Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Fall weather
Fears of winter
Short days
Long hours of darkness
Winter comes too soon
Spring not soon enough

No no, I'm in no hurry for spring.

There's autumn colors to look forward to, and coats, scarves, firans and hand-knit sweaters.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Naya Daur/New Era

This film was made in 1957 and is an indictment of Nehruvian era's large-scale industrialization. I saw it the week of 15th August 2007 in Dahod district, in the SEZ-EPZ-global outsourcing era, which was like going back to the future, and thinking about democracy, choices, modernity and spirituality.

Everything about the film is surprising, from its songs to a lucid, elegant way of setting up the conflict between labor and capital, and its beginning with Gandhi's quote that a society in which human labor is valued is like a tree with deep roots that grows strong. In hindsight, it presents the chasm between Nehru and Gandhi's visions of progress and the purpose of human life. The film is about mechanization, the rise of capital, loss of livelihoods, and the ultimate triumph of labor not just through intelligence and strength, but with reason and dignity.

The film's beauty is its humor, love between men, between man and woman, and between landlords and laborers. My favorite song is the first song of the film (and the least known), a short conversation between Dilip Kumar and Jeevan which foretells the film's story surprisingly (just the first minute of the clip), an unsurpassed scene of bonding between friends in a film created with a feather-light, bantering touch:

(Dilip Kumar, sounding ironic):dil leke dagaa denge
yaar hain matlab ke
ye denge to kya denge
(friends- friends of convenience, (they'll) steal your heart and trick you)

(Jeevan replies):duniya ko dikha denge
yaaron ke paseene par
hum khoon baha denge
(i'll show the world- for every drop of your sweat, i'll sweat my blood)

Friend M pointed out one drawback- the female lead is the love interest of both leading men and seemingly has no choice in who she ends up with- the men decide unilaterally that "he will have her whose favorite flowers she brings as an offering to the village temple." Very nice. Here's chocolate in a wrapper. Open it. If it turns out to be white, it's yours. If it's dark, it's mine.

Despite this little flaw, the film is a great reminder for our times and worth watching many many times.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Little Black Sambo

Do you find this book offensive? I do. Read it here:

It's the story of Little Black Sambo. Sambo is a charcoal black boy with fat red lips in India, with all the racial connotations that conjures. The book was written in the 19th century when it was a time of the white man's burden. Every mention of Sambo is preceded by 'black'- 'Little Black Sambo went to the jungle', 'Little Black Sambo saw the tiger.' His mum's called Black Mumbo. The dad's called Black Jumbo. Mumbo-Jumbo.

What makes it hugely problematic is that it's a children's book. I read comments on this book and someone remembered it as the best book of her childhood. Another person said it got racialized in the US by groups like the NAACP even though the book was set in India where 'tigers are an everyday occurence'.

Whaaat? If it's in India it's not about race? Race is about the construction of an otherness, any otherness. And tigers- everyday occurence?
Wash U's having an esoteric symposium on the book. I don't think we need pontification about how it was a product of its time (therefore needing to be placed 'in context')- the context WAS colonization.

Labels: , , , ,

Rules of engagement

(Strangers crossing on the street)

He says: Come 'ere girl.

She says: No one says 'come 'ere girl' to me.

He says: Okay. Hello Miss.