Thursday, 16 October 2014


Sometimes time makes me cringe with disbelief.

Let me, for example, take the year 2014.

I wrote a research paper that began as a piece of putrid turd. Eventually it had to see six drafts before it sublimated into something less than faeces. In the process of writing this paper over and over again, I learned how to read, write and think.

In the summer of this year, on my birthday, a slightly obscure friend of mine, somebody who made me sigh in frustration and shout in exasperation, killed himself. This singular event changed my life and made me question everything around me. He was around 30: an age that is acceptably young, but not young enough. Not old. I revisited letters and exchanges that alone remained of our friendship. I realized that what I had mistaken as self absorption was indeed a strain of inherent self destruction, a melancholy that nothing could take away.

How is it that people who are engaged in intellectual activity read texts with more dissection, interest, passion, engagement than the people that surround them?

How do we understand hermeneutics (oh that wondrously baffling word) as a circle that brings together stories, words, writing, speaking, loving, feeling---books, texts, lives and people--? Humanistic scholarship: how often have even Erasmus or Tagore made me bang my head against the wall?

September 2014.

A month after the tragic and premature demise of my friend, my alma mater burst into flames of anguish and horror. And it was a microcosmic reflection of what ails the state of West Bengal, and by extension, much of the country. Sexual assault. Being hushed up. By political powers. Administration being appointed to love, uphold and perpetuate evil state agenda. Misusing its power. Using violence against students who are on the side of justice and right.

What I don't understand is, who are these people who form governments? Have they no conscience? Is it possible that their hearts and minds are so full of violence, hatred and injustice (even if for example, we don't bring overall ideology or the official party line into this.) Some people have argued that the students should not spend so much of their time and efforts away from their spheres of learning: but how can you learn, when everything is so rotten, debased and wrong? How do you turn your attention to worlds outside your own, when your own world singes you with hot and burning flames of violence, coercion and shame?

If all knowledge operates within spheres of power--and that has been established well by know--if we all embrace our designated spheres of discursive activity, then should we not acknowledge the fact that we are aware of what we do? This honesty can perhaps make us better scholars, teachers and students. 

It is with this conviction that I believed that awards, prizes, and degrees are external markers (and in some sad cases, incentives) for learning. I was also convinced that it is time that India rejected and fought with terrifying conviction the struggle against sexual violence, discrimination and inequality. 

The fight in Jadavpur continues. Let it be the last bastion for the hopeful, for the optimistic, for the idealistic.

No science, no social science, no humanities, no education can take place in a world which is premised on violence, destruction, and injustice. The mind and the heart can imbibe no knowledge in such circumstances. God knows I resented much about the Indian education system while I was in it, and it is deeply flawed in more ways than one. It also however taught me that the individual's relationship with knowledge is non-instrumentalist in ways it is hard to grasp. That knowledge teaches compassion, empathy. That while we struggle with differentiating the universal, and critique totalizing tendencies in the best of minds (dear Foucault, Spivak stabbed you there, didn't she?) there is some common ground in all of us humans...

we who eat, live, dream, drink, die...

I wish my friend had lived one more month. I wish we could recall the souls lost in the annihilating spaces of their own troubled minds.

It is struggle that defines us. A struggle in time. And a struggle against time.