[Reader-list] Sarai.txt 2.4: CURRENT

Aarti aarti at sarai.net
Thu Dec 1 14:28:57 IST 2005

Sarai.txt 2.4
15 November 2005 - 15 February, 2006
Also see: http://broadsheet.var.cc/blog for previous issues.
This issue of the broadsheet may be downloaded in pdf format at: 


This broadsheet is to go to print in the next half-hour! This is the 
perfect time to initiate a public self-reflection and in the process 
share the making of the broadsheet. Like in a bus, they say, the best 
stories are told when the passengera are just about to leave...

We begin with an initial idea, a ‘prism’. This prism operates like a 
very large, porous fish-net through which we begin searching for our 
materials. Materials are primarily gathered from the research work that 
occurs in Sarai, and through the community of researchers, seminars, 
lists that surround us. Research at Sarai itself takes many final and 
unfinished shapes, and is carried out through diverse sets of practices. 
We draw from the intersection of these practices and the questions they 
generate around themselves.

Once we gather material around the initial question, we set the question 
aside for a while. Through a wiki and a list the materials go through 
several rounds of revision and editing. Often, in working through them, 
the materials urge us to consider a complexity of questions which the 
initial prism does not capture. The intial question acquires new 
registers, is sharpened and deepened.

In organising the material, we create ‘concept clusters’ to build 
lateral connections and associations. This involves working with texts 
and images, and seeing what happens when they are juxtaposed, or nested, 
or placed in opposition to, each other.

Different kinds of text-based content demand different formal renditions 
and textual strategies. Similarly, images are not just design elements, 
but a context in which to insert new forms of meaning and affect. The 
poster is an attempt to create a game between us and the reader. It is a 
very important convergent point between our arguments, and ways of 
thinking about image and layout. The poster also acts as a refractor, as 
a detour, as another way of approaching the material. The poster is the 
broadsheet’s public inscription on the surfaces of the city.


Content of the text version:
(Does not include the poster and images)


- The Trickster
(Translated by Shveta Sarda, from the 'Dastan-e-Amir Hamza', performed 
by Mahmood U.R. Farooqui at the Sarai Independent Fellowship Workshop, 
26 August 2005, Delhi)


- Radio Kotina (Lokesh, Researcher, Publics and Practices in the History 
of the Present project, Sarai-CSDS)
- Santosh Radio (Sadan Jha, Sarai-CSDS)
- Vani/Voice (Excerpted from 'The Relationship between The Production 
and Consumption of Thumri and Allied Forms: The Female Impersonator - 
Balgandharva’, Urmila Bhirdikar, Sarai-CSDS Independent Fellow, 2004-05)
- Listening and Learning (Excerpted from 'Mediation through Radio', 
Indira Biswas, Sarai-CSDS Independent Fellow, 2003-04)
- A Line, It 'Goes'/It's Passe (Lakhmi C. Kohli, 
Researcher-Practitioner, Cybermohalla project, Sarai-CSDS + Ankur)
- The Making of The Crowd (Debashree Mukherjee, Researcher, Publics and 
Practices in the History of the Present project, Sarai-CSDS)
- Locality DJ (Bhagwati Prasad, Researcher, Publics and Practices in the 
History of the Present project, Sarai-CSDS)


- Sarai[s]: Interstellar Travell
- World Information City
- Publication: Contested Commons/Trespassing Publics: A Public Record
- Credits

write to : broadsheet at sarai.net for print copies.


SIDE [01]


Tilism-e-Hoshruba, or the ‘enchantment that takes away your senses’ is 
the name given to one daftar (section) of the 46 volume Dastan-e-Amir 
Hamza. Tilism, a magical effect or enchantment, is a magic-infested 
zone, cast by a sorcerer and its properties vary. Tilism-e-Hoshruba, 
constructed by Afrasiyab Jadu, the Emperor of Sorcerers, is both a 
physical reality as well as an imaginative effect.

The oral narration of the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza was a popular pastime in 
most parts of central, western and South Asia, and also North Africa 
since medieval times. Composed originally in Persian, when the story 
began to be published in Urdu in nineteenth century Lucknow, it grew 
from a single volume to a mammoth 46 volume text, the greatest narrative 
prose fiction composed in Urdu, and possibly the longest in the world. 
Dastan-e-Amir Hamza describes the battles of Amir Hamza, the Prophet 
Mohammed’s uncle, against infidels, sorcerers and other pretenders to 
divinity. Chief among his supporters is Amar, an ayyar, or trickster, 
who resorts to chicanery, disguise and tricks to dupe magicians and kill 
them. Comprising magical battles, the creation of magical realms or 
tilisms, ayyari (trickery) and convivial gatherings, the dastans were 
meant, unabashedly, to entertain people which overlay a simple message 
of the triumph of good over evil, rather like Hindi cinema which it 
deeply influenced.

While Hamza fights against his gigantic perennial enemy, the false god 
Laqa, Amar and some other members of his force drift into the 
Tilism-e-Hoshruba which is only destroyed after some 8000 pages of 
closely printed text, of which the following comprises three pages.

Amar, Hamza’s chief ayyar (trickster), is captured several times over by 
Afrasiyab, the Emperor of the Sorcerers, in the first volume of the 
Tilism-e-Hoshruba itself. Each time, though, he effects his escape, 
either through his own ingenuity or because of Afrasiyab’s credulity. It 
is in Amar’s nature to trick people and he will always do so, it is 
Afrasiyab’s lot to be tricked and it will continue to be so...


Afrasiyab knocked. The earth parted and a saahir (sorcerer/magician) 
emerged. A hideous sight he was. Afrasiyab handed the saahir a takhti 
(wooden writing tablet) and said, “O Aazar Jaadu! Be off immediately. 
Amar Ayyar has murdered Mehtaab in the forest, and is still at large. 
Go, find him and arrest him. And so that you recognise him, here is a 
picture. Though it is the photograph of a woman, it will assume the face 
of the ayyar, in his real form, no matter how he disguises himself. When 
you come across anyone on the way in the forest, be sure to see this 
photograph first. And if the one who you meet is not the ayyar, the 
picture will remain of a woman.”

And so with the photo in his hands, Aazar Jaadu set off for Mehtaab’s 
forest and started searching for Amar in all directions. But Amar too 
was in the same forest and sitting at a spot, wondering, “Let us see 
what happens here. There are thousands and thousands of saahirs in this 
forest. How will one kill them all? We are trapped in a tilism and do 
not know where the lauh-e-tilism (the template containing secrets about 
the tilism’s destruction) is? Who knows what happened to Asad, where has 
he gone? Is he even alive or is he dead?”

As he sat thinking, Amar saw a saahir wandering about, as if searching 
for someone. Amar thought in his heart, “This bastard should also be 
killed. The fewer there are of these, the better it is.” And thinking 
this, he disguised himself as a saahir and headed off in his direction. 
Aazar beheld that a magician with flames erupting from his ears, eyes 
and nose was coming towards him. Aazar Jaadu went towards him and asked, 
“Who are you?” Amar said, “First you tell me your name!” Aazar Jaadu 
told him his name and lineage and said he had come to find Amar. Amar 
said, “I too am looking for him. I am a relative of Mehtaab Jaadu and 
from the moment I have heard of his death, I am in search of this Amar 
the trickster.” Aazar said, “Let us look for him together.” Amar set off 
with him and was looking for a chance to kill him when Aazar Jadu 
remembered – “The Emperor had said, look at the picture whenever you 
meet anyone.”

And so he pulled out the photograph and beheld that it had assumed the 
shape of the real Amar – fox-faced, cumin-eyed, apricot-eared, kulcha 
(flat bread) like cheeks, thread like neck, rope-limbed. His lower torso 
was six yards and the upper portion measured three yards. Seeing this 
vision of apocalypse, Aazar Jaadu got nervous and realised that this was 
an ayyar before him, who had changed his form to that of a sorcerer with 

He mumbled a spell and Amar instantly lost control of his hands and 
legs. Aazar Jaadu pulled out a chain from his bag, tied Amar’s hands and 
started walking with Amar by his side. Amar pleaded, “Oh brother! Why do 
this to me without rhyme or reason!” Aazar replied, “You cheat, you were 
tricking me? I am well aware of your affair, you are the one called Amar.”

Amar became angry and said, “Child, doesn’t look like you will survive 
now. Looks like you have cut yourself a ticket to hell. Do you have any 
idea that one lakh eighty four thousand ayyars have entered the tilism. 
One or the other is bound to appear and kill you.”

Aazar said, “I will kill them all. I am not one to be frightened by your 
threats.” And he marched on with Amar.

 From a distance Zirgaam saw that a saahir had captured his master and 
was taking him away. Looking for a way to free him he found, up ahead, 
an ahir (cowherd) herding his cows. He went up to him, tricked him and 
hid him, unconscious, in the bushes. He then wore his clothes – 
headgear, loin cloth and waistband – and painted his face like the ahir. 
He picked up a stake and started tending to the cows.

When Aazar Jaadu reached the spot with Amar, he saw a cowherd tending to 
his flock. Since the heat was intense and he had been walking long, as 
soon as Aazar Jaadu saw the ahir, he said, “O ahir, if you have a lota 
(brass pot) and a string, fetch me some water, please.” The ahir said, 
“O Lord, you have been walking in the sun. If you want, I can get you 
some milk. Drink milk, what is water?”

This was Zirgaam’s trick, but would Aazar Jaadu realise it?

(Translated by Shveta Sarda from the 'Dastan-e-Amir Hamza', performed by 
Mahmood U.R. Farooqui at the Sarai-CSDS Independent Fellowship workshop, 
26 August 2005, Delhi.)


SIDE [02]


Thirty seven year-old Akhtar Ali worked as a radio technician, in a 
local radio manufacturing unit, all his life. Here, a team of 
self-trained technicians purchased the latest Phillips and Murphy radio 
models available in the market, copied and mastered their circuitry, 
innovated on it and made low cost Radio Kotina models using locally 
available parts. These radio sets flooded the market and became popular 
both for their design and affordability.

His first memory of the city begins with a moment narrated to him many 
times over by his mother: “The government made us roofless with promises 
of a 22 sq.ft. plot. We had not been able to gather our things, even 
take down the boards for keeping the household utensils when they 
brought everything down. And we were transported to an open ground out 
of the city. We reached here in the evening.”

What must the future have looked like to Akhtar’s mother, as the sun set 
in the horizon of the expanse of nothingness that surrounded them? This 
was the late 1970s. Akhtar was one year old at the time. Over the next 
35 years, they built their life, and that of the family. Today they have 
a two-storied house, where Akhtar lives with his mother, his wife and 
young daughter, his brother and his brother’s family.

They lived through many realities and many changes, but possibly one 
among them has been the fulcrum of their life – the popularity of radio. 
Television and video had not yet arrived in India, and there was a wide 
scope for radio marketing from villages to towns. During the 80s, local 
manufacturing played a decisive role in taking radio to all classes of 

Radio Kotina also grew in this context. Akhtar learnt this work with an 
ustad, another self-taught technician, in the neighbourhood, in the 
early 80s and they entered local manufacturing with Radio Kotina 
together. Akhtar worked under this ustad. There was a fine heirarchy and 
division of labour in the workshop from the beginning. At the top would 
be the ‘Engineer No. 1’ – the person responsible for copying from the 
sets available in the market and designing a new circuitry, and possibly 
a new casing for the set.

“Most of the technicians work on a piece-rate basis. The wireman who 
undertakes the wiring and soldering of plates can turn out only 25 to 30 
plates daily. In comparison, the fitter fits out 50 sets on an average 
per day. An engineer can easily carry out the tuning and checking of 100 
sets. Thus their daily income varies from Rs. 75, Rs.150 and Rs.300. The 
wireman’s work is the most strenuous. Sitting steady for hours with 
concentration can be the most tiring but fetches the lowest income.” The 
work of a wireman is what Akhtar’s wife had to learn when Akhtar 
suffered from a heart attack at the age of 35. She recalls:

“The long treatment as well as household expenses led to mounting debts. 
It was very difficult to carry on. Akhtar joined work, but his working 
hours were considerably reduced. So he taught me the technique to 
assemble a radio unit, and would bring work home. I picked up the wiring 
work quite nicely. I would attend to the domestic work and also bring in 
some income from this work.”

After the heart attack, Akhtar’s imminent rise to the level of Engineer 
No. 1 was truncated. But that did not remain the only problem. The site 
of the workshop was itself contentious. Workshops like these run through 
having negotiated for themselves certain basic amenities through a 
protracted negotiation with administration, and through making gradual 
maneuvers to obtain administrative orders from state authorities, a few 
guarantees of infrastructure which could be taken away any time. Akhtar 

“After 2000 quite a change has come over the atmosphere of the city. An 
exercise to make Delhi into Paris was under way. There was a drive to 
demolish non-legal colonies. After the 1996 orders of the Supreme Court 
closing down 168 bigger factories, the small-scale industries were next 
in queue. There was an unsuccessful attempt in 2001 to shift the 
small-scale units to conforming zones. The legal action for relocation 
had begun, and Kotina closed down.”

Akhtar had devoted the best years of his life to learning and innovating 
in techniques around radio. He now insists on earning his livelihood for 
the time being from running a fruit juice handcart in the neighbourhood.

lokesh at sarai.net

(Lokesh is a researcher with the Publics and Practices in the History of 
the Present project, Sarai-CSDS.)



It is the decade of the 80s. The presence of radio among the working 
classes was a rarity. Owning a clock, a radio, or a cycle was a matter 
of great social prestige. These items would be high up on the list of 
demands for dowry from a bride at the time of marriage. Then arrived 
Santosh Radio, a made-in-Delhi brand which gave established brands like 
Phillips and Murphy a run for their money. It even replaced the brands 
manufactured in Nepal, which carried the made-in-China mark. With low 
cost as their biggest virtue, Santosh Radio or 'Delhi Brand' becma the 
most common object in the bridegroom's luggae as he left home after 
marriage. Over time, with increasing waves of migration from Bihar to 
Delhi, people curious about what their children did in that far away 
city began to talk of them as 'Delhi Brand' - good-looking, promising, 
but a little unreliable

(Sadan Jha, sadan at sarai.net, Sarai-CSDS.)



With the coming of the gramophone records in the market from 1902 
onwards, a new music seems to have been introduced in Maharashtra. The 
Sangeet Natak (Musical Theatre), a specific genre in the tradition of 
commercial theatre in Maharashtra of touring repertory theatrical 
troupes which nurtured the practice of female impersonation (men playing 
female roles), immediately accessed this music. From the beginning of 
this theatre music came from ‘outside’ sources; in the context of the 
Sangeet Natak, eclecticism can be seen in the form of deploying tunes 
from a vast variety of musical genres and traditions.

The music genres popularised through the gramophone records – thumri and 
allied forms – were not entirely unknown to musicians and music 
listeners in Maharashtra, but with the gramophone records they were out 
in the public space in the voice of women. In the specific case of 
Maharashtrian theatre, the availability of new music meant an expansion 
of its cultural sources.

The composition of songs for Balgandharva’s roles, a singer-actor with 
the Sangeet Natak and perhaps the most famous ‘female impersonator’, 
borrowed heavily from the gramophone recordings of female singers such 
as Gauhar Jan. A unique actor even in the tradition of the practice of 
female impersonation because of the length of his career, he was in his 
times a ‘star heroine’ and lives on in the memory of theatre lovers for 
his representation of the ‘ideal woman’. As a singer, Balgandharva is 
recognised as a model for both his musical attributes and performance 

With the choice of tunes for Balgandharva’s songs for Manapaman, a play 
in the immediate aftermath of the gramophone, the vocal achievements of 
the heroine’s singing are distanced from the heroine’s singing in the 
earlier era, and seem to define a new aesthetic.

Are Balgandharva’s songs simply copies of the songs recorded by the 
women singers?

Such a possibility is preempted in the way voice is used and understood 
in the ’Indian’ traditions of singing. First of all, we have to note 
that Balgandharva did not sing in the high pitch of the women singers.

Further, his vocal attributes are described differently from the voices 
of women singers. A contemporary critic describes the subtleties of the 
voices of singers, whom he heard only on the gramophone records, thus: 
Gauhar Jan – mohak (attractive), bhardar (full), god (sweet), nirmal 
(clear); Malka Jan – god, patal (thin), lavchik ( flexible); Janaki Bai 
– chadha (high pitched).

A search for the adjectives that describe Balgandharva’s voice in this 
period produce madhur (sweet), manjul (melodious), najuk 
(delicate/soft), zardar/jawaridar (resonant) and flexible. The earlier 
models of good voice on stage are associated with tej (luminosity) and 
exceptional throw of voice.

These changes are significant both in terms of the musical style, as 
well as in fashioning the representation of femininity on stage. If we 
look at the implications of the transformation of tunes, it is clear 
that the force and voice throw in the women singers is being moderated 
considerably. The traditional feature of the voice throw in the women 
singers, ‘call’ in the voice, is noticeably absent in Balgandharva‘s 
clear and open voice.

On the other hand, the traditional association of thumri with the 
expression of the ‘woman’s voice’ seems meditated by Balgandharva’s 
style, which foregrounds only certain aspects of the women singer’s 
style. Restraint seems to be the key word in understanding 
Balgandharva’s singing in the post-gramaphone era and to understand this 
singing style as the model for representing femininity in theatre.

Looking at Balgandharva and Goharbai (an actress/singer who later tried 
to make her place in the Sangeet Natak), another understanding of 
individuality and imitation emerges. Balgandharva’s training and a lot 
of compositions of his songs fall within the practice of imitation. 
Balgandharva’s training depended much on repeating the bandish (base 
tune) many times over. Goharbai’s records suggest how she imitated 
Balgandharva’s singing, through repetition. This does not deny 
individual agency to their singing. What is of interest, however, is the 
perception of this relationship between imitation and individuality: how 
the public saw an instance of self-created music in Balgandharva’s 
singing (which itself we have seen is an instance of the transmuted 
imitation of ‘feminine voice’) and considers Goharbai as at best 
derivative (as only imitating). This same ‘imitation’ was unacceptable 
in place of the ‘original’, even in the heat of arguments favouring the 
‘real’ woman enacting female roles.

(Excerpted and adapted from ‘The Relationship between The Production and 
Consumption of Thumri and Allied Forms: The Female Impersonator – 
Balgandharva’ by Urmila Bhirdikar, Sarai-CSDS Independent Fellow, 2004-05.)



In October 1930 the Calcutta Radio Station began a music lesson 
programme of Bengali songs. The programme ran for the next 40 years till 
about 1975.

The greatest advantage of the ‘Music Lesson Programme’ was that music 
was taught with notation, i.e., the ‘tutor’ sang the song and then 
elucidated the notes in the song structure. Pankaj Kumar Mallick, the 
first ‘teacher’, made it a routine to dictate notations and give 
listeners instructions on how to follow them. In the initial years the 
Vetar Jagat, a fortnightly radio programme publication, also published 
the songs with the notations in advance. Listeners who could follow the 
notations, could master the songs without mistake. With an emphasis on 
non-classical music, the programme became immensely popular amongst its 
listeners. Especially children with little or no opportunity to learn 
music from music school or an individual tutor, found an avenue to learn 
music from a wireless teacher. It also served as the base of learning 
for prospective artistes.

The programme arranged for musical competitions selected from the songs 
taught on the radio. Enthusiastic patrons encouraged amateur performers 
by sponsoring competitions and awarding prizes. A patron or sponsor 
could be anybody – a zamindar (landowner), a writer, or just a pleased 

 From 1939 onwards, several music lesson programmes began. The music 
lesson programmes helped popularise Bengali music amongst listeners. New 
groups of audiences grew up appreciating music through radio. In time, 
these audiences went on to form the main pool from which ‘amateur’ 
artistes for the radio emerged.

(Excerpted from ‘Mediation Through Radio’ by Indira Biswas, Sarai-CSDS 
Independent Fellow, 2003-04.)



Information regarding government notifications about what needs to be 
done by its people spreads like rumours, even as it is true and 
verifiable. It is a reality in which everyone must participate – whether 
it is getting new ration cards or I-cards made, getting a water pipe 
connected or an electricity cable laid. These are lengthy procedures, 
and the first step is filling forms. Every form demands that each person 
revisit and consider afresh their understanding of what constitutes 
their ‘selves’. One watches oneself in new ways, in different avatars in 
the light of different dates from one’s life. As soon as we become 
comfortable with one way of seeing ourselves, the forms remind us where 
we belong, what marks we have on our body. One fills the form as 
required, and prepares this renewable ‘self’ to be hidden, once again, 
beneath a stamp with an ink of a different colour from the time before. 
And so it happens that in this fast paced city with its millions, 
everyone halts and waits to submit their forms in slow moving lines.

One summer we got intimation that we had to get new ration cards made. 
We don’t really use ration cards for rations, but they are essential as 
proofs of identity and residence, and serve as ‘solid’ documents for any 
government related work. So no one raised an eyebrow when forms were 
handed out. Of course everyone knew this meant a round of standing in 
long lines, but the procedure was important. So, it’s really ok, it ‘goes’.

My mother likes to get government related work done as soon as possible. 
She sat me down at the table to fill the form that evening. It was a 
small sheet – not too many questions. Just these: *Name of head of the 
family, *Number of previous card, *Residential address, *Current 
address, *Postal address, *Do you want to add any name, *Do you want to 
remove any name, *Attach a photocopy of previous card, *Attach a 
photocopy of voter I-card/water bill/electricity bill, *Attach two 
passport size photographs of head of the family. I filled the form.

Five or six women from the neighbourhood, including my mother, got 
together and planned that we should leave early to deposit the forms and 
finish quickly.

Next morning, we reached the office by 4:30 A.M. It is a two-storied 
building, surrounded by tea and snack stalls. When we arrived we saw 
there was already a long queue. A sheet still lay spread on one of the 
benches – people must have slept here the night before. Government 
offices don’t open before 10:00 A.M. Why were so many people here so 
early? It reflected the experience of feet that have travelled far 
trying to get government related work done.

Everyone was sitting in queue. I went and stood beside a tea stall, 
while my mother joined the queue with her companions and they sat down 
to chat. Almost all present were women. The reason an all-women’s group 
had come from my neighbourhood was that women are attended to first at 
collection windows.

Everyone sat in different positions – some hugging their knees and 
rocking on their haunches, some carefully covering their heads with 
their sarees. Time ticked by slowly as the women chatted, and the queue 
kept growing. A men’s queue formed alongside. Tea stalls opened for 
business. People read each others’ forms, compared notes. It seemed as 
if everyone asked the other to fill the form the way they had, so that 
in case of error, it would be no one’s alone; or everyone, without 
exception, would have their forms filled correctly.

It was past 10:00 AM. There were around 200 people in the queue by now. 
A small window opened in the building. Inside, behind a desk, sat two 
officers, each with two boxes placed besides them. Two juniors stood on 
the side. They would take the forms and old ration cards from behind the 
netted iron grill in the window, and pass them to their seniors. The 
iron door to the building remained bolted.

The seated queue began to rise. Bodies moved in the direction of the 
window, pushing the line ahead. My mother was standing now. She asked me 
to stand at the mouth of the queue. I stood near the window and started 
watching the proceedings.

Lakhmi C. Kohli
lakhmi at cm.sarai.net

(Lakhmi is a researcher-practitioner and content editor with 
Cybermohalla (Ankur+Sarai-CSDS). He is part of the editorial collective 
of the Cybermohalla broadsheet, “Bade Bade Shehron Mein Kuchh Namm 



One of the ADs (Assistant Director) calls up a dubbing artiste 
coordinator with a list of requirements. For example:

- Ten kids for classroom and park scenes (mixed)
- General crowd (mixed - 15 to 20 persons)
- Schoolgirl (8-10 years)
- Maid (40-45 years)
- Salesman (30s)

The most common requirement in feature films is for ‘crowd scenes’. 
Depending on what the crowd picturised is doing in the scene, 
professional dubbing artistes can provide a wide range of variations – 
from crowds shrieking in a riot, to the steady murmur of a crowd in an 
auditorium. Individual lines may or may not be clearly heard in these 
cases. The aim is to create a particular atmosphere. Then come the 
individual, distinctly seen and heard, roles where the dubbing artiste 
has to match the actor’s lip movements. These can vary in length from a 
few words to several scenes.

The AD then describes the kind of voices needed in terms of the age, 
quality of voice (bass/shrill) and character. Most dubbing artistes are 
peculiarly malleable, insofar as they can switch in a moment from 
low-pitched suave executive to an abusive truck driver. And of course 
the movie business is one that deals heavily in stereotypes, which in 
turn have spawned an industry of super-specialised talents. “It’s not as 
if you just land up, say a few lines and go home richer. ‘Acting’ karna 
padta hai (You need to ‘act’). You have to understand the character and 
the scene. Sometimes they make you cry for your dead son, sometimes you 
have to laugh like a madman…you have to get emotional.“

The industry relies heavily on existing networks and personal contacts. 
Most positions are filled and studios booked on the basis of friendly 
recommendations or second hand advice. “It’s not like you can go to a 
junior artiste’s website and pick the faces and profiles you think most 
suitable. Someone puts you on to a coordinator for reasons that could 
pertain to efficiency, price, variety or a small ‘cut’ on the side. You 
like his/her work and recommend them to your friends. And so on.“ Such a 
system can encourage a particular kind of entrepreneur, such as Surekha.

“After I got over my initial diffidence, I started to try for bigger 
roles. Simultaneously my contacts grew. I met with a lot of directors, 
producers, sound engineers and dubbing artistes along the way. I figured 
that I could easily use this network to start my own thing. After all, I 
had a dense and ready database of voice artistes, studio contacts and 
potential clients. Bombay mein sab kuchh goodwill pe chalta hai (In 
Bombay everything runs on goodwill).”

(As told by Surekha Prasad (voice artiste) to Debashree Mukherjee. 
Debashree is a researcher with the Publics and Practices in the History 
of the Present project, Sarai-CSDS.)



These days, one can hear the boom of a DJ in every nook and corner. 
Sometimes at weddings, or at birthdays, everywhere one sees the DJ. A 
few days ago, there was such a programme in our locality, at the centre 
of which was the DJ.

It was during the Ramlila festival. Walking through the streets one 
evening, my gaze fell on a poster pasted on the walls of the urinal on 
the corner. On it was printed DANCE COMPETITION. Along with the names of 
the organisers and participants, was printed the programme for the 
evening – the slaying of Ravana, followed by the dance competition.

The dance competition generated great excitement amongst the young 
people in the locality. The most animated were the music shops, from 
where young participants were getting their favourite songs recorded for 

The wait began for Dusshera.

On Dusshera, in the centre of a large ground, in the middle of the 
locality, stood a huge puppet of Ravana, and in a corner of the same 
ground a stage of about 18 ft. by 19 ft. had been erected by joining 
several wooden tables together. Three sides of the stage were covered to 
form walls and a ceiling, and the fourth side opened out to the 
audience. In front of the stage stood rows upon rows of chairs. On the 
stage sat the DJ, surrounded by his equipment – mixer, amplifier, CD 
player, and joined to them ten speakers in groups of five, arrayed 
resplendently along two sides of the stage. Halogen lamps hung from tall 
wooden poles, bathing the area in a warm yellow light. All in all, the 
stage looked set for a long evening.

Instead of carpets the stage was covered with a makeshift floor, on 
which had been laid crooked plastic strips. Perhaps the competitors 
would dance on these. Behind the stage hung a banner with information 
about the competition. This banner was flanked by two banners on which 
were written ‘Shiva Gym’ and ‘Triple Jeans’.

It was 7:30 in the evening. A crowd had begun gathering in the ground. 
Preparations were on to set Ravana on fire. The DJ started doing his 
thing. Someone announced the evening’s programme on the mike. People 
began gathering in front of the stage. As soon as the Ravana puppet 
caught fire, the crowd began to scatter.

The first young man stepped up on stage to prove his mettle. Wearing a 
black shirt and pants, he began dancing like Salman Khan to ‘Lagan Lagi, 
Lagan Lagi ’.

As he spun, the DJ too would dance from time to time. Despite the many 
halogen lamps, disco lights had been provided for on the stage, but they 
were playing on the DJ rather than the dancers. The programme was 
beginning to pick up. A few spectators began to sway to the music, 
dancing intermittently. During the programme an announcement was made 
thanking the organisers and mentioning them by name.

It was now 10:30 at night. All the participants had demonstrated their 
skill. The judges were called upon to announce the winners. In an 
instant, the owners of the gym and the jeans company materialised on 
stage as the presiding judges. I suddenly understood the story behind 
the two banners alongside the competition banner.

Having announced the winners, they invited all the participants to come 
up on stage. A crowd formed as everyone began dancing. The scene was 
comparable to a film show. Seeing the programme draw to a close, people 
began making their way out. I too made my way home.

Bhagwati Prasad
bhagwati at sarai.net

(Bhagwati Prasad is a researcher with the Publics and Practices in the 
History of the Present project, Sarai-CSDS.)




The doorkeeper of Sarai No. 102, (Licence No. 28/7/0099/J) located at 
coordinates 33 radial, 28” on the asteroid belt looked askance at the 
occupants of the decrepit spacemobile that was trying to dock on to one 
of the landing pods of the sarai. They were beaming no valid ID, and did 
not seem to have any recognisable RFID signal. The doorkeeper semaphored 
an instruction to present identification before parking and recieved 
five blurred holograms in reply. Forged human fingerprint scans.

The doorkeeper faced his habitual dilemma. To let the strangers in and 
keep the doorkeeper’s oath to never turn away a traveller when there 
were empty rooms at the sarai, or to stick to the letter of the recent 
inter-galactic security instructions, and never let a stranger in 
without verifying them. Something was amiss. Did the travellers not know 
about the recent regulations, were they from a different time? The 
doorkeeper waited, wondering if the strangers had enough fuel for the 
long trek back through space and time to wherever they had come from.

While waiting, he entertained an idle thought, “Is a verified stranger 
less a stranger than an unverified one?” No amount of turning this 
thought around and about several times in his mind led to any 
satisfactory conclusion. The doorkeeper sent out his request, this time 
expressed as a command. “Identify yourself.” There was still no response.

- Readers are invited to continue this story. Write to broadsheet @ 


World Information City
14 – 19 November 2005, Bangalore, India

World Information City is a one-week programme of events addressing 
global issues of intellectual property and technology in conjunction 
with changing urban landscapes. The programme brings together 
researchers, artists and activists from Europe and South Asia. It 
consists of a conference, workshops, an exhibition, a public campaign 
and a series of musical and art events based on electronic media.
For more details, see: http://world-information.org/wio

World Information City Conference, 17 – 18 November, 2005 Cubbon Park 
Auditorium, Bangalore

The conference segment of World Information City brings together panels, 
discursive and research based presentations and conversations on 
‘Information’ and the ‘City’ as societal and political realities, with a 
particular emphasis on their interrelationships.
World Information City is a collaborative project of the Institute of 
New Culture Technologies/TO(Vienna), ALF (Bangalore), Waag Society 
(Amsterdam), Sarai-CSDS (Delhi), Mahiti (Bangalore) and local partners.

This issue of Sarai.txt has been produced as a response to the concerns 
and provocations of World Information City.



Contested Commons/Trespassing Publics: A Public Record

This compilation links a wide spectrum of political, social and cultural 
issues embedded in ‘the property question’. Varied voices explore new 
paradigms of practice in relation to the global intellectual property 
regime, its enforcement, as well as its violation and subversion by a 
compelling array of resilient figures. It deconstructs the 
capital-driven processes of enclosure in the contexts of software, 
file-sharing, patents, biopiracy, indigenous knowledge, cyber art, 
virtual exchange, literary history, theology and law, among others, 
while celebrating the emancipatory potential of knowledge sharing 
through the ethical creation of a commons that is vibrant, open and free.

The book is available for free download at: 


The XML schema for this broadsheet's poster uses the schema from the 
NewsRack project, developed by Subramanium Shastry, Sarai-CSDS Floss 
Fellow. NewsRack is an online browser-based RSS tracker for classifying, 
filing, and long-term archiving of news. It allows users to specify 
subjective concept categories to specify filtering rules that are used 
to select relevant articles from incoming news feeds.
Visit: http://floss.sarai/newsrack




Editorial Collective:
Aarti Sethi
Iram Ghufran
Shveta Sarda

Editorial Co-ordinator:
Monica Narula

Design (print version): Mrityunjay Chatterjee
Photographs: Monica Narula

Write to broadsheet at sarai.net

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