Month: June 2015

A Story of Two Buses

[Image courtesy: https://www.gapyear.com/countries/india/getting-around]

I quickly sought to repress the waves of horror that threatened to rise in my chest as I caught my first glance of the bus- peeling paint, sketchy windows, strange people, and rickety seats. I gulped down my panic, and took deep long breaths; nothing is impossible, and if nothing is impossible, I would survive fourteen hours in this bus. Before I even realize, I told myself, the journey would be over and we would have reached our charming little destination. After all, I told myself some more, it wasn’t the vehicle, but the company which matters, and my company was my best friends. What more could one need, I tried to convince myself. Getting on the bus, I realized with a shudder that it was worse than it looked from outside. The seats barely had any cushioning, the floor seemed dirty, there wasn’t any leg space, and what bugged me was that it was going to be a long, long journey. The bus even had the funny red and blue lights and I realized it would be a close shave; I prayed for survival.

For the way back, I made sure that we return in the best bus there could be, and got everyone to agree upon it. A ticket for this bus was more than double the price of the first one, but it was our 5-star bus. It had more leg space than we ever thought possible, cosy blankets, puking bags, levers which would make our seats ever so comfortable, and huge windows for the perfect view. “This is one thing you did right, Srishti,” a friend told me, as I curled up in my huge, velvety seat with the AC on full blast. There was a lazy, dim lull in the air, the smoothness of brand new plastic, the relentless air conditioning, moveable armrests, thigh rests and polished flooring. Life was good, we thought, before the bus started. After a crazy four days of trekking and camping, life was good and clean and comfortable.

With a jolt, I realized that our journey forward in that HPTC bus, our comfort-less journey, our patchy bus characters, our tottering bus trumped our journey back in our 5-star Volvo- it was funny and uncanny.

It was all a matter of space; as a word, it is much overused and little understood, it is essential and it is dangerous, it is the point of familiarity and the point of contempt. In that shaky bus, we were stuck together, behind the fast wind that ran through the open windows and beneath the ultra-cool Chandni Bar lights, we were stuck together. Due to the lack of space, we sat a lot closer to each other, making pillows out of each other, adjusting our sleep according to the person next to us- we gave up our shoulders and our sides, took the necks and the backs, and made a concoction, a funny little concoction, of adjustment and love. Ties strengthened not just amongst ourselves, but conversations came up with our peculiar bus members, the most surreal of whom was the smackey, who considered it perfectly alright do smack in the bus and ask the other passengers to shut their windows so he could get a better hit.

The Volvo which took us back gave us ample space, which in the end became a hindrance to conversations- the lazy seats gave us all the comfort, but took away the fun, when it was so easy to sleep off, for the journey lost its charm.  With distance comes your own space, and with that, certain limitations. A very smart mother that I know of made both her daughters share a room despite the fact that their gigantic house had so many other rooms- more often than not, spacing determines bonds.

This isn’t a romanticization- if I have to make such a journey again, I’d definitely be more inclined to take the comfortable bus. This is merely a set of observations about two buses, and how different arrangements can create differences, so that one can realize, that sometimes, it is okay, to travel in other ways, to look for stories beyond comfort and luxury, and to try and understand the range of the spectrum, about this weird little thing called life.

5 Things I’d take with me for Renault #LiveLodgycal

I’m participating in the #LiveLodgycal contest with Renault in association with BlogAdda to get a chance to be a part of the #LiveLodgycal Drive in Goa.

The French giant Renault has been ever the innovator, and is especially famous for its role at F1 races. The Renault-Nissan alliance arrived in India in 2008, and has made an especially influential impact with its Duster, the SUV which has now taken over our roads. Out with its latest model Lodgy, it appears that this time, Renault has really outdone itself.

The car looks amazingly spacious, easily a seven seater with a well-arranged setup.

Moreover, it has an eco mode that will help in reducing the pollution. Moreover, it has a MediaNAV consul, a seven inch touchscreen which will ensure maximum entertainment.

If I were to take a road trip in Renault’s Lodgy,I’d take the following five things along with myself:

1. My crazy bunch of friends! Owing to the spacious design, it will be easy for me to fit my crazy group in the car and then you know what they say- the more the merrier!

2. My music- any ride is better when you can groove to it at the same time! Lodgy’s advanced entertainment system will ensure that the whole car is booming as we cross mile after mile.

3. My pack of drinks- this heat will require us to stock ourselves with plenty of liquids. Lodgy’s huge boot space will allow us to keep nice six-packs of beer and something non-alcoholic for the driver of course. Plus, Lodgy has cup holders so as to ensure a better experience.

4. My sunglasses- Driving in the heat in the beautiful Lodgy- I would need to look as good as the Lodgy of course!

5. All our phones- that is a pretty obvious carry, but Lodgy’s three sets of charging sockets would ensure that we never run out of charge!

A special mention-the situation currently is bad. More people die from car accidents than in wars and the pollutions levels are increasing every day. Lodgy’s safety measures with its airbags, parking sensors and brake assist ensure that safety is the priority, and the eco mode monitors fuel consumption. In the face of current problems plaguing our country, the Lodgy seems a great option.

So make a booking, go for a test drive! You will not be disappointed.

And ultimately, the subaltern could not speak

[Image courtesy: Tarique Anwar]

When they spoke about Gajendra Singh’s suicide, the ‘farmer’ from Rajasthan who hanged himself at Aam Aadmi’s anti-land bill rally, and the subsequent spectacle that followed, from the rally being carried on to one authority blaming the other for his death, something struck a chord somewhere; a hint of déjà-vu, a unique association, a repetition of events almost a hundred years later. I did not even need to rack my brain that much- the answer came to me in one long, sweeping thought, a breath of focus.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is a professor at Columbia University, famously credited with being one of the three pillars of post-colonial theory- in short, a genius of sorts. Her seminal essay “Can the subaltern speak?” explores the line of thought whether people who have been historically oppressed would ever be able to express their ‘voice’. While I don’t claim to be a fan of her style of writing which consists of convoluted arguments needing endless breaking down of the sentences (it makes one inaccessible to most of the reading public) she raises some phenomenal points and deserves the exhaustion.

Subaltern in postcolonial-theory, to put it simply, would imply that particular social group which lies outside of the ruling power structure in a society- for example, women, Dalits, minority tribes, the oppressed working class. “Can the subaltern speak?” questions subjection of non-western-ers to representation by the so-called western society. This she does through multiple arguments, the foremost of which is her argument on the Hindu rite of Sati- it is white men saving brown women from brown men, she writes, in which the voice of the woman gets lost. While one side argues for the sanctity of this ritual of Sati, the other side declares it as nothing short of barbarity, and laws are made and negotiated in accordance with what these sides insist.

She maintains that at no point is she defending the ritualistic burning of the widow at her husband’s funeral pyre, but that the way Sati has been constructed and represented by the West is problematic- the existence of similar customs existing in western society is conveniently ignored, while positing Sati as an act of complete brutality, something which is completely alien to their own ‘civilized’ society. Additionally, while the brown and white men argue that this custom is right or wrong, it is forgotten that Sati can also be a site of agency for the woman, to choose and exercise her will to do as she wants with her life- may that be her will under hegemonic ideology.

And then she finally speaks of Bhubaneshwari Bhaduri, a far flung relative of Spivak’s, who committed suicide one sudden day in 1926. Involved with revolutionary activities, she was unable to go through with a political assassination assigned to her and decided to commit suicide, perhaps to free herself from the dilemma. However, even in the act of killing herself, she makes a point- she waits till the time she begins menstruating, so as to make sure that other people do not presume that she killed herself on account of an illicit pregnancy. Despite this conscious move on Bhaduri’s part, Spivak’s conversation with Bhaduri’s nieces revealed that they still believed the suicide to be the result of an illicit love affair, causing Spivak to theorize that the subaltern ultimately could not speak, and was given a contaminated voice and representation by the ‘other’.

Gajendra Singh’s suicide was theorized by multiple people, multiple times- what he did for a living, whether he was a farmer or not and subsequently whether it was right to look at him as a distressed farmer, whether he wrote the suicide note, whether it was a suicide in the first place or not. Maybe Ganjendra Singh was trying to tell us something, trying to make a point or maybe not- we can never know, under the deluge of political games, of each side appropriating his death for its own good, of his death being coloured by their own layers of ideologies, we can never know.