Heart

Mention a Song

imagesDear Reader,

Of late I have been in a ‘explore music’ mode. Please leave the link/title/audio of a song that you like/that immediately comes to your mind in the comment box as I so want to listen to and appreciate what others like and are listening to. A link or a mere mention of the song should suffice. However, a brief introduction to the specific charm of the song for you, if added to the comment, would make it all the more interesting for me. Would appreciate if it is just one song. Language, mood, country, genre, instruments no bar at all! I do wish to write a post on the songs that I receive from you. Thanks in advance for paying attention!

Hoping to ‘listen’ from you! 

 

Heart

Melodies

These songs and the burnt, blackened forests that they stream from. Born in the pile of ashes that those twigs and leaves turned into once the raging fire engulfed the greenery where the deer and the hare galloped, the elephant bathed and the snakes swirled, danced and stung the bores. The leaves with the flames lost all that was damp and polite about them. They hardened, the chlorophyll evaporated and their skeletal remains chipped, cracked and fell to the ground. Those frames rested on the ground and poked the musician of nature to take pity and sing sing and sing.

The clocks kept ticking. Life needed an age to come back to work in the woods. The musician was all the time at work. No leave for him. When prosperous, songs of dance and tunes of romance got flourishing down to my soul and the time soon came when the deserted vacuüm sent across melodies of pain, destitution and recluse.

Heart felt miseries of love and loss and of heat and rain come in one place and make the mind swoon. The elixir of being a have not balances all the loss and it feels extraordinary to know or even think of how the orchestra must have went on when something was collected from the vicinity of the woods and then re recorded in the studios- places where most of the destinies of our eardrums are written every moment.

Times change, places change and so do melodies. What separates the fate of melodies from that of the woods and the elephants is that  sound has wings. It can flutter and fly across borders of taste and hatred. Mellifluous was the word invented not for the gallops but for the sounds those hoofs make. Sights disappear, sounds do not. Ever wondered why it is far more difficult shutting one’s ears than closing one’s eyes? A cousin of mine used to talk to me about a machine that would soon be able to recollect all the sounds that people in the world ever made. Amen!

Heart

The Solitary Reaper

Isn’t this poem by William Wordsworth your most favorite of all poems? Isn’t this one of the finest pieces of poetry about nature that we read as kids in school and still remember it every time when we think about English Poetry? Just felt like sharing this beautiful work with you. Hope to know about your feelings while reading it today once again!

The Solitary Reaper

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chant
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?–
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;–
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

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Showcasing My Friends-4

(For the fourth post in this series, for which I have interviewed people I am close to, I emailed Vishwanath Ji 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 posts).

My friend with us for today’s post is someone very special. Mr. Vishwanath Gopalakrishna is one of those very nice people whom interestingly, I have known for a very few months. Being acquainted with him is for me a clear evidence of the rich meaningfulness that online interactions can be a source of. I have read a number of his extremely pleasant writings on a whole range of issues- short, amazing memoirs, reflections on the changing social institutions such as marriage and still interestingly his lovely, insightful comments and suggestions on a number of blogs and other online fora which he regularly reads and contributes to. A Civil Engineer by profession, I see in him a flair for continuously exploring and attempting to make sense of the ever-changing world. Vishwanath Ji’s articulations on some of the issues I just mentioned are instances of brevity meeting wisdom and wit. For the short duration that I have known him, he has already become a source of warmth and inspiration. In this extremely enjoyable interview he talks about various aspects of life and its changing course. I hope my association with him becomes an everlasting one and that this exchange of ideas and information continues unabated.

Vishwanath Ji currently lives in Bangalore where his engagements with technology, life and society continue to flourish.

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Personal Concerns – Thank you Vishwanath Ji for agreeing to respond. To start with, I would like to ask you something about your days as an Engineering student at Roorkee. What was it like in those days to be a student of Engineering?

Vishwanath JiRoorkee (1972 to 1974) evokes pleasant memories. I had just obtained a BE(Hons) degree in Civil Engineering from BITS (Pilani) in 1972. But the best institute for Civil engineering and all its branches was Roorkee University at that time. I badly wanted the Roorkee “Chaap” on my degree.

Roorkee was the oldest Engineering college and it was the post-independence successor to the legendary Thomson College of Civil Engineering set up by the British more than 150 years ago. Most of the well-known Civil engineers of the country had studied at Roorkee and I remember that most of the text books on Civil Engineering were written by Professors from Roorkee.

The Civil engineering department of University of Roorkee  was the biggest in the country with over 70 teaching staff, nearly all of them PhD’s in Engineering and offering the widest options to civil engineering graduates to specialize. Getting into the Structures section was the toughest of all and they selected only 10 from the hundreds of students from all over the country who applied. I got through and have never regretted my decision to postpone entering the job market by two  years in order to specialize and get a Masters degree in Structural engineering from the University of Roorkee. It is now called IIT Roorkee.

Roorkee had a special attraction for Civil engineers. The place housed not just the University of Roorkee with its internationally famed Civil Engineering Department but also several prestigious Civil engineering institutions like the Central Building Research Institute, The Structural Engineering Research Center, The School of Research and Training in Earthquake Engineering, the Water Resources Development and Training Centre and the Irrigation Research Institute. All these were located in adjacent campuses. Not for nothing was Roorkee called the Mecca for Civil Engineers.

The one regret I have was that the PG scholarship offered by the UGC was just Rs 250/- those days and it had remained at that figure for several years before I enrolled there.  Several batches of students had been agitating and representing to the Govt of India for enhancing the scholarship to prevent hardship to the students. We were the last batch who were given this paltry sum. The next batch, after I passed out got Rs 400/- per month.

PC – You belong to the very first set of citizens of the country who turned netizens. How has the online world changed in these years?

Vishwanath JiOh! It is unrecognisable! We have all heard of the Industrial revolution which changed the lives of millions of people initially in Europe and later all over the world. That revolution is nothing compared to the second Computer/Software/Internet/Communication revolution that I am fortunate to be part of. I still don’t know whether today we are still at the beginning of the revolution and have yet to see most of it or if we are somewhere in the middle or if we have come close to exhausting the possibilities.  For the generation or two that preceded mine, electricity, the automobile,  printing press, aeroplanes  and radio represented the wonders of modern technology. I grew up without being amazed or impressed by any of it.During my childhood long distance telephony,  supersonic aircraft, black and white movies (35 mm), and the gramophone and tape recorder, typewriters, telegrams and later telexes and modern nuclear weapons and missiles, and the amazing advances in health care, vaccination, birth control, antibiotics and the elimination of small pox and polio etc  and modern methods of  methods of surgery like the first heart transplant represented advanced technology.

In my youth technology was represented by feats like space travel, orbiting and landing on the moon, and military advances and modern weapons like missiles and hydrogen bombs, and neutron bombs.

During my early adulthood (age 20 to 30)  TV, VCRs, PCs, even the humble calculator, Photocopying machine, colour photography, 70 mm movies etc were all unknown and they all made an entry one by one and I watched these developments unfolding and experienced the thrills. I later actually experienced the computer revolution starting in India in the late sixties. I learned Fortran programming on the IBM main frame computers in the late sixties at BITS Pilani, moved over to using minicomputers and later graduated to the personal computers in the Nineties. I was part of the internet revolution right from 1998 onwards and have enjoyed and benefited from the amazing progress we have achieved and are still achieving in this area. I never dreamed 15 years ago that mobile telephony will be a reality and become so cheap and widespread. I think more than anything the cell phone is the device of the century and has done the maximum to influence our life in a positive way. I envisage the gradual amalgamation of entertainment, information, communication and computation into one device in the years to come.

PC – To what extent do you think that technological advancement should be taken to be an indicator of human progress and development as these terms are commonly used and understood?

Vishwanath JiI would say the extent could be 50 percent. When I say this I mean technological advancement is not the only reliable and complete indicator of progress. India with practically no technology (as we understand it today) was considered a country where enormous progress and development had been achieved by the heroes like Ashoka, Chandragupta, and later by the emperors who ruled from Delhi. Prior to this we have accounts from the Mahabharata and Ramayana too about the progress made by human beings.

Today, we need technology but it must be balanced with concern for the environment. I would rate those countries as the best to live in where it is not technological advancement but political stability, security, health and general quality of life of the average citizen that is the criterion. I would not rate USA at the top in spite of all its miraculous advancements in space and war technology but would choose countries like Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands etc.

PC – In case you believe that to be the case, how are south and north India different from each other?

Vishwanath JiThe idea of India as a nation is slowly still sinking in. The North-South Divide is still to be completely bridged. The successful  interchange of food habits  and clothing fashions are not enough. We need to go further. Idli / Dosa and Vada are relished in the North, the North Indian cuisine is a treat for South Indian families. The Salwar Kameez of the north has swept South India and the younger generation in the south prefer it to the petticoat and half saree that our generation wore. I was happy that Kolaveri Di and earlier Hema Malini, Sridevi, Rekha and today Vidya Balan were warmly welcomed and enjoyed in North India and
Hindi Movies and North Indian film stars are welcome in the South.
I love it when the whole country roots for our cricket team. I remember the song from Tezaab – Ek Do Teen taught millions of South Indians in just a minute, how to count in Hindi from 1 to 13 at least, something the Central Hindi Directorate of the Govt of India had failed for decades. We still have some fissures which we have loosely papered over and these need to be cemented. The sixties presented a real danger when on the issue of Hindi, the state of Tamil Nadu was showing tendencies to secede. The North East still feels alienated.  Kashmir is only physically part of the nation. The hearts of the people there are not with us entirely. Naxalism and Terrorism are new dangers threatening us. I think it may take another fifty years before India as a nation becomes a well established idea.

We can live with and perhaps celebrate some differences also. It is fact that the South is in general less aggressive. May be the wars in the North have influenced people’s behavior. The south has not suffered as much from wars as the North  (particularly  Punjab) have. I also believe crime in the South is less than crime in the North both in severity and number of incidences.

I don’t believe some myths that the south  (and Bengal) is more “intellectual” and that hospitality in the north is warmer. I am willing to believe that  the average North Indian is physically taller, and stronger and some shades fairer  in complexion than the average South Indian. I believe literacy levels are better in the Southern states than in the north.
I have lived both in North, West and South India and feel perfectly at home in all these regions and enjoy the advantages and tolerate the disadvantages of each.

PC – How many languages do you know? Which one is the most special?

Vishwanath JiIn decreasing degrees of proficiency, the languages are English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Gujarati and Malayalam and French.

By birth I belong to a community that has its origins in  Paalakkad District of Kerala near the Tamil Nadu border and as a child I was exposed to a strange lingo that my parents used. It was a mix of Tamil and Malayalam. The sentence structure of the language was grammatically closer to Tamil but Malayalam words were generously used and the spoken accent was totally Malayalee and my parents wrote in the Paalakkad Tamil dialect using the Malayalam script. This was my first exposure to any language, learnt sitting in my mother’s lap.

Later, having been brought up in a Gujarati speaking neighbourhood in Mumbai, I was exposed during my childhood to Bombaiya Hindi,  and Gujarati. The school I went to was an English Medium School run by Catholic Missionaries and I developed a taste for English and it was my favorite subject in school. I did extraordinarily well in English in school and was the favorite of my teachers. I read voraciously in English.

I learned Hindi as a compulsory subject in school but I polished up my Hindi during the five years I spent at Pilani and later two more years at Roorkee and developed a taste for the language courtesy Bollywood film songs. Starting much later, I worked hard at reading and writing Hindi and read voraciously in Hindi to catch up. Starting with pulp fiction of Gulshan Nanda I graduated to more high brow reading of authors like Premchand. My Hindi speaking skills improved due to close interaction with Rajasthani friends at Pilani and later UPite friends in Roorkee.  I can now talk almost like a native Hindi speaker and you won’t be able to detect a south Indian accent in my Hindi. The only dead giveaway is my occasional gender error. This ka and ki of Hindi still sometimes flummoxes me.  But the language I communicate best is English and this is the result of not merely an English medium education in School but the fact that my profession used no language other than English for nearly 37 years.

In addition I can speak colloquial Tamil and a smattering of Gujarati and Malayalam and Kannada and I manage to  communicate with the servants, taxi or auto drivers, and street hawkers in these languages. I can also read and write slowly and haltingly in these languages. I can read hoardings and sign boards in these scripts but would be unwilling to exert myself to read a book or periodical in these languages.

I learned French for four years in School and got good marks in the matriculation exam in 1966 (90 percent) but due to lack of opportunities to use it later, have totally forgotten it. I can now only sprinkle a few popular French words and phrases in my written English and can read simple French.

I admit I have  artificially inflated my list of languages here. To be really honest, the languages I can rightfully claim to know are English and Hindi. English and  Hindi are both special to me. I value English as my ticket to the world beyond India and my proficiency in this language has helped me advance in my profession and also build up an international network.   I value Hindi as it has enabled me to reach out to the largest number of my fellow citizens in this country. I love to read technical literature only in English but I don’t fancy reading about our myths , scriptures, culture and tradition in English and always prefer Hindi. I love reading poems in Hindi and listen only to Hindi Songs, never English. I respect the west for some technically great movies they have produced but I can’t relate to the story in English movies. I ALWAYS prefer watching a good Hindi Movie or Teleserial  to an English Movie or TV serial if I  have the choice.

PC – Do you believe in what is commonly referred to as generation gap? If yes, can or should that be bridged?

Vishwanath JiYes, of course, there is a generation gap and there has always been one and perhaps there will always be. The youth of today will be the elderly tomorrow. The issues may differ from age to age but the gap will always exist.  It is not a bad thing. It is natural. I am quite comfortable with it and I tolerate it and do try to bridge it without sacrificing what I cannot give up and without imposing my views or prejudices on another generation.  I don’t feel comfortable with some of the beliefs, tendencies and practices of the younger generation but I live and let live.

In particular, I do not approve of youngsters tattooing their skins. While I am comfortable with both love marriages and properly arranged marriages I am not comfortable with living together relationships particularly when children are born to such couples. I am not comfortable with sex outside marriage.  I don’t like both men and women smoking and drinking and consuming drugs and I shun night clubs and night life in general. I believe night is the time for sleeping.  I have adjusted to the  fact that the joint family is dying and do not mourn it, though I recall with nostalgia some great moments in my life when we lived as a joint family. I could cite more examples.

PC – Who are your favorite authors and artists ?

Vishwanath JiI am unable to give an honest answer. I can’t single out any one. I can only narrow down the list.I have been heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s thinking and also by Jawaharlal Nehru, but in the last ten years, I have begun questioning some of their policies and beliefs. I have loved reading several authors but cannot pick out any one as my favourite. I have absolutely no knowledge of painting and art. I love classical Music and light semi classical music but have no favourites. I don’t fancy western music, pop music, or rock music. In the field of arts and culture, I am a pakka  Desi and nothing in the western world attracts me. I believe our classical dances and our Yoga are better than anything they have to offer. My choice if I am asked to pick the most  beautiful woman in the world would be a Sari clad  woman from India, never a western lady in their dresses however tall and fair they may be. But I readily admit their overwhelming superiority in sports.

PC – I wanted to know about your favorite films/ books.

Vishwanath JiAgain, I can’t pick just one. I loved the movie Mackenna’s Gold released in the late sixties or early seventies for sheer technical brilliance during those less technologically advanced times. There are too many Hindi/Tamil/Malayalam films that I can list as my favourites and it is impossible for me to decide which was best. My favourite books include the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

PC – Please share with us a song of your choice. I would like to know what makes it stand apart?

Vishwanath JiI admit my failure here also. I can’t name any one. There are just too many and depending on my mood, each one lingers in and torments my mind at various times. An example (just an example) is the Magudi tune played by the late Carnatic Violinist Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan. It was mind-blowing. There are others too that captured my imagination and made my hair stand on end when I listened. I have been enthralled by Bismillah Khan‘s Shehnai, and the Saxophone played by Kadri Gopalnath. I love flautists T R Mahalingam, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ronu Mazumdar, My favourite singer is Lata Mangeshkar for light music and I have too many favourites in Carnatic Vocal music. It would be sacrilegious to compare them. They are all simply great. In Light instrumental Music I have been impressed by flutist Praveen Godkhindi.

PC – Towards the end I want to know about your views on tradition and culture? Will these notions soon be a thing of the past?

Vishwanath Ji – Tradition and culture will never be a thing of the past. Yesterday’ customs and practices are today’s traditions. Today’s customs and practices will become tomorrow’s traditions. What will change is the actual customs and practices that qualify as tradition.

——–

(All comments and suggestions about 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!)

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Ten Songs for the Day

It’s the 14th of February and here is a small list of the best songs about love from Indian films that I recommend. The special thing about each of them is the fact they are equally a pleasure to watch and listen. They span decades, artists and have stark differences in as much as they try to define the phenomenon human beings have come to call love.

  • Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya 

I have on various occasions on social networking platforms voted it as the best Hindi song ever composed. From a huge film that Mughal-e-Azam was, this song stands for defiance and celebrates love like no other song does. “Ishq mein jeena ishq mein marna aur hamein ab karna kya”– We have to live and die while being in love, there is nothing else we have to do. Again “Maut wahi jo duniya dekhe, chhup chhup kar yun marna kya”– Death is one that is witnessed by the world, what is this dying in hiding?

  •  Jaaiye Aap Kahan Jaayenge

Unarguably the best song sung by Asha Bhosle, this brilliant OP Nayyar composition refuses to age.

  • Ae Lo Main Haari Piya

This mellifluous Geeta Dutt song with Gurudutt on the screen with Shyama remains a huge favorite for the occasions where the angry, annoyed lover is being persuaded to talk.

  • Yahoo

All energy that the emotion of love can give rise to. Rafi’s chartbuster.

  • Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas Tum Rehti Ho

Kishore Kumar’s quintessential romantic song. Lyrics here are a repository of the images romance in the Indian subcontinent is so laden with or atleast used to be. There is the aangan (courtyard), bandhan (ties) and that fear of expressing one’s love.

  • Ye Mera Deewanapan Hai

Mukesh’s greatest song. No listener can ever decide as to who rules here- the musician, the lyricist or the singer?

  • Yaar Bina Chain Kahan Re

Bappi Lahiri’s lovely composition from the 1980s where the music scene in Bollywood was unusually tragic. Such attempts however kept the scene lively.

  • Pyaar Hua Chupke Se

This national award-winning composition was Kavita Krishnamurti’s best song in my opinion. RD Burman’s last film as a music director.

  • Kasto Mazaa

Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghoshal’s lovely, sweet song shot on a train going to Darjeeling.

  • Valiyonaisai
I don’t get a single word of this Tamil song. I watch and listen to it for the picturisation and Illayaraja’s music. The singers- a Marathi/Hindi speaking and the other one a Malayali are impeccable here (so I think).
Which one did you like the best? Greetings for the day!
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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.

——

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!)

 


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Showcasing My Friends-1

(For the purposes of this series where I shall be posting interviews with people I am close to, I emailed Faisal a set of questions that I wanted him to respond to. I have reproduced the responses here. I hope that you would like the idea and enjoy the conversation. It is my plan to continue the series with other friends as and when that becomes a possibility). 

A lean bodied young man seemingly lost in an intense conversation on his cell phone walked a couple of steps ahead of me. It was a hot summer afternoon of 2007 and I was at the headquarters of the organisation that I had chosen to study for my Ph.D. thesis. It was months before I got to meet him in person. We had a very formal conversation at that time. I remember that we spoke to each other about such things as my research and the university departments where both of us were then enrolled-Jamia Millia Islamia and University of Delhi.

It was not until July of the following year that we met again. He had come to Delhi University as an applicant for the M.Phil program. He soon joined the program and it was not long before a never-ending exchange began between the both of us. What I call exchange has in effect been a precious experience, special because it has always transcended and at the same time overlapped varying categories in terms of which we tend to generally think of relationships. I find it difficult to think of an instance where we have had any talk that was either just intellectually serious or nonsensically humorous. Being with him and talking to him has always been that unique moment wherein laughter and intellect intertwine. I cherish all that I have shared and learned from him and I hope that this friendship deepens further and takes so many more roots in our minds.

Faisal finished his M.Phil thesis in 2010 and left Delhi for Bangalore where he now works as a researcher for the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy.

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Personal Concerns- Thanks Faisal for agreeing to respond. To begin with, I would like to ask you something about your name. What does it mean and what do you think of it?

Faisal- My Dad named me. The name is OK. My name is stupid….I am the most confused and the weakest when it comes to taking decisions in personal life…But still it means ‘the one who takes good decisions’!

PC- You know a number of languages. Is there any one of them that you find special?

Faisal- Urdu is special to me as I am the most expressive in it. Urdu is also the most accessible of languages in terms of audience. No matter if a person doesn’t fully understand Urdu, a properly delivered talk can make sense to most Indians. The language has a lot of ‘expressional’ merit. Also for a language which has developed in last three to four centuries, it has travelled a credible career, in terms of literature and in its reach.

PC- Could you please tell us something about the kind of literature, music and sports you enjoy the most? 

Faisal-I like poetry and sports/sports persons who are more artistic like tennis/Roger Federer, Cricket/Laxman and Jayawardhane. Firstly, to appreciate any music I need to understand the lyrics. I can’t hum away a song if it doesn’t make full sense to me. My musical senses hit a road block if they can’t digest lyrics. I enjoy plain instrumental, mostly the classical type. Especially (the ones) filled with emotions. 

Federer

I think Begum Akhtar is one of the greatest singers. Unlike any other singer she does not try to match up to the music direction or even to the lyrics for that matter. She owns the raag and the song she is singing because her voice is the medium of her emotions. To my mind, the instruments playing around her voice come to life and all of them unconsciously decide to tune to her voice almost like those disciplined and drunk rats following the bagpiper. She is the Singer Sorceress. 

My favorite of Begum Akhtar’s Dadra is ‘Hamri Atariya pe Aao Sanwariya…’- such lyrics! Very few actually, but the way she repeats them with layers of emotions coming to the fore with each recitation is just magical. She is someone who has mastered the classical art and has reached a state where she need not care for the classical form. The form is a slave to her voice, emotions and persona. Total Be-nayazi, still the most classical of them all!


PC- If I ask you to name two of your most favourite sociological thinkers, who would they be? 

Faisal- (Emile) Durkheim for his emphasis on a scientific method and (Max) Weber for his breadth and depth. I don’t know about August Comte. But to me founding fathers of sociology are only two- Weber and Durkheim. Marx is a great thinker, a greater satirist too but I don’t think his contributions to critical theory have developed Sociology as a discipline. Without Durkheim and Weber there wouldn’t have been Sociology. Only with Marx, Sociology wouldn’t come to life either. People who can’t make this distinction in the founding fathers’ contribution are called Marxists in the Indian academia. Marx set out to make political economy as a method of inquiry and not to build an academic discipline from scratch.

To my mind the earliest foundations of Sociology are in Durkheim’s Suicide- solid empirical data, spatial as well as temporal. And the ways in which it helps him come up with concepts and make generalisation on the nature of social cohesion in nineteenth century Western Europe.  Durkheim made the difference between mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity and for the first time made the nature of social cohesion in modern societies more discernible, saying that in modern times people’s inter dependencies increase due to division of labour.

Emile Durkheim
Emile Durkheim

I think Weber, though famously called as some one who always fought against the ghost of Marx, was precisely making this point. Marx introduced a method, but it cannot encompass a whole discipline, for God’s sake! He carried it forward and made Sociology a prophetic discipline, if you want to call it, by explaining the missing ingredient of modern societies, Enchantment! Made it more decisive by proclaiming an ‘Iron Cage’  if instrumental rationality increasingly rules the world. Somewhere here between these debates we started to understand the meaning of being social or a collective.Weber enriched and carried forward that emphasis on empirical data. But more than anyone else he was a critical theorist trying to critique and understand the role of religion in human societies. Grappling with the idea of what is now called the interpretative method, broaching the subject of Objectivity and Interpretation. (He never defends subjectivity, or whatever it is!) and giving those fine touches to what would be a sociological method. I wish I get a chance to revisit Marx, Weber and Durkheim.

PC- Which film did you recently watch and how did you like it?

Faisal- I saw Don 2. Its awesome. Don 2 epitomizes what Shahrukh Khan is in Bollywood. He romances his audience- the ones who like and do not like him. The way he romances in the film! To my mind, he is not a great actor, not a good one either. At times he doesn’t even make an effort to act.  But no one has better capitalised the need for a superstar for the Indian cinematic mind/eye than SRK. He has a face, not necessarily the most beautiful, that the camera cannot take its lens off from! Most importantly he maintains an intriguing balance between his religious/social identity. A conscious Muslim, throwing in Inshaallah’s here and there in conversations, married to a Hindu and seemingly comfortable with it. Mind you someone with no family background in Indian cinema the career he has built for himself is just incredible. Most importantly, from a fan’s point of view, he doesn’t make those annoying distinctions like Amir Khan between private and public life! Neither is his life up for sale. Sorry, I speak more about SRK than the film. Frankly, there is no Don sans SRK. He was born to be a Super Star.    

PC- What is on your mind these days?

Faisal- Confusion about what to plan for the next few years.

PC- How do you react to the notion of being an Indian? In other words, what about India impresses you the most?

Faisal- I don’t know….

PC- Which book, if any, have you been reading these days? 

Faisal- No book actually.

PC- If there is anything you would like to say about the time we spent together, do it here 🙂

Faisal-Time spent with you is very valuable and lovely. It is one of those moments which I remember when alone.

(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!)