[Reader-list] Sarai.txt 2.4: CURRENT
aarti at sarai.net
Thu Dec 1 14:28:57 IST 2005
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
write to : broadsheet at sarai.net for print copies.
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
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
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.)
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.)
VANI / VOICE
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
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.)
LISTENING AND LEARNING
In October 1930 the Calcutta Radio Station began a music lesson
programme of Bengali songs. The programme ran for the next 40 years till
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.)
A LINE, IT ‘GOES’/
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
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
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
THE MAKING OF THE CROWD
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 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
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.
[END OF BROADSHEET]
Design (print version): Mrityunjay Chatterjee
Photographs: Monica Narula
Write to broadsheet at sarai.net
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