This summer, I finish another small study as a part of a research methods course. While findings are thin and not too reliable either, I have enjoyed every bit of it. For there are few opportunities when one can try out a variety of methods – qualitative, ethnographic, GIS based analysis, observations of various types etc.
With a team, I have tried to understand what kind of relationship exist between a large corporate facility and its immediate community, in a city like Bangalore. A wide range of things could have been done, explored and closely investigated whereas we ended up looking at a few historical satellite imagery and developments in land use – land cover on the ground. As I write the paper, here is what we are presenting tomorrow.
The idea (and research question) for us emerges from two sources –
i) From our exposure to corporate –community tensions across India. We find that from West Bengal (Lanjigarh) to Maharashtra (Lavassa) to Kerala (Coco Cola in Plachimada) corporates have had a not so easy relationship with the immediate community with which they co-exist. The distrust of corporations run so high that the relationship is automatically inferred as exploitation of the community by the big company. We try to understand this relationship in the urban context and examine if the relationship is always negative. Although we don’t end up establishing any conclusive evidence as our time spent in doing this was very limited, we find that the process gives us a segue into studying this relationship with a certain system level view.
ii) That urbanization is a major force shaping cities across the world. If this is real then what do we know of corporate – community relationships in urban contexts? We try to develop this understanding.
Going further we must map the range of interactions and then weight them into the final relationship map that will evolve from this exercise. A whole lot of possibilities exist. But perhaps that will have to wait till we get time and institutional space to pursue this.
National Geographic magazine’s May, 2013 issue runs an interesting story about long life, health and genetics of aging – “On Being 100” . The article takes the usual course of how genetic research is trying to unravel the mysteries of why some people live over 100 years and more. Not so appealingly, I find that the final goal post of this research is ‘learning how these genes work’ which ‘could help extend life for us all’. I mean, seriously? I thought the obsession with extending life was tapering off. And it takes a cover story like this in Nat Geo or Scientific American or Science to bring it back. Truly, sometimes I feel glad to have made a switch from life sciences to arts. It helps me put those test tubes and microscopes in a much larger perspective than its impression as world changing research.
But, the point of this post is the third word – attitude. It would be a fairly long time when biology would be able to account for this in any manner. Of course there is behaviour studies but that doesn’t quite deal with people’s attitudes in the same spirit in which it unfolds in real life. We could be talking psychology, psychoanalysis and some behavioural biology but an individual’s outlook to life, his habits formed over the years, his attitude and handling of situations in life – I think all this amounts to his well-being and longevity. And this is reflected by a ‘young’ lady covered in this Nat Geo piece – Marion Stehura who is 103 years old.
Marion Stehura, 103 (Image: National Geographic, May, 2013)
The brief describes her as:
Growing up in Lorain, Ohio, Stehura wanted to “do the things boys do,” like play ball and “be rough.” Today, in Hemet, California, she gets a kick out of whistling loud and long in big-box stores when she shops with son John; it’s the way she used to call her sons home when they were young. Riding an electric cart provided by the store, she brags. “My whistle could blow this place to pieces.”
It probably can! If not her whistle, her attitude sure blows apart the general notions people carry about their lives. I strongly believe that self-preservation beyond the limits of disease and ailments is a poor channelization of human beings’ creative abilities. Probably, even she wouldn’t know what makes her go past 100 and still live at 103. Nor do I think her genetic constitution can be a reasonable answer.
As long as IPL was about a new format of cricket, entertainment and advertising, it was predictable and of minor interest to me. But I was hooked yesterday when I saw this fascinating encounter of the regular pompom wielding cheer girls of Chennai Super Kings with the elegantly attired (and beautiful) girls performing bharatanatyam-lavani blend ! That is a new battle field opening up for India’s encounter with this televised variety of ‘popular’ and ‘modern’. Modern Art galleries, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathakali performances on the very visible squares of London and New York and finally Bollywood have been the battle scenes where the classical Indian art forms clashed with the popular styles from around the world. The changes wouldn’t be noticed until a good number of years pass and one wakes up to notice that this ain’t what it was a few years back.
That I call it a clash is not my impression of it. Look at the conversations happening! A Mumbai team fan mocks at his friend who is rooting for Pune for the ‘cheer queens’ the team has. And another calls them Pune Aunties. HT writes, the sari-clad cheerleaders of the Pune Warriors have failed to make an impact on the field. ToI observes, No dirty dancing for Team Pune’s cheer queens. A classical dancer feels that classical dance on the cricket field is an insult to the dance form. Yet, some like me watch it like a curious phenomenon and wish to see more of it. It somehow doesn’t seem to be going down well with the people and we have a mix of reactions. Going by the popular mill it appears that the classical dance performing ‘cheer queens’ are not hot enough. Most immediately turn to and look forward to the conventional cheer girls – the ones with pompoms. Oh, and the cheer queens don’t go with anything like that in hand.
What is it that is not ‘delivered’ by the cheer queens that the cheer girls do? Asked differently, is it the sense of aesthetics that drive these reactions to the cheer girls vs cheer queens performance on the cricket field or the desire to see more skin? Of course the cheer queens have much of their bodies covered and draped in a not so revealing sense than the cheer girls. And if the cheer queens are not finding favour with the audience then what could be the reason? I strongly suspect that aesthetics or culture or anything of that sort is not at play here. More skin equals more entertainment and guarantees more visibility.
In such an environment it will be fascinating to see how these classical dance forms hold ground. For one I think this is a battle which is quite necessary for the Indian dance forms to win if we are to see a resurgence of classical and traditional Indian dance forms to gain some ground in the popular consumption spaces. I see a tension here and of course when I term it as an encounter. But this is not to argue for or against the ‘western’ influences. It is just to closely observe public imagination and impression of art forms of their own region or country. A modest exercise, yet important in the interest of studying culture and society. And how modern India will traverse this terrain.