image identity · personal narratives

Are you obsessed with my hair cut?

Are you obsessed with my hair cut?

Even if you are not, this post might be interesting.

Last month I cut my hair. And I cut them short.

(I am certain I am not the only human to have done this ever, but appears to be so by the amount of queries and comments that have traveled my way, some in the open, but most in personal or sheepish encounters.)

In public interest, no it was not an impulsive decision, it was well thought of, and in fact quite delayed. It has nothing to do with New York, and everything to do with me.


Janaab Aise-

I have usually had hair that fall on my shoulders and in the past one year had allowed them to grow longer, slow and steady. I did not care about their shape, their volume, their color, I just let them exist, in resonance with the pace and character of my life, moving with time, no pruning, no control.

It annoyed me. I deserve more attention from my own self.

When I would look in the mirror , I would feel that I am doing a disservice to myself by letting them be- I am doing a disservice to myself, by letting life be. I need more control. In order to live, I perhaps need to be like a gardener, to nurture and shape different segments of my life.

So I decided to begin with the most visually effective aspect of my being, my hair.

Not for anyone else, but to get my own attention.

Would that directly translate into a change in my entire way of life? No.


I feel that these mornings ( post hair being cut)  when I look at myself, I find an imperfect self but alive. And that propels me to enjoy each day a little more- to break a few more self-installed barriers, to smile for no reason. I see possibility of experimentation, of taking a risky decision and facing the consequences- I see possibility of mischief and laughter, of dreaming and falling, of living. Was it not present before? Possibly yes. But I wasn’t seeing it.

I am thoroughly enjoying questioning a predominant expectation from me- that I should look and behave in a certain way. That I should be aligned with a certain image. No, I am not trying to rebel, I don’t need to do that through appearance or appearance alone, but I am also defying a sense of belonging to a forced identity. I don’t have long hair, I can still be respectful, have my set of self-defined values, and treat you well-as long as you respect me and are honest. Even if my haircut does not appease your sense of aesthetics, that does not bother me, because it pleases mine. I am learning to stay above  feedback from irritants and humbly accept appreciation. I am also learning to not immediately react to dissonance. And this, I do believe, would transcend to other activities in my daily existence, perhaps consciously or maybe silently without my apparent knowledge.

{I am wary of using terms such as “freedom” or “power” because I feel they are way too complex and I would not want to have their juvenile usage in a hurried expression. Maybe later? Until then, I would request you to not associate “feminism”, “journalism” or any other “ism” of your imagination with a petrified hair stylist’s tryst with scissors, and, my hair.}

image identity · personal narratives

Reflection after watching “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”

Having completed my finals and several other quotidian tasks, I finally decided to give myself a break through India’s most cherished form of entertainment- Cinema.  (Please forgive the exaggeration, if it appears so.)

Now that I am in the ever expensive new shahar of mine, where I would not want to spend on a visit to a movie hall, I managed to watch yesterday on a much smaller screen, the movie, “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”.

(Image courtesy-

This movie features as its protagonist Bhumi Pednekar, who plays the role of Sandhya, a newly wed bride in middle-class* North-Indian context, and through her brilliant portrayal of the predicament of a plus-size woman , I could reflect on prevalent issues that many of us face in our societies.

Let me be direct in approaching the subject, I am going to talk to you about shaming and how that has affected me and many of my friends, particularly women, but I think it is almost impossible to refrain from the larger structures of power that encourage such shaming.

I would provide some consciously selected context from the movie itself-

Sandhya was teased by her younger brother for her size, and publicly humiliated by her arranged husband, who chose not to love her due to his disapproval of her shape. She had to bear with undue taunting by her husband’s paternal aunt  along with her husband’s sense of regret, whose erratic and juvenile behavior was found justified by her own parents- they were surprised at her voicing her genuine concerns. In her divorce petition, Sandhya claims that her husband’s behavior caused her mental harassment, while he admits that he does not love her and married her under family pressure- her degree would enable her to teach and earn for the family.

There is lots more that I would like to recollect and share, but I would pause for now and write what I could relate these cinematic instances with. There are several intertwined and complex societal attitudes at play here, which would seem most obvious and apparent to many, yet we choose to mostly accept these in silence.

Calling names to people (plus-size or otherwise)- it’s acceptable

I have grown up being teased, being referred to as a “Buffalo/Bhains”, “Bull/Saand” and even “Haathi ka Baccha/Elephant’s child”. I do not have a tail, horns or a trunk. I do not even walk on all fours. These adjectives were showered upon me by my nearest and dearest, because I have never been skinny and because I eat food when I am hungry.

I have grown up believing that I am not good enough. I was called an elephant’s child by a much cherished person in my life when I was once running, I was teased for my evident puberty by a close friend when I was running on the school playground, I do not run.

Body or appearance shaming must have been experienced by a majority of people I know, it is not limited to current obsession with size-zero or white skin fairness creams- it has found its place in biases, racism and heinous injustice, in slapstick humor and cartoons, in stereotypical imagery and characterization across boundaries of space and time. While this harassment is much prevalent, its subtle implications on a day-to-day level might not always be discussed.

Just as Sandhya’s disapproval of her husband’s disrespect towards her body is considered strange by both families, I felt the same throughout my growing years when I could not muster the courage to initiate a dialogue with my acquaintances. Sandhya’s brother believes that her husband did no wrong by insulting her in front of his friends since she is indeed a “Saand”.

Many of us must have come across an over-hyped ideology of being strong and not being affected by such irritants in life, a logic that many of the perpetrators would themselves offer  as their justification for their thoughtless judgmental remarks and sadist tendency. Bullshit! What do you even mean by asking someone to not be “so sensitive“?

If you are told that you are a buffalo by someone who is  at a higher position in your family or societal power structure, chances are that you would not only be affected by it at that moment, rather  internalize it for a much longer period. This distorted self-perception would affect your confidence, your relationships, your sense of style and expression. At the cost of sounding paranoid, it is a damage for a lifetime, and most self-help books or advisers  that ask you to love yourself and accept your uniqueness, sound mild and serve as meek protestants, in front of the loudness of those obnoxious negative remarks.

I must admit, I have in the past accepted some strange people in my life, and had to bear with their completely avoidable presence, due to a lingering sense of shame on  how I must be perceived by others  or that I do not deserve any better . Funny that something so external, would have left me so weak internally, but it did, and I face its consequences even today.

It’s alright for males to tease females- the divine treatment for the male child

Sandhya’s brother reminds her that she always looks like a “Chudail/Witch” after her having spent time in grooming herself and hoping for a positive reaffirmation.

I have heard this before, and have often cringed at the sound of this word. Why would you call me a witch? Because I choose to wear a casual t-shirt and pajamas? Because I am loud? Because I do not fit into your ideal of innocence and nauseous cuteness? But then why do I seek your approval at all? So ingrained is this desire to get an approval in me, that even after 26 years with an awareness of my socially inflicted low self esteem, I am unable to fight it. I remember not grooming myself out of shyness, wondering if the very people who remind me of my shape, my dressing sense and my graying hair would make fun of it if they see me taking care of myself.

But many from the “practical” brigade would suggest that my claims here must be unfounded, why am  I blaming  relations so dear for a crime they certainly did not intend? I think I would blame the structure and an inhuman level of tolerance accepted out of women in this case. How dare someone tease a woman on her physical attributes and how dare the erratic behavior of the male child, whether husband, brother, or son, be acceptable? If my son would do that to my daughter or vice-versa, I would initiate a dialogue on accepting differences and nurturing empathy, on being aware and mindful of words and actions, on knowing the difference between playfulness and hurting. I would teach children how to love than how to silently accept pain. I would request my children to never allow such an irrelevant negative remark to have any significance in their lives, to question and raise their voice, if they ever find themselves unduly targeted.

The taunting vamps and the woman’s fault

There is no dearth of taunting women in our lives. From our neighbor’s cleaning lady commenting on my eyebrows, to a stranger’s remark on my walk, from sisters worried about my lack of prospective boyfriends,to friends wondering when I would look more  “girly” (really, what do you mean by girly?), I have faced them all, at times with courage and at times with a broken heart (You are meeting me after a year, after my hard work on a cause I believe in, and all you want to discuss is my nail-paint, thanks!)

Sandhya’s husbands’ aunt is quite a sadist. Having suffered injustice as a woman herself, she leaves no stone unturned in snide comments on Sandhya’s size and appearance. Her nephew’s denial of sex to his wife  is also Sandhya’s fault.

Its always the woman’s fault right? I am aghast at how women themselves catalyze patriarchy and support its many conventions, the most prevalent being an uncanny silence, generations living in denial, or celebrating sacrifice as some form of divinity, only to be practiced by women.


Sandhya’s husband compares her with his friend Nirmal’s much thinner wife and fails to appreciate her for herself. 

I feel that comparison is an absolute disregard of a person’s being. Why should I compare A with Z, they are different, they both exist, and have their particular character and place. I was once compared with my two year old niece, I thought that it was the death of sanity.

Intellect vs. Body

In the movie, Sandhya had power over her husband because she was educated, she could answer back because she felt confident in her future, she knew she could work.

At times, I have compensated for my negative impressions of myself thanks to body shaming, by performing well academically, in fact its almost an obsession, I always want to do well and try not to compromise on it for anything. Every other source of happiness could be secondary during a deadline or examination, because that gets me a different approval and respect, that makes me feel better about myself and feel a certain power, a certain liberation, a higher self-worth. As much as I respect education and would always advocate for it, I do not think that my sense of self-worth should be limited to it.  Just as denying myself respect due to my appearance is nonsensical, so is an undue significance to so-called accomplishments, both are over-rated.

I think I would want to think of myself in terms of the person I am or become, in terms of how much love I give and get, in terms of how much happiness I can spread, how many memories I can cherish, how many mountains I can kiss and how many stars I do count.  I know I have come a long way, and so do Sandhya and her husband in their understanding of the complexity which influenced their relationship, but there is still so much to talk about on this, maybe another post, or maybe over a cup of chai and parle-g biscuits?

* Middle Class in itself is organic, complex and most diverse
history · image identity · museum studies

Museum Studies 3- Sangrahalaya se parichaya

“So what is there worth looking at in the National Museum?” I was asked (very genuinely) by (an equally disinterested) relative of mine.

At that moment, I knew she would not have the patience to have a dialogue on this, I knew this was her attempt at closure to a series of questions she had asked before, “So What do you do?” …”Volunteer?? “….”National Museum???” …”You mean, no pay????”…”Why?????”

So I simply said, everything. But my conscience eats me up, so a longer reflection here:

I love going to the National Museum because I believe there are wonders inside those walls, there are stories that go beyond yet explain this city, this country, this world. Its another universe altogether and I am slowly becoming a part of it, as I become closer to it, I realize that  this otherness is only due to barriers in my mind, perhaps it is not separate from any of us in reality, it is a reflection of where we did begin and how we grew, in what ways, what we thought and how it still seeps in.

I believe that there is greatness in every object, sculpture, cloth, painting, book, in every form of expression duly preserved, I know it has a lot to tell. I have faith in being part of not just a tangible but an intangible heritage that belongs to all of us, each and every one of us. Every time I step in, the vastness of this heritage overwhelms me and consequently soothes me with its acceptance of my presence and curiosity.

As the International Council of Museums beautifully describes in its Code of Ethics, museums belong to entire humanity and I have as much ownership and responsibility on me as is the intrigue and fascination. This is not an artsy event, this is duty, this is a very crucial aspect of life, of growth, of making sense of existence, of finding meaning in daily life.Therefore I would willingly want to assist the museum in any which way, in the name of art, stories, culture and history, in the name of humanity!

So what is there worth looking at in the museum then? Who am I to tell you that or to qualify the museum’s collection? The entire museum is an asset for all of us, each and every thing is a gift to look at if only you believe that it is, only then will you realize how it is so, otherwise it would remain a mundane display.

This realization has also been strengthened by the inputs that we have been receiving as part of our training. I earlier used to crib that the museum is not interactive enough, it needs better display, technology and so on, but you know what, more than these gadgets and interfaces, it needs belief in the heart of the person who comes inside, it requires a change in the perception of those who look at a museum from outside and think it is boring. Of course this does not absolve the museum of its duty to reach out, to be friendly, to be open and accessible, however , solely changing the design or introducing a superficial experience will not change a social perception.

This also calls for a questioning of the kind of education we have had,  of our great misfortune in having reduced history to rote and forcing students to believe that the text-book knows it all. There is no sense of imagination, no sense of discovery, no excitement in what is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of our lives, what defines us, what makes us? We only motivate students for science, for future, for technology, where did the thought go, where did the culture, stories, the mythologies go? And as for art, I think if I hear even one more adult say, Oh I don’t understand art, I can’t draw, I will faint! Art is not about conical peaks with a river flowing from under half setting sun for God’s sake! Art is in your way of life. Have a look at the decorative arts gallery or the Arms and Armour gallery, you will find art in everything, be it playing cards or hookah or swords, be it seat or swing or shoes, it does not need to be a different subject or a different department, but this is how our education trains our mind to think, we look at world in a fragmented manner. Lets look beyond school education, why is art not a crucial aspect of our public policy? Why do our Creative Industries exist in a scattered form managed erratically by different Ministries? Why do youngsters not sit in the beautiful space at IGNCA and prefer a mall? Why do people spend a bomb to look at atrocious rendering of Rajasthani art and puppetry but know nothing about the Kathputli colony at Shadipur, Delhi? WHY?

Another relative of mine, calls my weekend time at museum “charity”, I feel it is sacrilege of the sanctity of not just the purpose of my learning at the Museum but also of what philanthropy or altruism is and seeks to do. He immediately placed me next to the trendy elitist volunteers who can be seen at various high profile events and “causes”, brother, this is not charity, this is privilege for me. I am obliged and indebted for the wealth of knowledge I receive. Why do you wish to quantify my wealth? Would you ask someone with a very high income as to what they really learn? No, you never do that, you just ask their income and have a gleam in your eyes, why don’t you ask them what they understand of the consequenses of their actions? what they think and why? You won’t, you won’t feel the need to do so, but WHY?















academia · critical theory · critique · design · image identity · india · reading culture · reflections · society · visual culture

A Tourist in My Nation: The Missing Swaraj – Term paper, Gandhi’s Critique of Modernity

This post consists of snippets from a Term Paper written during the module on Gandhi’s Critique of Modernity at the Young India Fellowship 2012-2013. This paper was written under guidance of Prof. Vivek Bhandari.

I used this opportunity to critique with certain faces of culture that i engage with, this is not to undermine or demean any form, event, person whatsoever.

“Rajasthani group Musafir’s promotional packet reads:

classical and mystical musicians, unexpected instruments played by

virtuosos, whirling desert drag queens, devotional and frantic folk

dances, hypnotizing snake charmers, and dangerous fakirs, including

fire eating, balancing acts, sword swallowing, and walking on crushed

glass-a fantastic entertainment! Sufi desert trance music by elegant

gipsy [sic] wizards …. A music of ecstasy, whirlwinded of climaxes

punctuated by thc gentle gesture of a breathtaking tunc. An authentic

magical experience (Maharaja, e-mail promotion, II July 200 I).

The exotic trope extends from India to Europe’s margins as groups from

southern Spain, eastern Europe, and the Balkans are also “orientalized.”

–          Carol Silverman

(Trafficking in the Exotic with”Gypsy” Music:Balkan Roma, Cosmopolitanism,

And “World Music” Festivals)

In the following narrative, I have attempted at exploring Gandhi’s ideas of Swaraj, complete freedom, in the context of enslavement through orientalised imagery, for folk artists from Rajasthan. We visited a Folk Festival in Rajasthan last year in Jodhpur, to live an experience in the dualism that I had begun to take for granted. I now choose to question what I saw and experienced, in the form of fictionalised Diary Notes, which I would have made had I visited the Festival post our acquaintance with Gandhi’s Critique of Modernity. The incidents though true, the reflections have been mostly made in the present and not when these incidents actually occurred.

Even though I chose the context as that of a particular festival, it is not meant to focus on just that or to undermine the good it would cause, but to address the larger question of Swaraj in the domain of culture,especially folk.

My basic framework was composed of theory on Swaraj, Culture, Orientalism and Civil Disobedience apart from Personal Experiences in case of the festival and Puppeteer’s Colony, Delhi.

I have changed the names of the festival, people and colony.

Trust and Trusteeship

Gandhi in Sarvodaya, mentions that the society should regard the welfare of the worst off of the society as its special responsibility. In order to create socially just conditions so that welfare could reach unto the last, Gandhi suggested the moral consideration of Trusteeship which required the voluntary transfer of excess wealth into the Trust by the wealthy to ensure that political freedom and economic freedom go together.

“I am concerned to trace the effects of my allegiance”1says Thoreau in his essay on Civil Disobedience. Being a participant in this festival, I tried to find out how exactly the huge amount I pay for the tickets helps the artists. It would go to the Trusts mentioned above who raise money from sponsors each year. The Trustees travel and select participants from amongst a wide spectrum of artists and festivals across Rajasthan, who would then perform at the festival based on qualitative criteria. The idea of judging and rating creative expression always intrigues me. How do we place one above the other, what informs us and how far can one keep one’s own biases? “The pattern whereby

society’s others are recruited from the periphery in order to articulate musically ‘the soul’ of the more settled members” 2  though prevalent globally, demands reflection.

My attempt is not to question the Trust’s motive which appear to be in the favour of folk art and artists, but am attempting at reflecting what could be the consequences of such a festival, based on what I experienced there. Where on one hand this intangible cultural heritage is at the risk of being lost and not surviving in the competition from mainstream, there is also the risk of placing it into a stereotypical romanticized role.

 “In working for his livelihood he ought to have earned not only his daily bread but also his eternal truth.” 3said Tagore. Is the artist’s role to be that of participation for survival and acceptance into the capitalist system eventually, or is there a greater truth which might be missing attention?

Based on an interview, the Mission Statement of the Festival says that when you listen to them perform you are not looking at them as a folk artist but you are looking at them as an artist of some calibre and merit…earlier the folk artist was more of a prop in the larger tourism mindset. There is a sense of accomplishment that “folk has become mainstream” and “Sharing the stage with international artists gives the traditional artists the confidence; an acknowledgement of their talent” 4

In the following diary entries I attempt at reflecting on the following:

This  festival ,following social welfare policies as dictated by concept of Trusteeship, is bound to get the artists recognition for their skill and provide a stage for respect, reinforced self-esteem and  future growth, however is this very concept of recognition and growth “from outside the Imperium”10? For, there is a role to be played by the spectators as well in the authority that gets granted to the folk artist especially a more renowned one.


Day 1: Visit to the Folk Festival: Reflections on the performance at Design School

Having reached Jodhpur last evening, we visited the Folk Festival today. The festival was held in the beautiful fort where one could consume culture in its most exotic and luxurious manifestation.

The Orient was almost a European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences.” 5– Edward Said

The artists dressed in their best and most colourful attire would come up on stage as per their turn, enthral us with a few pre-determined performances and feel obliged to this extended patronage. Z Khan was among the percussionists.

A balladeer and percussionist from Alwar, I have known Z Khan prior to the festival. We had once performed together in a module on inclusivity and collaboration* at my design institute.  Z  Khan, his troupe, and two puppeteers R Ji and C Ji, had come up with a performance along with a group of students. We had the opportunity to witness him in all his grandeur, his spontaneity, his witty lyrics and above all Z Khan as a human being with a history of his own, than merely Z Khan, a part of a representation- an ornamented and controlled performer on stage.

As much as I felt indignant at finding him controlled, subdued and incessantly grateful, it would be a lie if I say that the festival did not make me forget everything for a few moments, or that I wasn’t in awe of the fort’s splendour or that I did not enjoy the experience of sitting comfortably and listening to music under the moon light. Like any other tourist, I hung my camera in my neck lest I spot a picturesque scene to be captured. Having been introduced to a variety of thoughts in the past few weeks, I now wonder if I have adopted a coloniser’s “gaze”, have spectators like us who use the medium of a festival to watch from a well-defined distance denied an artist his/her self-control?

The songs and their lyrics come from different contexts and regions, many of those I did not even understand. As much as I feel that this is at least a way of encouraging (empowering?) the artists to continue with their art forms many of which are indigenous, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that perhaps I reduce something so complex and so embedded in its context to a mere spectacle, that I probably could be alienating the form from the essence. Ultimately we are subjugating the artists to the demands of the audience, to what we believe and imagine and are told (by media, by tourism department, by photographs) to be Rajasthan’s tradition and not what it is. Why does someone from outside need to organize a festival of this large scale for them, why are they not self-reliant or autonomous?

“They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.”Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte but “This reliance on outward help is a symptom of slavishness, for no habit can more easily destroy all reliance on self.” 3 Says Tagore.

But then I wonder how would they survive against the industry without monetary support, without that pedestal? Would we go to their locales and experience that life if we really are so keen on it. Why do we anyway need to experience “their” life, because we assume that “we” are a certain category and “them” the “other”? Perhaps they are still in our mind “natives” representing a certain “past”. I debated in my mind whether this is also because somewhere the artists are enslaved within the structure of the society and have still not moved out of it. Having received patronage from the royalty and the ruling classes in the past, they seem to have still not moved out of that role in the “colonial sociological theatre”

Having been introduced to Gandhi’s and Tagore’s  concept of Swaraj as well as Thoreau’s essay on Civil Disobedience, I wondered whether these upholders of culture will never really attain their Swaraj, whether they will not escape the “social scheme of ant life” which Tagore mentions. Because even if apparently they belong to a free culture, somewhere they still have not attained freedom from inside, freedom in mind, they are still playing the part of the ruled and those that are watched. They are ordered by the system, conditioned to alien ideas of themselves and moulded to suit modernity, to stylization, control and to notions of civilization. “If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man.” says Thoreau, are these performers then themselves? Is this their true nature?

What about realizations and warnings as these:

“To allow the market mechanism to be the sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment . . . would result in the demolition of society”- Polanyi


In such cultural imperialism where a certain form is objectified, transformed and aligned with industrial development to serve the purpose of the coloniser, be it anyone, including I who sat there in the audience, have then artists like Z Khan attained their right, their freedom, and a life of fearlessness? “Strength lies in the absence of fear…So long as we fear our own brethren; we are unfit to reach the goal.” 6 Says Gandhi.

For the convenience of the audience, the language preferred by the host was English though every now and then translations would be done for the artists, a majority of whom do not understand English. Experiencing the vernacular does not extend to its language, to what it actually is saying, to what it really is voicing. Having recently been introduced to the concept of Subaltern voices, I would want to quote Gayatri Spivak: “Can the Subaltern Speak?”  Were these performers really communicating with us, or were they only soothing our senses? Now when I reflect upon things, I have almost always learnt about them from someone from outside. It could be a museum, a documentary, a coffee-table book, research paper, fiction, blog etc. but when did I really hear from them. Apart from the opportunity I had at my institute- which in itself is a paradox, since the institute ultimately had called them to create a spectacle aligned with the institute’s purpose- I have never really interacted with them as they are and in their language.

This took me back to our performance practice, R Ji, one of the puppeteers would make deliberate attempts at speaking in English even though all of us design students (who have been trained to employ empathy, another dualism we thrive in) tried to convince him that he should talk to us in a language he is comfortable in. However the use of the English language is because that helps him attract the audience that is bound to pay him more. Having identified the weakness of his spectators and the prevailing trends, rather than feeling victimised by those he chooses to caricaturize himself to his benefit. He knows that speaking in English every now and then makes his performance more amiable and tickles the audience. He smartly named two of his puppets as Romeo and Julio, much to the delight of his audience.

R Ji also expressed his desire to learn the English Language because he felt that without it literacy is incomplete, he wants to read beyond that available in his mother tongue. He wants to be able to teach his children to speak and read in English, for their better future. His thought resonates with the apparent colonisation by the English Language. One comes across various Langauge training institutes along with personality development so as to “develop” the natives and make them fit into the system, increase their worth. But Gandhi warns us that we must not make of it a fetish. In its place it can be of use and it has its place when we have brought our senses under subjection and put our ethics on a firm foundation.” 6

In Gujarat, where I was studying at that time, there seemed to be a very distinct focus on the language than on literacy itself. I vividly remember a hoarding where cheap Corel Draw effects were used to depict how the word “Gujarati” written in its script would turn graphically into the word “English” written in English, where Gujarati was at the base and English on top. I find it to be saying a lot more than any other advertisements I have seen or posters stuck on walls. The English have not taken India; we have given it to them. They are not in India because of their strength but because we keep them.” 6 I somewhere agree with Gandhi.

These thoughts crossed my mind as I strained my neck to catch the last glimpse of Z Khan. I looked around at the audience, belonging to the elite class; they sat in royal postures while nodding their heads to the music in a patronizing fashion.

This was followed by a guest performance, a Spanish troupe- for the festival authorities want to take it beyond Rajasthan and invite troupes from different countries. This falls in line with the global trend of world music festivals. However some amongst the audience did not seem too pleased with this intrusion in the aura of “authentic” Rajasthani Folk, a concept that Silverman questions in her research on Romani music and world festivals. She wonders as to why we look for that authenticity which is bound to cause the musicians to be static in time. This was similar to an unexpressed resentment amongst us students when we realized during our performance that R Ji and C Ji’s style was not as folk, mostly it was a much more simplistic version inspired from populist cinema. Where Z Khan stood for exclusivity and almost rejection of any external influence on his art form, R Ji did not hesitate in being more inclusive. However both of them chose to comment on the society and system through the agency they could exert through their art.

Last evening, there had been an opening ceremony in the Old City of Jodhpur. As it was aimed at a much wider audience, many of the performances seemed more inspired from popular modes of entertainment in the urban setting than folk. Amidst tight security, these were performances open to all, but was it really so? The local residents climbed on to the terraces and sat on the walls to watch, as the space below was occupied by those who wore the attitude of official visitors. This dualism was similar to the one we faced in our performance. Our narrative was a plea against the demolition of a market in Ahmedabad due to a development project, as it would cause great loss of livelihood to those in the informal sector. The irony was that this message was performed within the confines of an institute and its guests, most of who, apart from representatives from the market, would be benefited apparently with that project. As Ashis Nandy would say, all of this seems to be “double entendre; it is as much a part of the oppressive structure as in league with victims.” 7

* It was fairly easy for us to be sitting in an institute and have debates over how we should be inclusive as a society and the relevance of Creative Commons and Open Source. This is where the paradox lies. I know for certain, that I would not want all my work to go into creative commons and somewhere at some point I must have definitely been inspired by some form of art or the other which could be some community’s common form of expression.We rarely find people arguing against themselves.” – Gandhi

Day 2 : A trip to the Tourist Spots

We visited an ancient temple today. Though we do not prefer using itineraries, the receptionist convinced my fellow travellers to visit some of the tourist destinations highlighted in a brochure at his desk. Without questioning the criteria of selecting these particular destinations over others, we also looked at them as products to be consumed. These landmarks and tourist spots are communicated of in the “voice of colonial modernity” 7 and are then expected to live up to that image and words associated with it: “Experience the Real Rajasthan, the Land of the Maharajas”, “Sunset in the Desert” etc. and an air-conditioned taxi would come to pick you up for the same, establishing our role as the esteemed spectators from outside visiting for an experience of the exotic.

At the parking lot, I saw a jeep filled with pilgrims, all dressed in their local attire, looking bright, colourful and picturesque. My immediate impulse was to capture them in a photograph which would then float along with the many such renderings we often come across of Rajasthan and its people; for I would carefully select my frame to not include the mobile recharge stall and the bus next to them. I would produce it as an isolated ‘object’ of study, stamped with an otherness.” 8 We often ourselves confuse our nationalism (Incredible India) or patriotism with Orientalism. Had I clicked that photograph, my colleagues in my Design School would have admired it for its aesthetics, for a much celebrated naive sense of traditionalism we tend to attach to such exclusive characterizations of ethnicity. Had I included the mobile recharge stall, we would have called it a montage of the old with the new. In either case the image would lose its original independent meaning and would adopt a narrative we see befitting in our reproduction of the same, one that would “glorify the present system and its priorities” 8. If I use them in an article, I would give a caption to entrap it in my interpretation. It would become a part of a larger discourse and not retain its individuality. It would be subject to my way of seeing, just like the artists, just like the sites I would visit.

While I was contemplating on the possible consequences of this action, another tourist went ahead with her DSLR and clicked multiple images in succession, lest she missed the shot. A visitor to the oriental India, she would share this romanticized version of “the other” on her return, aligning with a colonial discourse “based on the distinction between the ‘the East’ and ‘the West’”, ‘objectifying’ the subject of her interest as “contained and represented by   dominating frameworks.” 8

I moved further down the road and came across a Police superintendent who introduced himself to me in broken English and wished to acquire my name and country of origin. I told him I am from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, he seemed to be amused and not much convinced. I do not know whether it was my attire, my expensive camera or more fluency in my English than his, which made him automatically raise me to a higher pedestal. His unjust treatment of his own self, reminded me of Gandhi’s “fears of inadequacy” and “perceptions of white superiority” 9, in this case perceptions of the superiority of English Language. I was perplexed by his treatment of himself as a subject and recalled Thoreau’s statement. “We should be men first and subjects afterward.” 1This Superintendent who with pride spoke of his position of authority, is he really a free man?  Isn’t he in his mind still occupying the role of the colonized; the role of the native? Perhaps for that brief interaction he did lose his “sense of identity, lost touch with himself ” 9as Malcolm mentions in his autobiography.

I thought that since that region must be flocked by visitors, “emulation” 9 must have gotten normalized. Perhaps that was an exemplification of his attempt at establishing self-esteem. as in the initial phases of Gandhi’s and Malcolm’s struggle for Swaraj.  Maybe the social norms had caused him to “become inwardly small” and hence “be belittled by others” not due to exertion of power by others, but as Tagore says, by being “ humbly conscious of their dwarfed humanity” 3

<<Visit to Temple. Purchase of Churan . Walk back>>

A boy who was sitting next to a goat (another photographic imagery) waved at me and asked ‘What your name?” “Poornima”, I replied. “Poornima! Poornima! Poornima!…” I could hear him chanting my name as I hurried to catch up with the rest.

From the temple we were to tour Sand Dunes. We had been informed by the driver who was also a guide, that there were sand dunes in close proximity and a must watch for anyone who visits that side. The driver dropped us at an entrance fashioned like that of a fort behind which were luxury tents. One often comes across such artificially created manifestations of a cultural identity, or what Tagore would have called “external conformities” 3, to recreate a certain experience, but rather than a restoration to an identity of self, I find these to be in adherence to the image granted upon us by those we consider superior, or those whom we want to attract to visit us in the first place. Rather than a symbol of pride or self reclamation, I find these to be signifying our captivity into certain stereotypes of ourselves. Rather than a “Recovery of self” this seems in alliance with the “Intimate Enemy”8 of Ashis Nandy’s interpretation.

A German shepherd expressed surprise at our presence. There seemed to be no one, and definitely not the sand dunes. I entered a hall which had huge framed photographs of the Maharaja, Maharani and the Prince in his Polo attire. These photographs though not completely exclusive or rejecting western influence, were to create an ambience of luxury. This framed luxury served as a reminder of the different roles we occupy in between the polarity of exploiter and exploited.

After exploring the place I ventured inside the hall adjacent to the entrance and reached a kitchen. The man greeted me with enthusiasm and told us that a camel ride is the only option to reach the dunes. The cost for every ride was very high and negotiable at the same time. I secretly wished to head back but much to my dismay the group decided to rent a camel cart.

Once the cart arrived, we left for the sand dunes. Rather than being greeted with the fantasised images of our assumptions, we travelled through cotton fields, met cows and children on the way, who laughed at our vanity of not choosing to walk like them. (We had thought that we would be moving through sand, not a kuccha road.) Finally we did arrive, to climb a mound of sand and watch the sun go down.  I could not come to terms with this reality of tourism and us as tourists. I could not believe that in our sedation with the ideas of authentic and images not located in time or space, we had lost our good sense, or else how could one expect to reach sand dunes in such close proximity anyway? I felt deeply embarrassed at my mystified perspective. Also I experienced for a change not just watching someone or something, but also being watched. I was as much a spectacle for the children on the way, as their local environment was a remote site for me. It is not just the others I have been meeting are to be freed of their psychology of subjugation, but also I who needs to be freed of this psychology of the colonizer.

Day 3 (Part 1) : Shopping and traditional attire

We went for shopping in the day time and tried our level best to hunt for a pair of Jootis, local footwear that would fit into my large feet. The shopkeepers advised me to either give up or to reduce the size of my feet. I decided to visit the National Handloom Centre.

Whenever, we, people belonging to the Middle Class or higher, visit such spaces, we feel that we are participating in a progressive and constructive way of supporting the traditional livelihoods of others.  British activist Jake Bowers notes that, “Multiculturalism is fine and dandy when it is at an acceptable distance”2(Patrin Listserve, 27 May2000). My choice of that particular place was this expectation that certain selected items would definitely be there. Seeing a pair of Levi’s jeans at National Handloom will be a cause of surprise for me, but it wouldn’t be so at a mall nearby. I fear that I might be exemplifying Gandhi’s fears of our versions of civilization, where we choose to see different nations. I chose to see different Jodhpurs, or the same Jodhpur differently, in separate segments.

However at that particular moment the most dominating criteria was to find footwear in my size, than could be worn along with the few traditional attires I own for occasional wear. The thought of not wearing those clothes everyday is more utilitarian than anything else; however the occasions when I do wear them have an air of pseudo cultural interpretations. My deliberate stance on traditional attire on those certain occasions speaks more of “new secular hierarchies, which have reduced major civilizations to the status of a set of empty rituals.” 7


Back at the institute, we would celebrate “Cultural Day”. On this day, all students dress up in clothes specific to their region and culture, and the entire student body gets itself photographed. This is followed by a cultural program which displays diversity and then dinner. Do we reclaim our identities, or we reduce them to symbols? More than that, why do we need a specific “Cultural Day” to experience our “Culture”? Whose culture is this, my culture as one enslaved, or the culture of the enslaved adopted by me in mere tokenism? What I wear on a daily routine, is it not my culture?


Reflections Post Festival


While returning from the Festival today, I wondered how wide spread could be the impact of such a festival. Yes, some of the artists do get to perform in international festivals, some get recognised in talent hunt shows, but how sustainable is that impact? Would it have changed general public’s attitude towards them? Would it change the State’s attitude, get them recognition beyond awards and more in the form of aid for livelihood and healthy living? How much of an impact would it have on them as citizens in a democracy, in their day-to-day interactions and strife for survival?

I begin with the ones I have most closely interacted with, also them being direct beneficiaries of such events and festivals. I found their behaviours often conflicting. 

Z Khan could throw tantrums (along with his instrument) if students would not follow his instructions, and would with great pride flaunt his ipod (that he could not use despite our attempts at teaching him to do so), but Z Khan was obviously dependent on the faculty who invited him, for his troupe’s food and stay, and hence his will was subordinate to hers.  This does not amount to true spiritual freedom, this increases reliance on external parties to recognise them through their skill. Z Khan’s sweet demeanour is not his humility, but a mask he cannot do without in front of his- at the cost of sounding extreme- masters.

On the eve of our performance, dinner was organized in the lawns. I saw C Ji and R Ji sitting quietly in the corner, squatting on the ground. There were empty chairs to be occupied, but they did not even look at those, those were mentally beyond their reach. No one in our campus would have raised an eyelid if they would sit on them, but what surprised me more was that no one offered them to not sit on the ground and occupy seats either. This, when we had just performed as part of a module called “Inclusive Growth”. When they politely declined my request, I also sat down next to them. In the then gathering of more than a hundred people, only one more student joined us. I ask, aware that I would sound child like, but had it been Shubha Mudgal or Adele, sitting on the ground, will almost all hundred not have joined? Is folk mainstream? Have they achieved the same status as the festivals proclaim? Have the remaining hundred people or so, been freed from a colonial mindset? I doubt if any one of us can ever say as Thoreau did in prison :“I did not for a moment feel confined.”1

 R Ji and C Ji returned to their hometown in a bus which left not from the station close by, but one that was much farther off. They did not have the courage to speak of this inconvenience caused by the administration department who booked their tickets. When I got to know of this, I spoke to them and expressed my embarrassment as well as anger at them for not having demanded what they deserved, for not having put their foot down, I was hurt, I was naive, I wondered have they no sense of control? 

Where entrepreneurial skill is alien to Z Khan- he cannot start a festival of his own, more than doing it, he would not even dream of doing so, having surrendered somewhere in his mind- R Ji is more of an opportunist than him. Considering the fact that the institute hosted international students, he set up a puppet stall and sold his puppets at a good price. However the stall could not be put up without the permission and aid of the institute itself. Just because the artists have traditionally been rooted in these structures, is it fair for that belief to continue? According to John Ruskin, whose thoughts influenced Gandhi, the insistence of political economy on its separation from moral questions, is the cause for the lack of social wealth generation.

The festival was limited to Rajasthan and our performance to an institute in Gujrat, but Rajasthani folk arts are not limited by geographical boundaries. I attempt here at reflecting upon a different set of folk artists, who migrated from Rajasthan to New Delhi around 70 years ago. These are the residents of a Puppeteer’s Colony in Delhi.

“And therefore while we keep our wells reserved for the cleaner sect, we allow our ponds to get polluted, the ditches round our houses to harbour messengers of death.”3: Tagore

In the light of the existence of such Festivals and renderings of the Rajasthani Folk Art and Artists, how do I look at the struggle of these artists in another space and context?

This colony initially comprised of puppeteers who had migrated from Rajasthan due to lack of patronage in their homeland and increasing competition from entertainment through cinema and other gadgets. As John Ruskin would have opined, industrial capitalism might lead to riches economically but contradictorily it causes impoverishment. Impoverishment results in increased migration to other cities in search of livelihood, and the puppeteers were joined by artists from other states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar over time. The colony now comprises of 12 sects including balladeers, magicians, acrobats, drummers and dancers, population estimates varying from 3000-6000 people.

The land on which they reside was uninhabited and having not been recognized as lawful citizens of the city, they constructed their houses on their own and lived for a long period without basic facilities of water, electricity, sanitation, education or options for alternative livelihood. There is a presence of a Trust, which apparently is not very functional any more apart from the school being run.

Today the colony is a slum which over time has acquired a unique identity due to the niche of its residents. Apart from party (customers), the colony is frequented by students of art, photography, amateur documentary filmmakers, lifestyle journalists and inquisitive researchers. A recent phenomenon though is the advent of “Slum Tourism” highlighting this one for an “Artist’s Slum’s Tour” addressing mostly visitors from Europe. These are what Kurin would term as “cultural brokers.” 2

On visiting the colony I am often greeted by two different attempts at reclamation of themselves. One is through preservation of  their local art and lifestyle, second is through emulation. When one enters the school, set up by the Trust, one meets young men with long hair (colored streaks) and piercings, interested in B-Boeing and choreography than puppetry or drumming. This however is not caused as much by not respecting their form of art, but due to frustration at not being able to sustain. The artists gets work erratically for six months in a year during season, and are idle for the rest of the time. They generally do not have any savings and live for the present. Many among these are internationally renowned, they perform in cultural functions organized by government bodies, but the reality is beyond the image.

Even more threatening is the fact that they might lose this land, have their homes demolished, and get scattered. Their land has been sold by the government to developers so that this could be the site for Delhi’s first skyscraper. Gandhi and Tagore would have both denounced such private interest at the cost of public good; however the slum dwellers have only the option to either accept rehabilitation or fight it out. One of the puppeteers’ wife, who spoke to me on one such visit, said that they were not going to fear anyone but God and are going to not step out of this land. It is not just shelter, but identity for them now. The State however has its means. Often the slum dwellers are picked up by the police on trivial grounds, especially because the men in the colony are infamous for drinking habits- A reason why the skyscraper residents would not want them to be anywhere around their enclave.

Though they have been spoken about in the newspapers and documentaries, also Sulman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, they are yet to be heard. They lack their own voice and are dependent on third parties for solving conflicts among themselves. Secondly their economic desperation has caused them to be subservient and complying in most cases. If one looks at any of the visiting cards, one sees Minnie mouse, door welcome girl, tribal dance, pop corn machine among other facilities offered for birthday and other parties to the elite in Delhi. A far cry from the oriental identity which gets people to them in the first place. Even crumbs from a table are better than

nothing at all in a time of starvation (Patrin Listserve, 25 May 2000). 2

They explain that no one is interested in their age old stories and people want the latest, hence they are ready to adopt. This reminds me of the sacrifice Tagore mentions and how I would not even dare to attach the term “dignity” to this. How do we even expect Swaraj in a situation so complex, where it is not just the “tyranny of India rule” through political, economic and social discrimination which surrounds a people, but their internal class based disputes and variations as well? There are many romanticized stories about the unity and harmony they live in, but mostly fiction. This is not to suggest that they are subjects of pity, but they definitely demand attention and empowerment through means that get them self reliant. They seem to have “lost power to combat all aggression and exploitation.” And are in a“state of abject passivity”. 3

Some of the youngsters propose an alternative. Having been personally affected by gimmicks such as these : “such marketing reinforced the belief that the Gypsies were freshly imported, authentic exotics”2, they ask to rebuild and redesign their space as a cultural colony.  Having gauged the “Intimate Enemy” closely, they are certain that people would flock in large numbers to experience the tradition, the benefit of which could be shared by the developer and Government. “This would also take Delhi closer to the image of Paris they want” says one young puppeteer in a matter-of-fact tone. This would take Delhi closer to its “Englistan” and temporary salvation to the residents. Some of them have indeed come out of their dormancy, and have started their own groups or organized others as brokers, but it is a tiny fraction of them. Having participated in many a festivals, having retained and many a times self-propagated their identity as preservers of the folk, their reality right now is that of people fighting for their most fundamental rights under the Indian Rule, people fighting for both political and spiritual Swaraj, some of them exhibiting fearlessness, some frustration and some fear. They await leadership from amidst themselves.


“My patriotism does not teach me that I am to allow people to be crushed under the heel of Indian princes if only the English retire… This is not the Swaraj that I want.” 5Gandhi would have expressed his disapproval.




Works Cited


  1. Henri David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
  2. Carol Silverman, Trafficking in the Exotic with”Gypsy” Music:Balkan Roma, Cosmopolitanism, And “World Music” Festivals
  3. Rabindranath Tagore, Cult of the Charkha
  5. Edward Said, Orientalism
  6. M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj
  7.  Ashis, Nandy, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism
  8. Partha Chatterjee, ‘Gandhi and the Critique of Civil Society’, in Ranajit Guha (ed.), Subaltern Studies III (New Delhi 1984)
  9. Dennis Dalton, Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action
  10. Ashis Nandy, ‘From Outside the Imperium: Gandhi’s Cultural Critique of the “West”, Alternatives, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1981


gender and sexuality · image identity · reflections

Getting to know “me” – body image

There is a certain ‘me’ that I have never been one with, the ‘me’ that is my body, the ‘me’ that is my physique, my skin, my hair. I have always looked at this bit of ‘me’ borrowing the gaze of an outsider, an outsider who lacks both the proximity and empathy I must experience but unfortunately don’t.


I remember as a teenager, when I first spotted hair growth on my legs, my world continued as it were. It was only a friend of mine- well aware of worldly affairs and stereotypes-who pointed out at those and asked me to get my legs waxed.

I was filled with sudden shame, a certain stigma, as if hair are not natural, as if I am the only living being blessed with those. I followed her advice and began to get my feet waxed at quite an early age. I have grown up in a town where you might end up being horribly waxed all your life and not even realize that the experience need not be this bad. I went through the trauma of burns and skin allergies only to realize later that the employee at the salon hardly knew what she was doing, she had no sense of temperature, of hygiene and definitely lacked humane sensibility, considering the cruelty with which she carried out this task.To come upon a solution, I stopped wearing  skirts and shorts for some years, something I loved, but just let go, as I let go of many more things as time passed. I have seen men with hair popping out of every crevice, they don’t hide, why should I? Why should I be compelled to hide? Why should I be mocked at if I don’t?I rarely frequent the salon now though, honestly I don’t care that much anymore.

DO you have whiskers? I do, I discovered this lately. For the first few days, I think I was in depression. Hair on the face!! This is it, life has come to an end! I don’t know why, but we all desire a certain permanence in how we look, in how we “maintain” ourselves, so even I took my sweet time to accept this inevitable change and many others that human body would go through. I know that one day I will have a wrinkled skin, but I still don’t like to believe it. Why?

White hair, well premature greying is now a norm. I am gonna go all white pretty soon. I have not been spared by anyone in my proximity. I have heard different forms of comments, whether its about ageing, or ugliness or vitamin deficiency. Why the hell should I even consider your foul smelling henna? I am not interested, why are you so perturbed by how my head appears?

Vaginal Hair, poor souls, I know you suffer much ridicule from many, even I made you feel really sorry for your existence. If your boyfriend demands a clean waxed vagina, punch him. period. No one has the right to demand anything from you, from your body, every body deserves to be celebrated and loved, first and foremost by the one who resides in it. Date a man who respects your body, cares for its well being, its good health, than looks forward to a plastic doll, why not buy him a nice robotic sex toy then?

I am acquainted with women who are scared to death during pregnancy for they fear changes, they fear that their men would not find them attractive enough. This is the lowest form of self-esteem and self-love my friends, you are not an object which has to stay as it were when acquired, you are not in a relationship based solely on how you appear to your partner, your partner is not as lacking in love and respect as you probably imagine, and lots more than I could say here. anyway, maybe later.

Lets move on to:


For as long as I can remember, I treated them as someone alienated from my own self. I was disturbed at first, and slowly embarrassed. I remember a friend of mine who would call me names because I was heavy breasted, I decided to never run, I haven’t run for very long. I still feel conscious of breasts bouncing and catching attention. I do not understand why women do this to other women? Why can’t we accept that everybody is different?

On our farewell from school, I felt shy and awkward in a sari, for I felt that my blouse made them prominent, I could have also felt beautiful, wholesome, but no, I had borrowed someone else’s perception, and disliked what I saw in the mirror.

Men of course take it to another level altogether, from lewd comments and gestures, to being forcefully touched, squeezed and pinched, I think my poor breasts have indeed suffered much at the hands of horny douchebags all around.

At times, when that stupid bra makes me feel suffocated, I want to throw it away and just let my breasts breathe freely, but I lack the courage to do so. You won’t believe it, but I wear a bra and sleep at night, so scared am I of letting them be, there I go again, let me correct, so scared am I of letting me be me.


I hide my belly, I have almost always hidden it from everyone. A reason was also the fact that I have never had a flat one, but still, there is no need for the paranoia that I nurture. In the last few years I discovered a discoloration on my belly, something that my grandmother got at a very old age. I thankfully took it in stride unlike the other changes, but it did require much rationale from my adult ego.

There are times when wearing a belt hurts my belly, but in the fear of falling trousers exposing the crack of my bum, I keep the belt on, and allow my belly to suffer, I think this much penance for nothing is sheer stupidity.


We were acquainted as poornima and Chhee Chhee. Chhee Chhee is not to be touched for it is dirty (basically a way to assure that little girls don’t discover the joy of masturbation). Chhee Chhee is to be protected, Chhee Chhee, if gets infected, UTI, then it should not be spoken of loudly. Chhee Chhee should be hurriedly cleaned and avoided.

That is some of the nonsense that surrounded my vagina’s reputation.

I never related the lobes and lips one studied of in biology with my real organ. I never even attempted at marvelling that how through this passage I might deliver a child one day. All of this is not a discourse, it should not be thought of. In fact, to be honest I hardly ever looked at my Vagina, and consequently, would not want it to be looked at either. This is pushing me towards acknowledging the extremely unhealthy understanding of sex and sexual relationships I had, but I won’t get into it here.

When I would have a discharge, I just knew I am to be disgusted, I never understood what it was, whether it was fungal, whether it was normal menstrual discharge, whether it was due to stomach infection, I just never understood. I do so now, and I am much relieved.


They are only meant for Potti. Apart from that, I never acknowledged their existence. I never noticed how they were, I never tried to look at them. I despised the fact that when you make love, they would be seen. I hid them as well, I wore long t-shirts, loose pants, because those with tight jeans were considered to be amoral when I was really young and I borrowed those tweaked notions of morality and sexuality. Later after being conveniently slapped at my ass by random men on the road, I made it a point to hang my backpack real low. It made me conscious, I still am, I hate it when I wear my skirt, knowing that it would make my bum stand out in all its glory. I wish I could enjoy that, i wish I could calmly and happily walk with a bounce, rather than a manly stride that i copied from my brothers.


My legs were called logs, because they were always very fat. I don’t have the long slender legs you see in photoshopped images, I have shorter ones. I have never been proud of them. I have never thanked them for making me move, for allowing me to enjoy the thrill in a bicycle ride, for letting me grant a kick or two. I just have them, that is all.

I wish I could respect them, and even take care of them, walk more often, run, give them that strength they firmly demand. But no, I just treat them as passive logs. What shame!

I wish I were more at ease with how I am, now that I am beginning to be so, I decided to share it, a move I might have been nervous about or scandalized by earlier, but i think that if I wish for all women and men to love themselves and not be embarrassed of body parts then I should probably begin with letting go of my own inhibition, of accepting my eccentricities and uniqueness, of acknowledging my redundant fears.

Love yourself, Love your complete self.


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critique · history · image identity · india · reading culture

nibandh: cultural pradarshani

cultural pradarshini mein aapka swagat hai

iskey liye kucch sthanon par aapko ticket khareidne ki avashyakta hai, bakiyon mein ekdum muft muft muft!

cultural pradarshini ki shuruat aapke ghar se hoti hai aur poore shahar mein aapko yeh sthan sthan par dikhai degi.

chahe billboard ho ya window display, chahe restaurant ho ya tailor ki dukaan, koi mall ho ya cultural haat/festival, cultural pradarshani ka kafi bolbala hai

yeh adhiktar upri satah par dikhlai padti hai, bahar aur andar mein ghor antar hone ka sandeh to hai, lekin aap uspar mat jayein, aap upri ‘spectacle’ (1) mein apne aapko kho dein, yahi is pradarshani mein doobne ka ekmatra tareeka hai

pradarshani ka apne current sthal ke itihaas se shayad koi lena dena na ho, par usse uska mahatv kam na honein de, akhirkaar yeh pradarshani itihaas ke pannon se stereotypes khoj khoj kar layi hai, iska pura shrey isiko jaata hai

cultural pradarshani kabhi kabhi pure shahar ko ek showcase samaan bana deti hai, jismein bas sheeshe nahin hain, aur aap khud bhi uska ek hissa hain kyunki aap usse aane wale sandeshon se prabhavit ho sakte hain

Cultural pradarshini aapko cotton ke block print kurton, rangeen patchwork ityadi se lekar organic jam evam tarah tarah ki shilpkari se to acquaint karati hi hai, sath hi sath, agar aap dhyan na dein, to aap iski baaton mein aakar aisa bhot kuch consume kar sakte hain jiske relevance aur itihaas ka ata pata nahin, in fact uska us pradarshini se koi lena dena bhi nahin, jaise ki heritage ke naam pe pizza

cultural pradarshini aapko apne hi shahar mein tourist wala nazariya dharan karwa sakti hai, yeh hui na baat!

cultural pradarshini TV, Radio evam internet dwara bhi aap tak, mujh tak, pahunchti hai, sabse hairatangez karne wali baat to yeh hai ki is pure pradarshini mein hum kabhi ruk kar yeh nahin sochte ki culture kya hai, kya culture kahin kisi samay mein sthir ek imagery hai, jiske kuch pehlu bina soche samjhe hum recreate karte hain, ya culture samay ke saath behti ek organic entity hai, jisko har insaan apne tareeke, apni soch se interpret karey?

(1) Debord, Guy, The Society of the Spectacle

history · image identity · india · kahaniyan · meerut · narratives · people · projects · reflections · society

Meerut Post 2: Meerut Ki kainchiyan! (Scissors)

If you haven’t used a scissor made in Meerut, you have missed out on an excellent cutting experience my friend.

Its only when I moved out of Meerut for my Graduation, that I learnt of Meerut’s Scissors.

I gifted one to a friend who used it for preparing garments, and he was pleasantly surprised with the tool’s efficiency. That made me wonder, how much I took our amazing Kainchis for granted.
In fact my mother had been gifted a large beautiful scissor by her patient, with her name tastefully etched on it, it has been our companion for years. They are the most long lasting scissors ever.

The smoothness of their functioning is literally orgasmic. Trust me, I have been in Design Schools, and have used many scissors, but the ones from Meerut, you can never forget the exhilaration of that perfect sharpness, that deft movement, that sound (khich, khach) which is almost music to my ears.

Just in case, you ain’t aware, Meerut’s Scissors may get Geographical Indication Mark :

To express my gratitude and love for the craftsmen and their wonderful creation, scissors:


kainchiyan meerut ki _poornima sardana
kainchiyan meerut ki _poornima sardana


Kainchiyan meerut Ki_ night_ aise koolness ho gayi_ poornima sardana
Kainchiyan meerut Ki_ night_ aise koolness ho gayi_ poornima sardana


Ok yes, i took some liberty and let aesthetics go for a toss 😉


Shall be posting more on this, pretty soon!