Tuesday, October 28, 2008

He's Gone to Barcelona [poetry]

He says he's gone to Barcelona:
Took his brother along his traveling persona.
I find it cute that he took his 15 year old brother
So they could spend time with one another.
I would like to meet this brother of his
Reads Sartre at 15, that's quite a whiz!

He says they walk a lot in Barcelona:
He did a lot of that even in Poona;
Promenading around like a flaneur,
One that Baudelaire would glorify in myrrh,
Taking his comrade swinging around town,
Looking at Barcelona, together as they walk down...

I have never tasted the Spanish dust,
But I imagine him ambling in wanderlust,
Searching for alleys of discoveries,
Of Horchatas made by Spanish fairies;
His desire to see and unearth more
Feeding his nomad-thirst to explore.

I see gold hair against Mediterranean architecture,
An artistic mind making sense of modernist structure,
Fair skin, pale, surrounded by crepuscular Iberian men
Who swirl in his eyes, curdling his vertiginous blood when,
He stops and thinks all of a sudden:
"Will I meet my lover in London?"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Chagos Islanders [What the eff??]

These days, I have my nose, eyes, brains all deeply sunk into analyzes of spaces or should I say non-spaces that pertain to the nation, or to a state or to a nation-state (Judith Butler asks: What does that hyphen between the two words entail?)

So I have been looking at forced displaced populations, at slavery movements, at prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, at asylum seekers, war resistors, movements from rural to urban America etc. and in the process trying to develop a possible idea of queer spaces in relation to race, but as symptomatic of gender. Whatever it is, it all fascinates me, particularly trying to understand forced displacements and incarceration.

Now, Matthew (who is a most loving guy who is in the Canadian/Indigenous Studies Program here at Trent) sends me the link to this article this morning. I won't lie, before even reading it, I look at those pictures that suddenly take me to a "home" I have left for more than five years now. Then, I read the article.

I have been exposed and more-or-less sensitive to the Chagos issue since I was a teenager. It struck me as surprising while reading this article that I never thought of looking at the Chagos natives as "migrants" or as a "displaced population." Is it because it is too small a population? Is it because I think of Mauritius as a haven where life would be better for them in any case? Is it because I really wonder why would they want to be in a small fishing island lost in the middle of nowhere, while they could be in Mauritius? Or is it simply because I have been aware of their battle since I was kid, and I am now insensitive to their discourse?

When I come to think about it, though am sure I still need more thinking, I have a feeling that all Chagos Islanders who actually yearn for their "home" are the people who were born there, i.e. the first-hand generation, and they are the ones who want to go back; but then, they will all be dead in a couple of decades in any case, so why create such a belly-ache over the issue? Their children are all Mauritians and see themselves as such, and would not want to go to the Chagos, a place where they have never lived to start with.

Besides, the first generation and the second generation were all granted British citizenship some years back as a "compensation" for their displacement. As I looked at my TV screen and saw all of them going up to take their new British passports, I remember it infuriating me. I saw the entire political fight as a simple bet and cover for begging for British citizenship.

But now, years later, I realize that I have been too harsh on the Chagos Islanders. I thought all the while that they wanted easy-money simply to be compensated. However, I realise that none of them took advantage of their British citizenship for example. They all stayed back in Mauritius and kept fighting to be able to go back to Diego Garcia. So may be they actually did see the fact of receiving the British passport as the first step of a longer battle (and I was thoroughly unfair thinking this was the ends of their means.)

May be I should be more sensitive to the fate of the Chagos Islanders after all? Those people are yearning for a home and fighting to go back there with such fiery energy. This seems to be all they live for and to this extent, what would differentiate them from any other individual who was displaced by force, be it the Palestinian woman or the war prisoner?

BUT, I did not say WHAT PISSES ME OFF:

"The US state department had argued that the islands might be useful to terrorists."

That's what the article mentions, AND THAT FUCKING PISSES ME OFF!! What do you mean terrorists in four islands where only 5 houses can fit?!! What is it that won't be excused under the rubric of "terrorism" for hell's sake?!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tasteless or Shocking: Are We Looking at the Right Thing Here? [insight]

Well there's been a HUGE outcry over the Vogue photo-shoot that featured poor citizens ('Ethnic' may be? 'Exotic'? After all, they are not poor people, but simply 'ethnic' ones) of India carrying stylized, branded, luxury items.

Here is a link to one of those articles (and pictures) for those who do not know what I'm speaking about.

And here is a link to a response to it, as given by the Vogue India editor.

At this point, I have two questions:

1- It's been a month or so now since these pictures have been out: Does anyone speak about them anymore? Or is it that the shock simply faded and the distaste turned into indifference?

2- My second question is: Are we actually looking at the right thing here? [I don't want to vent my rage towards Priya Tanna's stupid comments (she's not blond, oh no, she is simply STUPID) on how fashion is not to be taken seriously and about how fashion has nothing political about it. I wonder how is it that it can not be political when so much of the world's money is being poured into such an industry? And what does it mean when she says that the new advertising campaign is not political while at the same time, she claims that this campaign is saying that there is no distinction between rich and poor and they they can all carry fashion beautifully?]

The question is not whether the pictures themselves are tasteless. If they have aesthetic value, I guess they are not tasteless in themselves. The question is not how the pictures can be shocking either-- I mean, come on, in an India where we drive our cars and shop for a shirt at 1200 INR and still do not see a child sleeping on the road in-front of the mall, how can the juxtaposition of rich and poor be so shocking?!

What I think nobody is looking at when it comes to these pictures is that the latter with all their aesthetic value (which I grant, they do have) and their shocking potential are getting circulated and put into the public sphere, to be seen, to have a degree of visibility in magazines as well as hoardings. The question thus is: WHAT IS THIS VISIBILITY DOING?

I think this visibility is simply increasing the outright insensitivity of the Indian population to what is happening around them. What shocked me the most, and still shocks me the most about the Indian population is how a minority of clearly capitalist owners ('This is MY shit. Nobody touches it.') simply decides not to see what is happening around them. The insensitivity is flagrant, to say the least. Nobody wants to see the poverty, nobody wants to see people sleeping on the road, for the simple reason that one has a car and a flat in a respected society (with a security guard at the gate): so one does not have to see the poverty around.

My question to Priya Tanna is: Are those pictures saying that both the rich and the poor can carry fashion trends beautifully, or are they simply saying, "it's okay if there are poor people around, just keep buying and remain insensitive."

I don't think the pictures are shocking in themselves, or tasteless (that would be taking a high moral stand only for the sake of doing it) but I definitely think their entrance into the public sphere (in terms of advertisement or otherwise) is questionable for what they are doing, more than what they are.