Sunday, November 28, 2010

What is the need to speak for Arundhati Roy?

Medusa does not want to have to defend Arundhati Roy- and there are two reasons for it. One: she is perfectly capable of defending herself (just take a look at the impassioned note from Kashmir after the first rumours of sedition charges started- and ignore the overtly sappy nature of the thing); second: Medusa does not always agree with her.

In fact, more than disagreeing, as someone who is constantly trying to figure out the meaning of what is it to be an academic and an activist, an intellectual and a participant in mass movements, Medusa finds Roy's positions to be more often than not, disconcerting. She is like the Shahrukh Khan of people's movements: lending her star presence to movements while not being organically connected to any of them. She has been to Narmada, to Nandigram, and now, to Kashmir.

Given that, being an organic intellectual, is not the sine qua non for having an opinion, and expressing it. And if you are as beautiful, articulate, and famous as Roy is, it at times becomes a moral imperative to express it, because if you do it, it makes news. Prime time, English daily news.

And that is what makes it imperative on the Delhi High court to cry for charges of sedition. It gets quickly sidelined that they implicate Geelani- one who has been talking about Kashmir for ever, and one who gets the shoe thrown at him, as well. Roy makes the headline, and both her supporters and detractors cry themselves hoarse. As a fellow curly- haired person medusa is stunned at the comicality of it all- after all "sedition"? Is this the same Indian state whose fervent attempts to decolonize its past, nevertheless provides it with a blinkered vision where colonial laws are good while it keeps out the "deviants"?

The "Sesh Kotha" by Suman Mitra in the latest issue of Desh advises the readers that "It is best for Democracy to ignore them (the likes of Roy)". The page-long article compares Roy to Jane Fonda who was "rightly" ignored by Richard Nixon when she kept on protesting against the Vietnam war. By conflating Kashmir with Vietnam, and the Indian government with Nixon, the writer make his ideological underpinnings clear; but he leaves medusa wondering, why is it so easy for the champions of the nation-state, of textbook-ish understanding of democracy and the supposed anti-fundamentalists to be so righteous all the time? Who answers for the fundamentalism of self-righteousness: both in Roy and her detractors like the one just mentioned?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reading and reflecting on the fat studies reader- one

Medusa has always been fat. Ever since she can remember, visitng shoe stores and shops that sell clothes have always been the stuff that nightmares are made of. While the polite Marwari shopkeepers would tell her parents that since “baby is healthy, she needs a size bigger than the others of her age”, the not-so-polite Bengali ones will tell her parents that fat children need clothes that fit older kids.

As a result she always wore frocks that reached her ankles, and jeans that had to be rolled up ten times.

Shoes were something else. She remembers walking down the length and breadth of College Street with mater, looking for a pair of shoes that will fit her, and coming up with zilch. Mater screaming and shouting, humiliated by the shoe-store assistants who would either take one look at her feet and claim that they did not have her size, or try and wrestle her feet into impossibly small pairs and insist that they fit.

So, consider medusa’s amazement when she recently went back to photos of herself when she was at school. She saw a young girl who was no-fatter and no-thinner than most of her peers, a very active young girl who used to dance and debate, take part in every damn thing that happened at school, found the time to study and fall in love repeatedly, play games and often win races, and fill notebooks with gibberishes of an average teenager’s life.

So what happened? How did this active young girl make herself believe that she was the fattest of everyone she knew?

At this ripe old age, medusa has been advised by all medical practitioners, starting from the GP to the gynecologist, the endocrinologist and the dermatologist that she needs to lose weight, ASAP. The first thing that most people say to her when they meet her is either “you’ve lost so much weight” or “have you put on a bit of weight”?

But do they know of the conspiracy that they are part of, that is driven by the multi million dollar weight loss industries and pharmaceutical companies, that tend to look at fat as merely a health hazard and not a fact of life?

Have they ever heard of “Health at Every Size”? Truth be told, Medusa hadn’t either till this day, but now that she is reading the Fat Studies reader, many more such awesome things are waiting to be found out.

So, more on this, as Medusa continues to find out fascinating stuff.