Ghazala's Weblog

a poetic thread to string my words and experiences on…

Friends — March 12, 2009

Friends

Extremely ordinary footwear
a bag that has everything
needed for an overnight stay

No TV in the house

A rack full of books
fiction, politics, travel
a little humanistic poetry

Some soulful music

Ever observant eyes
analytical mind
large accommodating heart
providing to the soul

An adopted child

Clear, respecting relationships
open to questions, reason
encouraging independence

An alternative school
a telescope

An open house
a stream of friends

The Second Brilliante Weblog Award — March 10, 2009
Slum‘dog’: On Uncouth Language and Subversion —

Slum‘dog’: On Uncouth Language and Subversion


Every blog worth its name (number of hits) has had something to say about Slumdog Millionaire. I think I should also make the most of this opportunity 🙂 I really have nothing to say about the film that hasn’t already been said but the controversy about its title (slum’dog’) gives me a chance to say my two bits about the language of subversion.

Hip-hop music and culture in USA has a ‘slanguage’ of its own in which the word ‘dog’ has a special place because of the frequency and flexibility with which it is used. Among other things it is used as a common noun for ‘person’, especially a friend or a term of endearment. It would be a bit off the mark to say that the word has lost all the derogatory connotations but the usage in hip-hop/rap is a bit complex.

Let me draw a parallel with the feminine of the word ‘dog’- ‘bitch’. ‘Bitch’ has a long history of being used as a derogatory word for women. The connotations are those of ‘lewd’, ‘on heat’, ‘sexually promiscuous’. Also associated is the verb ‘bitch’- when one is ‘bitching’ she (he?)  is ‘gossiping’ or ‘back-biting’. Today a ‘sexually promiscuous’ woman is plainly called a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’ (‘hoe’ in hip-hop). A ‘bitch’ is a woman who is straying away from the feminine conventions; she makes no effort to be obedient and pleasant. In hip-hop its cool to be a ‘bitch’. Many female rappers call themselves and girl friends ‘bitch’ just as African-American rappers also frequently call themselves and others ‘nigga’ and ‘dog’.

There is a derogatory subtext but it is full of subversion.

So, why so much hue and cry over the film title? Let me try an explanation using again the ‘bitch’ example. While it may be cool when a close girlfriend calls me a ‘bitch’, I would definitely take it as an insult if someone not close were to throw the word at me. Two African-American rappers may call each other ‘nigga’ but a white person using the n-word would be inflicting a racial slur. Is the title ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ derogatory, then?

The slum‘dog’ controversy reminded me of Faiz Ahmed Faiz‘s Kuttey (Dogs). I wonder what people may have to say of it…

Yeh galiyon key aavaara bekaar kuttey
Ke bakhsha gaya jin ko zoq-e-gadaai
Zamaney ki phitkaar sarmaaya un ka
Jahaan bhar ki dhutkaar in ki kamaai

Na aaram shab ko, na rahat saveyrey
Ghalaazat mein ghar, naaliyon main baseyrey
Jo bigrein to ik doosray say lara do
Zara ek roti ka tukra dikha do
Yeh har ek ki thokerain khaney waley
Yeh faaqon say uktaa kay mar janey waley

Yeh mazloom makhlooq gar sar uthaey
To insaan sab sarkashi bhool jaey
Yeh chaahain to duniya ko apna bana lein
Yeh aaqaaon ki haddiyaan tak chaba lein

Koi in to ehsaas-e-zillat dila dey
Koi in ki soee hui dum hila dey

My rough translation…

these vagrant, aimless streets dogs
the flair for beggary has been conferred upon them
their net asset is being scorned by their times
rebukes of the entire world their earnings

No rest in the evening nor reprieve at dawn
housed in filth, dwellings in drains
if they agitate, pit one against the other
show them a piece of roti
putting up with getting kicked by all
they tire of being starved and die

If this oppressed species were to arise
humans would forget all domineering
they can own the world if they’d only wish
they can chew up even the bones of the masters

Somebody stir them to feel their mortification
somebody move their sleeping tail

To me it looks like that using what is considered, foul/uncouth language for one self (or others who share the oppressed identity) is a way of arousing an oppressed people to feel their mortification, humiliation, and thereby, a subversive act. Young people tend to use slang more than any other age group because they find in this a convenient and cool way to display their irreverence towards what is established, traditional and the norm. Language full of slang, coarse and swear words is an act of defiance against authority- a way of expressing hostility and pent-up aggression, safely. In this way, it becomes one of the most used ‘weapons of the weak’.

An Award! — March 7, 2009

An Award!

I now understand why awardees (of any award) go on about it being a responsibility! Well, dear friends, my blog has just received an award and my response was to first write a new post after being dormant for long and then receive this award.

Fellow blogger Bhupender who has been visiting my blog and encouraging me with his comments has awarded my blog the  Brilliante Weblog Award. You can imagine my happiness…  I,  now resolve to post more frequently and regularly.

Now, the rules for the award are:
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.

2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

I think this is a great award because its given out by a fellow blogger to a blog who she/he thinks is good- kind of peer review. the idea is to also encourage bloggers to engage more with each other as well as with content on each other’s blogs. I must confess that I am not a very active member of the blogging community and haven’t really been engaging with bloggers while I read the content on their blogs.  My awardees wouldn’t know me so I decided to give away my quota of five awards- one every week, starting now.

My first awardee is Amardeep Singh‘s blog which I visit pretty regularly for his take on literature and much of the other stuff that houses meaningful lives.

Daughters and Feminist Mothers — March 6, 2009

Daughters and Feminist Mothers

All my unconsciousness knows about being a woman was learnt from my mother.

I am eerily like my mother in so many ways but I don’t want to be “like her” and try to do things, react to things differently. Even though I wasn’t close to her and my father was my teacher of the world, its politics and the large philosophical questions, it is ultimately, who she was that shapes me as a woman.

I firmly believe that it is not so important to ask how much time was a mother able to spend with her daughter (child?) and what she did specifically in that time but what the mother did with her entire life. How did the mother take on the various aspects of life, what kind of treatment she took from people around her, what were her dreams and how did she go about them…all these the child remembers. The girls learn from this how to be a woman and, I suppose, the boys would learn how to treat a woman.

Arundhati Roy once said somewhere that a feminist is a woman who creates choices for herself. Being a feminist daughter to my mother is not easy. I’m always evaluating my choices and trying to create new ones where none exist. Being a feminist mother to a daughter is no joke either… in fact the whole effect is that of a double whammy. I seem to be constantly swimming against the tide. Regardless of whether I make any progress or not on any front, slogging is a must and being tired is a given.

Why do I feel compelled to go on slogging? Because of my daughter… let me clarify lest you get me wrong. As a feminist, my struggle for equality begins with my own family, in my own house. I struggle with feelings of love and concern, with demands of devotion and decency while I strive for respect as an individual and freedom to engage with what I wish to. I struggle with others’ nostalgia for ‘family values’ and I struggle against unreason and coercion masquerading as ‘respect for elders’. I am forever struggling and contesting established notions in relationships to create options for myself that will create a new legacy for my daughter. With each act of negotiation, confrontation, conciliation and even compromise I am writing the text for her unconscious.

As I struggle, I write the script of my daughter’s struggles.

It is not surprising, then, that it was the feminist struggle that gave birth to the slogan “personal is political”. None other could have.

For women’s day my gift to my daughter and all my (feminist) friends who have daughters, a ‘Lullaby‘ by Fehmida Riaz in translation by Amina Yaqin.

Dearest your countenance like the
moon
You who are a piece of my heart
Dearest I keep on looking
Dearest my eyes are filled by your
image
Dearest I rock you in my cradled arms
Holding you next to my heart
Dearest sparkle of my eye listen,
Your mother’s entire life,
A flowing cataract of tears
Passed by
This bowl has been filled with that clear
water
With that dearest let me wash your
flowerlike hands, lotuslike feet
Touch you with my eyes
I endlessly wept away my sorrowful existence,
your sight stopped the tears
They unfurled and blossomed into
laughter
My frightened motherhood has great
faith in you
It seems like yesterday to me
I can recall that night
When you were born
That night was very black
Tormenting the heart with pain
But a kind of oil lamp began to burn
upon hearing your cry
Your beautiful beautiful limbs
Lovely and fresh, healthy and
prospering
Dearest can’t manage a kiss
Dearest I’m shaking and shivering
I know a wolf stands in my doorway
Consuming my youth, drinking my
blood
The wolf who was raised by Mammon
Who rules the world
We who are cursed from age to age
Because of whom in this world
Thinking is considered a crime
To love-a major sin
It has sniffed the blood of a human
body
It tracks your every move
Dearest cannot sleep at night
Dearest I am constantly awake
Dearest borne of my womb listen
This world belongs to injustice
What skills can I teach you
Women who came and went
Embroidering sprigs on net upon net
Placed food on platter upon platter
Which the wolf ate
Today every kitchen is empty
What can I show you
What skills shall I teach you!
When I take you in my arms
I listen to the call of time
I hear great battle cries
I listen to the beckoning of war
Hearing this again and again
Your skill is “bravery”!
Listen my dear little one
This land, this sky
All the grandeur of peace
The markets full of grain
Until that does not belong to us
We cannot exist in harmony
No one to lean on
There is no other option
Do not fear the wolf
Dear heart! Fight with conviction
Do not ever despair
I will teach you bravery
I will make you into a lioness
Fear will not touch you
Listen my dear new little one
You will not be alone
Your friends will be with you arm in
arm
Your friends, your companions
Will be by your side
Many hands will join together
This is my one wish!