Traditional and Contemporary Art meets to speak up for bruised mothers, sisters, and partners

Abused Goddesses

Click to enlarge

Saraswati, Durga, and Lakhsmi are Tri Devi (three goddesses) in Hindu religion who are worshipped for knowledge, strength, and the fate perhaps equally by both men and women. While these goddesses enjoy such a high respect in the society, this is not the case with their living ‘replica’  in the form of our mothers, sisters, and partners.  This disjuncture between the religious ideals and the societal reality is portrayed by  art works which combines both hand made traditional art and modern photography clicking the real models designed by Mumbai based advertising agency Taproot India. The campaign is being used by an NGO called Save the Children India under Save Our Sisters initiative and the image also has the text which says:

“Pray that we never see this day. Today more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray too.”

News and Image source: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/abused-goddesses-spread-message-against-domestic-violence/420065-77.html

The reason to buy the incense

Incense

Nine month before from today i.e. on 30th of October 2012, I was heading towards Nehru Place to  find some electronic devices for me.  And on the way, I was not aware that I had to encounter an old man selling an incense  sticks while The auto was waiting for the traffic signal to come. This old man asked me to buy his product by saying that he had not taken his meals for days. For me, the incense was of no use until the date I took this to home during this summer breaks in my University. My mother very happy to see the incense perhaps thinking that her son had now started to buy things required for her. But then when she along with father heard this story behind buying the sticks, they spoke nothing and I did not know what they had thought of.

Image Source: http://www.peacefulmind.com/images/incense/sacred_incense.jpg

My first visit to and one month stay in Delhi

If I begin to narrate my initial one month at South Asian University, the thread connects me to the time when I began to learn the ABC of social sciences and developed the interest to pursue a post graduate course in social sciences which is global in its features yet having strong footing with the local. Therefore, the choice was obvious: South Asian University for its unique feature in the South Asian region.

November – Dec 2011, the end and the beginning

It is safe to start this narration from Dec 2011 which for me is both the completion of a formal Graduate Diploma in Social Sciences (GDSS) at Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Kathmandu and entry to social science research for I was graduated on second of Dec 2011 and one of my teacher who taught me sociology offered me to work with him some weeks before my graduation.

January 2011, the orientation

I was completely in different terrain then, if one looks at my career path and disciplinary training.  But I was also in some way trying my luck in one area on which I can truly enjoy both texts and pedagogy. The school was promising and it fulfilled its promise for me. I still remember the first day of the class when Wayne and Charlotte made us to interact in such a way that we, all students, get introduced with each other in less than half an hour. Recalling what Wayne used to say, here things come into mind- CAT (critical, analytical, and theoretical), the acronym I made for what he wanted us to have as the course progresses. His aim as he used to say was to make us equals by equipping the linguistic skills which social scientists require. Wayne and Charlotte taught us the necessary skills to survive academically in a new environment which was geographically in Nepal but in its essence, it was a replication of the western universities.

February – June 2011, the first innings

After the 3 weeks of orientation in Academic English, a cohort of students were taken into first semester with the courses in Sociological Theories from Classical to Contemporary Era, Research Methods, Modern Political Thought accompanied with Academic English I. The faculties had their own reputations in Nepal. It was the time when I learnt the essence of managing time differently and many other academic skills like reading the primary texts and writing reflection papers for the first time.

21st May 2011, South Asian University (SAU) Entrance Test for the first batch of MA Sociology, the seed of interest

The first semester was about to end and the second semester was yet to be started, there was an admission announcement for MA Sociology at South Asian University for its first batch on which I did not apply even after browsing the University website and departmental status including the course curriculum, faculties and the methodology. It was because I did not want to terminate the course midway for two reasons: firstly, the courses in the second semester were also equally promising – Anthropological Theories, Gender Studies, Comparative Social Sciences, and Academic English II and secondly, it was in a sense the preparation for the course that I am currently enrolled in SAU.

July – November 2011, the second innings

The second semester was more demanding than the first because of volumes of readings and number of assignments. In many instances, I felt like to leave the course because of the academic pressure but I had no other options than to complete.  I must not forget to mention one thing during his semester that the course on Gender studies became a litmus test in many ways. With such volume of reading materials and weekly reflection paper it was really a game of alchemy. However, I found this “grinding machine” approach beneficial to me at this stage of my life. Besides this, the course on Anthropology; Comparative Social Sciences; and Academic English II made me able to think differently than before.

Dec 2011 – May 2012 (25th and 27th May 2012, Entrance at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and SAU, and Nepal’s deadline to draft the Constitution)

As I began to work, I felt that I need some substantive course at Masters which could add some meaning to my work experience. Therefore, I applied to two different Universities in India because I wanted to see India and the countries of South Asia not just through maps, atlases, newspapers, Bollywood, and television etc. but through my eyes and ears in addition to my study. As I began to review the readings that I did during the Diploma, I felt I utterly lack the time because I was working full time and getting time to prepare for the test was virtually impossible for the duty I was associated with that  time.   JNU Entrance was on 25th of May 2012 which was on Friday and on 27th May; I had to appear for SAU entrance. 27th May was also the final deadline for Nepali politicians to draft the constitution of New Nepal and because I was working as a member to assess the relevance and efficacy of informal dialogue space created by for the second tier leaders representing major political parties to bring in their bottom line and discussing about the possible way out for consensus. I had to assist senior researchers to interview some of these politicians and highly regarded journalists/editors and political analysts. To find the time of these people during this time itself was scarce. In such circumstances, I was not able to ask for the leave to prepare for the entrance.

Choosing one between the two when both are good in their own ways

I was offered admission at both South Asian University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. For some reasons, I was already hooked with SAU instead of many of my seniors advising me to enroll at JNU. I wished to be in a new one reflecting my habit of making wild decision for others but it was a conscious decision because my happiness always comes with my decision. This also reflects my long term career objective to study the comparative political history of South Asia which is incomplete without the study of Pakistan and there are no students from Pakistan at JNU, I guess, which is not the case of SAU because of easy SAU visa scheme. Sociology at SAU is one of the nuanced courses in sociology in the region that has two papers on Sociology of South Asia examining the social science scholarship across the region. The course also includes some forums like – Cinema and Society, Sociology Lecture Series, Student run blog, Dissertation option etc.

Arriving in India and at SAU, the actual day counts from today

I came to India for the first time in the monsoon of 2012 i.e. 29th of July 2012. On the day I arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport, I realized the infrastructure that India has. I took a trolley at the airport and moved to the nearest station where I could find the taxi or auto.  I took the taxi and moved to the place called Dwaraka Sector 13 where one of my friends was staying for a few months. On the first day, I could not find anything different than Nepal except the Indira Gandhi International Airport and the wider roads. Two days later, I experienced the Delhi Metro while I was coming to the University. “Agala Station Race Course Hai. Darbaja Baai Taraf Se Khulegi. Kripaya Sabdhani Se Utare.” (The next station is Race Course, the doors will open at the left) This is what this new form of means of transport said to me which was introduced in Delhi some years back.

At the University

I met with Admission Officers at the University and completed necessary formalities. The University assigned me the temporary room where I was staying with a matured student from Srilanka for whom I began to teach basic communicative Hindi because Hindi was essential for him to communicate in market place. Until the course began, I was introduced with some new and existing students from the countries across South Asia. If I have to recall the first month at SAU, I am worried about the upcoming months because I got chance to visit many institutions, places and meet many persons of importance with some beautiful hearts.   About the days to come on which I am not sure about the God’s plan for me; however, I hope only good things in his store house for me.

I met and talked with my Dean, Dr. Sasanka Perera which was facilitated by one of my seniors. I also met with all my Professors and talked about the academic issues. I replied the email to Meena maiju, emailed to thulo mama, my teachers, supervisors and colleagues at work.  The cultural life at SAU, as I feel, is something that is beyond the academic life inside classroom and library that truly reflects the South Asian sensibility in the University as evidenced in the celebration of independence days of Pakistan and India jointly.  The President of the University, Prof. G.K. Chadha who attended the event until the end, and other South Asian witnessed the same. For me, this was a historical moment because if one talks about the prosperity of entire regions, the countries representing the region have to work harmoniously. If we can raise such event to the state level, many common anxieties of South Asia can be solved. Being here, I’ve already begun to see myself as South Asian no just Nepali.

Having explained all these, I am happy to be in a University which has a multipronged approach in teaching. The only thing that I want to change in the University if someone asks me would be further addition of informal and continuous assessment but the removal of written examination that would, in my opinion, sustains the patterns of memory race even if the questions are innovative, the preparation by the students seem much similar as they used to do before.

To conclude, I have got some beautiful experience at India because of being at SAU which if put in Hellen Keller’s words: The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. 

Image source:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/9702398/Ive-seen-the-future-in-India-and-Britain-can-share-the-spoils.html

The life line and the deadline

To read anything is easy but when comes to see the same things the level of understanding, increases. But the experiencing the same only can tell you the real sense of it. This week I am suffering from flu and taking medicines. Now I realize that my paramedical and public health training as well as interaction among the patients suffering from the flu was incomplete to understand the ‘rites de passage’ they went through. The realization came to me when this affected both my life line and deadline. Life line, the physical well being and the deadline, the assignment at the University.

 

 

Yatra with a cause

On the 16th of this month, I was hurried to come out of my anthropology class and eat the lunch at the campus canteen. I rushed for an auto with a freind and reached the Metro station at Race course, Delhi. We had to take a train from Old Delhi railway station to Gorakhpur at 3 pm.
tbc…

Nations and Nationalism in Contemporary South Asia: A Nepalese Perspective

The notion of nationalism and ethnicity is much pronounced now than ever before in Nepal. The idea of cultural sameness shared by the citizens of a nation and distinctiveness that differs them from what nationalism and ethnicity refers respectively to. This essay summarizes the main arguments made by Ernest Gellner in his classic writing on nationalism and ethnicity. The paper begins with definitions of nationalism, state and the nation followed by the reflection of these concepts in Nepalese context.

Ernest Gellner begins the writing by defining the political principle by which he means the congruency of political and national unit that includes political sentiment and political movement. According to him, political sentiment is the feeling about the fulfillment of the principle by either anger or satisfaction and political movemnet is actuated by this sentiment. For him, violations of the nationalism principle is through four reasons- political boundary of a state does not include all members of the nation, political boundary including some  foreigners, multiplicity of state resulting in no national state and rulers of the political unit belonging to another nation than the majority of the ruled. He further argues that Nationalism is a theory of political legitimacy, which requires that ethnic boundaries should not cross political ones. On explaing the state, Gellner cites the Weberian definition of the state which says that the state is an agency within society which possesses the monopoly of legitimate violence. He does this to explain that nationalism does not arise from stateless societies.

Gellner then explains the stages in mankind’s history where he outlines three societies i.e.  pre-agrarian society, agrarian society and industrial or post-agrarian society. Pre-agrarian society is characterised by hunting and gathering, small societies with no possibilities for political divison of labour and with absence of a state. Similarly,  the characteristics of agrarian societies was such that the most agrarian societies are state-endowed, state is one possible option and various forms of states. In the same way, post-agrarian society features  the state which is infact inescapable, once none had the state, then some had it, and finally all have it and large societies with high living standards need general division of labour and cooperation.

Nationality, accoording to Gellner is a given category and a modern man’s imagination. He provides an analogy of shadow to explain this concept. He says that nationality is a person’s identity and inherent with him like his shadow wherever he goes.  In fact, nations are no universal necessity. Nations and states do not exist all the time and under all circumstances. State emerged without the help of the nation. He further defines the nation on the basis of two criteria- cultural and voluntaristic.  Cultural definition stresses upon the sharing of a same culture whereas voluntaristic definition argues on recognition by others as having same nation.

As discussed above, states emerged in agrarian societies and agrarian societies are characterised by  two main factors – emergence of literacy to some groups and emergence of clerisy. Literacy was first required for keeping records (taxes / accounts) and functions were largely on legal domain for either contractual or administrative purposes. Those who were literate specialists  have chance of becoming a clerisy. The social structure of agro literate polity was such that ruling class was a minority with rigid separation and exaggeration of class inequality leads to  specialised sublayers. The stress was on cultural differentiation and there was horizontal lines of cultural cleavage.  Genetic and cultural differences covered functional differentiations. Production class was organized in small, inward-turned communities with no possible cultural homogenity. State interests were only on tax collection and peace maintenance. Clerisy was the only class which may have a measure of interests in imposing shared cultural norms, but the social structure prevented success. The definition of cultural boundaries was impossible, because culture and power were separated.

Gellner argues that cultural proliferation in this world does not generally lead to cultural imperialism and political boundaries and cultural limits are determined by totally different factors. Culture tends to be branded horizontaly in class or vertically in local communities. The proliferation is very complex and is based on different factors such as life-style, occupation, language, religion, etc.

The issue of nationality and nationalism has to be thought in context of people. Nationality is not a territory. It is often heard that Nepal’s King might have been autocratic but he was a nationalist. Often, it is voiced from a person who is not in King’s camp politically. It is surprising that how can nationalism be assured without people’s basic rights? Desh or nation is not a territory but people. This should be noted that Nepal is Nepal because Nepalese are living in Nepal. The territory may be there even in absence of Nepali but the true notion of Nepal as nation will not be there.

History suggests that current Nepal is the result of the expansion of Gorkha state by King Prithvi Narayan Shah. After the end of Mughal Empire in India during 18th century, many kings of this region were expanding their states by conquering other states. King Prithvi Narayan Shah was one of them. The primary purpose of unifying other states then was nothing but to expand his state. It would be wrong to say that it was unification because the concept of nationalism was not imagined during those days.  The brutality towards Newars of Kathmandu is the testimony that the conqueror was not acting like a statesman but a victor.  Sughauli treaty made the geographical territory of Nepal but not of the nation. After 1816, Nepal was formed but no attempts were made to make it a nation. The nationalism as a feeling was perhaps first experienced during 1950 (2007 BS) movement when people from the east and west and the north and south went to Nepal. The same was during 1990 (2046 BS) and 2006 (2063 BS). However, I doubt whether these movements were spontaneous or induced. Now, the need of the hour is again to form a nation not just to create a territory based on ethnicity or other. Only time can tell what will happen next.

 

Bibliography

Gellner, E. (2006) Chapters 1 and 2Nations and Nationalism, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pg. 1-7, 8-18, 19-37.

The article is also published in the following link page:

http://sausociology.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/nations-and-nationalism-in-contemporary-south-asia-a-nepalese-perspective/