The number of self-help books being churned out by presses both small and big is skyrocketing. Some have speculated—reasonably enough—this can be seen as a manifestation of popular [res]sentiment coming to grips with socio-economic and geo-political realities that make it difficult to nurture, and preserve a coherent self-concept. The surge in the genre’s prolixity and chutzpah can seem impressive if one doesn’t know that several of the glossiest Bestsellers are often books that experts have on their “Not Recommended” lists. The wicked spawn of self-improvement books that adorn our bookstores and discount retail chain stores is as much a haphazard monument to our restless ambitions as it is a symptom of our merely nominal existence. If we were having the best sex of our lives we would perhaps have no need for How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale (2012) by Neil Strauss [and Jenna Jameson], and the legion that is other such titles.
On the one hand we have a fixation with the idea of youthful longevity through lifestyle change and the over-eager technological utopianism offered us make us giddy, and on the other hand we face the imminent danger of ecological catastrophe, an earth too fragile to bear our continued exploitations of its resources. Indeed, as Philip Auerswald puts it “As the fact of global climate change alone indicates, Malthusian spectres of demographic doom are regrettably still very much with us”. It is not that we do not wish to change the world but that the world changes without our help; slowly ever more globalised market mechanisms leave more and more of us behind on sinking ships earmarked for the unemployed, the unemployable, and the underemployed. Without the slightest irony, thrown between pleasure and near certain extinction we are obsessed with lists like Five self-help books that want to change [y]our life. This is no exaggeration…one could be more observant, more pessimistic…
The urban chic set that keeps abreast with the latest fashionable causes to vent its self-projections and insular anxieties seems to be staking a rather hazy claim to civic consciousness in India. A jejunating gerontocrat with an Oedipal grouse against corrupt politicos, and who wants to discipline drunkards by the lynch ‘em dry method, here gains prominence and lingers like a tepid stench long after his garrulity is spent achieving sweet fuck-all—with relative ease in our media saturated epoch. Adding vacuity and loquacious fanaticism to the masses’ burgeoning discontent are tabloids, blogs and television chatterati screaming shrilly their manifestos geared at [in]voluntary political quietism. When one’s attention is driven to his own pecuniary lack he is quickly driven to chagrin about black-money he hasn’t any means to extradite from subterranean governmental hands. This personal-frustration-driven politics is dangerous inasmuch as personal agendas are apt to end in rash manipulative gestures of political will. In a diverse country like India individualism would be the straw that broke the bullock’s back.
That the desire to improve one’s lot to the point where spending several hours a day on a treadmill is not only acceptable but profoundly desirable bespeaks a very peculiar attitude towards life, and what might be wrested from it. For one, it is a morbid obsession with a self-image, it is also a vain commitment to a self isolated from any substantiality beyond its commitment to its own image, reflected through a prism of phantasms and Aunt Dianaesque discourses. From the hives of our identitarian commitments we all clamour for audience and control, [we the Liberals/ Conservatives/ Nationalists!] , and in our unwieldy synchrony with the zeitgeist of these communities, we are stabbed cold by the rabid devotions of our mobs. The idea of improving the self sounds deceptively salutary, even ethical these days; no, but can’t we see this slick, new self contrasted prejudicially against gits who weren’t addressed by our self-style-guides’ target demographic cohort?
Opportunism, hedonism, and activism seamlessly blend into the mediated space of national and international discourses among informed consumers; there is conversation, but there is also lies, chaos and oligopolies of branded guff. Each nation becomes an individualist cohort driven towards an ever-becoming-Galt, striking the globally ghettoised masses—figuratively—unionised in their dire straits as plunderers.
The more we try to reclaim individuality the more we find ourselves fractured between odds and ends of the selves we had long taken for granted, shorn for convenience, or from shame. NRIs settled in cosy Silicon Valley apartments send their patriotism packed avowals in jingoistic emails tweeting their approval of desi tyrants; personal activisms quickly precipitate national travesties. Influence also enslaves us; as we wait on the beck and call of the new fad we might as well read about how we can outsmart that thickly accented son of the soil @ the call center job, with grooming tips and One-Month-Guarantee Speak English classes.
Originally posted Here : < https://sites.google.com/site/scene46/home/self-help-is-the-worst-help >.
Auerswald, Philip. (2012). The Coming Prosperity: How Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Economy. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
Fresco, Jacques & Meadows, Roxanne. (2008). The Best That Money Can’t Buy: Beyond Politics, Poverty and War. Québec, Canada: Osmora Publishing.
Kennedy, Dan, S. (2008). No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent: No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Guide to Getting Really Rich. USA: Entrepreneur Press
Lomborg, Bjørn. (2001). The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. New York, USA: Cambridge University Press.
McGee, Micki. (2005). Self-Help, Inc: Makeover Culture in American Life. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
Norcross, John, C.; Campbell, Linda, F.; Grohol, John, M.; Santrock, John, W.; Selagea, Florin; Sommer, Robert. Eds. (2012). Self-Help That Works: Resources to Improve Emotional Health and Strengthen Relationships. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
 See McGee, Micki. (2005). Self-Help, Inc: Makeover Culture in American Life. New York, USA: OxfordUniversity Press.
 See Norcross, John, C.; Campbell, Linda, F.; Grohol, John, M.; Santrock, John, W.; Selagea, Florin; Sommer, Robert. (2012). Self-Help That Works: Resources to Improve Emotional Health and Strengthen Relationships. New York, USA: OxfordUniversity Press.
 See < http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Love-Health-Self-Guide/dp/1591200261 >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://www.flipkart.com/sex-your-questions-answered-01/p/itmdyuzr88ayheya >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See Kennedy, Dan, S. (2008). No B.S. Marketing To the Affluent: No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Guide to Getting Really Rich. USA: Entrepreneur Press. p. 23.
 See Fresco, Jacques & Meadows, Roxanne. (2008). The Best That Money Can’t Buy: Beyond Politics, Poverty and War. Québec, Canada: Osmora Publishing.
 Auerswald, Philip. (2012). The Coming Prosperity: How Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Economy. New York, USA: OxfordUniversity Press. p. 36.
 See < http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-03-05/ahmedabad/37469380_1_unemployed-youth-unemployment-figures-claims >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/11/23/young-jobless-and-indian/ >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_india-has-the-most-unemployable-population-report_1587604 >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://www.tradingeconomics.com/india/unemployment-rate >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/07/five-self-help-books-change-life >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 “Armed with diplomas and aspirations for upward mobility, a rapidly expanding consumer class is said to be driving political activism and, thanks to its media savviness, forcing the government to listen”. Fontanella-Khan, Amana. 24, January 2013. “India’s Next Revolution”. The New York Times. Accessed 22, March 2013. Available from < http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/opinion/indias-next-revolution.html?_r=0 >.
 “…[t]hey often pay hired help just Rs 4,000-5’000 per month, and complain if servants demand more. Middle class folk don’t want to calculate the per capita daily spending of their servant’s family. They resent servants constantly wanting more pay, even if this falls short of the very level they find outrageous when specified by the Planning Commission. This double standard is not restricted to paying servants. When middle class folk go to Dilli Haat to buy a sari, they will beat down the weavers to the lowest price possible. If told that the weaver earns only Rs 4,000 per month, will they change their attitude or agree that they have helped keep the weaver poor? No chance”. Aiyar, Swaminathan, A. “Middle class hypocrisy on the poverty line”. The Times of India. 02 October 2011. Accessed 22, March 2013. Available from < http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes .com/Swaminomics/entry/middle-class-hypocrisy-on-the-poverty-line >.
 See < http://www.ndtv.com/photos/news/top-20-surfer-comments-supporting-anna-hazare-10166 >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://www.indiatvnews.com/politics/national/anna-hazare-too-demands-death-penalty-for-rapists-7398.html >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-11-22/india/30428675_1_anna-hazare-ralegan-siddhi-alcoholics >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
 See < http://lokpaldissent.wordpress.com/tag/anna-hazare/ >. Accessed 22, March 2013.
“‘To read what was never written.’ Such reading is the most ancient: reading before all languages, from the entrails, the stars, or dances. Later the mediating link of a new kind of reading, of runes and hieroglyphs, came into use. It seems fair to suppose that these were the stages by which the mimetic gift, which was once the foundation of occult practices, gained admittance to writing and language. In this way language may be seen as the highest level of mimetic behavior and the most complete archive of nonsensuous similarity: a medium into which the earlier powers of mimetic production and comprehension have passed without residue, to the point where they have liquidated those of magic”.
-Walter Benjamin, Ed. & Trans. Demetz, Peter. Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (1978)
Much of what is appealing in the literary form of the novel pertains to its formal contour; its limitations allow a, more or less, tardive revelation to enunciate itself only in a trajectory of participative ambivalence on part of the reader, who must invest his time at the text’s own leisure. The expectation of being paid in kind by the novel, then, is a most natural one: the pleasure of the novel is gotten at by capitulation to its logic of sense. Colours, shapes and shadows must become indeterminate, or overdetermined, not by the fixative predestinations of our expectation from the work but by the revelatory impetus of the text-in-itself and for-oneself; in a slow alchemy, of ideas turned into imagines, the novel’s fidelity to a reader proves itself a germinal idée fixe retrospectively only when its fruits have been apprehended at long last on its final pages. With movie adaptation of novels this scheme of natural unfolding, of genesis, genericity or gendering if you will, takes on a short-circuitous realisation: the atmosphere of auratic descriptions that bleed into objects in a peculiar authorial timbre and pitch, due to her uniquely ambiguous/ subjective enunciation, becomes more than an accessory to understanding—which is its rôle proper in a narrative—, it becomes the very content of understanding understood. The visual medium is, in this constitutively polemical sense, the self-satisfied imago of form; an interpretation of content entailed necessarily and externally imposed by the filmmaker onto a more or less eidetically labile text. When Benjamin called cinema anti-auratic, perhaps, he was onto something larger; not just, that cinema allowed art to become detranscendentalised by allowing more distracted viewing and absorption, but also that something about cinema in-itself could well nigh eliminate what may have natively belonged to a text before it was imprisoned in filmic imagines. Filming a novel, then, is an act of eliminative [re]creation. Having said that…
Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children (1981) performs the auratic task with an ease and giddiness that betrays the formal inadequacy of the film, its namesake, (2012), in a way that succeeds in effacing the lexically potent and, perhaps, visually inconceivable magic of its literary progenitor. The characterisation is invariably more jaded and inadequate than the eccentrics and full-blooded paladins in the book: Salim Sinai, in the book a precocious boy with influenza and telepathic powers, becomes a snot-nosed puppet in Deepa Mehta’s bradykinetic directorial hands. His powers, and those of the Midnight’s Children bestowed by Indian independence, intrude upon both the child protagonist’s performative incontinence and the cinema-goer’s incredulity in a market where even bad movies have superb post-production values. Not satisfied with having eliminated the magic from a magic-realist narrative by use of bad-special effects and montage laced overkill, Mehta goes great lengths to dilute the thaumaturgy of mantric formulae and genuflections, used willy-nilly by Parvati or the snot-sniffing Salim, by having the unfortunate actors vocalise, and indicate with jejune twisting of hands and wringing of nostrils: abracadabra, sniff sniff ad nauseam. The discovery that Salim was possessed of these melodramatic conceits, telepathy and empathy galore, becomes a cloying distraction in the settings where this fact is laboured over by the turgid pleroma of noisome midnight kids who convey nothing of the pathos and mystique the book once bestowed on them as fellow compatriots of Sinai’s fate.
The pace of the movie was adequate but what it walked alongside, instead of the book, was its own muddled prepossession; the rich interweaving of subplots were ad hoc sacrificed by Rushdie’s consent, and much to my dismay. Because of this free-handed truncation of plot the remaining fare of meaty story became too entirely dependent on the narratological capabilities of Deepa Mehta; she did her best at mediocritising the rich cultural context of the story by having a bunch of midgets dance, amidst rope-walking children and snake caressing geriatrics, before the equestrian bridegroom of the pregnant Parvati riding serpentine toward the marriage bed. The momentous self-congratulations of attaining independence from a bankrupt, post-war battered and willing Great Britain, which continues to echo as chief token of Indian rhetoricians and rabbles alike, was reduced to the belligerence of nautch-girls on trucks and stalky, dark men beating crude drums in a negative space all negated by fireworks and panorama. Stylistically, the movie was to the book what the British were to India for four centuries: vituperation and anacoluthon. The sole redeeming moment of the movie was a visual of Indira Gandhi’s lips munching away some endlessly juicy titbit as news of the declaration of emergency, to protect democracy, is broadcast: the satire here is caustic, but the acid quickly trickles down on the director, who loses all track of the necessary agents of her disparate rendition of the novel as they must rush pell-mell to their foreclosed end, smarting and scathed by her distracted, anti-auraticised gaze. The filming of this novel alas destroyed not only its labile excess but also its integral holism, leaving both the narrative scheme and its visual poverty divorced from Midnight’s Children’s (1981); its sense of fidelity to the mimetic productive capacity of the text and reproduction of its comprehensible substance in the film, lost, liquidating the very magic it had potentially made available to readers through three decades.
Ashis Nandy’s controversial point that the lower castes are the most corrupt is controversial only insofar as its context is elided, evaded or ignored with an agenda.
The blending of ideal totalities of thought and deed in the brutal melting pot of our diverse, often divisive, Indian people has been long drawn on as a resilient, and, indeed now, a robustly commonplace philosopheme by her commentarial, emblem bearing khidmatgars. In fact, long before freeing herself from the yolk of Colonial subjugation, popular Indian sentiment, and its ascendant political jingo of saffron stained Nationalism, had developed in her people an avidity for this syncretic unitarianism of thought— as much in symbolism and rhetoric as could fail to translate into practice, even. Our politics have been a testament to this tradition of abrasion and richness in turn. We continue to be a nation of many chugged along an inertial, expedient, One: Bharatavarsha. Srinivasa Ramanujan’s mathematical prowess, for instance, Nandy argues not surprisingly, was rooted as much in the tradition of Western natural philosophy as it was in an indigenous, para-European [pathological/ anal-regressive?] culture imbued with the constellating torque of theotechny, astrology and the honing of technics pertaining to extrasensory perception. The dizzying plasticity and substantive force of medieval Indian logical traditions stands testimony to the heteronymous and collative business of our modern discursive practices; where else may one find admixed sublime notions of valour to be obtained in logomachy attended simultaneously by a strong distaste for epistemological consistency? In the surviving clamour of ricocheting, and ever-revivifying-reifying, Indian traditions of logic mired in ancient, plural originations of course [!] The Nyāya-Śhāstra school, for instance, finds place for categories of logical disputation such as intentional quibbling [chala], wrangling for victory at the cost of Truth [jalpa], ad hoc attacks on debaters [vitanda] and outré forms of the analogue like the varnya-sama— balancing two questionable axioms such that a conclusion may nevertheless obtain. An example of varnya-sama:
Sound is non-eternal,
Because it is a product,
Like a pot.
The leisurely and anodyne practices of intellectual jousting cultivated with great fervour in ancient India, through centuries, have all but petered out in deference to the narrow proprietary template of the mediatised sensationalisation of our information age. No more do the media have the time or inclination to tackle any discursion a tad removed from punctual dotage to the average, illiterate demagogue’s fiery sound bite. The gap toothed maw of local traditions of reason, once sharpened by the insatiable Indian appetite for knowledge pursued hotly by competing clans, is now emptied out for fear that it might puncture the official bag of wind beloved to some partisan electorate; gerrymandering of course defies catagories of traditional, and reasonable, logic and is its own totem and taboo. Ashis Nandy’s strident rhetoric, begging to differ with the contours of our mediatised information society, demands a more thoroughgoing involvement with contextual nuances. His own indubitable record as a champion for the emancipation of lower classes and castes in India by exposing the complicity of apparently rivalrous political combatants vying for their vote, through –sociological and psychological analyses, rankles with the po-faced, straight laced expediencies preferred by the heirs of a sterile Nehruvian secularity. The aforementioned sterility of this secularity, perfectly emblematised by the rivalry between the Congress as self-appointed benefactors of minorities and the BJP as heroic brigands out to restore the lost glory of Hindutva, is best understood through Nandy’s critique of their mutual need for and benefit from the perpetuation of manageable instances of communal violence— is not the very idea of the political the idea of an ineradicable enmity that justifies the Law and its punitive sovereignty and excess, the idea of a polémios or hostis that a government alone can resist?
Now, the defence of minorities is no simple matter of taking sides in a political establishment that functions in line with ancient wasms, myths and cultural pasts which have seeped into the very [un]conscious ego structures of its principal actors. There are several polarities occulted between seemingly binary embattlements. The Hindu upper castes feel entitled to their privileges by descent while the lower classes, Dalits included, are grudgingly ceded to by way of reservations in government employment and education sectors, but the consequences of this allegedly salubrious interaction between puritanical and postlapsarian Hindu ideology on one hand and the reality of legally empowered lower castes on the other are mixed at best. While the idea behind reservations for lower castes in governance, education and employment was to secure their representation, equal status and reintegration into a chronically hierarchically stratified Indian society it has led to the development of sub-classes among the lower castes and the perpetuation of bad faith among Hindu hegemons who see affirmative intervention on behalf of minority communities as de facto anti-Hindu. The irony is incontestable: the Hindu Nationalist political outfits uphold Hindutva ideology as an ego ideal that will not only restore a mythical, imaginal glory and pre-eminence to Hindu cultural values but also emancipate the oppressed classes in a soteriological telos; of course, both assertions are problematic given Indian history is replete with records of violence meted on cultures by colonising, invading others: Hinduism of the historically accurate variety is by its form hierarchical and exclusive, shaped as it was by invaders and repeated subjugation to cultural others, but the symbolic efficiency of its rhetoric gaining gravity from sheer persistence continues to be exploited by RSS and BJP ideologues. The use of linguistic, cultural, religious and mythical differences between communities continues to be dominant in the will to power; dividing electorates by caste lines makes political sense if power is its sole motive. Is it surprising that governments have endorsed particular versions of history to be taught in schools and universities, at variance not only with established or inadequate, unequivocal, facts but also with each other? Ashis Nandy thinks the use of controversial historical revisions in officially endorsed versions for pedagogical use to be a tactical instrument of power: it establishes means for legitimating and enforcing negative social attitudes towards persistently marginalised minority communities, and lower castes.
The problem runs deeper still: emancipatory provisions like reservations to ensure the gradual improvement of the economic and social standing of the lower classes, e.g. Dalits, Other Backward Communities, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes etc., have led to pockets of prosperity while leaving the rest of their communities marginalised. And, if this was not problematic enough, the newly enfranchised and prosperous beneficiaries of reservation and other alleviating government interventions among the lower castes, also, have historically tended to re-christen and acculturate themselves as Hindus proper; adapting Hindu religious practices and beliefs once their economic marginalisation was redressed, and dissociating from their erstwhile class peers from their original communities— adding a twist to the casteist logic by identification with their upper caste oppressors, in a process sociologists have called sanskritisation. To state controversially a very necessary observation: the symptomal tendency of the condemnation Ashis Nandy’s ironic, innocuous and constitutionally privileged speech act has garnered from the lower castes belies another occasion of identifying with the aggressor: in calling out Nandy’s provocative defence of their cause, offended lower caste representatives have allied themselves with their higher caste oppressors who would like to get rid of Nandy’s scathing exposé of their cultural chauvinism. In this way they can continue to subjugate lower castes in a system that appears legitimate, in an almost fatalistic pre-ordination as Kancha Ilaiah would point out. In light of these endemic and long abandoned fault lines the fashionable brouhaha about sensitivity towards the historically oppressed classes, political correctness and the rule of communal vote banks take on a life that is parasitic upon the body politic of a deferred, and truly representational, democracy. In its place we have a semiosis with sound and fury betraying an unresolved psychic deadlock at the heart of our divided lower classes and their unified oppressors. When Nandy said, at the Jaipur Literature Festival, 2013, —during the talk entitled “Republic of Ideas” which the present author was fortunate enough to attended with his wife, —that the Dalits, O.B.Cs, S.Cs and S.Ts are the most corrupt class of governmental officials he was formulating the dominant psychological and adversarial consciousness of upper class elites that informs the formal and institutional communalism of Indian governmentality. The persistent outrage against reservations in premier colleges for students from marginalised Dalit, O.B.Cs, S.Cs and S.Ts communities, who have been put to disadvantage by dominant higher castes for several centuries of India’s history as a Republic based on the principle of equality accountable to constitutionally privileged Law, bears witness to what the privileged classes and castes think of the lower castes and the oppressed: precious little. Nandy has shown both the oppressive Hindutva hegemons like the Sangh Parivar; RSS; VHP; the BJP and their symbolic adversary the Congress, with its Nehruvian secularity, mirrored obliquely in several identitarian political parties, are only concerned with a will to power, and their predilection for a status quo that legitimates their own political sovereignty.
The modifying apogee of Nandy’s ironic formulation— which most media failed to convey along with their ad hoc sensational and irresponsible reportage of [mis]quotation, repeated ad nauseum in loops— was to come later in an elaborately qualified agreement with his interlocutor Tarun Tejpal, founder of Tehelka; where he said, he saw corruption among lower classes as having an ameliorating effect; he thought it was an opportune symptom that belied lower caste consciousness having reached a stage where they were better equipped to redress their systemic suppression by the armatures of our ingrained casteist governmentality. His underlying thesis being: what the upper classes had done with impunity has now become available, in however insular and specific instances of corruption among lower caste governmental and bureaucratic actors, as a counterstrategy against a traditionally upper caste governmental culture. Behind his deadpan pronouncement that corrupt lower caste governmental agents restored his hope in the possibilities of a robust Indian Republic and a democracy to come was a well worn career of forty years spent theorising and empowering the subaltern, the oppressed and the peripheral selfhood of Colonial and Post-Colonial subjects. But this defence which may have taken many an odd hour everyday for years on end to formulate, as discourse, as clarion call and vitanda cannot be conveyed without Nandy’s seemingly egregious irony. Without irony there could be no ironing out of differences irreducible to a few seconds of vocalised order words, no longer coherent in a social space alienated from its communal meaning and being. There is, of course, no time for such nitpicking and responsibility towards the veridical in the Indian republic of mediatised democracy. Sound arguments are loudly, quickly and efficiently supplanted by sound bites that turn around the very purpose of dissensus and defence. I stand behind Nandy, not to be contrarian, offensive, insensitive or casteist but because I believe he said what he did in good faith and as an ally of the oppressed, with the weight of traditions of logic, reason and rhetoric that go back and forth from Pre-Vedic to post-modern India, behind and before him as a warrior-theoretician of the Indian subaltern.
Derrida, Jacques. Trans. Collins, George. “On Absolute Hostility: The Cause of Philosophy and the Spectre of the Political”. The Politics of Friendship. UK: London, Verso, 2005.
Gottlob, Michael. History and Politics in Post-Colonial India. India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Kakar, Sudhir. Indian Identity. India, New Delhi: Penguin India Ltd. 2004.
Ilaiah, Kancha. Post-Hindu India: A Discourse on Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Knowledge. India, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2009
Michael, S., M. Ed. Dalits in Modern India: Vision and Values, Second Edition. India, New Delhi: Sage Publications. 2007.
Nandy, Ashis. Return From Exile: Alternative Sciences; The Illegitimacy of Nationalism; The Savage Freud. India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Nandy, Ashis. Exiled at Home: At the Edge of Psychology; The Intimate Enemy; Creating a Nation. India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Sarangi, Asha. Themes in Indian Politics: Language and Politics in India. India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Vidyabhusana, Satis, Chandra. A History of Indian Logic: Ancient, Medieval and Modern Schools. India, New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited. 2006.
 Ashis Nandy in his essay “The Savage Freud” discusses the prevalent attitudes of European intellectuals about Indian cultural mores and ways of thinking and being as, psychoanalytically, anal-regressive.
 See Nandy, Ashis. Return From Exile: Alternative Sciences; The Illegitimacy of Nationalism; The Savage Freud. “Alternative Sciences: The Other Science of Srinivasa Ramanujan”. India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004. P. 120.
 See Vidyabhusana, Satis, Chandra. “Contents of the Nyāya-Śhāstra. 32. The Categories: Their Definition”. A History of Indian Logic: Ancient, Medieval and Modern Schools. India, New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited. 2006. § II. P. 55- 69.
 Krishna, Sankaran. “Death of Irony in the Age of Media”. The Hindu: Editorial. P. 10. Thursday, January 31, 2013.
 See Nandy, Ashis; Trivedi, Shikha; Mayaram, Shail; Yagnik, Achyut. “Creating a Nationality: The Ramjanmabhumi Movement and the Fear of the Self”. Exiled at Home: At the Edge of Psychology; The Intimate Enemy; Creating a Nation. India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005. P. 1- 207.
 The idea of public law demands that there be a transgressor of public law, necessarily and chronically: the public enemy is a structural necessity as the basis for a judicature that can punish and discipline. For an enlightening discussion on this theme see Derrida, Jacques. Trans. Collins, George. “On Absolute Hostility: The Cause of Philosophy and the Spectre of the Political”. The Politics of Friendship. UK: London, Verso, 2005. §5. P. 112- 137.
 Jogdand, P., G. Ed. Michael, S., M. “Reservation Policy and the Empowerment of Dalits”. Dalits in Modern India: Vision and Values, Second Edition. India, New Delhi: Sage Publications. 2007. P. 315- 335.
 See Kakar, Sudhir. Indian Identity. India, New Delhi: Penguin India Ltd. 2004. Also, Ilaiah, Kancha. Post-Hindu India: A Discourse on Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Knowledge. India, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2009.
 See Gottlob, Michael. “Scientific and Political Claims in the Rewriting of Indian History”. History and Politics in Post-Colonial India. India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012. P. 1- 80.
 See Sarangi, Asha. Themes in Indian Politics: Language and Politics in India. India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011.
 ibid. Gottlob, Michael. P. 23
 Ibid. Ed. Michael, S., M. (2005)
 See Ilaiah, Kancha. “Symptoms of Civil War and End of Hinduism”. Post-Hindu India: A Discourse on Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Knowledge. India, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2009. P.232- 266.
 Ibid. Nandi, Ashis et al. 2005. P. 1- 207
On what it takes to be a Soldier
Like all young nations, at some point in their historical emergence, India realised the instrumentality of military as the armature of governance while breaking free from the mother country. Before independence, however, joining the army was a sure way to alleviate social and economic backwardness. This also allowed an escape from the hegemony of caste and indigenous systemic equality to the otherwise dispossessed: among the lower classes consciousness arose that serving the government which professed egalitarianism was better than suffering under the wasms of a hereditary master class. The so called “untouchable” community of Mahars who were martial men under Shivaji, for instance, found meaningful political presence accorded them by joining the British-Indian Army: Dr. B. R. Ambedkar too was brought up in an army cantonment (Roy, K., 2006, p. 165).
The advent of the nineteenth century, however, brought about changes in recruitment policies and the Mahars were excluded from recruitment opportunities in the British-Indian Army; to this, the natural reaction of the community was one of perceived insult and removal from British governmental patronage (ibid. 165). The community, suddenly disenfranchised by government policy, sought to negotiate a reconsideration of their people as fit for the army- in the deeply ingrained caste system which characterised colonial India the British Indian Army offered a singular opportunity to acquire both social and economic emancipation for the oppressed classes. This is the historical juncture where joining the army first proved itself the social ladder which the Indian theopolitics of caste had engendered and perpetuated for centuries. In an unequal society surrender to warfare is the only possibility of peace.
“In the first decades after Independence,” a retired officer told The Hindu, “enlisted men came from backgrounds which led them to unquestioningly accept feudal attitudes and values. The officers were also products of the same feudal landscape. It doesn’t exist anymore — but the institutions remain.” (Swami, P., 2012). Stephen Cohen elaborates, contrarily, that caste and region continue to be the major determinants of hiring in the Indian Army, also the lower rung soldiers who are the largest part of the army are hired from villages which possess this martial tradition of deference. “[they are] inculcated with traditional notions of obedience, but he remains tied to the village authority structure; [their] behaviour in the army reflects upon their village, and caste elders ensure that any runaway is returned to the army for discipline” (2004, p. 21). Indeed today, the world over, it is the poor and the occupationally curtailed[i] who form the biggest demographic for recruitment into military forces[ii] (Anderson, M., L. & Taylor, H., F. 2007, p. 529).
Thus, it is clear, that there is an obvious perceived benefit, i.e. the alleviation of poverty, relief from social prejudices and a shot at experiencing power which moves large numbers of people from the poorer and oppressed sections of society to serve their country. The will to serve thus making itself manifest in sections of the population socially and economically waylaid if not for the military is a prime component of existential patriotism. In exchange of their mortal selves, without much recourse to success in a relatively less dangerous but painful and subjugated life of normal society, these men and women choose to buy a chance at power: herein, consists ur-patriotism. The material logic of muscular ascent is undeniable when one considers the genesis of these real patriots, indeed, it possess the brute force of a malformed pundigrion.
Why would disenfranchised people choose to join a fight for a prodigal idea, an idea which doesn’t liberate them from the necessity for its defence, even shielding its abstract hieroglyphs with their flesh? Simple necessity compels them. But what about the higher castes, more prestigious ethnicities and economically well established who join the army? Are they given to risk their life and limb, secure as they are with their fingers in a bowl of rarefied butter and a platter of cashews- as a Hindi proverb goes-, for the love of a piece of land joined only by the slenderest thread of rhetoric? The lust for power and impunity drives them to patriotism[iii]. The passion for an idea, which makes it ideal, must not expose the core nihility of the tasks which it consists in, as this would prove the idea a mere set of orders and obedient actions carried out: if patriotic soldiers knew that their patriotism consisted in serving the roughshod diktats of their superiors they would desist from endangering their lives for its phantasmal appellation and glory (Belkin, A. 2012, p. 67). This transaction of patriotic acts of self-endangerment must be carried out symbolically, if it is to function. The boots and berets serve a psychical need for ceremony, the parades a need for ritual adoration for their brave surrender to the behemoth of governance. Warrior masculinity is a performance (ibid. p. 67); this is precisely why any pointing out of this performance as artifice rouse such genital anger in warriors and their defenders: for these charades of honour to continue their vassalage at the feet of bureaucracy it is necessary that they play their part as Real Men with complete self assurance that they are the chosen ones. Is it not obvious in the ad copy of the Indian Army’s recruitment program: Be an Army Man. Be a Real Man.
The brisance of missiles, the phallicism immanent to projectile weaponry and the roughshod passion of patriots-of-the-bicep is not too oblique an analogy to the pathic avidity of a rapist in action, who given over to a passionate consummation of his ‘territory’ violates all that prohibits his satiation- even the very grounds of his desire- just to stake his passionate claim, to legitimise it in fulfilment. Celebrating soldiers is to celebrate the dire situation where the happenstance muscular egoism of nations becomes a grand procession of national spirit, pulverising all that is best in us and at hand and setting it aside to ride the arseholes of projected enemies, rivals to some insane national glory-hole, rivalling our claim to that sovereignty which is but an idea realised by luckless chance and nuclear warheads. Doing honour to soldiers is a foil that allows some men to sacrifice other men to an idea which is no one’s in particular; the defence of an idea by loss of life is not the defence of an idea, Brecht once rightly said, it is merely the loss of life.
Anderson, M., L. & Taylor, H., F. (2007). Sociology with Infotrac: Understanding a Diverse
Society: Fourth Edition. Belmont, CA: Thompson Learning Inc.
Belkin, A. (2012). Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Façade of American
Empire. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Cohen, S. (2004). India: Emerging Power. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution.
Roy, K. Ed. (2006).War and Society in Colonial India: Oxford in India Readings, Themes in
Indian History. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.
Swami, P. “Ladakh troop revolt underlines Army class tensions”. The Hindu. Updated
on May 12, 2012. Accessed on January 1, 2012. <http://www. thehindu.com/news/national/article3412907.ece >Web.
I distrust biographical studies that soak in too much psychographic subtlety, as much as, that other egregious genre, biographical fiction- as though there were a difference between their performative horizons: both paint the object in the biases of the subject who vanishes under his narration, gesticulating strategically with the objects of analysis, when the narrative demands it independently of the objects’ self narrative. We are all subject to violence, who live, as someone somewhere is, always-already; what is a possibility once, after all, is a necessity for ever. The more idiomatic and transparent the narrative of a witness to violence greater the risk of the contamination of deeds by intentions, things by thought not mediated by the singularity of experiential being; in the self-subsistent sufferings of others there is seldom room for the others who are spoken of: they await their subjectivation by external description. There are only insular narratives because only one may speak before any meaning is negotiated; the lone subject of experience, already a partisan to her reactive, first-hand knowledge is, paradoxically, the only one who can tell what it is that is her conditional being. Biography must of necessity betray these commitments to fidelity if it must defray the cost of an audience’s total ignorance by paying for their enlightenment the great sacrifice of happenstance objectivity in the currency of personal impressions.
This biography of the marginalised bar dancers of Bombay, now Mumbai, commits to this pious legerdemain a respectable dedication, spanning five years of first hand research that bespeaks at least a taste for reactive induction on part of Sonia Faleiro. The recreated chatter of pimping parents in cahoots with the police, the salesmanship of wayward fathers selling seal pack virginal daughters to lecherous rural lords and the rapes of mothers by sons are coloured with the verbalisations of the subjects’ idiomatic hinglish legitimising the objective gaze as it penetrates non-existent moral standards native to the participants of this sordid real life drama. The bootiful Leela and her scabrous escapades in the badlands of rapine, exploitation and repression are followed through with the hawk-eye of a respectable South Mumbai authoress. Already, the idea is romantic: how much more romance in the tracing, mapping and pointing out of the jagged lines that make up the lives of whores and eunuchs who survive despite all. Mentored by the rapscallion Gregory David Roberts of Shantaram fame, and feted by social butterfly and imbecile Shobha Dé, Faleiro’s taste for what reviles her is exemplary and her panache in sublating the shit and gruel of the assorted misfortunes into an artistic exercise is nothing but noticeable.
The shaggy book, no mean feat for a mere two hundred and eighteen pager, is garrulous with the vacillations, evasions and gossip of the main sufferer Leela and her comrades in the bijness of copulation without exploring any of the larger social tendencies which ground the institution of prostitution as it has come to be repudiated by forces larger than the ambitious politician she passes verdict on- an opportunistic chief minister of Maharashtra, who took umbrage at the possibility of moral corruption of society was not responsible for the Indian notions of purity which predated him and allowed a culture of lundchoos [cocksucking] whores and dirty hijras [eunuchs] punished for their mere existence. As though these cocksuckers were driven to their exploitation by a passion for seminal virtues and their obverse vices, regulated by the ritual and lore of Indian culture; dire necessity as a factor is focussed on, to Faleiro’s credit, but her analysis of the cultural patina which envelopes the flesh of the matter is conspicuous by its absence. She is carried away in embodying the petulant whore and her bitter sweet resentment against her family, cops, men, society and her eunuch friend by dissecting their dialect.
The end impression I gathered from the book was that of a shaggy-dog passing itself off as an academic undertaking but lacking the bite of the former and professing a studiousness that barks shy of the analytical depth of the latter. It is a book to be read in two hours and consigned to forgetfulness, a specimen of what is going wrong with allegedly academic works of biographical intent.
My Rating: 1 ½
Faleiro, Sonia. Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars. New Delhi, India: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Books. 2010. Print.
Indian Naturalism: An Emic View
The naturalistic bent of contemporary Indian thought is a product of the materialistic philosophy of Lokāyatas or Carvākas from the Nāstika School, and, it is also, as is claimed by the movement, in contiguity with the ethos of European Enlightenment (Quack, J., 2011, p. 9). The Lokāyata is described, traditionally, with its origins being in heretical opposition to Vedic thought, as a technique of critique which did not propose a negation as logical refutation; its modus operandi, being the generation of inevitable absurdities [nigraha-sthāna] in an “…argument by adopting false and puzzling analogies [jāti]…”, is vitandā which can be translated into an oxymoronic appellation, in its substantive form, as illogical logic (Dasgupta, S., 2007, p.512).
There is here an ambivalence lieu of the oppositional tendency of the epistemic systems between the Hindus and the Buddhists as it can aid a more holistic comprehension of the metaphysical chasm between the two religions, as for the latter there is no distinction between tricky argumentation and correct argumentation. Although Buddhists do not accept distinction between modes of argumentation the do distinguish between arguments that provoke virtue and those that abet vice, yet what is illogical logic for rationalistic Hindus [upholders of Lokāyata, in terms of soteriological historiography] may be called logical in the Buddhist view (Ibid 2007). May one not say, then in the heretical and solemn timbre of the Lokāyata, an argument is an argument is an argument?
“All is impure; all is not impure; the crow is white, the crane is black; and for this reason or for that” says the Lokāyata, or the book of unbelievers (Ibid 2007, p. 515).
The popularity of this vein of sophistry was associated in public consciousness with science, and there was an entire discipline which concerned itself with the study of this modality of argumentation (Ibid 2007). This, contrarianism at the heart of Hindu hermeneutics, is sometimes taken as reason to propose that the truth of idealist Hindu philosophy can be attained sola scriptura (Ibid 2007) — by definition, cutting off the role of the hermeneutic subject, or interpreting authority as extraneous and even a priori nihilistic. The distinction “…between the natural and the supernatural…”, says Quack (2011), “is…extremely complex and treacherous” (p. 10); contemporary Hinduism would, however, by and large, treat of the naturalistic materialist position as atheism (Ibid 2011). This blanket term of atheist would also be used to describe rationalists who try to broach the question by adopting a syncretic view, inclusive of humanism, scepticism, ethical attitudes (Ibid 2011).
This blog-post is a continuation of an ongoing series on Indian Aesthetics…
Dasgupta, Surendranath (2007) A History of Indian Philosophy: Volume III. India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Quack, Johannes (2011) Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. USA: Oxford University Press.
Arguably the first novel ever, Bānabhatta’s Kadambari is a rollicking ride in a rickety machine of transcendence. The plot so convoluted is yet humane and filled with the awe, empathy and openness of attitude that is lost on our contemporary society: Bānabhatta’s critique of individualism is more than mythologically bolstered legalism; it is coloured in the soil of its culture and yet seeks expression, authenticity, in those breaches where tradition and reason collide in individual experience.
The lexis and idiom is circumlocutory, exotic and immediate to the point of seeming to want in variety; one must however bear in mind the peculiar geography implicated in this work and its evolved, involuted, characters and their loves and strifes in a uniquely lived cosmology. The possible encumbrance of ubiquitous hyperbole, the sheer profusion of alaktha, lotus stalks and parijata petals, rut fluid dripping from scent elephants and the floral fugleman, Manmatha’s- an Indian Cupid’s- carnal elicitations in the graduated litanies of metaphor and stretched similes are all to be savoured as served if one must arrive at the strange experience laid out for perusal, demanding a suspension of disbelief.
The book may seem, to some, a lure in its promise of strange, alienating, pleasures and a trap in its effusiveness and wild itinerary to others: the force of gods and goddesses, imps and monarchs who only long for the ascetic life populate its teeming landscape. Our unreliable narrator, Vaishampayana- who is, in fact, Pundarika- cursed again by his erstwhile, petulant suitor, is no less steadying in his relating of the tale. This relating being a game of leading to us on to another narrator, and who does likewise to another, so on till the resolution of the plot where all lovers unite against hitherto improbable seeming odds. A rare and osmotic book, dense with ingenuity, liberality and an innate capacity for finding enchantment in the most traumatic and profound of human experience and also the most tender; love and separation from the beloved that one can never anticipate until begged the occasion are laid bare in their ancient sangfroid, tainted by the alaktha of Bharatavarsha’s vision and cultural identity
My Rating: ****
Bāṇabhaṭṭa. Trans. Rajappa, Padmini. (2010). Kadambari. India: Penguin Books.
Wendell Rodricks’ “The Green Room” (2012) is a surprisingly well-written, candid and gritty memoir. As a gay man in homophobic India, with consensual intercourse between adults not conforming to the penovaginal staple being punishable by law until recent reforms, he stands an exemplar of what cunning, silence and a well financed itinerary can do for non-conformists, even more so for the quickly ascendant nouveau rich set in the industrial complex of glamour. It is a testament to the branding power of lucre, capable as it is of making minorities the fulcrum of its most vaunted and feted strongholds: the business of fashion.
Being appreciative of his cut in matters sartorial I was still sceptical of the cut of his prose, yet, this here work has allayed my prejudice against the gilt-set potentates of fashion and H/Bollywood, at least until such a time as their inept memoirs are published to contrived fanfare. Having said that, the memoir in question is beset with punctuation related and lexical errata, convincing me strongly that Wendell’s hand may have yet held to the keyboard through the introspective roiling that is autobiography; my pet peeves being the numerous blundering periods, which continue on despite their fatal obstinacy in between a running sentence; there are also a small number of grammatical stillbirths prepped up on otherwise impressive paragraphs.
Wendell’s tastes in food and wine are laboriously diverse, and refined, in a ménage of cacophonous European indulgences and Goan fare; his eye as a traveler is set on historical currents, local cultures and his aesthetic is informed by a penchant for leisurely cultivated synesthesia, by which he seems to translate the geographical, the topographical, into clothes/ money periodically in his dreamt on vacation collections. All in all, the memoirs are a satisfying read, breezy as sheer net and sharp like Wendell’s cubist ensembles.
The Role of Cultural Logics in the Formation of the Psychoanalytic Subject
How is one to know what one desires? The psychoanalytic subject is constituted in the language, culture and symbolic codes of self-consciousness, and responsibilities, that are yielded to, or repressed, in a relation of dialectical movements between the subjects’ self versus the socius’ automata of cultural theatres of archetypal images.
The Western predilection for individuation cannot be said to apply as universal condition of the psychoanalytic; subjects across alien civilizations, their exotic cultures taken for monolithic gestalts owing to an unengaged dismissal of immanent conditions marking the accretions of histories and philosophies of the land, the processes of individuation in strange cultures are often dismissed into a comfortable- ideal- master sock. Of the linguistic, cultural and symbolic systems, which constitute repertories of acceptable pleasures and repressions in larger society, their formative influence on individuation, by way of more or less enduring constellations of cultural memories of it’s peoples that serve as a foil for the subject’s psyche not much is theorised by influential psychoanalytical cliques. By treating of these symbolic repertories as causative indications that mark people’s individuation one can understand the peculiar, eccentric, elusive character of the various roles that a person may play unconsciously. These formative influences mold the psychoanalytic subject, by a pattern which takes history for its witness, by exerting influence right into the present life of the subject. A historicism that synchronizes itself with the preservation instinct of a culture, its religion and myth, comes to become dense with local meanings. Theories of knowledge, ways of being in the world that suture the clans and institutions that work actively, or passively, in determining the experiential self of the culturally alien subject ought to be treated of as formative predispositions that govern the alien logic of individual psychoanalytical subjects from exotic, ancient cultures.
To speak of a culturally mediated subject, then, requires that the psycho-analytical map be plotted along contours of individual psyches as they relate to a field of social inherence; where their repressions and pleasures become coherent and insinuate themselves into a referential bond with the subjects’ desire. So, to know what one really desires, psychoanalytically, cannot be a task that is separate from a knowledge of what constitutes one’s idea of self in the said culture.
“…if a man comes to think about the symbolic order, it is because he is first caught in it in his being. The illusion that he has formed this order through his consciousness stems from the fact that it is through the pathway of a specific gap in his imaginary relationship with his semblable the he has been able to enter into his order as a subject. But he has only been able to make this entrance by passing through the radical defile of speech, a genetic moment of which we have seen in the child’s game, but which, in its complete form, is reproduced each time the subject addresses the Other as absolute, that is, as the Other who can annul him himself, just as he can act accordingly with the Other, that is, by making himself an object in order to deceive the Other” (Lacan § 53, par. 7, 40).
Lacan locates in the psychoanalytic subjects’ mode of self-identification a fundamental flaw, which reifying the analysand as an experiential and intuitive subject of his psychic world. Being objectively present in that world in the shape of others who contain a ground-plan of his psyche thus subject is subordinate to laws of understanding and sense that are independent of himself, and society insofar as it is constituted in his self-identity. I.e., the very impossibility of any real, integrally coherent identity formation, which is amenable to the experiential subject’s life within the social field he populates, is a pathological wish in the subject who submits, admits, to his identity in the world. All instances of identity in a subject, for Lacan, in the subjects’ rational view of the world, are “veridical hallucinations” occasioned by the empathic compulsion of a credo of logics that render him a subject with a place in that world, where his fragile narcisstic self, [culturally constituted and only identity], is at one with the mother lode of self-understanding and self-realisation, i.e. when he is convinced he has made out the senses in which he can overcome his ambivalence towards the indifferent or malevolent world of socially imposed life experience, or developed a confirmed identity in relation to others in his society, even as states of identity that are realised fluidly for each social clique he is privy to. Then, an Indian subject who is forced to presume that, his situation is prefigured for self consummation only in socially determined ways, symbolically and logically, any mode of identifying an authentic self in his world is denied as a priori impossible, and in fact by his very need to know the content of his beliefs. In the Hindu world, only in deference to the religiously-sanctioned wishes of his mother, wishes that are legitimated by the culture of our Indian society through lore, legend and sacraments, can the son attain his sense of self— more accurately, when he is forced to break away from his mother in ritual adolescence he faces for the first time the world which is indifferent or malevolent to his wishes and sense of security.
As the Indian adage goes, sons are to be raised as rajahs in their first five years, treated as slaves for the next fifteen, and thought of as friends thereafter. When the son is thrust away from his mother into the world at this stage of initiation, he experiences the first substantive test of his selfhood in relation to a world indifferent to his symbiosis with the mother. The resultant narcissistic self injury, custom-made by prevalent cultural modes of being, shape the individuating subject of psychoanalysis.
To be sure, then, Lacan’s invocation of Goya’s pithy formulation,- that “…the sleep of reason is sustained by the monsters it produces”-, is not applicable to the veridical independence of social institutions created in India by Hindu cultural memory, insofar, as the reason of its presence in the Indian unconscious is proliferate, living and relevant outside the contours of a Eurocentric attitude towards empirical reality. According to the symbolic order of roles given subjects in Hindu soteriology, the traumatic return of early, childish, modes of reasoning when faced with anxiety, which was first occasioned by separation from the mother, are neutralised. Since this monster is assuredly kept at bay in every contingent instance of svadharama realised, the pronouncement that its mastery over enduring senses of reason are sleepy is not sustainable. The individual’s ambition to achieve cultural selfhood are most properly realised in the service of symbolic orders of tradition: cultural prescriptions for fulfillment of a personal and “particular life-task” dominate the emergent occasions that initiate the creation of the selfhood of Indian subjects (Kakar 1978, 37).
Then, to know what one, as an Indian, desires, in the most general and oversimplified instance, necessitates an understanding of what is the one that desires. This idea of the subject determines the arc of desire vis-à-vis cultural mores that define their ideal realisation in collective rituals and traditions that find their place in society: what one wants is determined by what one thinks one is. What one is is determined by what Others are. Others are, most generally speaking, the culture which is the light that makes visible the shape of the world; and, to know what one is, psychoanalytically, demands that one know what this culture is, i.e. what its symbolic world is, what it’s governing logics are.
The idea that desire is directly contained in the mending of unconscious attitudes by adopting a licit value based orderings of resistance and ordained ab-negations, as in the Western ideal of individuation against the grain of society’s demands, is unsustainable without an idea of what this society’s demands really are. These demands are best formulated in local religious traditions and cultural artefacts from the subject’s social field; to ignore the particular logics of sense dominant in a particular culture is to doom the project of understanding individual desire to misrecognitions, to veridical hallucinations of contemporary hegemons.
Freud, Sigmund. “The Resistances to Psychoanalysis”. Historical and
Expository Works on Psychoanalysis: On the History of the
Psychoanalytic Movements, An Autobiographical Study, An Outline of
Psychoanalysis and Other Works, Vol. 15. New Delhi: Shrijee’s Book
International, 2003. Print. P. 299- 318. p. 310- 11.
Kakar, Sudhir. The Inner World: A Psychoanalytic Study of Childhood and
Society in India, Third Edition. New Delhi: Oxford University Press,
Kakar, Sudhir. India Identity. New Delhi: Penguin, 1996. Print.
Kakar, Sudhir & Kakar, Katharina. The Indians: Portrait of a People. New Delhi:
Penguin, 2007. Print.
Lacan, Jacques. Trans. Fink, Bruce. Écrits: The First Complete Edition in
English. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2006. Print.
Lacan, Jacques. Trans. Fink, Bruce. Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2006. Print.
The general suspicion carried by identity semblables as they exist in cultural norms, analogous to the repressive force that demands satisfaction, work to eliminate the need for an individuals’ dismantling of the suggestion that his personal understanding and compliance with the normative proscription cannot create a safer alternative; society is apt to repress latent desires that could carry the threat of injury for the community- Freud has maintained that such is not the desirable end of psychoanalytical praxis (see Freud, Sigmund. “The Resistances to Psychoanalysis”. Historical and Expository Works on Psychoanalysis: On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movements, An Autobiographical Study, An Outline of Psychoanalysis and Other Works, Vol. 15. New Delhi: Shrijee’s Book International, 2003. Print).
Ibid. § 46, par. 4, p. 34.
Ibid. (Kakar 1978).
A Series of explorations in the Indian Aesthetic Universe
The aesthetic object, in Indian consciousness, is mediated by a syncretism which owes its rubric to the friction between ancient religious philosophy, colonialism, nationalist revivalism and post-globalised cultural invasion. To talk of indigenous artistic vision is to invoke a large tradition of self-assertions that hark back to the constructed unity of fragmentary social strata, it is to evoke the mythic idea of a unified Bharatavarsha, in so far as personal identities find their definition in relation to the traditionally delineated mythic structures of cultural memory. In short, the unity of non-dualist religion is not responsible for the Indian aesthetic, which seeks to combine sensate and supra-sensory experience in the aesthetic event. It is more a product of a burgeoning nationalist revivalism in the event of the Hindu encounter with religious Others.
Beauty, a western concept, is a transition of Western historical self-narratives corresponding to sates of social evolution in the reflected light of Occidental cultural vestiges (Eco, 2004; Eco, 2007). An analogue to this Western concept for India’s aesthetic domain is to be found in the notion of saundarya. This theoretical distinction attains laudable weight when it is used to cleave at the excessive nature of constructed formalisation of aesthetic attitudes in Indian society which is not to be subsumed by the theistic schema of Advaita Hinduism in isolation. One may contend that the non-duality of Advaita Hinduism, which enjoys numerical predominance, is not responsible for the Indian aesthetic vision, where artifice must produce affect to insinuate beauty is more in line with the materialistic naturalism of post-colonial India.
Saundarya means the whole gamut of aesthetic experiences, as enunciated by Indian aesthetic traditions, and is, therefore, the formal localisation of beauty. Saundarya is the product of that which arouses rasa. Rasas are, as concepts quite selcouth and polyvalent, determinate states of affect engendered as sensuous experience through the instrumental provenance of artifice. Artifice, in its turn, is defined by Jagannatha as the collocation of circumstances of cause, effect and comprehension that produce a sensation that bespeaks an affect which belongs to the “…super-mundane [lokottara] (Prasad, G., 1994, p. 132)”. The beauty of painting is said to emerge from harnessing the representative faculty of mimetic gestures, which draw on the skill of “…abhinaya [acting], an integral part of dancing” as a repertoire of stylistic gestures and postures that elicit, or produce, “…rasa and saundarya” (Dehejia & Paranjape, 2003, p.55).
Bharatas’ Natyashastra enunciates the inherent aesthetic values of dance while evading their qualia, and instead alluding to the means of their genesis (Dehejia & Paranjape, 2003, p.54). Traditional exegesis of aesthetic characteristics of dance has often involved the study of analogical hierarchies, such as the one found in Vishnudharmottara-Purana (Ibid 2003). The analogy offered here is revelatory in relation to the experiential provenance of aesthetic creation and criticism: a gradation from sculpture to music is implicit in traditional accounts- since, according to the allegory offered here, sculpture captures an image which is vital to the art of painting, but painting needs dance since it implicates the conscious interpellation of images and mental states that “…imitate the world”, and mastering dance demands an understanding of music and musical instruments (Ibid 2003, p.54-55). The implicit definition of beauty is, thereby, “…imitation”, which is the forte of dance (Ibid 2003, p. 55).
Traditionally, the inadequacy of painting in relation to dance consisted in its failure to represent, through mimicry, the flux of objects at home in the world of experience (Dehejia & Paranjape, 2003). Thus, the operational distinctions between the arts were always taken to impute a hierarchy of the faculty of reproducing material reminders of the mythic cultural homology of the Hindu universe. Housden, pithily, illuminates the uniquely Indian production of a notional monad from the dualistic stuff of cultural memory and communal memory: “The sacrality of the land of India, not any political vision, is what, still today, gives a sense of unity to this country of so many religions, cultures, races and factions” (Paranjape, M., R., 2012, p.97). This reassessment of ancient thought in aesthetics represents the reassessment of cultural memory in relation to historical experience.
Since the body is the frontier where dance must invoke its mimetic lines of production it is apposite to define the codifications of body language as they have come to be embodied in filmic representations as a product of colonial influence. The side effect of Western education which led to self-consciousness of victim-hood among Indians under British rule was a simultaneous revulsion towards the dislodging of the Indian subject from local culture into foreign mores, and thereby a reinvigoration of the same by reclaiming the cultural narratives which defined contemporaneous disillusionment (Clark-Deces, 2011, Ch. 6). The most popular form of dance in India today is Bollywood film music oriented, and despite film music’s syncretic character, by its nature of inclusion in films, is in keeping with the spontaneous trappings of the of the nautanki tradition (Richmond, Swann & Zarrilli, 1993, p. 272; Stange, Oyster & Sloan, 2011, p. 175).
This blog-post will be continued as a series of posts about Indian Aesthetics at later dates catagorised under Art.
Clark-Deces, Isabelle (2011) A Companion to the Anthropology of India. USA: John Wiley & Sons.
Dehejia, Harsha, V. & Paranjape, Makarand (2003) Saundarya: The Perception and Practice of Beauty in India. India: Samvad India Foundation.
Eco, Umberto. Ed. (2004) History of Beauty. Italy: Rizzoli.
Eco, Umberto. Ed. (2007) On Ugliness. Italy: Rizzoli.
Paranjape, Makarand, A. (2012) Acts of Faith: Journeys to Sacred India. India: Hay House.
Prasad, Gupteshwar (1994) I.A. Richards and Indian Theory of Rasa. India: Sarup & Sons.
Richmond, Farley, P.; Swann, Darius, L. & Zarrilli, Phillip, B. (1993) Indian Theatre: Traditions of Performance. India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Stange, Mary, Z.; Oyster, Carol, K. & Sloane, Jane, E. (2011) Encyclopedia of Women in Today’s World, Volume 1. USA: Sage Publications.