[Reader-list] Independent Fellows Output 2003-2004

Vivek Narayanan vivek at sarai.net
Mon Dec 13 16:51:34 IST 2004

Dear all,

Please note that the list of selected 2004-2005 fellows will be 
published on the Sarai website on December 15. We were not able to 
acknowledge of receipt of applications because of time and staff 
constraints-- sincere apologies for this.

What follows is a detailed report on last year's fellowship process and 
final workshop.


*The 2003-2004 Independent Fellowship Program: Overview of Achievements 
and Challenges*

By all accounts—those of participants and coordinators, internal and 
external observers—the 2003-2004 Independent Fellows programme was a 
success. While the fellowship term ended in July this year, the process 
found its most kaleidoscopic expression in an intensive three-day 
workshop at the end of August, which all fellows attended. This year, 
the bringing together of the fellows in time and place for three days of 
concentrated presentations allowed for a more dynamic and collective 
conversation among them. Many of the fellows were excited to attend 
panels addressing research domains other than their own; they read each 
others' papers closely and asked probing and useful questions. The 
organising of thematically unified panels made discussions more 
resonant, as fellows and attendees were nudged to present their work in 
the light of other work, from other locations within India, which was 
similar in subject, approach or attitude. After their presentations, the 
fellows deposited materials that they had collected (photographs, 
videos, complete interview transcripts, etc.) into Sarai's now 
burgeoning archive, paving the way for those various projects to have a 
lively afterlife in the hands of future researchers.

This year, the fellows were also required to make monthly posts to the 
Sarai reader list (an email list with several international 
participants, linked to Sarai's publications) as part of their duties to 
Sarai, and the (phased) disbursal of the grant amounts was linked to 
this requirement. While this made it easier to monitor their progress, 
the purpose of this requirement was also to make it possible for mentors 
to engage and enter into dialogue with their work more consistently, to 
allow responses from the many talented, widely distributed and far-flung 
subscribers to the list, and to generate more documents from the 
research which could be placed in a Google-searchable archive. This 
process did not work in a fail-safe manner, and will still need further 
fine-tuning (see below). However, it did enable many fellows to receive 
more support from Sarai and to better converse with each other and with 
a wider network, especially when run in tandem with a blog.

At the same time, the variety of research topics, which ranged from new 
approaches to 'work', 'the city' and other disciplinary themes, to the 
re-imagination of mundane spaces, to innovative strategies of looking at 
image, text and sound, in addition to the variety of /complementary/ 
modes of investigation used by this year's fellows (systematic analysis, 
lyrical evocation, performance, painstaking ennumeration and 
collection), is in part merely the reflection of various developments 
outside of Sarai, inside and outside the academy, that are making a 
place like Sarai possible.

On one hand, in the context of a globalising, post-Fordist India, more 
and more among the 'general public' are seeing that their personal 
research passions are worthy of a concerted engagement and of 
dissemination; and this, even in a few out-of-the-way places, far from 
the major metropolitan cities. On the other hand, the thinking behind 
the Independent Fellows programme has absorbed the many turns and 
transformations of the social sciences and the humanities in the past 
three decades — the cultural, writing-focused turn in anthropology, the 
non-positivist turn in history, the shift in film and literary studies 
away from traditional objects and also to the contexts and means of 
their production — in such a way that the mentors at Sarai are better 
able to offer pertinent support.

/Challenges for the Years to Come/

Despite all this, however, what has also emerged in the long discussions 
of the research done by each research fellow, and of the fellowship 
process in general (before, during and after the end of the fellowship) 
is an ongoing anxiety that the work done for the programme could be 
pushed even further, and that the excitement we have generated for 
ourselves and others should not settle into a stale or repetitive pattern.

First of all, Sarai is deeply interested in an exploration and 
combination of forms of presentation, whether they be the 'traditional' 
footnoted research paper, or the performance, or the literary narrative, 
or the film, and so on. While this year's fellows did gamely choose to 
present their material in a variety of forms, we found that they were 
not always as willing to reflect on their choices, and to fully 
understand both the costs and advantages of moving away from 
pre-assigned forms. To address this, more discussion and more clarity 
about the possibilities and dangers inherent in forms will have to ensue 
within our organisation, and the fellows will have to be encouraged to 
be reflective about the question of form from the very beginning of the 
fellowship period.

Second, Sarai found it difficult to consistently enforce the public 
posting requirement without taking on an over-assertive role and, also, 
given the various other commitments of those at Sarai, did not always 
respond to fellows' postings in a very detailed manner. For many 
fellows, this freedom seems to have been enabling; others, perhaps, 
could have used more guidance; and two of our forty-six fellows, given 
this degree of freedom, did not fulfill their obligations to the 
fellowship programme. Since the fellows are already carefully 
preselected to be those most likely to complete their obligations, and 
since at least a portion of the grant is disbursed only on completion of 
the requirements, Sarai would not like to devote too much time to 
enforcement next year. Nevertheless, the hiring of a coordinator 
specifically in charge of the fellowship process should go a long way 
towards both keeping track of fellows /and/ responding to their various 
needs and capacities. In addition, the possibility of helping to form 
city- or town-based communities of fellows, by which they will be able 
to better dialogue with each other, is being considered.

Third, while many past fellows have gone on to publish and present in 
various venues, the question of “What next?” did emerge for some of this 
year's fellows. To address this further, we are in the midst of 
discussion with publishers to find places and put together opportunities 
where the best of what emerges from our programme can find a wider audience.

The fellows' final conference/workshop, held at Sarai from 26-28 August 
2004, was documented in detail. The following report on the proceedings 
offers a thorough account of the Independent Fellows Programme this year.


This year the fellowships programme completed its third year with a 
workshop in which 38 projects were presented over three days. The 
presentations were arranged in 12 panels according to the following 
themes: 'Transformations in Space and Time'; 'Locating 'Indian' Cinema'; 
'Forming, Re-forming Locations; Designing Interventions'; 'Ethnographic 
Spaces'; 'Plotting Urban Struggles'; 'In Search of the Image'; 'The 
Hidden History of Sound'; 'Tracing Texts'; 'Regulating the Laws of 
Regulation'; and 'The Past, Present and Future of Work'. The programme 
ended with a performance based on the research project 'Socialist 
Wives', enacted in the Sarai Interface Zone on the evening of the third day.

*Day 1: Thursday, 26 August 2004*

Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Fellow, Sarai, initiated the proceedings by 
remarking that Sarai had always wanted to break new ground with regard 
to research; in particular, Sarai was keen to facilitate the opening of 
the field to the researcher as practitioner; and to support the mode 
where the practice itself and its methodologies became a form of 
research; where research is not restricted to the conventional 
parameters of 'findings'. From the inception of the fellowships 
programme, Sarai has supported the public rendering of research and 
efforts to create a discursive community, expanding from the 
metropolitan cities to smaller towns and other areas. “Pushing the 
envelope” in this manner has allowed new energies to enter, along with a 
“certain amount of hit and miss”.

In his opening comments, Vivek Narayanan, coordinator of the Independent 
Fellowships Programme, stated that the fellowships, as the Sarai-CSDS 
initiative itself, means to privilege the value of process over 
completion, innovation of form and content over easy stability. He 
suggested that for the duration of the workshop, the participants hold 
on the state of “ambiguity” and “vulnerability”, states of mind when 
“everything is at stake and no end is in sight”, and understand that the 
workshop is a place where it is more important to collaborate than to 
impress. Similarly, the historical moment in India is at a point where 
pure adversarial criticism no longer has to be the most necessary mode, 
and complacency is the greatest danger. Globally too, our post-colonial 
anxieties are fading, and permitting us to engage with our own 
“post-postmodernist present” in the most creative ways possible. Vivek 
suggested that the fellowships walk the line “between thrill and 
puzzlement”, “dream and anxiety”. The research themes engaged with the 
contemporary, with history, with the future, and also, in one or two 
instances, “with eternity”. All the fellowships spoke to the urban, but 
emphasized that faith, cultural rituals, underdevelopment, are not 
tropes antithetical to the urban.

The research tried to carry socialism and politics into new spheres, and 
explore new styles and forms, “creative” writing, the image and the 
realm of sound. The fellowships also asked what “happens” to research 
when processed through these alternative forms, understanding that it 
was important to allow for and engage with “perilous methodologies”. 
What happens to knowledge when it is presented in a synthetic, as 
opposed to an analytic, form? Was it possible to blur the line between 
these? What was the purpose of style, and what did it communicate? If we 
altered the boundary between art and analysis, for example, between 
prose and poetry, are we altering “the very way our civilization has 
been organized”? Vivek added that we need to “hold all of history 
together and not get caught up in progress narratives”; we need to 
encourage the “cohabitation of old and new forms”, even as we underscore 
the value of old forms and of the written word. Another question to 
consider was how practice converted to research, and vice versa: was it 
possible for the two to speak to each other? The current lack of 
dialogue was one of the “fundamental disillusionments of the 
post-development era”.

Vivek concluded that Sarai was a place where academics, activists and 
artists should come together, “yet very often they avoid each other . . 
. Activists are suspicious of academic language, academics are 
suspicious of activist lack of complacency, and artists are suspicious 
of everyone, including themselves.” The challenge for the duration of 
the workshop was to “hold back our suspicions while being ourselves and 
not anybody else, and somehow find a common, or, at least, an 
intersecting language : to make a Zeitgeist that mediates between dream 
and anxiety, puzzlement and thrill.”

*Panel 1/ Transformations in Space and Time*

1./ Shireen Mirza /“The Everydays of Eternity: A Study of Muhurrum 

This research project analyses Muhurrum processions, popularly called 
Taziya, the ritual commemoration of the “holy tragedy of Karbala (680 
AD)”, by the Shia community worldwide. The project aims at understanding 
the “filtering residue” from the battle of Karbala in the Shia cultural 
imaginary. It asks “what ghosts need to be kept alive”, and how and why, 
within the spectacle of Taziya. It examines Shia notions of suffering, 
pain and sacrifice, and how Karbala becomes a central trope for acting 
out the political/historical oppression faced by Shias for centuries, 
with Shias seen as alienated from the larger Islamic world, their desire 
for validation generally articulated in the rhetoric of “deep pessimism” 
and a “sense of fatalism”. The research studies the ways in which Shia 
identity is mapped on the body of the flagellant, and how ritual 
mourning serves as a metaphor as well as a catalyst for a collective 
purging of emotions. It also analyses the kinds of literature generated 
by the central event of the martyrdom, claiming that the battle of 
Karbala in Sufi philosophy and poetry is devoid of its 
politica/historical connotations, and instead represents an inner 
conflict of the higher and lower selves, where the higher self emerges 
victorious. The paper discusses the supplicant's anguish at separation 
from the Beloved, a predominant theme that also allows for intensely 
personal expression, “the eye that weeps”, within the frame of the 
theological narrative: “. . . in the act of weeping, the relational self 
gets appropriated, as it reaffirms its place within the familial space 
and within the larger community.” It also includes a discussion of the 
role of the women of the prophet's family, who in the Shia tradition 
represent particular virtues and communitarian ideals.

Shuddha began the question-and-answer session following the presentation 
by asking the speaker to clarify the distinction between “religio” and 
“traditio”. Conservative Islam says Shia practices have a traditio 
component, which amounts to idolatry. The purpose of modern Islam is to 
pare down the traditio. He asked if there was a tension between general 
Shia observance in India and the observance of Indian pilgrims who had 
been to Najaf and other sacred sites: does their intervention influence 
the observance of Islam here? Another interjector remarked that if the 
Muhurrum procession is located in the practice of community, how do 
differential practices function? What kind of community is created? He 
also asked the speaker to explain the difference between “faith to 
action” and “intention to action”. Ravikant asked how Muhurrum was 
situated historically in India, what the social stakes were, since 
Dalits and lower castes were taking up Muhurrum practice to reclaim a 
space and assert power against social hierarchy.

Shireen replied that conservative Islam would say traditio was idolatry, 
this is a prescribed and prescriptive response. But Islam is also 
pluralistic, the focus is on one's concrete individual practice, as well 
as on the visible umma which is not abstract. There are different sects, 
traditions, interpretations, and a very strong mystical side. The 
speaker said she was intuitively inclined towards the ritualistic 
aspect. Shuddha commented that Muhurrum rituals become instances and 
motifs of repetition, and thus transform into a self-conscious event, 
through rhythmic reenactment. This marks the continuation of the reasons 
for the martyrdom. Shireen replied that Muhurrum's ritual flagellation, 
with men collectively weeping and grieving, was counter to the normal 
construction of masculinity, the “power thing”. Jeebesh added that the 
spectator's resistance to the act and sight of men crying in public was 
basically a foreign response, because Europeans interpret this as a lack 
of control, whereas in India such tears are seen, accepted, as an 
expression of “karuna” (compassion).

He pointed out that rituals can become separated from their original 
source, there may be a rupture, yet the practice persists. How does it 
endure, how is it absorbed into a different context? How does one enter 
the world of the “pagan”, what are the conceptual tools by which this 
space is entered? Is the pagan anyone who does not belong to a Semitic 
religion? This might become a dangerous civilisational divide, the 
separation of the Semitic from the non-Semitic. Shireen replied that 
there is no special reason that the existence of the pagan should be 
noted; it has always existed, and its existence as a truth is not that 
important. Its value is in the fact of it being a ritual. Ritual 
mournings, martyrdoms, celebrations, have a function. The Karbala 
paradigm illustrates the applicability of the ritual over time.

2./ Aparijita De /“Imagined Geographies: Geographical Knowledge of Self 
and Others in Everyday Life, the Case of Ahmedabad”

This study attempts to link spatial and social processes in terms of 
social positioning and social claims to space in Ahmedabad. It explores 
how community use of space functions as a principle of social 
organization and differentiation, and as a distancing mechanism. How is 
space created and defined socially? How does the spatial imaginary of a 
group reflect its social constitution? How do spatial concepts such as 
“centre”, “core” and “heartland” translate into the “sacred” self 
(self-perception, self-construction, identity), setting up and 
negotiating literal boundaries accordingly? How do concepts such as 
“margin”, “periphery”, “border”, become analogous with the “profane”, 
unknown, alien other?

Following Aparajita's presentation on communities and spaces in 
Ahmedabad, Yasmin remarked that any kind of cognitive mapping could have 
an “autosuggestive component”, and that the method hinges on a static 
narrative; the audience does not get a sense of how the space is used, 
the movement of people within the space, how each group negotiates the 
space of the “other”. The paper needed to include a historical 
explanation of why these places are the way they are. Clearly there was 
violence; the narratives of the subjects are interlocuted through 
events. Aparajita said she had deliberately avoided the debate between 
“space” and “place”. Sanjay Joshi argued that the paper did not explain 
space and place at all; it left out the genocidal component, the history 
of the 2002 riots; this was “a huge oversight”. Ravi Sundaram said that 
the most interesting aspect of the paper was its stressing that the 
history of violence was spatially embedded and conflictual; the “other” 
will always have a spatial implication. It is natural to define the 
“other” in this way, by hypostatizing a certain object. Perhaps 
different questions needed to be asked. Aparajita replied that she had 
not been able to break the stereotypes and access the “grey areas” in 
terms of the relationship between communities: she only got “an 
occasional glimpse” of it. The low-caste areas formed a buffer zone 
between the Hindu and the Muslim areas. Rohini brought up the issue of 
the speaker's “self-confessed Hindu bias”, and asked Aparajita what 
conditions she had set for herself to counter this prejudice; no doubt, 
the respondents' answers were also conditioned not only by religion but 
also caste and class. Aparajita acknowledged that the bias did emerge at 
every step of the research; she was “not able to intellectualise it away”.

3./ Rupali Gupte /“Tactical City: Tenali Rama and Other Stories of 
Mumbai's Urbanism”

This audiovisual/flash presentation described itself as “a fictitious 
history of Mumbai's urbanism”, articulated through the figure of Tenali 
Rama, a popular character from Indian folklore, as well as through 
various cultural and urban theorists who emerge throughout the 
narrative. The research claims that conditions in most third world 
cities have now gone beyond the means of any rationalist positivist 
planning, and now require new eyes to see the present conditions, and 
new tools and perhaps a new imagination to intervene in them. The work 
frames itself on the three established shifts in the development of 
Mumbai: the colonial city, the socialist city, the global city, 
categories pertinent to many third world countries. “Tactical City” is 
an imagined city made of a set of tactics of different interests that 
manifest themselves in different forms in the city; an envisioning that 
creatively subverts the dominant imagination. It derives its name from 
Michel de Certeau's thesis of 'tactics' versus 'strategies': strategies 
are the tools of the dominant elite, while tactics work in the shadow of 
strategies and are 'an art of the weak', forming mute processes that 
organize differently within the socioeconomic order. “Tactical City” is 
a means of linking these mute processes to mainstream discourse. It is a 
metaphor to conceptualize the urban context, as well as a critical tool 
to formulate interventions. It formulates an “opportunistic” manifesto 
of practice for architects, planners and urbanists.

Ravi Sundaram opened the discussion on Rupali Gupte's presentation by 
remarking that a kind of ironic distancing is manifested in this form of 
engagement with the city. The earlier tradition involved investing in 
experience. This ironic cartography was dependent on the presence of 
binaries in the form, not in the text. It was tactical in relationship 
to the real, for instance, to 1992 when the communal riots in Mumbai 
functioned as a rupture in the city's history and memory. But there is a 
limit to “avant-garde positioning”. Rupali said that the tactical 
position was a real position, which she had explored in the “global 
city” section of her project. She said she was suspicious of the 
“relativism of post-structuralist theory”. Ravi commented that the term 
“tactical” became everything; there is an “efflorescence of the 
tactical”, and the tactical becomes “every effort to deal with the 
urban”. Rupali said that ironic distance was also a tool of the 
practitioner, and it was used in a particular way, important to her. An 
interjector asked if she had visited or studied Dharavi, as it is the 
tactical city par excellence. Rupali said she had not done so thus far, 
but it might be added as a new “folder” in her novel. Kalpagam requested 
that Rupali put her project on the Internet, if possible; Ravi said this 
was possible with technical help from Sarai; the research could be made 
into a CD.

*Panel 2/ Locating 'Indian' Cinema*

1. / Biren Das Sharma, /“The Forgotten Empire: Madan Theatres Pvt. Limited”

This research examined the rise and fall of an entertainment business 
established in 1902-03 by J.F. Madan in Calcutta. Originally called the 
Elphinstone Bioscope Company, it developed from a tent show to an empire 
named Madan Theatres, spreading all over the subcontinent. J.F. Madan 
was also interested in theatre, and was the founder of the Parsee 
Theatre in Bengal (the Corinthian company for Hindi/Urdu plays and the 
Bengali Theatrical Company for Bengali drama); he considered cinema a 
logical extension of theatre itself. His initiatives set conventions and 
production standards for an emerging industry.

However, almost all aesthetic and historical studies of the 1980s and 
1990s neglect to analyse the significant role of Madan Theatres in the 
evolution of Indian cinema. There is barely any primary source material 
available on the company, and all the film it produced has disappeared. 
Secondary source material is also minimal, as existent film criticism 
dates to the 1930s, when the company was on the verge of collapse. The 
National Library in Kolkata considers these magazine as “low culture” 
and hence it is difficult to locate and access them. Very little 
material is available at the National Film Archive, which holds some 
personal collections. The researcher had to rely on personal 
reminiscences of actors, directors and other professionals who had 
started their career under the Madan banner. These provided significant 
insight about the functioning of the company in its day-to-day 
activities. The written and oral evidence given by J.J. Madan, managing 
director of Madan Theatres, to the Film Enquiry Committee, is a major 
source of information covering many areas, including production, 
distribution and screening of films. The National Archive in Delhi has 
some documents articulating the company's relationship with the colonial 
government. A recently-discovered, unpublished, 1000-page autobiography 
of a Bengali actor is also an important source of information, needing 
to be translated.

2. / Lal Bahadur Ojha /“Bhojpuri Cinema ka Vikas: Ek Partal” (The 
Development of Bhojpuri Cinema: An Exploration)

This research, which included some audiovisual clips, traced the journey 
of Bhojpuri cinema from its inception five decades ago, beginning with 
/Ganga Maiya Tore Pyari/ /Chadhaibo/, the first movie to have popular 
impact. The study examines the dynamic between these films and the 
socio-cultural milieu in which they are located. It also examines their 
relationship to mainstream Hindi cinema. Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first 
President of India, was a connoisseur and keen supporter of Bhojpuri 
cinema. Initially, Banaras was the centre of Bhojpuri film production, 
as the movies drew rural crowds visiting the city as pilgrims; but the 
entire eastern belt of UP and Bihar soon became a massive hub. The 
research also studied the contribution of these films to the culture of 
the Bhojpuri-speaking diaspora, established today in Mauritius, 
Malaysia, Surinam, Trinidad and other areas.

*Panel 3/ Forming, Re-forming Locations*

1./ Kalyan Kumar /“The City of Configuring Labour: Shaping the Worker 
through Architecture in Jamshedpur”

Kalyan Kumar's paper examined the history of Jamshedpur, a town 
developed almost entirely by the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) and 
named after Jamshedji Nusserwanji Tata, in the first half of the 20^th 
century. Kumar's research explored how “[company towns] are excellent 
examples of rational attempts by planners and architects to mould 
workers and manipulate social and economic interactions for the primary 
purpose of improving industrial production”, how “planning mechanisms 
became a tool . . . to make regulation of space serve [the] need of 
controlling and disciplining labour.” At the same time, Kumar showed how 
this plan, in its actual execution, was not a straightforward or one-way 

/ /

In the early history of the company plant, development proceeded in a 
haphazard way with the influx of rural migrant labour; “coolie 
settlements . . . enveloped the outskirts of the Company (sic.) and land 
degenerated into slums. In the aftermath of the First World War and the 
consequent increase in demand for steel, the number of workers increased 
to 10,000, and slums grew wherever vacant land was available.” Thus the 
company decided to establish a separate unit for the administration of 
the town, and various town planners were engaged. In the coming years, 
the company was the “de facto ruler of the township and . . . it 
resisted attempts to share this responsibility”. It “regulated land use, 
leased areas of the city to subisidiary industries and was the primary 
patron of the city's cultural organisations . . . [trying to] shape 
modern attitudes of discipline, achievement, punctuality, sobriety, 
[etc].” However, the company never managed to place more than 30-40% of 
its workers in company housing, and the majority of lower-echelon 
workers continued to live in informal settlements. In addition, planners 
modelled the town with Eurocentric assumptions and the company showed an 
apathy towards “the type of housing that could suit the Indian worker”. 
At the same time, the very cohesiveness of the town around the company 
fostered an equally cohesive worker's union that organised five major 
strikes between 1920 and 1958, and did manage to influence policy.

Commenting on Kalyan's paper, Dhiraj suggested it might be useful to 
further analyze the paternalism of the Tata group's mediated welfare 
policy that determined the existential parameters of the workers' lives. 
This had been in operation from the 1920s onwards, while the evidence 
cited by the paper restricted itself to the '60s, '70s and '80s. Jeebesh 
wanted to know if Kalyan had looked at patterns of land acquisition, how 
the Tata company enforced plans, how they prevented illegal 
constructions, and the nature of the regimes of enforcement. Another 
point raised was in connection of the housing plans, which were designed 
so that it would be easier to control the workers, but this spatial 
arrangement had ironically made it easier for the workers to organize 
flash strikes, sustain long lockouts—how did the management deal with 
this realization, had they evolved a dispersal mechanism so that unified 
protest was less feasible?

Kalyan responded with the statement that there was indeed a change in 
perceptions: in the 1920s and 1930s, when resources were scarce and 
everything had to be built from scratch, expectations were high and 
reactions were volatile. Resistance to the management was overt and 
strikes were common. After the 1950s, there was a greater stability and 
resources stabilized. Resistance took on more covert expression. The 
Tata company had initially acquired large tracts of land from the 
government of Bihar, and in the 193os, when the company needed further 
terrain for expansion purposes, the government obliged with legislation 
allowing huge areas to be demarcated for “development”. This trend 
continued after Independence; a special “zone” was set up and under this 
mechanism, a lot of land was transferred to the company. Tata had its 
own security forces, and took advantage of clout within the local 
administration. Kalyan felt that the workers initially accepted the 
structures under which they were being controlled, but in later decades 
they became less cooperative and malleable, and an active tradition of 
resistance was definitely in place.

2. / Md. Pasha and Seemi Pasha /“A Study of the Nizamuddin Basti”

This audiovisual presentation traces the history of the Nizamuddin 
dargah in Delhi, and explores what it represents to the community that 
lives around it today, examining the site from contemporary 
sociological, economic, architectural and civic perspectives.

The research begins with the genealogy of the shrine. The dargah of 
Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, known as “Garib Nawaz” (Comfort of the Poor) is 
considered, after Mecca and Medina, to be shrine most sacred to Muslims 
from the Indian subcontinent. The hospice of the great saint and founder 
of the Chistiya /silsilah/ (tradition) of Sufism in India goes back 
several hundred years, almost to the earliest period of the Muslim 
conquest of India. It serves as an interesting parallel, if not 
contrast, to the “official” Islam of the imperial court. Through the 
centuries, this dargah has been open to everyone, regardless of caste, 
creed, faith, age and gender, twenty-four hours a day. It posed a 
powerful challenge to Hindu orthodoxy, as well as to Muslim orthodoxy 
represented by the ulema (clerics).

The Chistis, unlike many other Sufi traditions or orders, always 
distanced themselves from the power politics of the court. They 
practiced extreme poverty and simplicity, and incorporated music as part 
of their rituals. Sufi dargahs are centres not only of veneration 
of/rendering service to the pir or guru, but also a place of healing, 
refuge and supplication. After Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, his disciple 
Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki continued the Sufi legacy, followed by his 
disciple Baba Farid. After him, the Sufi teachings were carried forward 
by Hazrat Nizamuddin. Born in Badayun in Uttar Pradesh, Hazrat 
Nizamuddin was brought to Delhi to study, after the death of his father. 
In Delhi he became a disciple of Baba Farid. He lived in old Delhi for 
almost eleven years before shifting to a small, quiet village called 
Gyaspur, outside the main city, on the banks of the Sitari, a tributary 
of the river Yamuna. He started living there in a hut with a thatched 
roof. After some time a nobleman from the king's court built a “khanqah” 
for him, which still exists. The saint constructed a baoli (stepped 
well) and extended the existing gateway to connect with the baoli. When 
he died he was buried on the site, according to his wishes.

Opening the discussion session, Kalpagam said she was confused about Md. 
and Seemi Pasha's presentation on the Nizamuddin basti: what set of 
central questions would be most useful as an entry point into the 
complex narrative? The speakers' response was that they were trying to 
look at the history of Nizamuddin; it was initially a village of 
fishermen next to a river. After Hazrat Nizamuddin's death, his sisters 
took over the land. In this century, the settlement became a slum 
following a massive refugee influx into Delhi after Partition.

3. / Rutul Joshi /“The Composition of Surat: A Study in Urban Cultural 
Confluence and Conflicts”

This paper focuses on urban development processes in the city of Surat, 
over the past four decades. It examines the emergence of peripheral 
industrial-cum-residential “ghetto” areas occupied by the migrant 
population, and its relationship with the core of the city, the mainly 
commercial (tertiary sector) and residential areas, dominated by the 
middle and upper-middle class. The role of urban governance and planning 
is analysed in terms of the impact of its policies on demographics and 
equity, social and psychological segregation and disparity in terms of 
service provision. It analyses the exclusion of underprivileged sectors 
from any participation in administrative decisions regarding 
“development”, and the transformation of Surat, known for its 
“prosperity, pomp and glitter”, into a “zero slum city”.

With regard to Rutul's paper, Monica commented that she was intrigued by 
the fact that even those who had settled in Surat 300 years ago were 
still referred to as “migrants”. Was there a time frame within which a 
migrant could claim the status of “native”? Rutul said that his 
interviews with local residents in this context indicated that the time 
frame seemed to be two generations. If a person had settled in Surat 
prior to the city's industrialization, he/she was deemed an indigenous 
“Surati”. Those who had settled in the city following its 
industrialization were deemed “migrants”. The perception of who a 
migrant was differed from group to group. People from Orissa who had 
lived in Surat for generations still seemed to consider Surat a 
temporary residence and not home. Shuddha asked if the city's 
administration had improved after the plague of the mid-nineties. Rutul 
said that there had been a massive clean-up, but somewhat unequally. The 
eastern side of the city was still quite neglected in terms of urban 

4./ Basharat Peer /“Srinagar: Shrinking Public Spaces in a City of Bunkers”

Basharat Peer presented his research on public spaces in Srinagar in 
moody, evocative, impressionistic prose. Peer began by explaining that 
his use of “public space” addressed its more “non-figurative meaning”: 
“spaces for collective use, where particular forms of exchange between 
individuals and groups are possible . . . public space is theoretically 
open to everyone . . . the space of everybody and nobody . . . a space 
of sociability and freedom, the space of the state, and of the 
relationship between the state and the population. That connects public 
spaces with the idea of democracy.” In the context of Srinagar, 
virtually under military occupation, tourists are allowed more access to 
many more spaces than residents, and “bunkers and armoured military 
vehicles have become a part of the landscape like the willows and the 
chinars”. A double movement seems to have taken place: on one hand, 
public space has become restricted to the point where there is no 
meaningful venue at all for democratic intervention, and on the other, 
the state's entry into all arenas has expanded the scope of what public 
space could be.

Peer was born and brought up in Srinagar; yet he confessed that in his 
years as a journalist he had been more attuned to “news” than to the 
actual texture of lived life in the city's shrunk and regulated public 
spaces. The narrator in his essay takes a walk through a historic 
Kashmiri temple, a marketplace, a graveyard, a cybercafe and regular 
cafe and elsewhere, in search of what kind of life there is to live in 
the open, what kinds of memories linger. He hunts for the octroi post 
that was once a rather innocuous tax-border into the city, listens to 
old men reminisce bitterly about the rule of Hari Singh, and eventually 
casts “a parting glance at the Jhelum leaving Srinagar on its way to 
Pakistan”, envying “the river's independence from the human regime of 
passports and visas, entry tickets and permits”.

Dipu initiated the discussion session by noting that we are constantly 
required to constantly negotiate between our own disciplining of our 
everyday lives and the attempts at regulation by various agencies. Karim 
asked Basharat if the changes in the city of Srinagar that had taken 
place through the last decade of political/military/terrorist strife 
were also reflected in the language and local idiom, especially slang. 
Basharat stated that this was indeed the case; new codes had evolved, 
and there was a fusion of civil and military signifiers. For instance, 
the word “cylinder” referred to a militant who surrenders, and is 
despised for doing so, and is seen as both “hollow and dangerous”, both 
characteristics of a gas cylinder. Shuddha wanted to know whether the 
names of places had also been similarly invested. Basharat said that all 
neighbourhoods had specific kinds of referential practices. For 
instance, the collective term used to describe the house of a Kashmiri 
pandit was “battmakan”. This term had now come to mean all* *abandoned 
structures because it alluded to the enforced migration and exile of the 
pandit community. Dhiraj added that Basharat's research focus could be 
enriched with some discussion of the shrinking of public spaces not just 
in terms of the omniscience of literal bunkers, but also the 
mental/emotional landscape of seige, the oppressive constructions of 
fear, suspicion, insecurity, pervasive anxiety, paranoia.

Basharat replied that he was indeed referring to the reorganisation of 
inner and outer space dictated by terror, and symbolized by bunkers. The 
bunker was not just a physical entity. Having to daily negotiate these 
presences, and the soldiers associated with them, had changed the 
civilian population and also had an effect on the army personnel there. 
Bunkers, literal and metaphorical, had transformed the existential 
fabric and affected social relations. The bunker was a perfect symbol of 
where Kashmir and its inhabitants were situated today, in terms of 
selfhood: guarded, hostile, shuttered, beleaguered. Iram asked how young 
people in Kashmir bypassed and subverted rules and regulations that 
governed life and space. Basharat said that libraries, cybercafes and 
parks were two areas where some interaction was possible, but the hourly 
charges in the cafes were steep, and the public gardens were patrolled 
by squads of “morals police”. Overall, it was extremely restricted.

*Panel 4/ Designing Interventions*


      /Nilanjan Bhattacharya /“Community Ecological Mapping”

Nilanjan Bhattacharya's project set out to explore and document, in a 
participatory fashion, an area that he has lived adjacent to for 
seventeen years: Kalikapur, a semi-urban area on the eastern edge of 
Kolkata. Although Kalikapur is a densely-populated, mostly low-income 
area, it nevertheless plays host to “a unique ecosystem with a very rich 
mosaic of original vegetation, with groves of indigenous trees and 
bushes, swamps with reeds, and a number of water bodies”, which has 
“strangely survived the onslaught [of] the fast approaching urban 
expansion”. From a few encounters with some local children between ten 
to fourteen years old, many of whom were school dropouts or “vagabonds”, 
Bhattacharya discovered that they possessed a very detailed 
understanding of the local ecosystem and its various species, knowledge 
picked up both from older mentors (including one child's grandfather) 
and from their own exploration. Bhattacharya paired them with two girls 
(from an adjoining middle-class area) with a knowledge of computer 
applications, thus bringing their knowledge to computers and bringing 
computer skills to the children. Bhattacharya's background is as a media 
specialist; he teamed up with an ecologist to guide the children on 
documenting expeditions into the fields, striving to put together a 
comprehensive ecological map of Kalikapur, generated by the community 

According to Bhattacharya, his team has thus far identified at least 
twenty varieties of plants and annotated them according to their 
traditional medicinal usage; the team has also collected information on 
twenty-four species of birds, as well as on the varieties of fish still 
swimming in the area's disappearing wetlands. The team has showed the 
importance of documenting and preserving the ecology of such 
fascinating, liminal semi-urban areas, especially against the hungry 
tide of land development. The project also underscores the fact that 
these areas allow marginalised urban populations a chance of subsistence 
even as they continue, with mixed results, to participate in the city's 
market economy. The project has been documented using various media 
forms: photographs, audio, video, GPS, hand-drawn sketches and computer 
graphics programmes.

The question-and-answer session opened with Nirmal suggesting that 
questions of social hierarchy needed to be addressed during ecological 
research. Nilanjan remarked that this was too wide an issue for his 
research to incorporate at the moment. His emphasis was on getting the 
children to engage with various new media forms, within their contexts. 
He clarified that the children undertook their quests out of 
“desperation”. Sharada asked about how the city is viewed through 
interaction. Nilanjan replied that there was a need for a picture-based 
desktop on which the children could draw as they wanted to; the 
children's source of knowledge was practice, and in some cases, 

2. / Avinash Kumar and Surya Sen /“Livelihood through Play, Play by Design”

Avinash Kumar, Surya Sen and their design studio presented their project 
in the form of a slickly-made, often playful video documentary. In fact, 
the idea of play could be used to subsume both the team's chosen subject 
and its approach, though the questions it investigates are serious. The 
/jhoolewalas/, who travelled through neighbourhoods in Delhi, charging 
for rides on portable swings for children, were once a very common sight 
on the streets of Indian cities, and are still remembered with fond 
nostalgia by many adults. The travelling /jhoola/ provided an important 
site of community-centered outdoor play for urban children, and is still 
an important means of livelihood for its owners, but is fast getting 

Kumar and his team began their project with the aim of simply “designing 
a better /jhoola/”, of giving the traditional /jhoola/ a new look, but 
soon learned that they would have to understand and address complex 
social networks, negotiating between the desires and agency of several 
different “forces”: the /jhoolewala/, children, parents and “the city 
itself”. On one hand, Kumar and Sen involved these various stakeholders 
in design-led participative workshops, brainstorming various ideas and 
tapping different imaginations. On the other hand, the design and media 
team used a series of different techniques to visualize and prototype 
their own ideas. Charting design directions based on the outcomes of 
both these tracks of work, the team felt the pull of three different 
sets of concerns: sustainability (including cost), identity (including 
historical identity) and “respectability”. In Kumar's words, “the 
resultant directions have been mapped into a conceptual framework that 
can be applied to design work with the context of the Jhoola [sic.] 
today . . .[but] the question that arises really is that even if we do 
design newer, better Jhoolas . . . then what? Can the Jhoolewalas find 
in themselves the capability to do it on their own, when times and 
situations demand it?” The project will continue after the fellowship 
period, and will continue to be concerned as much with preserving 
history and memory as with producing innovation.

Nirmal asked Avinash if he had taken his play equipment designs to the 
children's parents, and if so, what their reactions were. Vivek 
commented on Avinash's usage of certain forms in his film, a mix of 
1940s jazz, upmarket advertising, a combination of different kinds of 
nostalgias, a “universal global one” and also the nostalgia of parents. 
Rupali asked Avinash about the future of this kind of work, where making 
new modes of jhoolas would involve getting funding. Avinash answered 
that he had not consciously incorporated the various forms evoked; he 
accepted it as part of the social milieu he came from and as something 
natural to his generation. This kind of research had to be a 
“sustainable venture”, and as yet was a work in progress.


      /Miriam Chandy /“A Childhood beyond the Red Light: A Scrapbook

The project began as a quest for the story behind the story of a 
newspaper clipping. Miriam and her collaborator Kalyani first began by 
searching for Sapna, a “rescued” child prostitute who had made a 
historic deposition on her experience to the Child Welfare Commission. 
Sapna had acquired “her fifteen minutes of fame” by breaking her silence 
and, among other things, identifying and thus helping to convict a woman 
constable who had been collaborating with pimps and brothel owners. 
Sapna had been “rescued”, but by whom, and taken where? The search took 
the two researchers to a series of child welfare homes where former 
child prostitutes were now being held; the researchers looked into both 
the compassion and the dysfunction of such spaces. As part of their 
effort, Miriam and Kalyani also held art and theatre workshops as a way 
to help the children open themselves up to expression. By contrasting 
these materials with a collection of newspaper articles that often 
skimmed or obscured the real conditions of the childrens' lives, and 
framing the contrast with an interwoven and detailed personal narrative 
by the researchers themselves, a “scrapbook” was built up.

With regard to the “scrapbook” presentation made by Miriam and Kalyani, 
Sharada commented that it was perhaps not fruitful to demonize parents 
in the context of children's exploitation, especially when a fair amount 
of recent social science research showed evidence against it. Citing 
cases from Karnataka, Miriam acknowledged that it was not a question of 
demonizing the parents, but more a question of socioeconomic conditions 
that compelled people to push their children into circuits of 
exploitation. Shuddha referred to the context of rehabilitation, the 
idea of making “someone” into “something else”. Also, how did concepts 
such as “mazaa” (pleasure) emerge through interactions? Jeebesh 
suggested that the dynamics of rehabilitation needed further analysis, 
as did the notion of “misfit”, a problematic category. The speakers 
emphasized that they were using the term “misfit” relative to categories 
created and applied by mainstream society. They acknowledged that there 
were dichotomies between the “rehabilitated” and the “rehabilitators”, 
which was very apparent in the Kamathipura case. As far as the “mazaa” 
was concerned, the girls were very comfortable with their sexuality. Yet 
the three different centres of rehabilitation provided a clue to three 
different “stages” of rehabilitation, as it were.

4./ Srishti School of Design /“ECOSOURCE”

The Eco-sourcebook proposal, spearheaded by Poonam Bir Kasturi and other 
faculty and students at the Srishti School of Design in Bangalore, was 
meant, like Kumar and Sen's studios, to be a pilot project to apply 
design ideas to community concerns not yet fully articulated. In this 
case, the design school set out construct a site and a one-stop 
sourcebook that would help “people in Bangalore to build an eco-friendly 
home”. At the same time, while the proposal seems to have begun from the 
perspective of the middle-class homeowner, they also found that they 
could not address the space of the home without attending to the 
“landscape that surrounds the home”.

Given the potential vastness of the subjects, students under the aegis 
of the program followed their own interests in various sub-projects: 
tracking the progress of garbage through the city, for instance. 
According to the presentation, “the job of bringing the strands of 
research, analysis and ideation was not sequential for us. We flipped 
from gathering information to doing some ideation, going back to 
analysis and so forth.” The point of the source book was not only to 
provide “information” but also to “reveal assumptions”, and to not allow 
the socio-cultural aspects of urban ecology to be obscured by a 
“generous 'greening' of the discourse”.

>From a design perspective, the idea was to organise, order, and index 
the sourcebook in such a way that it could be entered and explored in at 
least two distinct ways. One, from the practical, problem-solving, 
query-driven perspective of someone who, for instance, wanted to make 
the best use of rainwater harvesting, given the particular contingencies 
of the Bangalore setting. Two, from the perspective of someone who 
wanted to get a more general sense of the various ecological issues 
faced in Bangalore and learn how they could be linked through a process 
of storytelling and argument, allowing for the incorporation of the new 
research of the Srishti school and others, and addresses of further 
contacts. The idea was also allow for ratings of different services, 
reliability and ease of cross-reference.

With regard to the Srishti presentation, Dipu pointed out that the 
“question of power” seemed to be missing from their analysis. The 
project would not be an effective intervention without this component; 
there needed to be more focus on the politics of environment. Sharada 
suggested there be more analysis on the phenomenon of “guilt-free 
consumption” by the middle classes. According to Shuddha, it might be 
useful to go beyond the print form of the sourcebook, which did not 
provide the facility of creating links that would open the project out 
in related areas. Jeebesh raised questions about “design principles”, 
where notions like “waste” had to be redefined through lines, texts, 
other design aspects. On behalf of Srishti, Poonam replied that there 
was a need to bridge the “gap” between theory and practice, especially 
as there was a lot of misgiving about “theoreticians”. She also invited 
suggestions, feedback on socio-political issues, so that the project 
would become more nuanced. Jeebesh replied that it was not a question of 
theory versus practice, but an ability to question one's own set of 
assumptions, the assumptions one worked with, see them from a different 
vantage point as it were, “as there is a politics to everything”. Kanika 
from Srishti replied that the group has attempted question various 
trends, such as that of making the term “ecology” synomyous with “green”.

*Day 2: Friday, 27 August 2004*

*Panel 1/ Ethnographic Spaces (1)*

1. / Zainab Bawa /“Women in Trains: An Examination of a Nuance of 
Physical Space in City Life”

This project was an ethnographic study of the division of space in 
Mumbai's local trains, which constitute a public as well as private 
space. The research focuses on the Ladies' Compartment, “a private space 
within a niche”. It is “a breathing space”, “a scrutinising space”, “a 
community space”; a space for particular modes of relating, a means of 
“otherising” and “demonising”, stereotyping fellow travellers. The 
presentation analyses how “compartmentalisation”/segregation has 
affected male and female commuters in the city. Is there a need to 
reserve spaces exclusively for women? How does such reservation 
influence women's ability to negotiate for further space in other public 
spaces? If local people can create their own rules for usage of a public 
space and its effective maintenance and management, do we then need 
control, policing, legal intervention? How do we create more spaces 
which enable people to live together as an urban community? The research 
finds that “human beings are an emergent species with a great capacity 
to self-organise”; and that the laws of nature have repeatedly shown 
that collective living enables the community to evolve in harmony with 
the habitat/environment. The paper concludes with “a little duffer's 
guide to train lingo”.

2./ U. Kalpagam /“Urban Mentalities: Chennai's Roadside Temples”

This presentation states that a place is distinctive not because of its 
spatial architecture or even its culture, but due to the mentalities 
that both constitute and are constituted by daily life in that site. 
Cultural constructions are produced by, and in turn reproduce, certain 
mentalities, or what may be called “structures of feeling”. The 
sociocultural phenomenon of roadside temples in Chennai is studied 
through ethnographic methodologies, which interpret these structures as 
a feature of particular urban mentalities: those of the temple 
authorities and management, the faithful and the public at large. The 
research explores how the association of roadside temples with deities 
favoured by the backward castes function to counter, and in various ways 
subvert, the liturgical tradition of the brahminical elite, as well as 
encourage a spirit of tolerance in the public domain.

3. / Salahuddin and Shahabuddin /“Dilli ke Madarson ki Ek Jhalak” (A 
Glimpse of Delhi's madrasas)

This research claims that madrasas in India “are moving in a disastrous 
direction”, because any system that does not reform itself or assimilate 
progressive trends from other systems is bound to stagnate and die. It 
asserts that madrasas today are disconnected from their original 
pedagogical function; they do not serve the community, nor address 
contemporary needs. Post-9/11, madrasas have been categorized as 
“breeding grounds” of terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. The research 
was conducted under difficult conditions, as madrasas are difficult to 
access; nonetheless, the researchers managed to enter 75 madrasas in and 
around Delhi and talk to the students. The paper analyses the history, 
curricula, rigid teaching methods, ferocious disciplinary regimes, 
ideologies, economic base, culture and ethos of madrasas, including 
those for girls. Most students were from deprived families; they lived 
in fear of corporal punishment at the hands of their (often untrained) 
teachers; they showed few interpersonal, language or communication 
skills. The research concludes that a system which commenced with a 
lofty objective of moulding personnel for administrative and civil 
institutions during the height of the Islamic conquest, “is now dying a 
sorry death”, with the amount and quality of education having 
degenerated to a point where “reform would be an improbability, though 
not an impossibility”.

Rohini opened the discussion by asking Zainab how the space within the 
train functioned as an economic site, e.g., where women could sell 
home-made food to commuters, etc. She commented that Salahuddin's 
findings were too generalised and put forth “sweeping statements” on 
oppression and corruption within madrasas. Disciplinary regimes 
characterized many educational institutions, not only madrasas. She also 
criticized the presenter's index of “ignorance”, ie, madrasa students 
not knowing the difference between 26 January and 15 August, as this was 
a common fact in many rural areas and illiterate communities. An 
interjector asked Kalpagam whether the number of temples had increased 
after 1992; whether temples other than the “amman” and Ganesh type are 
found in public spaces; and whether the fact that autoricksha drivers 
and people from the informal sector were building temples as a religious 
practice was a reflection of “some insecurity in their psyche”. Ravi 
Sundaram wanted the speaker to articulate the difference between 
ethnography and theoretical framing. While the paper was rich and 
provided a number of entry points, the social networks needed to be 
clarified, as these would acquire a certain scale and have wide 
implications. The paper needed to be strengthened analytically, as it 
was displacing belief structures; at the moment it consisted more of 
social description than anthropological findings. The larger questions 
of what deities were mobilised, the political ramifications, needed 
further exploration.

According to Kalpagam, after 1992 there developed a trend for Ganesh 
temples to be constructed along with each apartment block, in Chennai 
localities. She had also observed that Tamil weekly/monthly popular 
magazines, which contained a little bit of all kinds of subject matter, 
had almost disappeared; these had been replaced by spiritual-themed 
magazines, supported by big publishers. This seemed peculiar to Tamil 
Nadu, and was not noticeable in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka. She 
noted “a new definition of cultural literacy”, as these magazines are 
not only read by middle-class Brahmin wives in their homes. The 
autoricksha drivers who were connecting to social classes above them 
through the activity of temple building, were actually “building social 
capital”, as these temples are mentioned in the engagements column of 
the local paper. As for the tension between ethnography and theoretical 
frameworks, “all anthropologists will suffer from this till their 
project is complete”.

Abhay asked Kalpagam what happens when an aetheist political party 
performs a “religious” act, for instance in 1965, when the DMK local 
leaders in Chennai built a major temple. Rakesh asked if the researcher 
saw any nexus between temple builders and property agents. Shuddha 
wanted to know if roadside temples were part of a “creative 
religiosity”, and a new phenomenon, or whether they were “a minor 
version of established religiosity”. Kalpagam cited an instance when the 
followers of the Dravidian movement took out a procession in the temple 
town of Madurai and garlanded deities with shoes, etc. It was very 
offensive. This ambivalence towards public expression of faith has 
always existed in Tamil Nadu, and “the irrational should be 
distinguished from cultural practice and from belief in the divine.” 
Street religiosity was an expression of a sharp divide between the Dalit 
gods and goddesses and non-brahminical deities, and the traditional 
brahminical adherence to the shivalinga. The puja rituals in the big 
temples were replicated on a minor scale in the roadside temples. There 
are aspects of “creative” or “invented” religiosity. For instance, 
Chennai believers feel that the shakti of Ganesh is greater if the idol 
is a stolen one. The idol taken from somewhere is supposed to be soaked 
in water, flowers and grain for 40 days. The people cannot afford this 
so they put the idol in a local well for those prescribed days, then 
surreptitiously take it out and install it. The speaker asserted that 
there was no Hindutva or BJP influence in this cultural scheme. The 
research aimed to juxtapose narratives of modernity/post-modernity with 
tradition, subvert the linear narratives of modernism, interrogate the 
construction of the self in relation to regional/religious identity.

Nancy suggested that Zainab could do some focused analysis on particular 
groups of women commuters, for instance Gujarati women, burqa-clad 
women, and how they use the space of the train, what kind of 
solidarities they create. She asked Salahuddin how he would frame his 
argument if he had to write an essay on his theme: how would he counter 
the mainstream media's depiction of madrasas as conflicted and malignant 
spaces? Salahuddin replied that he had stressed on the media's 
representation of madrasas post 9/11 in the report he was submitting to 
Sarai. He had critiqued madrasas as a business, as a disciplinary 
culture, as a pedagogical instrument. There is no permission for 
cultural texts—film, radio, television, Urdu literature—to be used as 
proselytizing tools. The students are officially deprived of these, yet 
they manage at great risk to access these. The muftis refuse these to 
the students, call these forms “haraam”. Changes are not taking place in 
Delhi madrasas. In other regions, madrasas are teaching Hindi, even in 
Andhra Pradesh were Hindi is barely spoken. But Delhi madrasas do not 
support anything modern; no English, no computers. Most madrasas have 
suffocating and dingy, dirty premises; even the primary instructions of 
the Quran, “wuzu”, to stay clean, is not obeyed in practice. Madrasas 
close at 2 p.m. but students are not given a chance to learn anything 
new after this time. Nor are they taught anything traditional, like 
calligraphy. It is rare that a madrasa student goes on to higher studies 
in any outside institute.

Zainab answered that Nancy's concerns had been addressed in the research 
documents she was submitting to Sarai; and that in general, she had 
observed the the central line in Mumbai was dominated by Maharashtrian 
commuters who were more placid, whereas the western line was dominated 
by Gujaratis, who were more aggressive. She said she wanted to 
translated her sociological observations into these two languages. In 
trains, people constantly expanded their networks of affinity and also 
their world-views, which also at times narrowed down to particular 
prejudices: for instance, local commuters immediately categorized people 
from Uttar Pradesh as homosexuals, and alleged that they used the train 
for soliciting.

Salahuddin remarked that madrasas were characterized by a particular 
funding system and a particular disciplinary regime. Madrasas were “part 
of something at least 800 years old”. Muslims give donations as zakat, 
10 % of their salary; most of this goes to support madrasas. He stressed 
that he was not suggesting that the madrasas should not be funded, but 
that the funds should not be misused. The critique of madrasas should 
also extend to syllabi and teaching methods, and the harsh treatment of 
the students; there were also other aspects of madrasa life that he 
could not touch upon, such as homosexuality. The speaker added that the 
debate around madrasas continued along three strands: one, to abolish 
madrasas as oppressive, anachronistic and irrelevant; second, to reform 
madrasas, modernize them, treat the students humanely, revise the 
syllabus, and connect to the contemporary; and third, to adopt a policy 
of complete non-interference and allow the madrasas to function as they 
were currently doing, as rigid and severe domains.

Abhay remarked that he agreed the word “taliban” (students) had a strong 
negative connotation, particularly associated with the barbarity and 
repression of the regime in Afghanistan. He asked why Salahuddin was 
worrying about the RSS, when he should be worrying about the impact of 
his reseach on “liberal Muslim society” in general. Ravi Sundaram asked 
Salahuddin if it was possible that “the narrative has not changed in 800 
years”. Surely there is some change*, *the Saudis donate a lot of money, 
the source of the funding has widened—this itself is an indication of 
change, pressure, turmoil. “This is a positive and optimistic chapter in 
the narrative, while the ongoing oppression and sadistic treatment of 
the students is a traumatic one.” There was tremendous scope for the 
research to expand its focus toward the positive and concentrate on the 
narrative of the students' lives, how they persistently subvert the 
system, despite the difficulties and obstacles. Nancy pointed out that 
the Markaz-e-Maarif in Mumbai teaches the students English, and also 
brings out a newsletter that critiques stereotypes of Islam. This is a 
sign of progressive thinking within the traditional system.

Jeebesh pointed out that all research was based on the vantage point of 
the researcher, and that any history of enclosed spaces was very 
difficult to narrate. It would be interesting if Zainab could enter the 
space of the train in the (tentative) manner of Salahuddin, and 
Salahuddin enter the space of the madrasa in the (confident) manner of 
Zainab. A different kind of social experience/sociality would emerge if 
there was a change in the way the space was entered. There was an entire 
politics around the disciplining of the body within these different 
enclosed spaces; this needed to be calibrated and analysed.

*Panel 2/ Plotting Urban Struggles*

1. / Lalit Batra /“Pani ki Kahani” (The Story of Water)

This research focused on the relationship the urban poor had with water; 
how they negotiate access to it, and the politics of supply, 
distribution and storage. Most subjects studied were first-generation, 
middle-class migrants from UP and Bihar who had come to Delhi from their 
village almost twenty years earlier. They were either upper caste, OBC 
or Muslim. Almost all respondents stated that village water, accessed 
from wells and ponds, was superior to city water (there were separate 
wells for various castes in the village, while the village pond was 
common to all castes). “/Gaon ke pani se sehat banta hai, jabki shahar 
ke pani se sehat bigadta hai /(village water is good for health, but 
city water destroys one's health).” The main sources of water in the 
city were municipal taps and Delhi Jal Board tankers. The respondents 
felt that tanker water was of better quality than tap water.

The migrants experienced a sense of loss of control with regard to 
water, not just in terms of supply and having to totally depend on the 
government, but also because migration had compelled them to slowly give 
up traditional rituals associated with water, which was a sacred element 
to them and seen as the source of life. Water access was also used to 
maintain caste, community and religious identity, and thus became 
intensely politicised, with Dalits becoming even further marginalised by 
the upper castes in the general struggle for essential water supply.

2./ Inderjeet Sharma /“Anadhikrit Shahar mein Andolan” (Protest in an 
Unauthorised City)

This research documents the struggle against the privatisation of power 
at locality level, undertaken by residents in the following unauthorised 
colonies in Delhi: Bhagwan Park, Burari, Mithila Vihar, Prem Nagar, 
Nangloi, Pratap Vihar and Baljeet Nagar. It analyses the nexus between 
colony residents, political activists, electricity board employees and 
other involved in the supply network. It also focuses on the tactical 
means by which residents ensure power supply when it breaks down, 
through tapping lines, introducing their own wiring and cables, etc. The 
protest movement started spontaneously in Pratap Vihar when residents 
gathered together and formed a residents' welfare association, managing 
to stop a particular contractor from imposing his supply scheme on them. 
The protest was then organized in different phases, including the 
mobilisation of residents, fund collection and court testimonies. In the 
later phase of the anti-privatisation movement, some defection took 
place and the struggle was “sabotaged”.

3/. Rohini Patkar /“Rozmarra ke Kaamon ke Badalte Daam”(The Changing 
Values of Day-to-Day Work)

This was a study/power point presentation of migrant domestic workers in 
Delhi homes. It explored the emerging feminisation of migration and the 
changing dimensions of female labour. The process of migration, the 
memories of the journey, the group process among those who migrated 
together, the resources carried over from the village, the initial 
feelings of anticipation and apprehension, survival mechanisms, networks 
and support systems, daily schedules, various kinds of oppressions and 
compromises, and relationships with employment agents and employers were 
some aspects foregrounded in the research. It also examined the 
nostalgia for village life, economic aspirations, identity shifts and 
the changing sense of self that was initiated by the change in location.

4./ Sappho for Equality /“Fire that Evoked Warmth: The Emergence of 
Lesbian Activism in Kolkata”

This paper documents the emergence and growth of lesbian rights through 
group-based activism in Kolkata. The presentation describes the 
activities of Sappho for Equality as a group and also in association 
with other groups, organisations and individuals. It describes Sappho's 
participation in a sustained campaign for equal rights for sexual 
minorities, as well as work in the field of women's rights, human rights 
and AIDS awareness. The research claims that while the city did not lack 
radical feminists, activists and intellectuals, the subject of lesbian 
rights was dismissed by these segments and either reduced to the status 
of “gossip”, or seen as constituting an “alien” problem. The specific 
demand for lesbian rights was an “inherent challenge to the prevailing 
norms of heterosexual, monogamist and patriarchal culture”, and was even 
further marginalised than other marginalised discourses. The research 
described the formation of community-based networks and support systems, 
intervention strategies and attempts to sensitise the media and general 
public to lesbian issues; and efforts to press for social, legal and 
political space for women with same-sex preferences, entitled to equal 
rights, benefits, privileges and protections within the larger 
discourses of the women's movement, gay rights and human rights.

*Panel 3/ In Search of the Image*

1. / Yousuf Saeed /“Syncretism in the Popular Art of Muslim Religious 
Posters in North India: Iconic Devotion in an Iconoclastic Religion”

This research project, along with an exhibition of posters, was an 
exploration of “the tip of the iceberg” of Indian Muslim iconography. It 
analyses how the images of this vibrant popular art form depicting 
Muslim themes (collected from Delhi, Ajmer and Lucknow) are inspired by 
contemporary urban popular culture. Who conceives, commissions, renders, 
approves and legitimates the products? What is the (non-Muslim) artist's 
relationship to this subject matter? How do the orthodox/purists respond 
to these images that derive from other aesthetic traditions as well as 
Islam? If Islam categorically prohibits iconic devotion, why is the 
Kaaba ritualistically adored almost in the manner of a tangible deity, 
by pilgrims on Haj? The paper also explores the market factors/devices, 
consumer demands, local and regional sources, and the adapting and 
imitating of “Hindu” mythological scenes and personages, in terms of 
composition and figural detail, as well as derivations from Persian and 
Turkish sources.

Shuddha opened the discussion by asking Yousuf about his tracing of the 
lineage of the posters, how they traveled into the network of the 
present; and also how they traveled beyond the Indian market. For 
instance, did one see images of the burqa in Mecca? What other networks 
of information were involved in the spread of this popular art form? 
Lalit inquired about the historicity of the posters: for instance, in 
the time and context of Hindutva, do the images of Ram undergo a 
transformation? And post 9/11, had Islamic images undergone a similar 
change? He also pointed out that the posters had a rural market, as well 
as a market in the urban slums. Yousuf agreed with Lalit's comment about 
working-class consumption of these posters, as these could be seen in 
tea stalls, barber shops, etc. But on the whole the images retained 
their basic structure, though political events did feature in an oblique 
way. During the 1990 Gulf War the posters had featured Saddam Hussein; 
and during the Afghan crisis, Osama bin Laden appeared for a brief 
while. However, the traditional images remained entrenched. One could 
see images of the burqa in religious posters in Iran, but not in Saudi 
Arabia. Political images came, went, changed, but somehow the sacred 
iconography remained constant. Madhuja pointed out that many Kalighat 
painters are Muslims, just as many of the artists who created these 
Islamic posters were Hindus. Nancy asked Yousuf what he meant by the 
term “folk artists”, to which he replied that he had used it as a 
general term to connote borrowings from prevalent and traditional 
cultural material.


      /Madhuja Mukherjee /“Looking at the Glasses Darkly: Revisiting
      Calcutta Film Studios”

This presentation, supported by audiovisual material, described the 
technical nature and usage of glass negatives in relation to the 
publicity materials for cinema. Between 1930 and 1950, glass plate 
cameras were used for several kinds of photographs: marriages, office 
groups, family photos, etc. These functioned to consolidate the 
self-image of the middle classes, including a development in the 19^th 
century trend of depicting only the deceased through portraiture. After 
World War II, easy access to the film negatives led to large-scale 
production, and the shift from glass to plastic. These technical 
innovations eroded the boundaries between popular cinema and the more 
fastidious cinema of the “bhadralok” (well-born). Ravi Sundaram asked 
Madhuja to clarify when the production of glass plates came to an end.

3. /Nancy Adajania/ “Self, Re-fashioned and Re-formatted: Digital 
Manipulation and the Transmutation of the Private Image in Urban India”

This paper, supported by an audiovisual presentation, examines a “new 
urban sociology of self-representation, a new visual reality”, 
articulated by means of digital manipulation. Original materials such as 
photographic portraits are either colorised, restored or retouched, or 
otherwise combined with extraneous pictorial elements, including stock 
landscapes, architectural detail, props, costumes, body parts, deities 
or symbols extracted from the print media and the Internet. Such stock 
is normally pirated. The outcomes of these digital manipulation 
procedures are hybrid/composite images that preserve a nominal trace of 
their original aesthetic scheme but actually relocate them within an 
imaginary determined by conceptions of economic and cultural mobility. 
This facilitates the encoding and formation of “a coalition of desires” 
that express particular individual and community aspirations, 
trajectories of technological “progress” and social change. These images 
constitute a circuit in which event, memory and representation are 
intimately connected. They are also an encounter with globalism, and 
describe how the “alien” is assimilated within the “honeycomb” structure 
of “Indic collective life”.

Ravi Sundaram commented that the idea of consumption had been there 
since “modernity”, hence a focus on contexts of production might be more 
interesting than a value judgement on production. Iram wanted to know if 
non-digital images, such as the cardboard cutouts found in melas, also 
had undergone a change in terms of what was imaged. Nancy agreed that 
the digitisation of images was arising in the context of globalization. 
She said she would prefer to call it “a coalition of desires”, since 
different publics and their aspirations were articulated through the 
creation and technological manipulation of these images. Preeti remarked 
that as a viewer she felt “discomfort” at the way the audience in the 
room had laughed at the digital images shown in the presentation. She 
agreed it had an “ironic” component, but the social and educational 
disparities that became obvious through the medium were not 
intrinsically “funny”.

Jeebesh referred to the term “rotigraphy”, which implied the production 
of images for purposes of livelihood---this involved a different set of 
concerns, where aesthetic subtleties and the representation of social 
truths were not a priority. There was a need to explore the subjective 
component, the nuances of private desires expressed through the digital 
mode. Nancy commented that images derived from the “negotiations of 
desires” and there is a question of agency to be considered. With more 
choices available in the age of globalisation, the idea of the self and 
its relation to “other” was also changing.

*Panel 4/ The Hidden History of Sound *


      /Indira Biswas /“Mediation through Radio: The Calcutta Radio
      Station and the Changing Life of the City (1927-1957)”

Indira Biswas's research excavated different aspects of the Calcutta All 
India Radio station in the first decades of its existence, through 
archival documents, programme journals and anecdotal memoirs. In its 
meticulous narrative, it tracked the evolution of programming which 
steered between mass appeal and elite/ /taste, and also looked into the 
process by which “amateur” voices began to come to the fore.

Smriti asked Indira what influence her own practice as a musician, 
playing the sitar, had upon her research experience, and how she, as an 
artiste, responded to the alleged erosion of the tradition of classical 
music. Indira was also asked how much time was allotted to classical 
music and to programmes by amateur artistes at the Calcutta radio 
station, as well as how much the artistes were paid. Vivek asked for a 
clarification regarding the distinction between the amateur and the 
professional, how this evolved, what happens to it. Dipu wanted to know 
how much broadcast in India is live, and how the anxieties around this 
were articulated.

Indira replied that she preferred not to comment on the relationship of 
her practice to her research. She stated that in the context of 
“disappearing” classical music, it is also a fact that the time allotted 
to this genre on the radio was increasing. From 1947 onwards, the 
presence of Patel and Keshalkar in the Information and Broadcasting 
Ministry helped to promote classical music. In 1957, All India Radio 
began broadcasting film music, and a major shift in policy followed, 
with the time allotted to classical music getting significantly reduced. 
Amateurs were so called because they did not take money for performing. 
Many amateurs took this stand as a matter of principle and honour. There 
was a lot of live broadcasting initially: live church services, football 
and cricket matches, Tagore birthday celebrations, the content of 
festivals like Durga Puja, etc.

2./ Sanjoy Ghosh /“Preserving Early Indian Recordings”

Sanjoy Ghosh, a long-time music collector, pursued a project to 
digitalise early Hindustani music. Ghosh interviewed and negotiated with 
public and private collectors and archivists of Hindustani classical 
music, including the Society of Indian Record Collectors (SIRC) and the 
North Indian Classical Music Project. Although many of these recordings 
are still technically in the public domain, recording companies 
frequently tap these collections for new releases, and it is possible 
that they may enjoy a renewed commercial potential. So part of Ghosh's 
project was also to explore the use of peer-to-peer networks to keep 
these recordings in the public domain. However, according to him there 
were many difficulties. To quote his somewhat cryptic remarks: “In the 
absence of publicity 'user friendly' distribution doesn't seem to pick 
up. Maybe a centralised server has to jumpstart the proceedings before 
P2P networks can pick up the material. The fashionable trend today is to 
promote one's kin.”

Preserving and revisiting such early recordings can also help to make 
shifts in the culture and style of Hindustani classical music more 
transparent. According to Ghosh, we can hear from these recordings that 
“the emphasis has broadly shifted away from the dhrupad-dhamar based 
presentation” and that there has been a “hardening of religious 
demarcation on the musical content.”

Shuddha began the question-and-answer session by remarking that while he 
appreciated the potential of Sanjoy's “remarkable project”, it also 
needed to underline the economics of the classical music industry in 
India. This is a very profitable sector, and market leaders HMV consider 
this its most valuable area because sales continue all year round, and 
the fickleness of remixes is not present. But there is also a huge 
amount of piracy in this sector—piracy in the sense what it involves the 
circulation of mostly unofficial recordings by music enthusiasts, 
violating existing contracts between artists and companies. The crisis 
of this economy is that there are no new upcoming artistes, hence there 
is a huge potential for, as well as substantial movement within the 
industry to excavate old recordings. This “retro value” has to be kept 
in mind when one examines the value of peer-to-peer networks. A 
reassessment is necessary, and one has to “protect” these from the 
market through peer-to-peer networks.

Aarti asked for Sanjoy's response to the fact that in the West, there 
was a deference to an older form and to the existence of cover forms, 
whereas in Hindustani classical forms the older artistes maintained a 
deference to ragas and gharanas, but there was no sense of such 
acknowledgement among the current generation of younger artistes. She 
also wanted to know why khayal was given prominence by the recording 
industry, as compared with other forms, like dhrupad. Sanjoy replied 
that he was not “trashing” peer-to-peer networks, merely stating that 
they could be problematic. In the West, companies specialized in 
producing covers, but here the problem is of “traffic”: there are no 
decent delivery/distribution networks for covers.

Shuddha concluded that there were two important questions to examine: 
the relationship between music today and music yesterday; and why we 
hesitated to acknowledge tradition as well as any other sources. He said 
that there was the need to develop “a new musicology”, based on history, 
rather than continue to derive everything from “Vedic musicology”, which 
was based on myth. We have to move away from the fetishization of 
gharana performance, which implied fixity and a single location, and 
focus on actual music performance, which was involved relocation and 
movement. For instance, the Patiala gharana developed because artistes 
used to stop in that town on their way to Jalandhar. Jeebesh added that 
unlike the study of visual culture, the study of sound had to deal with 
the problem of the “dying out of sound”. One could describe this 
metaphorically as “the tension between amplitude and reverberation”.

*Day 3: Saturday, 29 August 2004*

*Panel 1/ Tracing Texts*

1. / Sandipan Chakrabarty /“Relocating /Krittibas/ (1953-2003): A 
Critical Study of the History of a Little Magazine in Urban Bengal”

Sandipan Chakrabarty's presentation provided a rich narrative of the 
context and evolution of a legendary “little magazine” in Kolkata, 
devoted to poetry. Chakrabarty identified three broad “phases” of the 
magazine: between 1953-68, 1968-74, and from 1999 onward. Between 1974 
and 1981, the magazine changed character and became more of a mainstream 
cultural magazine, and between 1982 and 1998 no issue of the magazine 
was published; the magazine is currently enjoying a revival. For a 
variety of reasons, Chakrabarty chose to concentrate on the magazine's 
most febrile first phase, in the years that slowly, increasingly, began 
to feel the force of both radical and “soft” countercultural politics, 
in the years leading up to 1968. Chakrabarty began by tracing the 
evolution of two opposing camps in Bengali poetry prior to 1953: one, 
clustered around Buddhadeb Basu, insisted on the primacy of aesthetic 
“purity” in poetry; the other, following from Bishnu Dey, insisted on 
the political and public role of literature. “Mainly edited” by Sunil 
Ganguli through its many phases, /Krittibas/ broke new ground by 
attempting to unite both aesthetic and political concerns, publishing 
poets regardless of their allegiance.

Chakrabarty thus traced the exciting and provocative cultural history of 
the magazine in the early phase, signposting various pivotal debates, 
touching on the galvanising influence of Allen Ginsberg's visit to 
Kolkata in 1962, the magazine's involvement in an obscenity trial, its 
various spinoffs into weekly, daily, and even (on one frenzied day in 
1966) hourly poetry magazines, and its fresh and provocative response to 
the values of the city: “Now I want a Pontiac for my poetry”, or “I've 
written poems, now I want White Horse Scotch / Chicken legs – no worse 
meat – cooked in pure ghee” or “Calcutta is like a heavy stone astride 
my chest / I must destroy her before leaving / Entice her away to Haldia 
port / And feed her coconut-shred sweets mixed with arsenic . . .” 
(quotes from Sunil Ganguli's poems).

In the discussion following the presentation, Kalpagam asked Sandipan 
about the contemporary situation regarding poetry in Calcutta. Ravi 
Vasudevan noted that while we generally assumed that the Internet had a 
decentralised economy of production, we could perhaps assume the same 
thing with regard to /Krittibas/. Perhaps these ancillary processes 
could be mapped as an archival project beyond the magazine. /Krittibas/ 
needed to assert its presence in the mainstream, needed publicity to 
acquire extend its iconic status beyond just the literary. Another 
interjector asked Sandipan about the changes in Bengali literary 
production mapped along a general axis of socio-political change. For 
instance, 1947 to 1949 was a period of relative tranquility: did this 
influence Bengali literature? Post-1967, there was intense political 
turmoil: did this have an impact? Madhuja asked Sandipan why he spoke 
only of the “iconic status” of little magazines; she felt one needed to 
engage with them as vehicles of literary innovation, and wanted to know 
if examples of this could be found in /Krittibas. /

Sandipan responded that from the early 1960s /Krittibas /had been 
“appropriated” by the establishment and was now a status symbol. Its 
50^th anniversary celebration had been a big affair, presided over by 
the Chief Minister of Bengal. It would be difficult to archive the 
production, as suggested by Ravi, because the relevant documents were 
scattered and disorganized, very difficult to collect. Most publications 
like /Krittibas/ had perished and would be impossible to trace. He 
agreed that the events from 1947-1950 had an impact on literary 
production; they reflected a naïve and simplistic optimism. But by the 
tenth issue, almost all writers expressed a deep anger. In 1963 the 
publishers were hauled up and put on trial on charges of obscenity. In 
defence, they read poems out in court. /Krittibas/ also had a deep 
empathy for the Naxalite movement. He confirmed that the magazine had a 
sustained focus on literary innovation: the writers wished to transform 
the language structure of earlier Bengali poetry. They used a tight 
metrical structure and experimented within it, and also had a distinct 
group identity, different from the dominant aesthetic and literary styles.


      /Nirmal Kanti Saha /“Economy of Meaning and Meaning of Economy: A
      Re-invocation of the Calcutta-based Journal /Annya Artha/ “

Nirmal Kanti Saha provided a spirited account of a Bengali journal of 
the social sciences /Annya Artha/, which might be seen as an important 
precursor of the work done by the Subaltern Studies collective: it 
featured early work by Partha Chatterjee (who was vice-president of the 
/Annya Artha/ organisation), Gautam Bhadra and Dipesh Chakrabarty; it 
provided a context for an infuential meeting with Ranajit Guha when he 
came to Kolkata with his idea of the “subaltern”; and it prefigured, by 
the mid-1970's, the cultural turn in social sciences around the world. 
Saha began by contextualising the incipience of the journal in the early 
1970s in the midst of Naxalite activism and student assertion, when 
economics taught at the university was mostly mathematical modelling and 
“there was hardly any relationship between phenomena [in the] outer 
world and the social sciences that sought to explain such phenomena”. 
Soon the journal, which was edited, proofread and printed by the same 
collective of varied voices – including Ajit Chaudhury, Anjan Ghosh, 
Pranabkanti Basu, Arup Mallick, Subhendu Dasgupta and Chatterjee 
himself, many of whom where interviewed by Saha for this project – began 
to feel itself at odds with both neo-classical positions and mainstream, 
doctrinarian Marxism, airing a wider set of views, including articles by 
Gandhians and liberals.

The “/Artha/” in /Anya Artha/ is a kind of pun, which can suggest both 
“economy” and “meaning”. Part of the purpose of producing the journal in 
Bengali was that it should bring a discussion of economics to a much 
wider audience; but “the step primary to that was the bringing down 
of... 'economics' from the high tower of mathematical jargons [sic.] and 
represent it instead in a lucid style in the vernacular”. Thus the 
journal began with an idea of “social economics” but soon moved even 
further towards meaning, challenging the very idea of the economic 
sphere as a “base”. The journal, which lasted from 1973 to 1985, 
disbanded partly (so Saha seemed to suggest) because the various 
research interests of its editorial collective became too divergent. 
Returning to the current political context of Kolkata today, Saha ended 
by arguing for the need for a new journal to pick up where /Annya Artha/ 
left off.

Kalpagam asked Nirmal about the “certain redefinition of social science” 
generated by the conditions of the 1960s and 1970s: did he see this 
process of intellectual redefinition today? What contemporary tensions 
would push such a redefinition? Could the NGO movement be a factor? Had 
the pre-eminent position of economics within the social sciences been 
displaced by cultural studies? Nirmal replied that the journal had not 
initially clubbed economy and society together. The group began with the 
non-negotiable premise that the economy was the base of society. They 
were not completely satisfied with this formulation themselves, and in 
critiquing earlier formulations they realized that they could not 
describe the economy without describing social and political processes 
as well. The journal's commitment to dissent and the creation of 
knowledge through disputation was evident in that it allowed an avowed 
Gandhian to write for it. Nirmal felt he could not define the journal's 
“success”: if the criterion was that people remembered it, then it 
certainly was successful. At the height of its “success” it had a 
circulation of 11,000; many of its founding members eventually formed 
the subaltern studies collective in the 1980s, thus realizing its 
activist purpose on some level.

3./ Preeti Sampat /“In Search of the Uncommon Woman”

This research project, supported by a slide presentation, focused on the 
image of women in cartoon genres, discussing the cultural, community, 
caste and professional signifiers used by cartoonists in their depiction 
of women in political and public spaces. Cartoon strips were first 
published almost a hundred years ago. At first they commented on social 
practices, and critiqued “social evils”, and did not engage with formal 
political spaces or with colonial rule. By the turn of the century, this 
trend changed and cartoons began to interrogate the structures of 
governance. The /Hindustan Times/ had the first formal space designated 
for cartoons, and post-Independence, almost all the English dailies did 
the same. The researcher discussed cartoons during the 1990s, when 
images of women were influenced by the ideologies of liberalisation, 
globalisation, Hindutva, and the women's movement.

Ravi Sundaram suggested to Preeti that it might be useful to move her 
research focus from questions of representation to conditions of 
reading. Most newspapers were read in conditions of domesticity; this 
factor too needed to be taken into account. There was a dialogic 
relationship between representation and actual conditions of reading. He 
wondered why Preeti did not examine Hindi newspapers; and added that the 
Indian political landscape was “replete with images of powerful women”; 
these images were also brought into play in cartoons. This complexity 
did not fit into the “empowerment/disempowerment binary”. The 
construction of images needed further interrogation. There was a series 
of women's empowerment movements all over the third world, and the 
relationship between these movements and representation was an 
interesting area for further research. Kalpagam felt that there could be 
multiple interpretations of cartoons, and that she could not understand 
why Preeti was so doubtful with regard to questions of empowerment and 
agency. Dipu asked Preeti to clarify her perspective on the relationship 
between domestic space and feminism. The cartoon is particularly 
interesting because it is an art form with embedded political 
commentary. Miriam wanted to know about the development of particular 
characters, like cartoonist Manjula Padmanabhan's Suki: what were the 
processes that accompanied this?

Preeti agreed that images were open to diverse and multiple 
interpretation, and that she was interested in revisiting them in the 
light of Kalpagam's comment. She said she had not been expressing doubt, 
as much as reflexive practice, how one responded to certain situations. 
It was important to always keep one's mind on the actual conditions that 
enabled empowerment. The figures of women were missing not only from the 
representation of domestic spaces, but were also almost completely 
absent from many public areas, or confined to certain professional 
domains, such as journalism. Priti stated that cartoons did not erupt 
from nowhere, they had a specific location: “sexist media in a 
patriarchal society”. The creation of the character Suki was enabled by 
the conditions/ideology of 1980s women's movement. Jeebesh commented 
that the creation of Suki also had to do with publishing history. Preeti 
clarified that she was analyzing the diversity of figures in an attempt 
to “locate the particularities” of oppression. Ravi Sundaram added that 
if one was looking for sources of the self, perhaps the cartoon was not 
the best place. The link between representation and empowerment was 
“serially depressing”. This framework needed to be problematised in 
order to enable the asking of an interesting question.

*Panel 2/ Regulating the Laws of Regulation*


      /Ketan Tanna /“Internet Censorship in India: Is It Necessary and
      Does It Work?”

This research project traces the history of Internet censorship in 
India, its implementation, as well as the ethical and technological 
implications. It compares India's situation with other countries, and 
describes the “international Internet scenario”. The paper also outlined 
laws that govern Internet censorship in India, and asks if Internet 
censorship is necessary, and whether it is effectively applied. It also 
examines the Indian government's attempt to block Yahoo groups that deal 
with a variety of subjects, and discusses the “fear psychosis and 
anxiety” that underscores the politics of banning. It points out that 
well-known banned sites are “accessible by proxy servers for those who 
want to access them” but in reality, “in the rapidly growing 
technological world”, those who want to and have a little bit of 
enterprise “normally circumvent restrictions”. The paper states that it 
is “natural” for governments the world over to want to monitor, if not 
control, the flow of messages and exchange of information. The question 
of whether the government should decide what its citizens to have access 
to in terms of reading and viewing “cannot be equated with restrictions 
put on pedophiles or sites that advocate crime or death or murder”.


      /Promod Nair, /“Freedom of Expression and the Limits of the Law of

This paper seeks to critically analyze and evaluate the law of contempt 
of court in India and the constitutional tension that this principle 
exerts on freedom of speech and expression, which includes the right of 
the media to freely air its views. It explains the “distinct and 
cumulative” conditions under which this freedom can be restricted, 
claiming that the courts and the press in India “enjoy a love-hate 
relationship”; and that the courts and the press are natural allies 
since they perform, in their own way, the functions of checking and 
controlling abuse of governmental authority. The Supreme Court decisions 
on the whole reveal a “judicial soft corner” for the freedom of the 
press; but these “natural allies” appear like “natural adversaries” when 
the court punishes journalists by exercising its contempt jurisdiction. 
The paper also explores the concepts of an “activist judiciary, judicial 
misconduct and “related legal ambiguities”.

The question-and-answer session opened with an interjector asking if 
contempt was invoked when the judge was personally offended by a 
statement, or whether something else could also constitute a reason. 
Madhu Kishwar commented that the editors' guild endlessly debated the 
issue, and that the law of contempt remained a threat because editors 
and journalists “are terrified of jail”. She said she had been accused 
of contempt three times, and on all three occasions she challenged the 
judge and tore up the contempt order. Her lawyer grovelled at the 
judge's feet, but she told the judge she would not comply: “Sentencing 
me to six months' jail is all you can do to me.” If one adheres to one's 
stand, the judge usually compromises. It was a question of “how soon you 
buckle under . . . This happens too often, too fast and too haplessly.”

Jeebesh pointed out that the judge who instructed Arundhati Roy to focus 
on her writing, and stay out of confrontations with the law, was an 
example of the general thinking that the legal domain was protected 
turf. He also described the politics of banning as “diabolical”, and 
stated that the practice of banning ensured that the media would turn 
the situation into an event. So there were actually two kinds of 
censorship in operation here: the “real” banning and the “media event” 
banning. If a website is banned, it automatically attracts a huge number 
of hits through hacking, people always go to banned sites, nothing will 
keep them out. Karim asked about the rationale of sub judice, i.e, 
proscribing certain arguments from being accessed, and 
discussed/published. Dipu asked for clarifications regarding the 
difference between surveillance and the ban on free speech, adding that 
one learns to live with certain forms of surveillance, which are 
accepted and tolerated, but the ban on speech is “more drastic”. Ravi 
Sundaram pointed out that critiques of censorship were integral to 
libertarianism, and that we should differentiate between censorship 
regimes and state prohibition on certain acts, including media. Post 
9/11, surveillance had been taken to a different level. Maybe we need a 
new language to talk about this issue, develop a critique not derived 
from the classic rhetoric of libertarian discourse, or the political 
utterance of constitutional freedoms.

Ketan stated that sub judice was a strategy to ensure that there was no 
trial by media. He added that surveillance was going to be used by the 
state to manipulate citizens, it was going to increase; “we are in for a 
series of bans, we need to be vigilant . . . We need a broad outlook and 
we need to fight.” Dipu remarked that the government surveillance of 
citizens was not like the protective surveillance of children by 
parents: government forms were much more pervasive and subtle, cameras 
were everywhere; this aroused much more resentment. Promod stated that 
the courts punish for contempt not only when the judges are personally 
offended but also for larger reasons; but contempt orders became 
controversial when personal affront to the judge is at the core of 
things. During the colonial regime the state gave institutions power to 
punish for contempt, so that the courts could maintain their dignity. 
Large areas of the law of contempt have always been controversial. Now 
it has become a tradition that in cases of civil contempt, people 
infringe the order, then when they obey or defer to the order, the 
charges are dropped. Similarly, when judges are under scrutiny, as was 
the case in the Karnataka high court, the truth would have come out if 
the trial was prolonged, so the judges decided to accede to the lawyers' 
demands. The proceedings were dropped and the matter was quietly closed. 
Promod clarified that laws made by Parliament could be repealed if there 
was enough protest by civil society, as in the case of POTA (the 
Prevention of Terrorism Act). But a judge-made law cannot be repealed. 
Ketan concluded with a question: since his research project contained a 
lot of “banned” material, could the government haul up Sarai?

*Panel 3/ Ethnographic Spaces (2)*

1./ Vikas Singh /“Children of Bhopal Railway Station”

This paper, in Hindi and English, weaves together the richly-textured 
narratives of children—orphaned, abandoned, cast out, runaways---at the 
Bhopal railway station. It describes their struggles to survive; the 
transience that shapes their changing self-constructions, their fraught 
existential relationship with shelter homes, the institutionalized 
terrain of “generosity” and “mediated love”. The research is based on 
Heidegger's postulate: “To dwell, is to be set at peace with the free, 
the preserve, the free sphere that guards each thing in its nature. The 
fundamental character of “dwelling” is this sparing and preserving.” To 
shelter is to protect the being from the world; it is also to provide 
the being with the world. The speaker claims that “to shelter is 
impossible, it carries in it the moment of betrayal”; and that in the 
promise of home “is the promise of Being”. The lives of the children at 
the railway station are characterized by a “diaphanous” realism, 
madness, incredible courage; they are waste, they are supplicants, they 
are “dizzy, drugged, hopeless”, and beyond redemption. Yet they are also 
an abounding display of the human spirit, its audacity and danger, 
enacting its malevolent “play without grace” in “monstrous fields”.

In the discussion that followed, Sharada commented that while she 
appreciated the aesthetics of Vikas's paper, she found its argument 
confusing and contradictory, and based on a “wrong use” of Heidegger's 
concept of “dwelling”. In terms of the common understanding of the 
empirical realities of the childrens' lives, their struggle with 
disease, dirt, hunger and struggle, she felt Vikas had not managed to 
transcend these stereotypes. She felt the children's self-constructions 
were critical to any understanding of them, and that they did not see 
themselves as neglected, or their life as deprivation. The research 
focus should be on their incredible survival and grit, and their ability 
to function completely in the present. According to Sharada, the 
children had a complex understanding of temporality and transience, 
strong family relationships, and a place as esteemed members of their 

Vikas agreed that the presentation was full of contradictions, but 
clarified that he had addressed some of the issues in the larger 
research document. He said he was sensitive towards all the arguments 
Sharada had raised, adding that he believed in what he had written. 
Nirmal felt that Vikas was contradicting his theoretical framework, and 
that there was an “ontological separation” between being in a home and 
“being in the abyss”. Vikas replied that relations of generosity 
differed from relations of law and justice, and that justice sometimes 
reduced generosity into “missionary acts”.

2. /Md. Abdul Khaliq /“Dilli ke Qabristanon evam Shamshanon ka 
Vishleshatmak Rekhankan” (An Analytical Study of Delhi's Graveyards and 
Cremation Grounds)

This presentation was an ethnographic study of the management and 
ecology of Muslim graveyards and Hindu cremation grounds, exploring the 
lives of those whose survival depends on the activities within these 
sites. The researcher visited a number of such locations and interviewed 
the various people associated with the management and maintenance of 
such spaces, and analysed the economic aspects of the disposal of 
remains. The general findings of the research state that the cremation 
grounds are under municipal control. The municipality has appointed 
about 300 pundits to perform last rites in its various crematoria. 
Several other functions are carried out by private contractors and other 
individuals. A massive economy is associated with cremation grounds: the 
materials required for final rituals, wood, etc. Boatmen who ferry 
mourners to immerse remains in the river after the cremation earn money 
by selling nails from their boats/ /(these sell for up to Rs 100) 
because the nails are considered auspicious, and effective in warding 
off evil spirits. The research also examined the 
ecological/environmental damage caused by the cutting of trees for wood, 
and the heavy smoke in and around cremation grounds that affected the 
health of local residents.

The researcher stated that while the electric crematorium is clean and 
easy to manage, and burns bodies in less than three hours, most people 
still choose traditional cremation. The municipal corporation is trying 
to hand over the cremation grounds to private agencies, societies and 
trusts. Some are now being administered by the Arya Samaj. The rate of 
fuel wood is Rs 949 per quintal, and all negotiation with regard to the 
required money and offerings for each cremation is done by the pundit. 
Women are traditionally excluded from both graveyards and cremation 
grounds, but among Punjabis, for instance, there is no ban on women 
being present at cremations.

Regarding graveyards, the research claimed that barring a few, all 
(about 412) are under direct control of the Waqf Board. This has 
assigned the responsibility of maintenance to different committees 
comprising of “senior” and “respectable” citizens. The process of burial 
is very simple as compared with the process of cremation, and involves 
fewer administrative formalities. But the labourers working in the 
graveyards are paid less for digging and filling of graves than 
cremation ground attendants are paid for supervising pyres. The digging 
of one “qabr” takes 2-3 hours; there are “pakka” graves with headstones, 
and “kaccha” graves that are unmarked. The actual wage of a gravedigger 
is as low as Rs 25 per qabr, but they normally get a baksheesh from the 
relatives/mourners who bring the body for burial.

Private graveyards do exist, though these are very few in number. There 
is a trend among families to reserve graves for their members, in the 
same or adjacent plots. The number of graveyards has declined over the 
last fifty years, and some are in disuse; it might be profitable and an 
efficient use of resources to convert this land into a venture through 
which money could be earned.

3. / Chander Nigam /“Ek hi Patri par Daurti Nyay aur Anyay ki Gadi: Tees 
Hazari” (Justice and Injustice on a Single Track: Tees Hazari)

This research was an ethnographic, richly textured and anecdotal study 
of Tees Hazari, the oldest District and Sessions Court in Delhi. It 
described the day-to-day functioning of the court, the activities on the 
court premises, and the relationship between advocates, magistrates, 
court staff and lawyers of the Delhi Bar Association (DBA).

The researcher started her presentation with excerpts of an interview 
with a “mulaqati” named Rajjo, whose brother-in-law had been jailed 
several months earlier. The interview was an entry point into an 
analysis of court functioning and the attitude of the main actors in 
this space. Rajjo alleged that the judicial system was full of injustice 
and corruption; the police and lower level staff only work after they 
receive bribes; judges do not think independently but depend entirely on 
the advocates to lead them through each case, statement by statement. 
Lawyers who have been practicing for 15 years are called “seniors”; 
their work consists of giving dictation to their stenos and presenting 
the final argument in court. Their minimum charges are Rs 11,000 per 
case. The younger lawyers working for the seniors are known as 
“juniors”. Some seniors prefer female juniors because they feel women 
tend to use time efficiently and work sincerely. Others want to hire 
female juniors because it makes the chambers (the advocates' offices in 
the courts) “pleasant”. There are also those who employ female juniors 
as “time pass”.

The researcher stated that though the seniors call their juniors 
“associates”, they extract work from them without mercy. The situation 
of the juniors is worse than that of daily wage labourers, in some 
senses. After working from 9.30 to 5.30 at the courts, most juniors have 
to go to the offices of their seniors in different corners of Delhi. 
They are also asked to go to courts in nearby cities such as Faridabad, 
Bahadurgarh, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Sonepat. Their salaries, ranging 
from Rs 5000 to Rs 8000, are disbursed in installments. There is also 
one category of advocates that, according to the researcher, “start 
following the client from the gate”, swearing that they will take the 
responsibility of solving the client's problem even without knowing the 
specifics of the case. One respondent claimed that all such advocates 
were “Bihari” and had defamed the profession. There were also dozens of 
touts swarming around, offering every possible service and looking for 
easy victims among the hundreds of harassed clients wandering around, 
lost and burdened.

The research also described the “formal and informal market” being 
simultaneously conducted in the court premises. According to some 
respondents, everyone has full knowledge of the activities, including 
prostitution, that take place in Tees Hazari; this is the safest place 
for “flesh traders” because the police cannot raid the chambers or 
arrest people there. The paper also talked about the history of the 
chambers and the encroachments that are taking place; the chambers were 
demolished during the Emergency and rebuilt later. The number of 
chambers has increased over a period of time and illegally built 
chambers have been authorised. Another aspect discussed in the paper was 
the “militancy” of the Delhi Bar Association, which arbitrarily goes on 
strike to express solidarity with issues unrelated to law, such as when 
the power companies cut off supply to penalise people stealing 
electricity. The speaker asked why the court could not “behave properly” 
with office bearers/members of the bar, which was also responsible for 
maintaining canteens, libraries, etc. She described her experience of 
unsuccessfully trying to access the documents of the DBA; and her 
findings that over the last few years, the number of divorce cases have 
increased tremendously, with more than half of these being filed by 
women. At the same time, women working in the courts have to negotiate 
the traditional prejudice held by male colleagues, that women who stay 
behind on the premises after 5 p.m. are disreputable. She also noted 
that women lawyers are hesitant in asking clients for their fees, in 
contrast to their male counterparts; and the female court staff are 
hesitant in asking clients for “kharcha pani” (bribes) while the male 
staff have no such qualms.

*Panel 4/ The Past, Present and Future of Work*

1./ Dhiraj K. Nite /“Colliery Mazdoors in the Jharia Coalfield: Family, 
Time, Work and Mining Capitalism (1920-1970)”

Dhiraj K. Nite's research focused on the struggles of “family 
/mazdoors/” (families of labourers with gender-specific tasks) in the 
Jharia coalfields of present-day Jharkhand, from 1920 to 1970. Nite 
emphasized that his definition of family was not a traditional one, 
necessarily underwritten by biological or legal ties, but one “where a 
group of people . . . feel a sense of ties and attachment”. 
Nevertheless, he shows how this system of “family gangs” evolved a 
relationship with modern mining capitalism, with a “socio-familial 
relation [which was] manifest even at the workplace”.

Nite sketched out how these “family gangs” might have “apprehended” 
socio-familial time”, and how the labour/time regime might have affected 
the social organisation of a /mazdoor'/s family. The system finally 
began to disintegrate after a series of shocks and a new paradigm for 
work: the employers' need for efficiency overriding the necessary breaks 
women needed during periods of childbirth, and other constraints placed 
on work by the family system, after economic slumps. From the 1940s 
through the 1960s, the /mazdoors/ witnessed “the reorganisation of the 
production process and work force and the gradual removal of women and 
child workers”. Despite a series of protests, the workers faced “adamant 
and adverse” employers and the state, and were forced to weather a 
“consequent subsistence crisis”.

2./ Balvinder Singh and Sanjay Sharma /“Vaidya Avedh: Tambu mein 
Dawakhana” (Illegal Healers: Dispensary in a Tent)

This research describes the informal medical practices, based on 
traditional remedies derived from herbal sources, that are dispensed in 
roadside 'tent' clinics in cities and are a feature of urban life. The 
Chittori tribal community involved in these practices was reluctant to 
be interviewed and showed extreme distrust of the researchers' camera 
and tape recorder, so the methodological strategies had to be reshaped, 
and other ethnographic modes adopted for purposes of the study. The 
remedies are “secret” and closely guarded within family lineages, passed 
on from generation to generation. They are not revealed to outsiders, 
nor even to other members of the community. The project attempted to 
articulate the complex and mostly inimical relationship the 
practitioners negotiate with the world outside their tent clinics. 
Society looks upon the healers as quacks, yet turns to them despite 
cheap/free medical attention (often of doubtful quality, however) being 
available in government hospitals; the healers choose to segregate 
themselves socially, yet are dependent upon their clients for economic 
survival. The research included a critique of the mainstream medical 
establishment in which the general population has little faith; a 
description of the domestic life of the practitioners and the arduous 
conditions in which they live, and which they refuse to change; and a 
collection of popular advertisments and posters depicting well known, 
historically and commercially established traditional healers, who 
continue to serve a large and trusting urban population despite ongoing 
public scrutiny and scepticism.

3. /Sanjay Joshi /“Hashiye par Padhare Nagrik” (Citizens on the Margins)

This ethnographic study examined the lives of security guards working in 
housing societies in a particular East Delhi locality. It described the 
relationship between the guards and the inhabitants of those societies, 
the working conditions, pay, hardships and oppressions that these 
“citizens on the margins” have to negotiate. The paper also critiques 
the concepts of property/ownership that create a particular mode of 
sociality, enforce the need for protection and 
legitimate/institutionalize the related need for protectors, in the form 
of security guards, and also the gates which, in combination with the 
guards, restrict outside entry into the material settlement as well as 
into community life.

4. /Iram Gufran and Taha Mehmood /“Call Centre Workers in Delhi”

This project was a study of the work culture in call centres, a booming 
industry in Delhi and other metropolitan cities in India, and examines 
how this influences the lives of the workforce, known as “agents”. A 
consequence of globalisation, call centres are transforming the lives of 
the contemporary generation, which is suddenly being able to experience 
economic freedom, changed and “freer” lifestyles, the breakdown of 
established patterns of socialisation, and an overall mobility which has 
inculcated different perspectives. The research describes the inner and 
outer changes, the complex impact on identity, subjectivity, persona, 
that takes place through the rigorous training and conditioning enforced 
by the call centres and their parent companies. The study focuses on 
issues of identity, language, the particular scripts, cadences, 
inflections that direct the agent's performance, and are an index of 
professional value, competence and worth even while they inevitably 
foster alienation, discontent, dissent. The research explores the daily 
routine, texture of life, psychological imperatives, exhilaration and 
aspiration, as well as the exhaustion and disillusion in agents' lives, 
mandated by the industry's commitment to the “moment of truth”: this is 
defined in a customer service training manual as “that precise instant 
when the customers come into contact with any aspect of your business, 
and on the basis of that contact, form an opinion about the quality of 
your service and potentially the quality of your product”.

Ravi Sundaram chaired the final session. He noted that as work became 
second nature, its processes became “shrouded in silence” and it was 
difficult to analyse its mechanisms. In terms of the development of the 
contemporary imagination, the changing forms of work had a significant 
role to play. Marx had spoken of wage work as “encompassing”. But the 
question arose as to whether the category of “wage” continued to 
effectively describe the myriad forms work assumed. How many of us today 
drew a “wage” in the classical sense? Could we map the changing forms of 
work historically? What categories could we use to mark these changes? 
Did people mobilize conditions of work in different ways?

Karim opened the discussion session by asking Dhiraj to clarify some of 
the terminology he had used in his description of social and sexual 
relations among the workers. Besides heteronormative practices, had he 
in the course of his research come across instances of a subversion or 
breaking of heteronormativity? Jeebesh suggested that Dhiraj look at 
Geerson's (nineteenth-century) glossary, which has a list of 30 terms 
for “woman”. Dheeraj replied that there were some indications of 
homosexual behaviour in the population, but he had not included this in 
his presentation, which was a limited analysis. He had examined the 
man/woman/child relationship because he was researching the negotiations 
involved in fulfilling household responsibilities. In general, his own 
questions regarding the issue of homosexuality/gay rights focused on 
whether homosexual practices supported the social function of 
reproduction. The feminist demand for equality was valid, but his 
research interests were confined to production and its relationship to 
reproduction. The categories he had used referred to the sexual 
relationship between two people, based on mutuality and not coercion of 
any kind, as well as the general societal perceptions surrounding unions 
of this or that nature. When both parties were equally involved, it was 
“mutual sex love”; “chivalrous sex love” was a medieval term for valid 
ties between two people, authorized by the Church. In his research, the 
term was used to refer to cases where moral discourse legitimized sex 
ties. He had come across new archival material that subverted the 
patriarchal family. But this did not help him to understand the other 
forms of familial relationship in which the female and male partners 
depended on each other equally.

Rohini raised two issues with regard to the “dawakhana” research. She 
noted that the researchers had continually referred to this indigenous 
system as an “alternative” system which people continued to use despite 
free care being available in government hospitals. We need to be alert 
to the “politics of validation”, that determined which system was 
valued, which negated, and who profited/who suffered loss, within these 
parameters. Khaled commented that whenever he had spoken to security 
guards, they complained about their low pay and long working hours, but 
even more vociferously declared that those they protected “were not 
worth the protection”. Sharada asked Dhiraj if he had asked the guards 
about their own perceptions of what constituted “security”. Jeebesh 
asked Sanjay to clarify the intellectual problem he was trying to 
address in his research. We wanted a society that was secure and did not 
need any security guards. Yet we are also pushing the guards to unionise 
and demand better wages, working conditions, etc. Through activism of 
this kind, we ended up reproducing the conditions of the initial 

Sanjay replied that he had spent many years as a political activist and 
this influenced his research to some degree. The guards he had 
interviewed came mostly from the western belt of UP, and despite the 
terrible conditions of employment they worked twelve-hour shifts without 
any day off in the week. Perhaps this kind of endurance was seen as 
manly, and tied into notions of honour that prevailed in their feudal 
backgrounds. These guards were “on the margins of the margin”, and the 
question of how secure they felt themselves, did not even arise. Even 
when they were sick or had some crisis, they were not entitled to leave.

Iram and Taha responded to several questions on perceptions of self and 
changing forms of work. They suggested that the fluidity in the call 
centre industry was perhaps reflective of the nebulous nature of the 
work regime itself. Employees did not look on this work as being 
permanent or stable in any way. The relationship to time and the 
relationship to money was fluid and constantly changing, as well. On a 
good day you earned about $10, on the average. On a bad day, you earned 
nothing. There was no craving for hierarchy/power, in the classical 
sense. In general, employees did not wish to be team leaders or 
supervisors, or get a promotion. The incentive was money. If you earned 
Rs 25,000 per month and were still an “agent”, the lowest rung in the 
company, it was all right. The employees had a practical and flexible 
approach to their work and did not see themselves as “cyber coolies” or 
as objects of pity; they felt empowered through good pay that enabled 
them to live a particular lifestyle. They did not object to having to 
assume an identity, it was just part of the work, and not a big issue.

Preeti commented that the service sector model was a direct outcome of 
globalisation and was “here to stay”. The logic of the new global 
economy where the movement of capital was free and the movement of 
labour restricted, the service sector was a logical turn for production 
to take. Ravi Sundaram recalled a recent issue of /The Economic/ /Times/ 
which reported a decline in the shift to the services sector. Clearly, 
“not everyone was queuing up to join call centres”. Even within these 
new work spaces there were deep hierarchies. What exactly did we mean by 
services sector work? The sharp division between production and service 
continued to be problematic. The categories of “wage labour” and 
“working class” had traditionally formed the foundation of a moral 
critique and had played an important role in mobilising new values 
around these categories.

The last segment of the session was a summing up of the workshop. Ravi 
Sundaram commented that this year, the third year of the independent 
fellowships programme, had been particularly memorable, in terms of the 
quality as well as the range of projects. Shuddha said that he too was 
delighted by the diversity of work that had been presented over a very 
intense three days. He suggested that when we think about the criteria 
of knowledge production, we need to focus on the plural forms that this 
process assumed, and speak of “qualities” of research rather than a 
“quality” of research. It was incorrect, in his view, to construct a 
hierarchy between the kinds and forms of research. The generosity 
reflected in the process of sharing of opinions had been heartwarming. 
This process needed to be extended to the Reader-list in order to ensure 
that this climate of conversation and conviviality had a stability and 

Shuddha then briefly clarified the protocols of posting on the 
Reader-list. Each posting was archived, and therefore should have a 
specific subject heading, to make it easier to access. He urged the 
independent fellows to continue writing on the Reader-list, since this 
continuous sharing of ideas was a valuable process. In the feedback 
session, Yousuf pointed out that it would be helpful if guidelines were 
initially provided for the research and writing process. Rupali asked if 
a format that accommodated visuals could be included in the Reader-list. 
Rutul asserted that since Sarai expected researchers to post regularly, 
posters would similarly benefit from regular feedback from Sarai on the 
postings. Preeti added that future fellows might benefit if they 
corresponded regularly with specific people at Sarai.


/Taran Khan /“Socialist Wives”

The independent fellowships workshop concluded with an evocative 
dramatisation of Taran Khan's project “Socialist Wives”, enacted in the 
Sarai interface area. The hour-long play, supported by audiovisual 
material, described the experiment in community living of three legends 
of the Urdu renaissance and their wives, all members of the Communist 
party, in 1950's Bombay: Ali Sardar Jafri, married to Sultana; S.M. 
Mehdi, married to Zehra; and Kaifi Azmi, married to Shaukat. The closely 
bonded, bohemian couples shared a unique friendship, enduring poverty 
and precarious employment, but always sustaining a passionate commitment 
to activist theatre and journalism, literature, socialism and ideologies 
of protest. These well-born, conservatively-reared Muslim women made a 
radical entry into domains such as theatre, performance and 
broadcasting, generally taboo for women in that era. The script, in the 
form of various first-person accounts and interlinked dialogue, 
articulated the experience of being a particular kind of emancipated 
woman in a particular milieu, documenting anecdotes and observations 
that provide a view of a critical but neglected period of 
social/cultural transformation.

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