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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sunday Long Reads: Of consent, lockdown, migrants, art, books, nature, and more

Here is your Sunday reading list

Published: May 17, 2020 1:12:36 pm
How citizens are helping migrants stranded by the coronavirus lockdown, eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express, indian express news Reaching out: Two women offer food to another in Chennai. (Source: PTI)

How citizens are helping migrants stranded by the coronavirus lockdown

It began with a message on a WhatsApp group. “Someone on our alumni group posted about a group of workers from Madhya Pradesh running out of food. When they had stepped out to fetch food, they were beaten back by the police,” says Miriam Koshy, an artist based in Dona Paula. It was five days into the lockdown, and all of Goa was struggling. But the worst-hit were inter-state workers, spread across the state in little clusters, who had fallen off the government’s radar, and been abandoned by their employers. Koshy headed out to the colony with a batch of dry rations, the little she could organise in a few hours. As word spread among workers, the calls for help became a deluge. Since then, Koshy and her team of volunteers – a mix of data scientists and researchers, architects and artists – have been raising funds, packing food and sending them out to labour colonies across north Goa. Till date, they have packed 12,687 dry ration packets for 4,000 daily-wage workers.

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Talking About Consent with Young Boys

Bois locker room, consent, rape culture, affirmative consent, active accountability, sexual harassment, parenting, eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express, indian express news Activists hold a protest rally in New York in opposition to US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support of Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. (Source: Reuters)

Dear Boys,

I am writing this letter to you without any agenda to blame and shame. If you have been following the social media stories and news recently on “rape culture”, then you know what I am talking about. To begin with, I do not agree with the term “rape culture” that is being loosely thrown around as it assigns a single identity to all of us. People are multistoried, as is our culture. A single story of “rape culture” removes possibilities of boys and men being compassionate beings, who can stand up for gender equality, respect and uphold consent. The other issue I have with it is that it ends up othering the problem as if it is out there and we do not have anything to do with it. There is no “us” and “them” here. Misogyny seeps in our lives, homes and workplaces without us even realising it.

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What will happen to our rights in the new normal?

Nishant Shah, new normal, digitisation, coronavirus, covid-19, lockdown. eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express, indian express news When we get back, there is going to be a huge thrust to convince us that things are back to normal. The impulse for normalisation is not going to go back to the old baseline. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

When the world officially went online — not just used the internet but realised that we will have to live on it, amid the shutdowns and lockups, something strange happened. Those of us privileged enough to be able to work remotely and continue to be productively engaged, thus hanging on to a semblance of normality in an uncertain world, started to recognise the fatigue of screen space. We were already struggling with the fact that we were living with screens — they were in our hands, pockets, bags; by our pillows, and, with us, on our toilet seats. And then came the video-conferencing explosion. All work got reduced to staring at the screen — suddenly making a lot of us realise that despite the presence of ubiquitous computation, our work and life had a lot of time for in-person and physical activities.

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The importance of art in the age of coronavirus

art, coronavirus, eye 2020, sunday eye, indian express news A thing of joy and beauty:  A Madhubani painting by Padma Shri winner Sita Devi, one of the early Mithila artists

As the government of India looks to gradually reopen the economy, creative and cultural industries, a sector that has already been impacted by the ongoing pandemic, may be among the last to recover from the economic downturn. As the arts nurture public health and as cultural diversity is an essential aspect of the nation’s fabric, it is critical to keep this sector afloat.

For several reasons, creative and cultural industries are poised to suffer enormous losses. Many of India’s performing arts, museums and heritage sites have come to be tied to tourism, another sector poised to recover slowly as travel and social distancing restrictions will continue for some time. The perception that the arts and humanities are not essential to our society is entrenched. Since many artists, arts organisations and cultural workers have been the recipient of meagre grants from the government and philanthropic trusts even before the pandemic, their resources will diminish first. To counteract this, the development of a forward-looking cultural policy is the need of the hour. Recent symbolic gestures by the Union Ministry of Culture — such as inducting regional weaving traditions into national lists of intangible cultural heritage and illuminating the forecourt of the Red Fort with oil lamps — will neither preserve these practitioners nor the sites.

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Ruskin Bond on simple living in complicated times

Ruskin Bond, Ruskin Bond books, indianexpress, sundayeye, eye2020, lockdown Ruskin Bond, mussoorie, coronavirus pandemic Ruskin Bond, an Indian author of British descent at his house at Landour Cantt. in Mussoorie. (Courtesy: Ravi Kanojia)

Long before the world discovered the virtues of windows in this season of social distancing and staying home, Ruskin Bond let the world in through his. With the mountains on one side, the valley below and the road ahead, the view from Ivy Cottage in Landour, a corner of the hills that was once the headquarters of the American missionary community in India, is varied. “A long and ne’er-say-die search for the perfect window. This would be one way to sum up my life,” writes Bond, one of India’s most loved and prolific writers, in A Book of Simple Living (2015, Speaking Tiger). “Windows are all important, and not just for writers. I get the sunrise on my bed first thing in the morning. It wakes me up,” he says. At his previous home, Maplewood Lodge, he found the solitude he sought, living next to the forest and writing from his window seat. Many of his best-known short stories, that make up classics such as The Night Train at Deoli (1988), Time Stops at Shamli (1989) and Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra (1991), emerged from that workstation.

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It’s like living in a zoo, confined to your cage: Pulitzer-winning poet Jericho Brown on lockdown

Jericho Brown, Pulitzer Prize, poetry, poet, queer poet, black poet, American poetry A poet of witness: Jericho Brown, winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. (Source: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard University News Office)

“IT’S FUNNY winning the Pulitzer Prize in the middle of the pandemic. You can’t go out to party and shake a bunch of hands,” says Jericho Brown, winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for poetry. But even as he stays at home in Atlanta in the United States, Brown, 44, has suddenly found the world reaching out to him. Since the announcement of the award, he has been giving back-to-back interviews. “I have never talked to so many people from across the world in such a short period of time before,” Brown says, over the telephone.

Brown’s win — just like that of fellow Black gay winner, Michael R. Jackson for his off-Broadway musical A Strange Loop — seems to symbolise the triumph of a community. The first Black gay poet to win the honour for his third poetry collection, The Tradition (2019, Copper Canyon Press), Brown is also the director of the creative writing program at Emory University. Before the news of his win broke, he had been busy working on some essays about growing up in Louisiana and his work life. “There is a notion that in the United States you can get what you want if you work hard enough. In the essays, I wonder how true that is in a country where people work very hard but barely get by,” he says. If things were normal, he would have headed out for a drag show, a karaoke session or to a strip club to celebrate his Pulitzer win. But, in the new normal, Brown did the next best thing: introspect and meditate. “I did it with the same intensity that I would have partied with,” he says, bursting into a guffaw.

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The small but Kaleidoscopic world of insects

Ranjit Lal, insects, insect photography, macro photography Who is that alien? A robber fly. (Courtesy: Ranjit Lal)

Nature lovers these days must be tormented to be stuck indoors, watching TV documentaries on natural history. And yet, as I discovered decades ago, there are enough astonishments lying around, in the house, garden, or even a flowerpot, for you to discover, enjoy, and photograph. Decades ago, I became fascinated by what things looked like in magnum close-up and got myself a small microscope whose lens was basically a glass bead. But you could see the features of an ant’s head with it, or details of a bee’s wing. Of course, I had to photograph these, so I snapped open my father’s ancient “fold out” Zeiss Ikon, aligned the lens as close to the microscope’s eyepiece as possible and clicked. The pictures resembled primitive X-ray images but were exciting for me. You could see the hooks at the edges of the bee’s wing with which the hind and front spans attach so they work as a single wing.

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