Saturday, December 27, 2014

Things in December

** UPDATE 29 December: Mail from the organisers of the Urur-Olcott Kuppam Margazhi Vizha saying the concerts today and tomorrow (29th and 30th) have been postponed due to inclement weather.

Concerts will now take place closer to Pongal. **


A bunch of things I've noticed and thought I'd share on the blog:

1. PARI: The Poeple's Archive of Rural India.

P. Sainath probably needs to introduction to anyone in S. Asia but the thing he's done most recently may be something that's flown under the radar if you look to newspapers and television to give you the news. He's started the People's Archive of Rural India, a website that is both an archive and a resource for much that is invisible to urban eyes. 

Here's what the introduction says:

There is surely much in rural India that should die. Much in rural India that is tyrannical, oppressive, regressive and brutal — and which needs to go. Untouchability, feudalism, bonded labour, extreme caste and gender oppression and exploitation, land grab and more. The tragedy, though, is that the nature of the transformation underway more often tends to bolster the regressive and the barbaric, while undermining the best and the diverse. That too, will be captured here. PARI is both a living journal and an archive. It will generate and host reporting on the countryside that is current and contemporary, while also creating a database of already published stories, reports, videos and audios from as many sources as we can. All PARI’s own content comes under the Creative Commons ( and the site is free to access. Also, anyone can contribute to PARI. Write for us, shoot for us, record for us — your material is welcome so long as it meets the standards of this site and falls within our mandate: the everyday lives of everyday people.

There's already quite a lot up on the site and I'm sure it will swell with more accounts as the months pass. 

I have no idea if anyone reading this blog has anything they could contribute but here's the word out.

(As a complete aside, looking at the Creative Commons License, it brought to mind the first time I was introduced to the concept of 'copyleft' if not the actual word. I was in Sainath's office with a friend, back when he was the editor of Blitz, and we were discussing something - not sure what; god knows, there was plenty to discuss, with the recent riots in Bombay and everything; though, of course, I can't say for sure that that was the subject of our argument since I can't see what we could possible disagree about on that head - and after a brief argument, Sainath gave us a pamphlet he'd written about the subject. 

He pointed us to the copyright page and said, "Look at it." 

"What should we look at," we asked. 

"The copyright."

We looked and we were baffled. It said, or Sainath said, as he read it aloud for our benefit: "copyright humanity". 

 (Or some similar, large category. I can't be absolutely sure that the word was 'humanity').

It was sufficiently odd for us to solemnly hold the book open at the copyrights page but of course there were more discussions after. 

2. The Sundarbans Oil Spill.

If you've been reading the newspapers etc (see above) you will have no idea that there has been a disastrous oil spill in the Sundarbans. 

It's not only an ecological disaster - for the river, the mangroves, the Irrawady dolphins - but also a sociological one. Those cleaning up are mostly children. 

The person to follow in this matter is Arati Kumar-Rao, whose twitter and instagram give one a more clear picture on the scale of this disaster.

There's also a crowdfunding drive to raise money for the clean-up that, hopefully, will be done in a safer manner.

3. The Urur-Olcott Kuppam Margazhi Vizha December 29th & 30th

Speaking of crowdfunding, a week or so ago, there was a fund-raising drive to clean up the beach (very, very outside the parameters of the Swachch Bharat thingy, I feel I should clarify) the Urur-Olcott Kuppam fishing village in Chennai.

T.M.Krishna, with whom I was recently in conversation at the Goa Lit Fest, is the organiser of both this drive and the two day festival of music and dance that will take place on the 29th and the 30th. The intention, clearly, is to take the cultural wealth of the December Season in Chennai beyond the confines of the sabhas and make it less elitist and inaccessible.

Details here.

Now, I know plenty of people who clear their decks in order to be in Chennai during the music season. Their days are just packed and if picking one's way through the concert schedule could seem like managing an intricate war game*, I was always outside of it, even though, until a couple of years ago, I seemed to be in Chennai every year at the end of December. 

I mean, I might have gone to a Poetry with Prakriti reading or two; hung out with friends and gone to a lunch or two at some famous sabha. But I didn't really do this season pass thing, not just because the whole process seemed so daunting (so much easier to sit in front of Jaya TV), but because I also felt rather left out of the whole very inner-circle-ness of the season.

If I'd been there this year, I still don't know if I'd have made the effort, but it seems much more likely. What I would have done is academic; if you're in Chennai, you could consider going.

4. Film Festivals

There are no links, but reading an account of being at IFFI (the main GoI one and not the Kerala one), and talking to Cat yesterday, who said the Chennai Film Festival had some pretty good films, I have been experiencing a sharp pang for days spent watching four films a day, to immerse myself in fare that is not the pap being dished out these days as thoughtful cinema.

Yes, I haven't seen PK, I am not going to and already it makes me want to barf. Another friend, an anthropologist, said there's a 7-10 minute section that's practically an anthropology 101 and she'd show it to her students if she had any. Me, I think she should just get them to read any of Ursula le Guin's Ekumen books.

Since this is almost entirely a report of the thoughts of others, to which I may or may not have responded irl, I should also mention that a theatre critic in Australia, whose writing I really respect, watched Ceylan's Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (yes, a couple of years late, but so what?) and soon after watched the Xmas Special Doctor Who and I really, I watched her do it on twitter and was unable to stop her - that's the nature of the medium, huh?

But this also I thought with another, different kind of pang, that people no longer mail to ask me recs of films to watch at whatever film festival is up in their part of the world. Because I am really, truly, no longer in touch with cinema.

And that, of course, is terrible. There is no good reason for why this has happened, but when I consider that cinema has been my thing since I was 15, it astonishes me that I allowed things to get to a point when I haven't watched one good film in a theatre, with proper projection and sound (as opposed to on my laptop in some shady format and a variety of subtitles in .srt) as cinema should be watched.

That's one resolution made for me right there, while I wasn't really looking.

One more post before the new year, people!


*Though, wouldn't you know it, there's an app developed by TCS to sort this out for you.


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