Archive for December, 2005


December 16th, 2005

There are some of
these days when I think about ‘definitions’ and I am bothered …


15 th December 2005


I have suddenly
discovered the camera and am making pictures everywhere I go (these days).


Yesterday afternoon,
I was walking past the Grant
Road Bridge
making my way to Lamington Road .
Grant Road Bridge
is the home to many pavement dwellers and drug addicts. At one point, I saw a
child screaming and crying, drawing everyone’s attention. The legs of this
little boy were tied. He may have been about three years old. Next to him was
his little sibling. She was a new born infant, deep in slumber, inside a pen. For
a moment, I was shaken by the wailing of the little boy. For a moment, I was
moved by the cruelty of the act of tying his feet. But when I brought out my
camera, I decided not to moralize the picture, but to show one more aspect of
street life in one part of the city. I did not have the courage to make the
picture from forward. So I decided to go back and make the picture. I
photographed. A little commotion ensued. A woman came running and she came up
close to me saying, ‘No photos’, ‘No pictures’. I was frightened. I decided to
show her the picture I had made and delete it in front of her eyes to reassure her.
She grabbed me by my arm and pushed me away, ‘go away from here’.

My guess was that
the woman was mildly mentally deranged. She was very aggressive when she pushed
me. I began to wonder why the child’s legs were tied. My only guess is that maybe
its mother did not want it to wander around the road in her absence; so this
was a good way to keep the child put – basically safety of the child.

The lady who pushed
me may have been the mother. And again I guessed – perhaps she did not want me
to make the picture, thinking that if I were a social worker type, I would take
away her children thinking that she is a cruel mother and put them in foster
care – I am only guessing here!

What interested me about
the experience was the definition of rights – are rights truly universal? In
the context of lifestyles and cultures, do rights take on relative meanings? For
instance, in the case of this child, there may have been perfectly legitimate
reasons for tying his legs in the context of their lifestyle and culture – does
the rights’ framework then do unintended violence to such people and cultures? Does
it give power of definitions (in the Foucaultian sense) to certain groups to
intervene on behalf of the greater good (greater good questionable in this




10 th December 2005


My classmate in the
photography class is discussing a project idea. His project is to photograph
garbage. He has been an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) and was irked by the sight of
garbage when he came to India .
He wonders how people can be so insensitive to something which is so evident. He
wants to project garbage in a way that will make people want to do something
about it.


I had an
interesting experience this morning. I was walking by the bridge on Byculla
when I saw a rag picker picking up an orange fruit from the trash lying on the road.
It was his breakfast. He ate hungrily and was reasonably satisfied as the
pleasure of the fruit drew to an end.


I wondered about
garbage that evening. What is trash to me is food to someone else; trash irks
me because I want a clean city, yet, that trash is food for someone else. Who defines
dirty? Who defines clean? Are we Foucaultian here again in our everyday lives
and practices?


While re-picturing
the rag picker picking fruit from the trash heap, I wondered, what are the
points of negotiation between one group’s ideal of a clean city and another
group’s city which exists through trash? (Perhaps trash is what makes up their
city …)




8 th December 2005


Visiting Imambada
has become a regular jaunt. I sit in Khushali Tea Café, a Muslim Irani Tea
Joint to understand the notion of public space. This evening, as I was wading
my way through the crowded and busy street of Imambada, I wondered about
locality and lifestyles.


A city is an
agglomeration of different lifestyles, each emerging from local histories. In the
process of creating the global city ( Shanghai , Singapore , Hong Kong ,
King Kong!), we are either wiping away locality or are commodifying (read
culture-izing) it through alluding to its ‘unique culture’, making it yet
another Moroccan Birdcage as Jonathan Raban spoke in his book ‘Soft City’.


While wading
through sweat and dust and grime (and experience), I was disturbed by the
definition of public space and the image/s which the term ‘public space’ evokes.
Maybe public space is what is clean, well maintained, a park, a garden, an open
space, etc. In my worldview, Khushali Tea Café is a public space, one which is
interesting and yet has problems of its own. One of the problems with Khushali
is that it is a male centric public space. Imambada is a Muslim neighbourhood;
women rarely come to Khushali on their own (and in this respect, my position as
a researcher in the café is disturbing to me and to the store owner as I am
constantly being watched ‘as a single, lone woman’). If women come to Khushali,
then they are largely accompaniments (read appendage) to the men. Yet, Khushali
is a critical space where locality is produced and reproduced. It is a
gathering space, a meeting space. Tea costs Rs. 3 (and I bet it is the most
fantastic and simple tea you would have ever had! Try with salt and lemon and
the definition of tea will change …). The store owner, who is the tea maker and
the space creator, has no pretensions about his existence – drink your tea if
you like; don’t drink tea; sit if you please without wanting to drink; do what
you like! – and then he grumbles about having to wake up early and customers
pouring till late at night – I have a 12 hour job, he grumbles, I have to wake
up in the morning to run the water pump and I am functioning ever since then! Do
I have a life? – and he goes on grumbling and making tea!


Public space huh? Whose
the public? What is public? Where is the space? What is the space? Why is the
space? …



Definitions huh?



I am bothered …