Dr Niamh On The Plum Tree

Childhood Imagination Sows Seeds of Future Brilliance

The Wednesday Corner with Atindriyo Chakraborty: On the Necessity to Subvert

I had the opportunity to come across Atindriyo’s perspective and subversive poetic voice through Dr. Ampat Koshy. Atindriyo delivers his relevant perspective about the globalisation of social networking in terms of the future of poetry. He and a few like him push the limits, deconstructing classical, establishment poetry.

Thank you, Atindriyo for your great piece.

On the Necessity to Subvert: A Tale of Two Knights

By Atindriyo Chakraborty

black and white horses

Let’s start from a single point and its apparent positive and apparent negative.

The Point – A vast majority of people who write want their writings to be read by many people and Internet, especially Facebook, satisfies this urge to reach out.

The Apparent Positive – The easy flow and ready availability of poetry and poetic expressions without the obstacles – those monstrous publishing houses with their clouts, touts, pimps, agents and other sharks standing in the way, minimal censorship hassles, no need to put any extra effort or spend any extra money for publicity, marketing and pitch.

The Apparent Negative – There’s nothing stopping poetry we find lousy from hitting us.

Today we have gathered under the banner of social networking – the white knight of globalization. You don’t have enough money or power to approach a literary agent of a big publishing house, to spend for publishing and publicity, you don’t have enough money or power to lobby at the corridors of the award-givers, so you are pissed, and there are many like you who are similarly pissed. And then the Gods said, “Let there be Social Networks!” Now, you are happy because you can make your work read by a lot of people, and the big brothers of publishing are happy because you are not mad at them anymore.

What? Are you asking for more? Good, there is self-publishing! Spend a lump and here we go.

What? Are you asking for even more?  Beware! Now you enter the jurisdiction of the dark knight – power/domination.

These two knights serve their master who currently goes by the name ‘globalization’ and who rules over the castles our socially conditioned existence. One such castle was christened as the ‘culture industry’ by a couple of scholars in 1944[1].

Of Masterpiece and Masterpisses

Lyotard has given us the ‘differend’ which implies confrontations pertaining to language in which the ends are left open.

He uses the example of a masterpiece in explaining the concept of ‘differend’:

A writer has written a masterpiece. No editor agrees to publish it. Now, how can she prove that it is a masterpiece? We want to extend the question into the zone of the future that is coming but is still unknown. How the writer can sustain as a writer — who knows that she is writing masterpieces and it is the very knowledge that confines her to a solitary cell — no one else is there who knows it too, because the works just do not get published? Her masterpieces do not get known as masterpieces due to the very quality of being masterpieces[2][3].

Let’s stretch this illustration: The writer uploads it on her Facebook profile as a note and on her blog, tags a hundred people on each, copy-pastes the link on all the free platforms available on Internet, including on the Facebook profiles of ten thousand people. It’s not “published” in the traditional sense, but it’s on the public pool, as a free resource. It goes ‘viral’. Thus, it becomes a masterpiece. In this way the Internet, apparently, resolves this particular conflict and it does not remain a differend. Of course, it’s not a free lunch. She has to be in a social-economic-cultural-educational position to have access to the internet, have enough means to pay her internet bills, throw open her Facebook profile for advertisers to infiltrate, and socialize with a lot of people on the virtual sphere so that they don’t get pissed or remain indifferent to  her masterpiece. Thus, any scope of her choice of reclusion and/or poverty gets nullified because she wants to make her masterpiece a masterpiece but she hasn’t got enough money or power or contacts to do so. It is this very want that both the white and the dark knight of globalization seek to safeguard and strengthen and this very choice that they seek to deny. Thus, what we see here is not a negation of a differend. Lyotard still gets the last laugh.

Civilizing Me: Hegemony[4] and the Melodrama Behind Writing[5]

Calcutta got the enlightenment-pump in the 19th century when it became the capital of what was then the biggest British colony in terms of population, geographical expanse and the wealth it generated for the British Empire. There’s no documented ethnocultural pre-colonial history of the geographical locus of this place. Calcutta was established and developed as a city by the colonizers keeping their colonial needs in mind.  The “Western” perspective, i.e., the perspective of the dominator tells us that mapping, documentation and profiling of culturally identifiable units is necessary. Moreover, the perceived dominant position which those culturally identifiable units that had subjected themselves to such mapping etc for a long span of time hold in the power-play of history has led to a definite inferiority-complex in those ethno-cultural units which have not subjected themselves to the same for such a long span of time. This complex is reflected in the way such groups approach their cultural roots.

This inferiority complex causes discomfort the ego of the dominated and it is only natural that the dominated will try to appease its ego by embracing the perspective and perception of the dominated.  Thus, it is not surprising that the intelligentsia of Bengal has learned to approach its Bengali identity as a group in a “Western” way, i.e., by mimicking the dominators – be it the colonizers or the globalizers. This mimicry can be seen in every discourse the intelligentsia partakes, self-styled avant-garde art and literary being no exception. For example, because of the fact that this city has been a major platform for several artistic and intellectual ventures on the 20th century, a significant chunk of the cultural-elites over here had started terming Calcutta as the Paris of the East.

Bengali is my ‘native’ language. I read and write both in Bengali and Engli$h. I think and speak using Bengali. My grandpa and six generations before him were colonized, my father was nationalized, I have been globalized. Because the West wholesomely penetrated the East through the exact geographical locus where I am right now, these parts have a tragicomic cultural history. For all practical purposes, the city I hail from was established by the colonizing forces. The mission of ‘Civilizing the brutes’ began from this city and its surroundings. The Engli$h language, along with ideas of Enlightenment, was the basic signifier of the domination, and those who practiced, assimilated and perfected the lessons learned from the West did so for gaining access to the world of the dominators. Despite our political national independence, the power-matrix has remained largely similar. Globalization has strengthened the roughly three hundred years old world order.  My grandfather needed to know the Engli$h language to be ‘up there’ and so do I. Human existence is social and hence I have no choice but to be a relentless player in this game of domination in writing or otherwise. That’s my first choicelessness.

Macaulay’s Bastard

Though I write using the colonizer’s language at times, I would like to assert that I am not Aerial and that language is not Prospero. I have not inherited the Western ‘cultural’ heritage by easy birthright. When my voice is to be heard on a global/Western stage and context, I can ill afford to be the bastard child of Macaulay. But, am I not exactly that?

I do not want my writing to fall into the void which I have explained while dealing with Lyotard’s example of the masterpiece. But I have been pushed to the edge of the cliff beyond which lies that scary realm of silence. The fightback begins from this very point. I represent myself and my own voice. The enemies are represented by the dark and the white knights and their great master who currently goes by the name ‘globalization’. I have no desire to fan up or the flames of the sort of want which the author in that example has, and I don’t want the great master to determine my wants and deny my choices. That master is big and strong and so are the two knights. The sole weapon in my arsenal is subversion. Given that my want is to not let my voice fall into the void of being unheard, I have to fight them back and move away from the cliff-edges. I have no option but to subvert. Therein lies my second choicelessness. But that my wants are not the sort that can be fulfilled by neither my bastardom nor my oppressedness.   

There are many out here whose aspirations are akin to mine. Let the oppressed writers of the world unite (and subvert). They have nothing to lose but their projected sanity. They have the world to win seats of power to decentralize.


[1]  Adorno & Horkheimer, The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass-Deception, 1944

[2] Chaudhury et al, Margin of Margin: Profile of an Unrepentant Post-colonial Collaborator, Anushtup, Calcutta, 2000.  http://ddts.randomink.org/Engli$h/mom-book/ch_1.html.

[3] Ibid

[4] I refer to hegemony here as that of the ‘Culture Industry’, following the understanding of Adorno and Horkheimer.

[5] This term and the title of the next chapter are drawn out from the same essay as mentioned in Footnote 2.

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About Dr Niamh

When I was a little girl (a very, very long time ago), I used to love learning new, really big words like ‘discombobulate’. As I grew, my love of words grew too, until I loved them so much, I could not stop writing them down. One day, as I was scribbling a particular word, a very peculiar thing happened. The word shouted at me, “Stop! Don’t put me there!” As you can imagine, I was shocked and nearly fell off my chair. When I recovered somewhat, I said to the word, “Could you stop shouting, please? I am not used to it.” Can you guess what happened next? No! I thought not. The word said, “I might be small, but I will misbehave if you do not use me properly. I will not tell the story you would like me to tell. I will say something entirely different!” I dropped my pen. I hoped that by dropping my pen, the word would stop talking. Alas! It did not. It carried on chitterchobbling, even after the ink had dried. I was in a pickle. I could not allow my words to run away with my story, now could I? I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens, there is only one thing left to do if you prefer not to spend your time arguing. “Very well,” said I. “I will do as you ask if you will just be quiet and allow me to concentrate.” Since that day, I have been paying special attention to every word I invite into my stories. After all, a story should say exactly what it means to say and not be led astray. With love from Dr. Niamh, Ph.D in Learning Through The Imagination and Founder of Dr Niamh Children's Books. www.drniamhchildrensbooks.com

18 comments on “The Wednesday Corner with Atindriyo Chakraborty: On the Necessity to Subvert

  1. fantastic article – hard hitting and says almost what i want to say and do say in many of my fb posts 🙂

    Like

  2. *hitting

    Like

  3. Atindriyo Chakraborty
    May 22, 2013

    yes. “it’s a never ending battle for a piss that’s always torn”! 😉

    Like

  4. Patricia Tilton
    May 22, 2013

    What an interesting and thought-provoking article. I liked it a lot, because the author tells it like it is. Gave me a lot to think about. Thanks.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      May 22, 2013

      He does tell it like it is, and I believe he is right in his assertions. Thank you, Patricia.

      Like

  5. Atindriyo Chakraborty
    May 22, 2013

    Thank you, Patricia. It is like it is. That’s where we start from. I’m still at the starting line I guess, and I am in no mood to budge, at least for a while. I had finished last in all the races i had ever run. (the last one was when i was 5) 🙂

    Like

  6. BUTTERFLIES OF TIME
    May 23, 2013

    Reblogged this on BUTTERFLIES OF TIME and commented:
    Great write.. sharing it on my blog because this is something to keep and re-read. Thank you Atindriyo and Niamh.

    Like

  7. soumyav
    May 23, 2013

    A wonderful share! so real and I think almost every writer goes through this confusion of acceptance.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      May 23, 2013

      Many thanks for your visit, soumyav. And yes! we all struggle for acceptance. Sometimes the social network revolution also feels like a cruel playground: you like me if I like you. It takes a strong mind and stomach to expose ourselves in this way!

      Like

      • soumyav
        May 23, 2013

        very true! and This forced mutual obligation isn’t what we need or wish. An acceptance should be from the heart for the words and the thoughts . I am glad to be connected here.

        Like

      • ontheplumtree
        May 23, 2013

        And I am very happy to make your acquaintance. Many thanks.

        Like

    • Atindriyo Chakraborty
      October 22, 2013

      there isn’t any confusion, and to balls with acceptance. 🙂

      Like

  8. thiskidreviewsbooks
    May 23, 2013

    I love that picture!

    Like

  9. the secret keeper
    May 24, 2013

    This is brilliant. “Let the oppressed writers of the world unite (and subvert). They have nothing to lose but their projected sanity.” I am so tired of the combined words of “the powers that be.” They are invisible yet control the world & all forms of cultural expression. They are diminishing the quality of ART & CREATIVITY. THE MASTERPIECES, as you say, are being made invisible. That is how threatened they are by the strength in our voice and the strength of power they use in keeping it silent. And Erik is right, I love the photograph & power of the horses (black & white.) Great presentation. Niamh, you have brought to On The Plum Tree a powerful voice. Thank you. Jk

    Like

  10. Atindriyo Chakraborty
    May 27, 2013

    ^ that’s why the Spectacle was construed. Nothing I’ve written out here is new as such, The crude idea that played while writing this was to reach a comfortable balance between ontology and epistemology. Nasty jargons.

    i think poets, and perhaps all artists and creators, are like that mythical bird Homa from certain Indian lores. It has no feet and hence no nest, it flies throughout its lifespan and lays eggs from high up which hatch while on free fall. The baby comes out and starts flying and keeps doing so till it dies. Godard refers to it in the ending sequence of Band of Outsiders. I think he learned of it through Romain Rolland’s works on Indian spirituality.

    Like

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