Showing posts with label sbcltr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sbcltr. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Miseducation of Indian Men

Read Time: 4 minutes

Stop telling boys that real manhood is rooted in testosterone and privilege, writes Gunjeet Sra

We have all suffered at the hands of the questionable code of ethics which is the #brocode at some point in our lives, both men and women. Long before #BoisLockerRoom online, there were phone calls, malicious rumours, all boys clubs and exclusive groups that thrived on the stifling list of rules that bound them together in an endless vortex of misogyny and self loathing. Finding its idea in the root of masculinity and its definition, the bro code is equally punishing to both men and women. 

For men, it is a limited list of options—you either toe the line of hyper-masculine aggression, power play, athleticism and assertion or face the consequences of being rejected as ‘masculine’ from your peers and deal with bullying. As women who grow up in a traumatically patriarchal environment that treats their personhood like a 2d character, validating its existence only in context to its 3d male dominated world, little girls on their way to womanhood are taught early on to play the roles that will help them navigate their way through this environment. The choices given to them are simple—you either align in your role as a second class citizen or pay the consequences of having a voice and exercising your right to personhood. 

One of the biggest things feminism as a movement has done is legitimise the right of women to question patriarchy. Perhaps it is imperative, now more than ever, to raise feminist allies alongside feminist daughters, so that they can grow up to understand that there is more than one way of being a man. So that they are enabled enough to know that if need be, they too can carve a space for themselves to talk about the unsaid issues that are by products of the hyper masculine narrative that society shoves down their throat and be secure enough to question it.

Men need to be enabled to carve a safe space to talk about the harmful impact that toxic masculinity has had on their lives

Paradoxically, we also now live in a world where terms like sexist, toxic masculinity, patriarchy, feminism are widely discussed and normalised. The #Metoo movement recently made history and the term woke is basic AF.  Yet we find ourselves in the middle of a situation where 15 year old boys are caught sexualising their classmates, morphing their pictures and making rape threats against them. All these boys belong to upper class families, go to private schools and live a life of privilege. What made them act out in such a way? Even the school seems confused, in a statement, one school says, “It appears that some of the students who were part of the group were from our school. By the time we got to know, a complaint had already reached police. It does come as a shock to us as we have an atmosphere in school that encourages discussion around issues of gender and respect, as well as cyber crime. We have had several workshops. Schools try to build a secure but open space for children where discussion is encouraged. I also believe that the involvement of parents in their children’s lives is very important when it comes to things like these. Parents need to take on these roles, and not just that of disciplining or leaving the child alone altogether. They are ready to give children unfettered access to smartphones but, in many cases, the discussions around responsibility and respect are missing.” 

Meanwhile the Cyber Cell has taken Suo Moto action against the group, filed an FIR, arrested one student and is questioning others. But in two days, the discourse on the subject has gone from, why did the boys do it, to the one focusing on the possibilities of their futures being ruined. In September 2017, the Punjab and Haryana High Court issued an order suspending the 20-year prison term imposed on students of a private university for gang-rape and granted them bail. In its order, the court blamed the “degenerative mindset” of the young for the crime. 

Why do we continue to make concessions for terrible male behaviour? 

Despite Op-eds on the subject, government initiatives and even death sentences to perpetrators of sexual violence, women continue to be targeted repeatdely in this country. Even as #BoisLockerRoom continues to trend, a sexist campaign against arrested scholar Safoora Zargar lso continues to gain steam. We live in a volatile culture that perpetuates hate towards women as a right of passage into manhood and yet act surprised when we see it reflected back at us via children. 

Ever since the Nirbhaya case in 2012, upper class Indians have struggled to come to terms with the idea that sexual violence is a problem across socio-economic classes. Often unwilling to address the problem, they often lead a narrative that blames this violence on people from lower income groups, deftly ‘othering’ the problem. Ignoring the fact that this is a country where it is a man’s prerogative to demand sex from his wife, making it okay for a husband to rape his partner. Meaning at the very heart of our family dynamics and society as a whole, we have deeply skewed power dynamics which we are unwilling to discuss. We also turn a blind eye to the fact that we kill the girl child and have an obsession with having a male progeny and this is most rampant in posh South Delhi. We raise our boys with an unhealthy amount of male privilege from an early age, constantly reminding them of the special status that they enjoy in this world. Even today, we encourage our girls to be vacant, malleable and quiet, or to view their rebellious outspokenness as an indulgence that we allow them out of benevolence. When terrible things happen to them, we blame them for daring to have a personhood and making  choices, we tell them to suck up to the consequences and allow no room for mistakes. We take away their phones, lock them up and limit their access to opportunities. All the while, encouraging our boys to reign free and make mistakes because you know, boys will be boys. 

 



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Monday, May 4, 2020

Painting Her Way Through Corona

Read Time: 3 minutes

Ever since the lockdown started, Mumbai based artist Dhruvi Acharya has painted water colours every day to deal with the pandemic and also to raise money for the underprivileged, writes Shaurya Thapa

As a new, prolonged eeriness fills the world after the global pandemic, Dhruvi Acharya has started painting a new painting almost every day now, for her new series, Painting in the Times of Corona. The paintings seem to echo the current times of isolation and hopelessness featuring everyday people, healthcare workers, and even mythological figures.

It was on the day of the Janata Curfew that she started developing this series of corona-themed paintings. As she saw panic rise in the country and the world, she just decided to paint her feelings. There was no ‘lightbulb moment’ as such. Talking about her artistic process, she says, “It was more like going to the studio which is in a flat in my residential building, to work every day as I usually do, and trying to and make sense of what was on my mind.”

Dhruvi Acharya

Acharya’s paintings are pleasing to the eye in a strange and surreal way. She describes them as ‘figurative but not realistic’. Most of her characters seem to be wearing worn-out expressions in gloomy dim-lit backgrounds, in works that seem to blend the styles of street art with comic books. They usually seem to be from the bittersweet perspective of a person witnessing a world gone mad, burning to ashes.

It’s almost as if she’s painting the dreams of people during the pandemic, a practice that Harvard dream researcher Deirdre Barrett is indulging in these days with her ‘corona dream’ paintings. Acharya who is represented by Chemould Prescott, now resides in Mumbai, having spent almost a decade abroad in the United States.

 

One can find her recent paintings on her Instagram, where she’s uploading a new work daily or on the page of her gallery where gallerist Shireen Gandhy has helped organise a digital exhibition. All the proceeds from the sales of these paintings are to go to the underprivileged, with proceeds to charities like Fisherman of Koliwada, and Aangan. Acharya has managed to raise 14,60,000 so far, via instagram alone.

The paintings are diverse in their subjects but still stand for the trademark elements in all her paintings, like the occasional speech bubbles and deadpan facial expressions. Each of these give off a philosophical feel to life under lockdown, but they all start with Acharya’s impulses rather than a fixed idea. “I begin painting with watercolours in a meditative state of mind, with no preliminary sketches or plans or ideas,” she says, adding, “I just let images form on paper, and then react to it.”

She spends almost 10-12 hours a day on each painting, although she specifies that, “the finishing of a painting is not dependent on time but on when I feel it is complete.”

The feedback on her art seems to be overwhelmingly positive so far. Acharya says that people have been finding her work really relatable to their current lives. Does she have a mantra that would inspire future artists to be productive? Should artists maybe wait for their muse, for their ‘lightbulb moment’ or just get working?

“My advice to younger artists would be to try to work every day, not to wait for inspiration to strike—one is most likely to get inspired when one is working. Strive to build a network of artists who you can share your work with to get honest but constructive feedback, and avoid comparing yourself with others.”



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Saturday, April 4, 2020

An Artist Is Collecting Quarantine Sounds To Make An Audio Art Project

Read Time: 3 minutes

Shaurya Thapa spoke to Pallavi Paul, the artist behind the share your quiet project

“On 23 March, we launched Surviving SQ (self-quarantine) as an open call inviting artists to share with us strategies on how to get through this phase,” says Leandre D’Souza, curator and program director at Sunaparanta Goa Centre for arts, a non-profit art collective. By then, all offices and shops were shutting down and people had increasingly started working from home. Art galleries and exhibitions were at a halt even before that. Leandre D’Souza and the program’s patron Isheta Salgaocar were brainstorming for ideas on how to stay connected with their audience. 

Being patrons of art, they knew that this period of isolation is ideal for art to blossom. “Within the confines of the studio, ideas are born, processes develop, experiments happen.” D’Souza adds on Surviving SQ, which became a series on Sunparanta’s social media to feature artists in isolation. They started receiving art in all forms, from landscape paintings to poetry.

Under this series, Delhi-based video artist Pallavi Paul developed her own full-fledged project which attempts to measure the sounds of self-quarantining. A PhD student at JNU, Paul has delved into research-based short films and documentaries that have received global acclaim at venues like London’s Tate Gallery. Now stuck at home, she decided to play with sound. In Share Your Quiet, the artist asked people to send her sounds of 10 seconds each, about anything and everything that they encounter in this isolation. As D’Souza put it, Paul is questioning whether silence could be measured. The curated recordings are to be streamed every Monday as ‘a symphony of silence’.

Pallavi Paul

As of now, more than 90 people have participated in this project, with entries being from as far as Norway, Japan, and Serbia. Even though most of these entries are from cities, the usual honking of horns on the road is obviously absent. The urban bustle has been replaced with the chirping of birds, blowing of wind, and in some audios, an eerie white noise which is probably how silence would actually sound.

Out of these, Paul pointed out how a hospital beep and a child’s poem stood out the most for her. “The hospital sound was a quiet that seemed perched somewhere between relief and aggravation. The beep for me was also a pulse, a hope.” She explained. “The child’s poem was nice because it reminds us that even in this time when we can’t see beyond the next few days or hours, the future is quietly stirring in the minds of our children.”

 

Apart from working on Share Your Quiet, Paul has been dealing with this quarantine period with a sense of rebirth. “Like the world around us is becoming unfamiliar, unrecognisable to us- we must also push to recast ourselves. In my time at home I am preparing to meet the world anew.”

According to D’Souza, the present menace has altered everything but it is also a reminder of how we are all interconnected and how fragile and precious life is. While artists are not going to earn much during the lockdown, they are still documenting everyday stories in a phase that would definitely go down in world history. Paul gives a reality check on this, “With current market projections, the already minuscule ecology of funds and grants may suffer greatly. Maybe in India more and more artists like myself will have to take up side jobs to support our practices.” 

However, there’s still the sound of optimism ringing in her ears. “It will be impossible for a phenomenon of this scale to not alter the debates within the arts. Arts and artists will be as affected as anyone else. I hope that the precarity we find ourselves in becomes grounds for new thought rather than just pathos, lament or nostalgia.”

 



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Saturday, March 28, 2020

How To Cook An Epidemic

Read Time: 2 minutes

The coronavirus is threatening everyone as we speak right now. But do we know how the virus came into being and spread all over the world? We break it down in this recipe.

Step 1- Pick an animal
Most of the viruses infecting us are formed and transmitted via animals. For instance, the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus first developed in the bodies of primates like chimpanzees. In the case of coronavirus, the genetic sequences of COVID-19 in humans are very similar to those of bats, indicating a transmission through either of these animals. A report from the Wuhan Institute of Virology supports the bat theory by stating that the genetic composition of the virus in its current form is 96 percent similar to the virus in bats.  Contrary to this popular notion, another study (as mentioned in Nature) states that the genetic composition is 99 percent similar to that of coronavirus in pangolins. This is believable as pangolins too are sold along with bats in the Chinese wet markets.

Step 2- Open a wet market
Coming to wet markets, these kind of food markets are popular in Third World countries of South America and Southeast Asia along with some parts of Africa. Animals are slaughtered and sold for food in open in these wet markets. However, special attention should be given to Chinese wet markets such as the one in Wuhan from where the virus spread. Through a series of laws in the 1980s, China deemed all wildlife as natural resources. As Peter Li, a professor from the University of Houston pointed out, the label of ‘resources’ here meant that people could use them for their own benefit. Selling bats, pangolins, alligators, tigers and other animals for food in the wet market became a common practice ever since. Some of these animals were even imported. Even the SARS virus which spread worldwide in 2002, resulted from a Chinese wet market in Foshan. The Chinese government had prohibited the sale and consumption of a few animals then but soon lifted the ban. The one thing which we need to note is that this doesn’t support the stereotype that all Chinese eat such wild meat. In fact, the sale of wild animals for food is mostly for a minority of rich and influential Chinese. 

Step 3- Let it spread to other animals
Each shop in a wet market is congested and densely populated. Hence, the health and hygiene conditions of such places aren’t quality standards. Animals are killed in the same spot where they are packaged and sold. The one who aren’t killed yet are kept in cages. These animals are crammed in cages, one above the other. This implies that excrement, blood and other fluids from each caged animal drip from top to bottom. This is how the virus is carried from animal to animal. 

Step 4- Bon Appetit
Once the virus spreads through these liquids, it’s easy for it to hold on to a particular animal. All you need to do is to touch the meat and sell it to customer. The customer will get the virus through touch or through eating the meat.

Step 5- Outbreak
After this, the virus won’t take much time to replicate (and even mutate), and latch on to a host body after this. The dish can be then shared with everyone, all around the world.

 

The information for this article was sourced from here



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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Social Media Concerts In Times of Quarantine

Read Time: 2 minutes

From T.N.Krishna to Prateek Kuhad, artists are coming together to perform live concerts on social media to make self-quarantine easy, writes Shaurya Thapa

Sure, Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor was busy partying her heart out but other Indian artists are focusing on amusing activities to get their creative juices flowing. From exercising at home, to doodling oranges and tomatoes on Instagram, people are figuring out different ways to beat boredom as they self quarantine. Being locked in doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy music performances. John Legend, Coldplay, and a slew of other singers, have been indulging in virtual live music sessions as a part of an initiative by Global Citizen Festival and WHO. Diplo has been live on Instagram every day, streaming 90-minute DJ sets from the comfort of his home. Meanwhile, pop stars like Charli XCX and Miley Cyrus have been going live to discuss workout plans and self-isolating tutorials.

In India, musician and lead vocalist of The Ghalat Family Ankur Tewari continued this trend as he performed his songs on Insta live sessions. “I wish to be paid not in money, but in playlists”, he said after the live-stream, and many did respond to him with their go-to Spotify playlists. Indie heartthrob Prateek Kuhad too announced that he’ll be having an Insta live concert from his home this coming Wednesday at 9pm. Rockers Indian Ocean have a similar plan but haven’t revealed any details for their live gig as of now. 

 

While artists like Ankur Tewari might be satisfied with just quarantine playlists, there are other lesser-known artists who would lose money with the loss of gigs in these times of the pandemic. Contemporary Carnatic music greats TM Krishna and Allari Subalakshmi are collaborating for an exclusive ‘shut-in concert’ to combat this issue from their end. The livestream concert will commence next Sunday on a website called Shaale. Tickets will be for sale and the proceeds from these would be used to support artists who are struggling with corona shutdowns. 

In other news, even Bandcamp attempted to support its artists this Thursday by waiving their revenue shares on all song sales, a move which would put money directly into the artist’s pocket. While this move was just for a day, it still drew praise among artists. These times of self-isolation are also ideal for collaborating with artists or sharing creative knowledge. With this intention, a UK-based blues singer Suzanne Noble created an open Facebook group called Corona Concerts, which nearly has 1,300 members right now. Some musicians share their technical knowledge on this group while others live-stream their performances to receive donations. 

On the comedy front, several comedians are using their podcasts to inform their followers on the global pandemic. American comic Andrew Schulz for instance, has been giving comforting ‘survival guides’ for these times, along with some reality checks on the coronavirus. Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V Gordon have also started a podcast called Staying In with Kumail and Emily where they discuss movie and TV recommendations for the ones staying at home. The revenue from the podcast will be given to charities that are helping local American artists affected by the shutdowns. 

Back in India, Vir Das jokingly announced a Social Distancing Tour with his show venues being his bathroom and bedroom. He has made it an exercise to upload an Instagram vlog on each day of self-quarantining. These vlogs see him writing a corona song, playing board games, and even joining TikTok. 

This just seems to be the beginning as many more artists are expected to perform from home during this self-imposed vacation. 



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Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Craziest Conspiracy Theories Around The Coronavirus

Read Time: 4 minutes

Shaurya Thapa made a list of the wildest stories about the pandemic doing the rounds

COVID-19 aka the Coronavirus has had quite a global following by now. Stocks are falling. The sales of hand sanitisers are peaking more than ever. Corona beer is incurring millions in losses. Schools are being shut. Movie release dates are being postponed. Xenophobic remarks and attacks are being made at people with Mongoloid features. Even actor Tom Hanks has tested positive for Corona.

Although the World Health Organisation states that we just need to be cautious and not increasingly fearful as the virus has a low mortality rate, there’s a lot of misinformation circulating around Corona especially on social media. It’s no wonder that World Health Organisation workers have jokingly called this plague an ‘infodemeic’.  In the spirit of things, here is a list of all the ridiculous claims being made around the virus.

Gaumutra Can Cure Corona
Gaumutra aka cow urine, and cow dung are the favourite cures to all diseases for many an Indian, especially for one who’s aligned to the extreme Hindu Right. BJP MP Pragya Thakur has confidently asserted that drinking cow urine cures cancer. So, it would come as no surprise when Suman Haripriya, a BJP MLA in Assam said, “I  think using cow dung and urine to make the coronavirus cure would prove beneficial.” This statement was apparently backed by Baba Ramdev too which seems believable but this gave birth to some hilarious fake news. A Facebook user posted an old photo of the yoga guru in AIIMS, with a caption claiming that Ramdev has been admitted as he overdosed on gaumutra. And just when you thought that things could not get any weirder, the Hindu Mahasabha is actually having a gaumutra party with the aim of sensitising people to the uses of it against the virus. These are also the same people who thought that the reason these cases surged in India were because the virus was the wrath of a Hindu god angered by people eating meat. Go figure.

Bill Gates invented and Patented Corona
Since 2017, several far-right conspiracy theorists in Reddit have become a part of the QAnon movement, which believes that hidden forces in the American state are trying to bring down the Trump government. This time too, they claim that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is behind the virus.This claim makes Gates an indirect cause as it was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that offered a grant to Pirbright Institute. The grant was to study antibodies for livestock infections. In chickens, a particular virus was being found and the researchers in the institute were perplexed on how this was being replicated.

Then in 2015, it was also speculated that this virus can instead be used in vaccines to cure respiratory diseases in birds. Hence, a patent was made on the virus the same year. To put it simply for a layperson, there is not just one kind of coronavirus; the virus scaring humankind today is of an advanced variety. Jordan Sather, a conspiracy YouTuber from the QAnon school of thought, tweeted about this patent calling corona a planned ‘fad disease’. This sparked off several other tweets which outrightly call out Bill Gates as the ‘creator of corona’. Meanwhile, Gates along with other billionaires like Jack Ma has pledged donations and emergency funds in the affected areas. Now, if this is a genuinely humanitarian effort or an attempt to cover up his ‘creation’, that is open for interpretation.

Aborted Fetus-Eaters Caused It
A common stereotype against Chinese and other Southeast Asians that has come in resurgence since the virus’s outbreak is that they eat all kinds of meat. As the popular theory suggests, the virus spread through someone eating bat soup, this stereotype has been reinterpreted in amusing ways. A Canadian imam in particular, said that the Chinese eat anything that moves, and would readily gulp down even aborted human fetuses. Imam Hussein Ameir added that this is God’s punishment for how Uighur Muslims were detained and persecuted by communist China.

Weed Can kill Coronavirus
Indian director Vivek Agnihotri who is known for making critically-panned right-aligned films tweeted last month that cannabis has the ability to coronavirus sharing a screenshot that referred to the same fact as breaking news. In this tweet too, he managed to make an anti-Congress jab saying that weed got a bad name In India because of Rajiv Gandhi. The source of this screenshot was found later and it turned out that the image was taken from a meme page.

Corona is a Leaked Chinese Bioweapon
Many in US and even in India speculate that corona’s outbreak was not an accident but a manufactured threat by China. It is being thought that China was manufacturing a deadly virus (which got leaked or was leaked on purpose) to affect the global economies of major First World countries. While it seems believable, there is little proof to support this as of now and scientists are already dismissing this claim. Chemical biologists state that the genome sequence of the virus doesn’t indicate that it was created artificially in a lab. But that doesn’t stop people from falling for the hysteria. In fact, the Republican Senator Tom Cotton recently supported this theory on Fox News.

As of now, Delhi’s public establishments like schools and cinema halls have been asked to stay shut till 31st March. Similar protocols are to be implemented in other Indian cities. The future course of corona’s spread in India and rest of the world seems unpredictable but don’t fall prey to misinformation amidst all these conspiracy theories, and ‘meme-able’ news.



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Friday, March 6, 2020

After A Riot: Dispatch From Delhi, Part II

Read Time: 5 minutes

A report by Ruhani Kaur and Gunjeet Sra from Shiv Vihar, one of the worst affected areas of the north east Delhi violence

Mohamdan ilake main kyun jaana hai? Aapko pata nahi hai unke pass guns aur petrol bamb hai? They will shoot you.” (Why do you want to go into a Muslim area? Don’t you know they have guns and petrol bombs? They will shoot you), says a stranger in Karawal Nagar, interrupting and talking over the shopkeeper who is guiding us to the specific address we want to go to. Karawal Nagar borders Shiv Vihar—one of the areas where the Muslim community bore the brunt of being violently targeted. 

We start walking. 

There is an acid factory that has been looted; an empty, burnt truck stands outside. Locals stand around, urging us to come in and take a look. The smell inside is overwhelming and nauseating, Vikas Kumar, who is keen to show us around alleges no one knew what went on inside the factory and they only saw vehicles loading and unloading goods occasionally. “Kissi mulle ki hai, Firoz Khan naam hain, wo yahan rehta nahi hai. 24 ki raat ko plan karke Mustafad ke mulle sab can bhar bhar ke legaye Hindu logo ke moonh pe phekne ke liye. Aaj humein ye bhi pata chala hai ki ye factory illegal hai. “ (This factory belongs to a Muslim named Firoz Khan who doesn’t live here. On the night of 24th, Muslims from Mustafabad planned and broke into the factory. They filled cans with acid so that they could throw them on the faces of Hindus. Today, we’ve also discovered that this factory is also illegal.” He then goes on to allege that one of his friends was injured in such an attack but is unable to share his name or the address of the hospital in which he is admitted. “Zaydha khaas nahi hai, jane pehchane wala hai,” (He is not a friend but merely an acquaintance), he says. 

As we make our way deeper into Shiv Vihar, Vijay Singh who works as a tailor during the day and spends his evening as part of a wedding band asks us, pointing to two opposite ends of the road, “Aapko kiss side jana hai, India yaan Pakistan?” (Which side do you want to go to? India or Pakistan?” He goes on to say that the riots were unexpected and unplanned, “parli taraf se kuch log aaye the, unhone bhadkaya aur phir hamla kara,” (People came from the that side {pointing to the outskirts}, triggered people and started attacking them.) He also talks about the acid factory being attacked and says that the whole area used acid from the said factory to clean their toilets and homes but that night it was looted and used for arson.

Once you cross the bridge and walk towards the cremation ground of Shiv Vihar, the atmosphere starts to change. A lull falls over, bustling city life comes to a standstill and you are confronted by Rapid Action Force every 50 meters. 

By now, our eyes have gotten accustomed to arson and seeing a car burnt here, a motorbike there, doesn’t garner much reaction. The first sign that we have reached a riot affected area is the half burnt Auliya mosque with cylinders inside—a failed attempt at blasting it off, next to is a half burnt house. Some people are in the process of locking it and stop when they see us. One of them is 25-year-old Mohammad Abrar who says that he and his family fled their homes on the night of February 24 and are now living in Shastri Park with some relatives. “Log Jai Siya Ram ke naare lagate hue aag laga rahe the, aur humein maar rahe the. Humare ghar to tode par humara sara cash, humari jewellery bhi le gaye. Abhi haalat dekh ke, aisa nahi lagta ki hum yahan wapas aa payenge. Humne teen baar lock lagayein hain ghar pe aur teeno baar woh toote hain.Kuch bacha to nahi hai par phir bhi kya karein,” (People were chanting Jai Shri Ram as they were burning down our houses and hitting us. They’ve not only broken down our houses but also taken all our cash and jewelry. Looking at the state of affairs, I don’t think we will be able to come back here. We have locked our houses 3 times and all 3 times, the locks have been broken. We don’t have anything left but still, what can we do?) he shrugs. Abrar also says that he was attacked by a mob on the morning of the 25th, when they found out he had come back home to lock it with his younger brother. When his brother saw the mob approaching, he fled the scene on his bike and Abrar had to hide. It was the Rapid Action Force deputed nearby that saved him,”nahi to aaj main jaata,” (else I’d be a goner.) 

While we are talking to Abrar, a woman, who later identifies herself as Sabina and her son are walking swiftly with bundles on their heads, stopping only to say that they are going back to their village in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh. Sabina says that she has no money to even buy tickets back home because all their cash is gone. “Dekhte hai ab kya intezam hota hai,” (Let’s see what we can muster up) she says. A Royal Enfield pulls up behind her and the couple riding on demand that we talk to them as well, we tell them we will find them later. 

Ranno Begum and her family are also making their way out of Shiv Vihar and into a camp. Like the others, they too fled the scene on the night of the 24th and have only come back to collect the bare necessities and some documents that will help them apply for the government rehabilitation program. Ranno Begum sits on her haunches in the middle of the road and begins to wail, with each sigh and Allah! Her voice trails off. Her daughter was to get married on the 22nd of March and all her jewelry is gone, she says. While she’s crying, a semi-circle of motorbikes forms behind her. People stop and stare and seem unimpressed, they shout at us to come inside and talk to them. 

We ignore them and continue walking. 

There are lanes and lanes of un-burnt shops with the words Jai Shri Ram written on them. Any shop that does not have that marker has been broken into and burnt down. Houses with Muslim names next to the Hindu ones have suffered the same fate. In one corner, some electricians are huddled together, figuring out the logistics of getting the power back on. The Rapid Action Force has barricaded interconnected lanes to avoid any further nuisance. In one such corner, Ram Varan Singh who is originally from Agra, stands crying because his shop has been burnt down. “20 saal lag gaye humein yahan,”(We’ve been here for 20 years), he says. Singh is one of the few Hindus whose livelihood has suffered and he is also the only person in the area to have not fled the scene after being a victim of mob arson. Staying temporarily with his neighbors, he says he is most worried about his children but is grateful that they are safe for now. 

There is an eerie silence in these empty, burnt down streets, littered with people’s personal belongings, empty petrol bottles and Jai Shri Ram graffiti. But less than 200 meters away, in a street just like this, commerce is bustling. There is a farmers market on in full swing, dozens of children play freely outside their homes, women sit laughing on their doorways, men lounge around drinking tea. The spontaneous ease of life, a glaring disparity to next door where entire families have been displaced, consumed by a hateful fire that’s threatening to overpower everything and everyone around it.



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Sunday, February 23, 2020

How to Keep Calm In the Face of Fascism

Tanya Mohapatra spoke to therapists on the right way to combat anxiety and depression in the face of growing social unrest.

Scientific philosopher Albert Schweitzer once said that the only way to be truly happy is to seek and find a way to serve others. Yet, at a juncture of history as we are in currently, mayhem comes in all forms. Be it physical, emotional, psychological or social. During such times, our health, mostly, our mental health is almost overlooked. Over the course of time, with such socio-political changes, our minds are most staidly impacted. Be it the constant bombardment of information from multiple sources or our inner agitations—our minds become battlefields, combating and connecting intricate details of our lives to our forces of resistance.

Mental health-advocate and peer counselor, Komal Bhattacharjee, emphasises on the susceptibility of protest-related mental health vulnerabilities as ‘psycho social disabilities.’ According to Bhattacharjee, it is normal for our existing mental health vulnerabilities to get exasperated in times of political and social turmoil. She says that they tend to worsen specifically in times of protests as they lead to intense mental and sometimes physical labour in the participants. Bhattacharjee’s patients these days have been mostly anxiety laden protestors who are unable to cope with the instability around them, along with explaining the phenomenon to their parents.

Take for instance, 19-year-old Aarushi who was triggered with anxiety when she realised that her political beliefs didn’t align with the people closest to her. “Being the emotional person that I am, I was deeply affected with everything that is/was going on and it started with abrogation of Section 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. This escalated with the introduction of CAB and its combination with NRC. Then the violence against students in their own campuses was a tipping point for my mental health and I was just dumbfounded by people who were still justifying everything. And it was extremely triggering when those people were your close family. All of this made my mental health otherwise seem unimportant”, she says.

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Most often, the nature of information that is consumed easily triggers anxiety attacks. For another 19-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, such content became stimuli to another breakdown, which became almost impossible to control. “News channels blaring at home would trigger me, I couldn’t stay around friends at college, I just wanted to stay alone in my room all day. I wanted to go out on the streets and protest(I had a close friend who always asked me to) but my mental state was too fragile, I was barely holding on, having crying fits. Seeing policemen in metros during my daily travel would also make me uncomfortable because of the police brutality”, she says, who followed Assamese news channels while making attempts to contact a friend who was stuck in Assam amidst the communication blackout.

Prachi Akhavi, a psychotherapist says, “for the last two months, we have all suddenly been exposed to surplus information. Information which is unfiltered and uncensored, images that are explicitly violent have been exposed to all and that can easily aggravate people. Their natural response will be either be fear or anger.”

In times when you feel overwhelmed, communication becomes an important tool to navigate your way through. “For a month since the abrogation of Article 370 from Kashmir, I did not speak to my parents. My sister was not in Delhi and my parents were in Kashmir, most of my loved ones were in Kashmir. At that time I just wanted to speak to someone, who would empathise with me and could relate to my plight. In the meantime, it broke my heart to see people in favour of the communication black-out., I questioned the kind of world we lived in. I just wanted to know if my parents are safe while I was hearing news about the number of deaths in Kashmir. I called my parents 70 times, just to hear a voice from the other end of the phone to know that they were alive”, says a 21 year old Mahir, a Kashmiri student living in Delhi.

According to him, the communication blackout was the worst experience. He also mentioned that during such times of uncertainty, one tends to build up different scenarios or narratives inside their heads that aggravates their psyche even more.

21 year old Rishabh from Assam emphasised on how he cluttered himself mentally with different kinds of thought whilst the communication blackout. “The oscillation of adding more information and not adding to the clutter of information on social media tarnished me mentally.  I was in a very bad place mentally, I was not able to concentrate or prepare for an exam I had to appear for. My mind was flooded with all kinds of thoughts, I was thinking about what was happening outside the house, and it all spiraled into another form of thought where I started questioning everything, my education, my degree, I was thinking if all of this is worth it. I started questioning the idea of productivity.  It affected me so much mentally, that happened because I wasn’t connected to anyone. On a regular day I can vent out these thoughts to anyone, but these thoughts were trapped inside my head because I couldn’t communicate them to my friends.” 

Here are few things to remember to keep yourself mentally healthy.

It is okay to withdraw from protesting for some time
You are not alone in combating vulnerabilities. Do not feel that you are not strong enough to overcome the trauma. According to Prachi Akahavi, at this point of time one must remember to recharge and refresh. It is pivotal to take some time off and follow the principle of self-preservation. It is absolutely fine to revive and come back stronger. It is important to know how much your body and mind can take in, since their capacity is limited. “I just uninstalled Instagram (main source of anxiety regarding this) and sometimes switch off my phone. Taking a break from it all definitely helps. I make sure to always come back and update myself on what’s happening but I can’t be in constant contact. Spending time with family especially my mother would help. Feeding cats would help. Talking to select few friends would help. Mostly a clean break from the digital space would help”, says the 19-year-old student choosing to be anonymous. “After two weeks of ranting I deleted all my news apps. I felt that I was digressing from my work and studies so I watched a new TV series and stopped discussing Kashmir altogether. It may be selfish but I feel like that really helped me get myself out of a really bad phase”, added Mahir.

Look for different forms of expression
It is important to demarcate different ways in which one can contribute to the resistance. “There are various forms of displaying dissent. It can be through art, poetry, cooking for the demonstrators, singing or anything else. Not everybody can be out on the roads and protesting everyday. One can find their niche and use it to express resistance and be an avid part of the movement”, said Akhavi.

Image Courtesy: @Teyfunpekdemir

Find that balance between personal and political
During such times, there is always a conflict of interest. Polarisation is natural. Intimate spaces with friends, family and our loved ones at such a phase may get volatile. There is often a conflict of becoming a good citizen and a good friend/partner/ child. A line has to be drawn and such parallels have to be balanced. Look for ways of healthy discussions and receptivity, rather than aggressive or heated arguments. Do not feel guilty about taking a different political stand or not raising your voice enough.  During such a movement of resistance, do not forget your own narrative or what you have stood for. Stay true to yourself and stand by what the protest means to you. At such a point of time you are often made to feel guilty, especially on social media for not voicing your dissent enough by posting stories, updates, photos, etc. Most of us are susceptible to feel this way when everyone is constantly updating their social media accounts with information and updates of all kinds. 

Look for safe spaces of expression and prioritise self care
There are many peer groups, community gatherings that are safe spaces for expression and interaction.  Where there are plethora of opportunities to have verbose discussions..  “Hope is a form of resistance”, said Komal by putting great emphasis on the importance of such spaces where one can seek support. Calling a friend or venting out to someone who understands can also ease that mental burden. Stay hydrated, eat well, sleep well and maintain a healthy routine. Make sure that you exercise but don’t strain or exhaust yourself. Journaling or reading may work well for some. Taking a stroll or going out with friends may work for others.



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