element of choice and challenge. It’s definitely about standing against caste and patriarchy though it might be symbolic. In a way it is. The fight against caste or patriarchy lies at many levels and that at the levels of symbols (and languages, and names….) is no less important.

It’s also an intimate personal journey of constantly trying to regain myself, to imagine myself in a way I like. Just another milestone of a long journey!

PC- How are you liking Bhopal? How is life over there different from that in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh?

Lokesh- I love to be in Bhopal. Delhi has perfectly imbibed the new culture of the globalised India. It has become monstrous in the process. I know Bhopal is no escape. No place is an escape from this predicament unless it chooses to resist. But still, Bhopal retains something of the charm of its peculiar character.

More than this, my love for being in Bhopal is in a way related to my journey that we talked earlier. It is this particular fact that has made my life different from what it was in Delhi. Personally, Delhi was like a lost decade. In a way it’s like redeeming myself as I could be. It’s not a nostalgic longing for Deoria. It’s more like living and reimagining a lost imagination.

At a rally of Narmada Bachao Andolan in Bhopal

PC-  How do you react to a commonly held belief of our times that the national language- Hindi,  is facing a challenge and therefore is in a state of crisis?

Lokesh- I don’t care about the “national language”. But yes, the language Hindi that belongs to its people more than the nation is facing a challenge. But again it’s not in a crisis because of this challenge. The crisis itself is a challenge. A challenge more to the people than a language. A crisis of a society that is unable to accept anything except English as a language of erudition, status and power. I have nothing against English. I have loved my Shakespeare and Shelley in English. But in India and especially in our Hindi-belt English is not merely a language it is more a power-system. And I am very clear that the Hindi of Bollywood and TV ads won’t change this situation.

PC- In case you feel that to be the case, what was so remarkable about the year that just went by?

Lokesh- Personally, Lokesh Pathak became Lokesh Malti Prakash.

For the world at large, (as) you might have expected. The most remarkable about 2011 was not the crisis of neo-liberal order. That’s a stale story. Capitalism has never been free of crises. What is really remarkable is that we are witnessing the rise of resistance that is increasingly globalising. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy. The resentment is maturing into resistance. I wish in 2012 it turns into rebellion.

PC- Which book have you been reading these days? How are you liking it?

Lokesh- Most recently I started reading Hind Swaraj. I am still reading it and I love my disagreements with this marvellously frank book by Mahatma Gandhi. Though my disagreement over specific prescriptions of Gandhi do not preclude me from agreeing with some general principles I am able to discern from what I have read till now.

There is one thing called civilization, there is another thing called modernity and there is a third thing called capitalism. Privileging Marx over Gandhi I would argue against capitalism retaining modernity and civilisation. At the same time, privileging Gandhi over Marx I would argue industrialism as the means of developing the ‘productive forces’ of human society has long outlived its utility and is now threatening life.

PC- Please tell us something about your favourite artists. Who among them impresses or inspires you the most?

Lokesh-This is a very long list. There are painters, poets, writers, film-makers. To name a few….Chittaprosad, Monet, von Gough, Rivera, Picasso, Cartier Bresson, Yeats, Muktibodh, Mayakovski, Kumar Gandharva….

It’s very difficult to say what impresses or inspires me. It can be the beauty, the aesthetics of expression, the politics of expression, desire, nostalgia, love……

PC- You are passionate about photography. In what ways do you consider the photographic image to be significant?

Lokesh- I love the medium of photography. For me the photographic image is significant just like any other image. There is one peculiarity though, the certain tension in the photographic image between the apparent factual depiction (of what was there at a certain point of time) and the loaded interpretative subjectivity that it can’t avoid.

From the same rally in Bhopal

PC- What are your views regarding the need of the institution of an ombudsman in India and the movement led by Anna Hazare?

Lokesh- The movement led by Anna Hazare has obfuscated the issue of corruption in its thoughtless hyper-nationalism with reactionary right-wing leanings. An institution like ‘ombudsman’ might be suitable for checking corruption in a legal sense. But what if corruption is endemic to the system …. I mean it’s structural and beyond scope of ‘ombudsman’. We have had an activist Supreme Court at a point of time. But it could not save the system. Can the Lokpal do anything if the Parliament passes an act privatising the water resources of this country? At best the Lokpal will ensure that this is done without the need of anyone bribing the MP’s.

Anna’s movement is reactionary also because it has raised this hoopla at a time when the market driven policies of governments are increasingly being challenged and resisted. It’s a good safety valve. If the government is not listening it is not because of any revolutionary potential of the proposed Jan-Lokpal it’s only that they want to save their necks.

PC- What are your plans for this year? 

Lokesh- Read, write and shoot!

PC- One event from school days that you are reminded of- mention it here :)

Lokesh-Pandey sir, maths, Mrs. Sakhuja, chemistry, physics, Mrs. Ifat, samosa-wale bhaiyya, our cycle journeys!

From my ancestral village Sajaon

(All comments and suggestions regarding the format and the presentation of the interview would be deeply appreciated. Friends who wish to be included in this series, please let me know. It would be lovely to have you here on my blog. Cheers!)