Thursday, January 7

the researchers, the scavengers

A couple of years back or less, I witnessed a very disturbing scene: some field researchers, who had talked over the past three days a lot of poverty of people, decried castes and had vociferously let everyone known that they had very well subscribed to Western vacuity of intellect, sat down, at the end of their workshop, for a very expensive dinner, drinking Indian wine that costed at least 700 Indian rupees per glass or beer, and eating pastas at 300 rupees plus.** Some months back, I assisted a French director in finalizing her documentary's subtitles: she was making it on Indian pollution and healthcare system. When she realized that the guy interviewed was not critical of the government in some of the portions she had shot in India, she just decided to remove them: that wouldn't suit her documentary, after all. I know that no photo, no film is objective: but I thought that it was because of our subconscious dictating, guiding, not our conscious self. In the past couple of months, I have, not very willingly, come into contact with the esoteric, self-congratulating circles of researchers: they go on some itinerary of six months in remote Indian villages, interpret everything through their lens and triumphantly pronounce those results, "building on" past work: for to be considered as an academic, they have to reference, and qualify each of their statements - no, not with feeling, not with emotion, not with intuition - but with previous similarly jaundiced eyes and their visions. They sit so smugly around a table: when they discuss Kabir, they always remind me of the doctor's receptionist. The doctor's receptionist always gives herself so much airs: as if she were wielding the stethoscope, not the guy within. (Some may sniff sexism here: the receptionist is a woman, the doctor is a guy. They can join the other smug ones round that table.) And the doctor himself, Kabir, so humble himself, all absorbed in his craft.

But receptionists do not have much of a value except for a patient to skip a queue. However, academics, unfortunately, do. These receptionists guide people's stereotypes about places and peoples: always pretending to be objective. But I would much love to listen to a song, from heart and so subjective, than to a typewriter, so objective, isn't it? They are bored, they feed on tea and cakes, they flatter you and expect to be flattered, and rarely they get a bone to pick with some other smug companion, and then both tear into each other, while the rest of the world celebrates their "rivalry". I sometimes wonder, during one of their theses or lectures or whatever: can a child speak, interrupt, sing, shout, play? If she cannot, then is it worthwhile, meaningful?

Note: Not all researchers are like that. But many are.

** I was to learn later, through living in the West, that there should have been nothing shocking: that they were thoroughly Westernized (through Indian educational system). The traditional Western culture, a product of Christian Church mentality, has led to people wearing garbs: to put it in more understandable terms, if you have seen Ben Hur, Pontius Pilate admonishes Ben Hur (Heston) that I speak to you as a friend, but once I cross those stairs, I command you as a governor. The same man: two different garbs. This is practically implemented in France: for example, people cannot wear religious symbols to government work, so a professor can wear a turban at home but not to university. Slip off your religion dress; wear the state dress now. More importantly, people's beliefs are taken to be something as "slip-off-able". And hence the story of almost every Western philosopher: they spin esoteric, incomprehensible philosophies at the debating desk, and then they return to their life of philandering and bitching. Hence the Rushdies of this world: write bad, popular prose, then return to lust after women as horrible as that prose.



Blogger SH. said...

if we are to think of it in terms of veils -- (the many veils that every person and situation is concealed/revealed by) then the receptionist, the researcher, are operating under veils beyond their own knowledge. because who with knowledge would take a thing only in a fraction, a garbled and distorted fraction (the fraction against which you are here i think frustrated by) and be satisfied with it? i'm not saying this as a way to absolve them (because this isn't a game of blame or pointing fingers) but i'm saying this as a path to understanding, and to holding -- the scavengers are as much a part of the ecosystem as anything else is. also, not to dissolve into some sort of relativism either, no, what i am saying is about the variances of concealment and revelation that exist in every human being. the task is to understand, to come to truth and knowledge, to try to widen those fractions of knowledge. ultimately i think my reaction here is to the tone of the words, the spite almost or anger. where does that lead to? if anything, it is precisely those researchers who are providing that darkness that allows us to know and to imagine something different, to embody it or provide it or imagine it. it exists like this, in this wide world of ours. as it should, wouldn't you say?

7:04 am  
Blogger ankyuk said...

i do recognize scavengers as part of the ecosystem, but it would be lovely if they were recognized as such, not as producers, which they often are. i agree with you: the tone of anger, of spite leads nowhere. darkness exists in our world, and as it should, and as there will always be who will think darkness as light, for after all anyway everything is relative: my light will be another's darkness. however, knowing or feeling all that also doesn't help me, when i see many and many minds, especially young, impressionable minds, trained and stifled and put in corsets of accepted ways of speaking. real is made abstract, and then for many, they don't see how abstract mixes with, is in fact real: the abstract becomes a science for its own sake. but yes, spite leads nowhere, that i agree, but frustration, helplessness, the feeling of impuissance leads one to spite. it is bad, i must be puissant and i must believe in the puissance of Knowledge.

1:52 pm  

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