7/10/20

New | Poetry | Tikuli Dogra and James Goddard




CHARENTE MARITIME-La Rochelle



Vowels



[A=green, E=blue, I=red, O=black, U=light & shade]

A

the fundamental colour of the world—of life a primal colour—a vowel in cryptic words
a restless chameleon after the rains semaphores with its many shades
to a fragrant lime tree—laden with fruit that waits for hands that harvest

E

hands that move through the light of day collecting the offerings of nature
from the earth and the lime tree nourished by the natural waters that flow from the rain-fed rivers
from rain drops to ripe fruit—a full circle

I

the flamboyant sunset that knows
that tomorrow—for a while—it will rule again absorbing warmth and light until it glows turning rivers the colour of blood and night and the limes the colour of verdant soil
filling the air with darkening hues of love

O

the summer sky stretching to the distant sea darkens as day moves into sombre night streaks of lightning crackle in the air compete with the stars to light the world the heat of day yields to the cooler evening the lime tree stands limned with silver

U

the cycle of days—of daylight and dark and the shadows that linger in between life and love—the finding and the losing the world’s heart—water—limes—the tree
the seasons that give—the seasons that take all fluctuating between known and unknown





Shadow Cat

shadow-cat prowled the silent streets 
where light and darkness fought a war 
nothing stirred, but fallen leaves
and the hobo curled up by a door
I watched as darkness shifted slowly 
I felt the wind blow cold and raw
along the street her hard eyes flickered 
glowing red like hell’s own coals
silently the darkness stretched around, 
between the moonlit streets there 
she stalked the edge of light 
the darkest creature of the night
I stood there peering in the stillness 
as she stole the pale moonlight
a silent ghost, out seeking prey
a wraith of frost and mist and hate
leaving only her frigid darkness 
chilling everything it touched
and her paw-prints faintly glowing 
as she walked in winter’s frost

New | Two Poems | AHR


Sunday Afternoon by Sandor Bihari 






Someone else

My breath, your aphrodisiac
will be someone else’s
and my breasts
will be kissed by someone else

I will roll on my back
or sit up on my haunches
for someone else.
and my mouth will kiss
and pull away
from someone else

And the smile you smiled
will be smiled for me
by someone else

My silhouette
in the dark shadows of my bed
will be traced
by someone else’s hands
my legs will be wound around
the neck
of someone else

And when I sigh,
Replete,
I will sigh
For someone else.




Two by four

The end result was so prosaic,
A two by four unit
Of shelves, and a desk
A “black brown” the company said
And not nearly sturdy enough
I knew that when I hauled it upright with some help

Your help –
It wasn’t.
I took my fingers and turned the screws around
And around
So tight they went a subdued purple
The parts, the boards for shelves and partitions, the screws, and iron,
seemed to tear into my skin without leaving a mark
A rawness
Which magnified the ridges of my fingerprints
The lines of my palms
The creases and delicate dimples in my fingers
A latent pain, just below my small bones

I bent down low, and straddled the different pieces
The sweat coursed in thin rivulets
from my hair, ear, neck, down to my torso
When I bent further and my shirt hung loose, I thought –
A view:
For no one to see.

I did and re-did those shelves and the screws
Until they were just so

Do you remember a while ago,
When some planks of a similar dark wood
Were made into a table
And it was your hands that went purple
Like a faded eggplant?
And it was we who rested our glasses of water, the heat condensing
Droplets trickled down softly, as though the glasses were perspiring?
You took a big gulp
And we moved to the sofa.

I hauled the two by four upright, against the wall
My back and arms hurt
And I knew there would be a lingering ache tomorrow.



6/30/20

TSC Polemic: A Review of the film Manufacturing Consent by Zeeshan Husain

An IAF helicopter showers flower petals on medical professionals 



Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to dictatorship. ~ Noam Chomsky
The film Manufacturing Consent was made in 1992 by two Canadians Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick. The film draws the core of its arguments from a book with the same title. The book was jointly written by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman in 1988. The film is subtitled- Noam Chomsky and the Media whereas the book is subtitled- The Political Economy of the Mass Media. As the sub-title suggests, the film focuses much more on the life and works of Noam Chomsky than the book which looks into the ownership of media houses. Chomsky says in the film that he derived the title of the book while reading Public Opinion (1922) by Walter Lippmann. Lippmann wrote that ‘the practice of democracy is actually a technique of control’. The film tells us in detail about the life and works of Noam Chomsky and secondly, how mass media is controlled by the big corporates. The film is 2 hours 40 minutes long and is full of clips of Chomsky’s speeches, debates, interviews, filmmakers’ own narratives, interviews with journalists, editors and activists and some dramatisations.
Noam Chomsky: A brief biography
Noam Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher, political commentator and an activist. He is a Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and currently teaches at the University of Arizona. He has written many books on different subjects such as linguistics, wars, international and domestic politics, and mass media. His book Manufacturing Consent (1988) is one of the many dealing with military-industrial-media complex in the US. Chomsky is loosely labelled as the ‘father of modern’ linguistics, and his work goes well beyond the academic confines of cognitive sciences while enquiring into fields such as US imperialism, neo-liberalism and state capitalism among others. Chomsky is a regular contributor to the Frontline magazine, and often gives interviews on various platforms. Chomsky is also a supporter of two nation-states in Levant, that can be home to both Arabs and Jews.
Chomsky belongs to that tribe of linguists who say that language is a system of thought which is inherited by human beings. It is not something that we learn from our environment. Language, like rationality, is innate within humans and gets unfolded slowly and gradually. He believes that there is a universal grammar which generates natural languages. Task of a linguist then becomes to find out the rules of that universal grammar, Chomsky argues.
Chomsky started his political activism by giving lectures against US involvement in Vietnam war (1954-1975). He has written and spoken against Nazism, Israeli occupation of Palestine, totalitarianism, US support of Contra militia against the Sandinista government during the 1985 and Nicaraguan-Contra War. The September 11 attacks in 2001 and the US invasion of Iraq (2003) made Chomsky busier with his public interactions. He kept on writings and speaking against the ‘War on Terror’ as ‘US imperial grand strategy’. He is a regular participant of World Social Forum and has visited India several times. Chomsky remains firmly against state capitalism and, as the film tells us, his politics is grouped under the label of ‘Rationalist Libertarian Socialism’.
Watching the movie Manufacturing Consent (1992)
This film tells us about the functioning of democracy mainly within the geographical boundaries of the US. We know that in a properly functioning democracy, the State will be monitored by its aware citizens and there will be mechanisms for checks and balances against the State’s excesses. Information and awareness will keep the relationship between citizens and the State alive, characterised by the umbrella-term of Citizen Rights. This relationship is, more often than not, a tug of war between the two over various issues- freedom, distribution of resources, control over resources, decision-making, participation in State and market, etc. just to name a few. According to Chomsky, for the State, it is not viable to use force against the citizens so that they can be goaded into submission. Using force can backfire and citizens can increasingly become aware of their exploited status. So what the State does is to distract the public’s attention from  important issues to the frivolous ones. In the book Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932) moralist and theologian Reinhold Neibuhr says: ‘Rationality belongs to the cool observers but because of the stupidity of the average man he follows not reason but faith, and this naive faith requires necessary illusion and emotionally potent over-simplifications which are provided by the myth-maker to keep the ordinary person on course.’ This creation of necessary illusions (note the word ‘necessary’ used by Neibuhr) is what makes democracy possible. But is it an aberration or a norm in our present liberal democratic structure? Any liberal political thinker would say it will be an aberration for any ruling elite or state to create false illusions among the masses. It is here that Chomsky takes a theoretical turn. He makes a point which is fresh as it critiques the existing liberal understanding of democracy. Chomsky argues that this creation of illusions is necessary for democracy; that our present political system compels  the ruling class to create illusions so that masses can be goaded into a consensual position of submission. In the words of Chomsky, “... The naive might think that indoctrination might be inconsistent with democracy, rather, it is the essence of democracy.”
Now let us ask- who are the ruling elites and who are the masses? And how elites control the masses? Do they control bodies or minds? The film Manufacturing Consent gradually answers these questions one by one without loosening the grip over the viewer’s attention. Ruling elites are the top 1% of the population. They are the biggest shareholders of large corporations and conglomerates. They need the consent of almost 20% of the society just below them, what Chomsky calls the ‘political class’. This is a relatively educated and articulate section of the society. These are mostly professionals, and play some role in political, social and cultural life. Having their consent is crucial. Below them is the bottom 80% of the population. They are just given the message simply to follow orders and not to think about anything. This bottom 80% is also the one which is worst hit by the malfunctioning of the State and its welfare policies. The question, then, arises as to how the elites control these two groups- the top 20% and the bottom 80%. What are the mechanisms for ‘thought control’ in a democratic society?
Chomsky’s reply: Mass Media. He proposes ‘propaganda model’ about the mass media. Manufacturing Consent is analysing the political economy of the media. Chomsky asks who owns the media and says that the owners of the media houses are major corporations. News is just a product to be sold to the public (consumers?) for profit. Profit is made through advertisements. News also has to follow certain set of practices which might help the country sustain its domestic and foreign policies. These policies are not in favour of US citizens but in favour of the wealthy classes. Let us take an example from the movie: ‘In north America, there are seven major movie studios, and more than 1800 daily newspapers, 11,000 magazines, 11,000 radio stations, 2000 TV stations and 2500 book publishers. Twenty-three corporations own and control over 50% of the business in each medium. In some cases they have a virtual monopoly.’ They run, what Chomsky calls ‘national media or elite media or agenda setting media’. The Media is like an oligarchy. He gives examples of New York Times (henceforth NYT), Washington Post, NBC, CBS, and ABC. They set the basic framework of reporting any event, which the local media adopt later. “Who is in a position to make the decisions that determine the way the society functions? Societies differ, but in ours, the major decisions over what happens in the society- decisions of investment, production and distribution and so on- are in the hands of a relatively concentrated network of major corporations and conglomerates and investment firms. They’re also the ones who staff the major executive positions in the government and they are the ones in media and they are the ones to make the decisions. They have an overwhelmingly dominant role in the way life happens; what is to be done in the society. Within the economic system, by law and in principle, they dominate”, Chomsky explains how the US society is controlled by a handful of business elites via mass media. In a shot, the camera enters an office room of the New York Times where the staff members tell us that 60% of the newspaper space is reserved for advertisements, while only 40% is for news.
There is another example where the film spends considerable amount of screen time doing ‘quantitative’ analysis of NYT. Chomsky takes a slice of history (1970s) where two events happened simultaneously. One was the genocidal policies of Pol Pot in Cambodia. Another was the Indonesian occupation of East Timor in 1975, a country 420 kilometres north of Australia. Both are relatively comparable in terms of level of atrocities: case of Cambodia as communist atrocity and case of Timor as non-communist atrocity. On 6th December, US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Jakarta and the following day, the Indonesian army went for a full-scale invasion. On early morning, 7th December, Indonesian military just started firing at innocent Timorese people. According to a witness, ‘dead bodies were falling on him like leaves fall on ground’. A series of crimes were committed till 1976-77 like killings of men, women and even children, abduction of women by army, and lastly, leaving people just to starve. “By 1977, it was reaching genocidal levels”, says Chomsky. Chomsky analysed NYT from 1975 to 1979. What he did was to clip out each and every news report on these two genocides. He literally pastes every news item in a column-wise fashion. The result was startling: There was 70 column inches for Timor while for Cambodia it was 1175 column inches. NYT defends itself by saying it was just a coincidence. Chomsky counters saying it was a purposeful selection of news to suppress US atrocity and to exaggerate communist atrocity.  Fake photos and exaggerated news about atrocity in Cambodia were published by many US newspapers. On Timor, media deliberately remained silent. It was found that the US (90% contributor of arms to Indonesia) along with many countries like Canada, England and Holland were selling weapons to Indonesia so that the war against East Timor could  continue between 1977-78. Indeed, arms sales were increased by US President Jimmy Carter when it was falling short in 1978. War is also an enterprise meant for profit, in this capitalist world: Shed blood, earn money. It was in gruesome year of 1978, the year when the killings were at its peak, that the coverage on East Timor dropped to almost zero in both US and Canada media. Chomsky clarifies that the media is not merely subservient to power; they are complicit in the crimes by suppressing the facts so that no protests can happen in US or the world. Noam Chomsky’s polemic comes alive here: “The biggest international terror operations that are known are the ones that are run in Washington”.
What I found most important about the film is that I am seeing in front of my eyes same things happening in India. Poverty, hunger, unemployment, crime against women, pogroms against religious minorities, and poor healthcare all characterise 2020 India. But all we see over media is praises for Modi as the best PM in India and the world! Crisis of Covid 19 could have pushed the state to reform its policies on health. India spends just 1.6% of its GDP on health while WHO sets the bar at at least 6%. What media gave us intead: Corona Jihad; where a series of fake news items were spread saying Muslims are spreading the virus. Ravish Kumar of NDTV calls pro BJP/ RSS media as ‘Godi media’ for this reason. SK Husain in his article on Clarion India (dated 24th April 2020) tells us that news channels like Republic TV, Times Now, India Today, CNN News 18, Zee News, India TV, Aaj Tak, ABP news, Sudarshan News, News Nation, and India 24 (India), all are linked to BJP/ RSS supporting media personalities or corporate. News has become a commodity to be sold for profit. News has to create ‘necessary illusions’ for the democracy (or autocracy?) of India to run smoothly. All the social tension has to be directed against a shadow enemy: communists in US till Cold War and Muslims in the world post 9/11. New world order has now an enemy- an Orientalist image of Islam. Seeds of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) sown during colonial times have grown now into full fledged trees.  I personally don’t think people meet the real me, I feel people meet my image created by today’s media.
A poor paan seller tells me in a village in Uttar Pradesh that India is now world’s most powerful and richest country. I ask him where did he hear it? He says- Kaagaj roz padhta hoon, TV par news roj dekhta hoon. Is Modi also manufacturing consent?
Zeeshan Husain is an independent researcher. His research area is society and politics in Uttar Pradesh, India.

6/7/20

New | Three Poems | Madhu Raghavendra

A Journey Towards Vanishing Point, Oil on Canvas, by Sukesan Kanka




Bastariya Beer

I go to villages to record hope and love
and anthropometry of children
suffering from centuries of inaccurate averages.

In Bastar, the Gonds live
in villages without roads
their independence yet to be taken.

It’s morning; the rains have nowhere to go,
no men, no women —
no brokers, none broken.

We sit around in a thatch hut
smeared with cow dung
and drink salfi—Bastariya beer.

Milk is for calves, meat for people —
minced, hung above smoke and fire,
cured to taste.

The dance of vegetarianism is across the river,
where men did not learn to hunt wild rabbits
or enjoy the pleasures of cock fights.

We pick children playing with piglets —
you frolic with the ones you love
and eat them when you are hungry.

We time travel to the BC era
to tell them they are undernourished
according to some org in Geneva.

There’s no ‘free the nipples’ campaign, they’re free.
Their eyes, hollow from the sounds of the rounds

of gun-fires in neighboring villages

tell us more than their mid-upper arm circumference.
The measuring tapes go green, go yellow,
the red ones look better than urban anorexic models.

We invade homes with stadiometers.
A woman tells me she can make these
height measuring machines herself.

We are on either side of the widening river.
I cannot translate stadiometer in Gondi nor
tell her it’s ConformitĂ© EuropĂ©ene certified.

I tell her, ‘You don’t know, they are global standards.’
She tells me, ‘You don't know our village wood,
only I may not get that, that unnatural shine.’

The infinities, right and wrong,
who can tell the potency of their
stale rice porridge, page?

(Page: watery rice porridge consumed in Bastar)




Fluidity
Once you start breathing
the sex organs come first
then the name to float beyond the named.

Names change into (other) names
In every story, in every defiance
list of fictional names post-incendiaries.

The sides of triangles have names,
the vanished or the vanquished have names,
the puppets of ventriloquists have a name.

Names can be like Sisyphus's—meaninglessness
which leads to despair
and somehow despair feels home.

Raghavendra is a chauvinistic name
for a Hindu child with male sex organ;
it’s another name for Maryada Purushottama Ram.

Raghavendra, Raghu, Raghav all sound nice,
but they are sounds of
inconsistent masculinity or utopian perfection.

Utopia should be left to fiction,
appropriated texts and state-owned museums.
Madhu is a girl's name,

I have been told over and over again
but honey, Madhu is honey
gender is as free flowing as cerebrospinal fluid.





What scares you the most?  

Poetry.
A Miya writing poetry.
A poem from a Dalit. 
The song of an Asur.
An Adivasi who can rhyme. 
LGBTQI+ poems.
Poems by women. 
Women poetry groups secretly meeting 
and writing poetry in Kabul.
Social media poetry.
Unpublished poetry.
Bad poetry (which is any poetry which you, 
or your gurus or chelas have not written).
Poems by non branded writers. 
Poems which have not been sold to you 
by big publishers, vogue magazine, 
or other market forces.
Poems by children and teenagers 
(that you can brush off as amateur).
African-American poetry.
Poems on atrocities, history and slavery. 
Poetry by farmers.
Poetry in unknown languages. 
Slam poetry. 
Poetry you can't control. 

That this is not poetry. 

Or are you just scared 
that truth will be heard. 


5/30/20

Poetry | for the Dark Times | Akhil Chandr Mishr

(Self-Portrait along the Border Line between Mexico and the United States, Frida Kahlo)




Death


Why do they shy away from it?
More so the ones who never truly lived-

The everyday people,
who used to earn to feed themselves
but now are just hungry to earn more,
who skip their breakfast,
and ride a rickshaw to a bus to a train,
then run to their office cubicles
like a rat in a trap and thank their lucky stars
that the trap was not occupied, the day they walked in.
The smooth talking, fake smiling, buttoned up bastards,
always selling some shit or the other -
a holiday in Seychelles, a lottery ticket, a brand new God,
and knowingly, their souls with it.
Lying through their teeth to feed their bottomless bellies.
The power crazed politicians, always clothed in white
(but not shroud alas, not yet, too late?)
to cover their blood stained skin,
in satin and silk, for the blood of the poor
is too shy to leave a stain on it, and is only ever undone,
when every thread gets dyed red
in the saffron and green that the streets will have bled.
The 21st Century, washed out, pre programmed, Read-Only minds
that are too wired to ever sit and read a book,
the ones with yellowing pages, in fading print,
whom the truth hurts so bad
they spend their lives defending their borrowed Source Code;
the true religion, the better race, their rightful  motherland
Never once seeing that the DNA is shared, regardless.

They are the ones most afraid of death
Crippled by the very thought,
So used to the rut of their so called lives,
Unwilling to live today or die tomorrow
For it would upset their routine.



Word Prison

The blue blooded white collared children of the crown,
Why not let them choose for you the words you are allowed to utter?
They, that live in the bungalows in Lutyen’s,
they, who never had to work for their bread and butter

Oolong tea from Ceylon, served every morning in their lawns
With cream and sugar and french croissant.
Why not trust their ideas, for their books must tell
what the workers, the peasants, the handcart pullers want!

That lofty piece on “The Emancipation of the Urban Poor”
that one of them wrote for that glossy paged newspaper.
Did it not overnight purge all the cities of all their ills,
the hunger of that starving child, the itch of that leper?

These masses that were born in the dark, they know not any better.
Generations of willing cattle tethered to their sahib shepherds.
The fourth estate forever enslaved to the elites,
Traps a billion writhing bodies, with their few decorated words.

You, barely literate, with not even a dissertation in your mother tongue,
why do you crave a voice? What doth thy opinion weigh?
A life lived by the dust streets in a loin cloth and towel for a fan
Seal shut your parched lips and believe what your societal masters say.

-the masters that swore to serve you
these leeches that feed off your cadaverous spine
while preaching with practiced empathy, what’s best for your kind,
in palatial homes, under crystal chandeliers, sipping their sparkling wine.



Release!

In borrowed insanities
owed allegiances
and forced profanities.

In clouded sunrises
sombre nights
and rude surprises.

Life wears you thin.
Scars you, when it pleases,
and brands the remedy a sin.

- drunk on the booze, dry on the weed
Shot with the cheap smack
Alive, till you finally bleed -

Bleed - of your own volition, of this tired haggard life
Of thoughts that you can't or won't abandon,
Till you fall asleep on a knife.



The Bill Comes Due

The creepers have started scaling the walls
a week since the world went into quarantine.
These idylls of modern world, these parks, these malls
lie in shambles, wait their turn to immolate, standing in a line.

It’s a short wait from here, as the concrete turns mossy green
that the systems that were in making since our dawn will collapse.
The excesses and the materialism seeping away to the wind,
like sand held in your palm, oozing through the gaps.

We have tried too hard, in our shortsightedness
to keep this wasteful way of life afoot
where more meant less, and more was merrier,
this endless plunder of resources, this mindless loot.

This is nature ordaining us, as Tolstoy said
to “stop a moment, cease your work, look around you”
at the ephemeral life we treat as eternal
in our egos and ‘isms’ that we stick to, as glue.

If you make it through, don’t thank your made-up Gods.
They don’t exist - those ghosts of history, hallowed by the lores.
Bow to the nature that nurtures, that mother you looted in your lust
who stands plundered, yet forgives, still holding open her doors.




Me/We
What it takes from me
To obey, to toe the line,
To stand in a queue,
To conform, to live in a box,
With another box for a view,
I'd rather not say.
But it has cost me half my wretched life,
and the blessed one that's due.
To stoop and kneel and grovel,
To bend at my waist, to be one of you.



The Nine and The Five

What do you shy away from, what do you praise?
A posh house, a plush car, a big fat raise?
The promise of beauty or the promise of life?
The downtown mall and a trophy wife?

One look at the stars in a cloudless night
Shredding the truth - the black from the white,
And ceaseless clicks of buttons on a keyboard
Writing from dark cubicles, of endless winding roads.

What you shy from, is what is true.
Whiling your days away, just slogging them through.
And what you praise is what is fairy dust,
Just sifting the grime, waiting to rust.



Boardroom Anthem

Knowing how to be convincingly ingenuine,
It’s a modern art, a corporate dream's kick start.
A twenty first century life skill,
It fuels your car. It foots your bill.

The price you pay is small,
A youth spent in self-made walls.
Enslaved by the routine, grateful for the grind,
Fragmenting the body, slowly losing your mind.

Trivial, really, for what your trade for it,
A humane heart, a lively wit.



A Poet’s Curse

 Pages of verses I read in leisure
To what do I owe this pleasure?
These blows to the harmonica I'm perpetually learning
These days woven into years, of constant yearning

Seeking what I’ve already had
Trying to be who I've always been
Living for the silent victories,
With collars dirty, my conscience clean.

To what do I owe this pleasure?
This unloved cursed treasure
To live amongst great minds in their pages
From the beginning of time, till the end of ages.

This gift of rhyme, born in the dirt,
blooms brighter in poverty,
of holding the words together as they dance
and carving out imperfect poetry.