Returning Indians

Both, Hemingway and Virginia Woolf insisted that one ought not to judge. Describe, not opine, they suggest. I try. Then, sometimes a surge of thoughts make things go haywire. An instance – the range of views that Indians returning to India dole out as they make their way back. Lately, I have come across quite a few emotive, reflective and often times critical responses written by young men and women returning to India from universities in Europe and US who are generally unhappy with this reverse-gear travel. And I felt that most of these responses are rather unfair and mean to the country that they return to. The scope of being empathetic to their situation is also lost for me, when they tend to cast India in the light of all that they have seen with their blinkered experience in the “developed” countries where they attended universities.

About time that we have a new literary genre of angst ridden, fuming, hyper-critical social and philosophical writings from returning Indian youngsters who are given the boot from “the West” after their student visas expire.

With their dreams rear-ended by the immigration laws of the desired world they train their guns on and pump their frustration down to India and its people. Its narrow-minded, crude, uncultured, illiterate people with its men who exist only to grope the returning woman. Profound soul-searching literature that emerges as they make their reluctant way back to India; resume lives in the neighbourhoods which they thought they left for good; searching jobs shunting recruiter to recruiter not willing to accept the cheap INR remuneration! Life was lived in Euros and Dollars until now! Oh and let us not even get started about its corruption. This is the only country in the world,  you know, with life reeking of corruption from moral to economic! Of course, no where else in the world (that they escaped to), such shameful corruption exists.

As weeks turn into months and months bloom into years they take to writing and seek affirmation and glory on Facebook and twitter and blogs, hoping someday that they’d again escape the “unsafe” streets and wretched public spaces of the nation whose nationality is so regrettable!

May be I should stop reading such posts. I sure should. But sometimes it feels that this has a more ruining effect on others who live and work here and contribute to make this country a better place. No place or society is as flawless as the imagination of the returning Indians paints. They just choose to ignore the flaws of their adopted countries in their enamored lives abroad and in pursuit of keeping that dear opportunity (of living there) intact!


Observations from parent-teacher meeting


Last week at Poorna, we had parent-teacher meeting (PTM) spanning over two days. I was looking forward to this since the current academic year began. I wanted to see and get to know the parents of the kids I was spending time with in sociology classes. At Poorna these meetings have an unhurried and informal format void of any sort of tension that might ride over the kids. I have admired this quality in the school because when I was growing up, PTM in our school was an extremely tense affair. At least for me. However, I am also mindful of the distance between the format and regimentation heavy ways of Army  School which I attended, over a school like Poorna which completely breaks away from such an approach to education and raising children. Hell! The kids don’t even get the national anthem straight here, whereas, we would sing it like Hitler’s boys  – chin up, voices soaring etc.

The conversations with parents is in some ways deep sociological insights into the society, with us embedded in it. Three conversations have stayed with me from last week with parents who came in. I can understand the anxieties that they might be going through in raising their kids and the worries that take over as they think about the future in the world that is only getting more demanding. So, this is just meant to share with due recognition that these concerns are valid. However, they do tell us what we are probably putting our kids through.

One of the parents wanted to know if their child is at par with the children of other ‘conventional’ schools, as Poorna is an alternative school. This I felt was unusual because I assumed that parents are completely aware that they are in some ways choosing to drop out of the conventional education system and let their child learn in a different environment. The element of being competitive and the at par-ness doesn’t leave us Indians, I guess. The mother of the kid was concerned that the kid doesn’t know times tables in math and if that was okay. The teacher felt that it was great that the child could visualize numbers in her head and add up. However, the mother had a different view. She explains – ‘I see her working additions in her mind. Every time she does that she starts anew. This way she will make mistakes. If she knows tables, she will not make mistakes’ The focus as I see was on not making mistakes for the parent, whereas the teacher felt differently about it. There is no room to make mistakes, it appears. And our kids have to ensure that. Who knows… in the future we might have ISO ratings for kids – 1 mistake per million calculations or some such!

Another parent was so concerned that her son is always reading ‘these’ books which are so popular among kids and reading them he is always in an imaginary world. I am completely empathetic to that observation and do feel that a grounding with reality is as necessary. In fact, this was my concern (that kids do not know much of real world around them) when I taught A level sociology and the NIOS 12th standard course. However, I felt that in this case the parent was alarmed way too early and the move to keep the kid’s fiction books away will stifle his imagination instead of enhancing his grip of the real. The anxiety of the parent is sure very identifiable, but perhaps the answer is not to be concerned that the child is forever in an imaginary world. May be that is how he routes back to the real.

Last one is a telling commentary on how for families in India it is not enough to know the good. The paranoia of whats the bad side, the negative etc is ever so present. I do not know where do we get that baggage from. A parent sat through all that I had to say about his son’s performance and his classroom behaviour. The kid is highly engaged, articulate and observant. I had only positive remarks to make. There really wasn’t anything concerning to share. The parent said and I am paraphrasing – all this is fine, what are his negatives. I wasn’t expecting that and was stumped. Again, I think those are his concerns. But for a moment I felt if as a child wouldn’t I want a bit of recognition for the positives? I am not sure, but I began speaking to the kid directly and mentioned that I really do not have or see anything negative to speak of.

I had an exam to write (at the law school where I am doing a masters), later in the day. But some of these conversations remained in my head as I rode back. I felt that the parents are too distanced from their children. It just appears so, may be it is not true at all. And more so in urban settings. School was meant to be a secondary form of socialization, but in the current times it is mistaken as the primary. Look at how early kids are being sent to pre-schools, play schools and the likes. The order is reverse now – more time outside of home and with others who train, coach, mind, tend and shape kids, and less time with the parents themselves.

This must change.

Meanwhile, a million such stories will unfold on September 30, when Rajasthan government has arranged a statewide parent-teacher meeting in all the government schools.

‘Property’ in its contemporary form


In an earlier post history of the idea of property was traced briefly. This one continues the exploration of normative and operational basis for the idea of property. The merit of this pursuit lies in the realm of grappling with several contestations that have emerged in the contemporary society. These contestations are between various classes, ethnic groups, castes (when one looks at India) and races (when one considers US) on the ownership, rights to use and share all conceivable types of resources that can be utilized and benefitted from  in the prevailing economic system. Such a blanket description of resources would then include the Marxist idea of ownership of means of production, ownership and use rights of natural resources and to the variety of ownership that has evolved in the knowledge industry.

An exploration as this, serves the wider purpose of opening up a discussion on how might one try to reconcile these wide ranging conceptions of the idea of property and the variety of normative and positivist ideas that come to bear upon the set of institutions that are then built upon such a conception.

Property rights have held an important status in the political agenda in several democratic countries worldwide. It has also come to be marked as an important feature of a capitalist economy. The modern views on property are as divergent as Monsieur Proudhon’s “all property is theft” to contemporary economist like Hernando DeSoto who sees property rights as (perhaps) the only available tool for raising capital stock for the poor to be able to raise enough financial resources in order to fund their development process. The transformation in the idea of property, thus, has been tremendous.

The operation typologies of property as forms of tangible and intangible thing; private property and common property; property as set of rules about ownership, rights and use etc is not dealt with here. This is because these typologies are based on the same foundational thoughts about conception of property that are discussed here.

The Liberal & Neo-Liberal Period

A discussion on the most recent interpretations i.e. in the liberal and neo-liberal idea of property merits significant attention because of its central position in capitalist economies as well as democracies worldwide.  While this period has come to be known for its exclusionary and restrictive property regime which is enforced through rule of law, it is also a period in which we see the sharpest description and understanding of property and property rights emerging.

In my assessment, this is also a period in which the gap between idea and practice (of the idea of property) is the smallest. This means that in its larger direction, it is the liberal and neo-liberal period where one can find the idea and practice in consonance. However, it might be good to also note that when in the history of idea of property a consonance between idea and practice is achieved, there also emerges one of the most inequitable societies in terms of income and ownership of resources.

For instance, an idea that held tremendous recognition in twentieth century was that property rights are a key for individuals to be able to make use of their labour and transform that property into productive asset which results in a livelihood. The Indian, Russian and Chinese experiments in land redistribution were attempts in line with that kind of idea. However, each of these countries has had different results in bringing about land redistribution. Its premise that ownership of means of production (land in this case) is a necessary condition for individuals to be able to earn a decent livelihood did not yield consistent results.

More recently, economist Hernando DeSoto’s call for enforceable property rights as a necessary instrument in a capitalist economy, in the hands of the poor also showed variable results. At one point, the large multilateral institutions like the World Bank also favoured DeSoto’s call for enforceable property rights as a tool for poverty alleviation. This was proposed to be done by giving property titles to the poor who own whatever little asset that can be titled. With these titles, it is assumed that they will be able to access capital markets and make use of their property as a hedge. In its implementation in Peru, studies suggest that there hasn’t been recognizable change in the poor  people’s economic situation.

Return to Locke

It is useful to see that the liberal period is also marked by a rather elegant theory of entitlements proposed by Robert Nozick. Robert Nozick (1974) argued that a theory of historical entitlement, along Lockean lines, provides both a complete justification of the institution and a set of strict criteria that govern its legitimate distribution. Property rights, according to Nozick, constrain the extent to which we are entitled to act on our intuitions and theories about distributive justice (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2004).

It is a framework which emphasizes individual rights and the derivation of political obligation from consent. Nozick holds that the only legitimate state is the minimal state, whose activities are confined to the protection of individuals and their property and to the enforcement of contracts (Scanlon, 1976).

In these times of neo-liberal hegemony , it is imperative that reconciliation between idea and practice is attempted by the institutions which have come to determine every aspect of social, economic and political life of individuals in the society. While it does seem to appear that the idea and practice of property in the neo-liberal period seems in line, however, this has led to highly contestable and inequitable outcomes. This does not seem to be a constructive basis for the future of civilizational progress. Hence, sounding the opening note again, the pursuit of philosophical basis of the idea of property is necessary, especially since the consequences of the neo-liberal interpretation of property is known and felt by most countries worldwide.

On contract research & CROs

A contract research organization (CRO) is a firm which provides research services on contract basis to firms in pharma, biotech and medical devices industry. When research services are provided by a company in any other area which is outside of these sectors it is generally labelled as consulting. In the past four odd years in our company, I feel that we have been providing contract research services to businesses and development sector agencies just like any CRO. In effect, we have been a CRO operating in sectors where social science research and data analysis is required on a routine basis. We are not into the big data game, neither we have high end analytics expertise in-house. We just do the routine – program data, evaluations and sense-making.

The reason I choose to write about it is- first, it is a space where we have comfortably operated in the past few years with a decent work pipeline and now see that there is tremendous opportunity in this space for folks with research and data skills. Second, that this area of business comes with its own joys and frustrations. We have only been too delighted to see that our research has helped a client better its business or an NGO being able to expand its program many fold. At the same time, we have our own list of messed up studies and projects gone bad for a variety of reasons. Writing this is also an opportunity for us to reflect upon this area of business yet another time.

We do technical studies to understand a problem of interest better on behalf of a client. We assess impacts of projects – ongoing or planned. We also help organizations draw learning from their long term program experience and related data or from situations that they are interested in studying. Our research skills are in areas of environmental sciences and engineering, social sciences and data analysis. With these we have found a large market opportunity in providing services to small and medium organizations  – business and nonprofits. There is a very steady demand among the smaller organizations to contract out such specific research needs to companies like ours. And if one can offer innovative solutions and high quality research bigger organizations and academic institutions require it too.

As I write this we have completed two large studies  – one is an impact assessment of a behaviour change program for water, sanitation and hygiene in Chattisgarh and the other is a coastal zone management study which tries to make sense of the effects of a large project implemented in two states and how it relates to India’s coastal regulation rules. We have had our moments of joy in doing these two projects by the way of understanding the challenges involved in running a program that aims at behaviour change. In the second, the expanse of issues related to coastal zone management has been overwhelming and the challenge lay in making sense of all of these and produce a comprehensive research report which could give the client a quick orientation of the space and related issues. And then  it should be able to aid decision making through the information presented. Both these projects took us over six months to complete.

The lower rung of startup action lies in catering to these under-served areas which can potentially help the sector. I call it lower rung because the higher to me seems to be that of chasing commonplace and largely urban problems where solutions too seem to be of stock variety – develop an app! There are these areas which require attention.

What can get frustrating is the variety of expectations and lack of standards in research in this area. A never ending stream of changes and rework adds to it. So while it can get rewarding to do such work , both financially and professionally, it can also drain the team out by an unsatisfied and micro managing client. After a series of such experiences, we are now trying to develop a standardized approach which can enable undertaking contract research in these areas and also execute them efficiently while maintaining quality standards. That should also improve our throughput and help scale up the business. Meanwhile, we are also exploring what to us looks like a space which can lead to emerging forms of services and startups.

The Fall of a Sparrow – Salim Ali




The Fall of a Sparrow – my current read, is an autobiography of the maverick Indian Ornithologist Dr Salim Ali. He borrows the title from Shakespeare’s Hamlet – “…there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow”. Striking is the man’s spirit for adventure and passion for studying birds. Birwatching, he writes is one of the most ‘peaceable pursuits of the out-of-doors’. With a field trip to a tiger reserve in BR Hills, I couldn’t agree more. The excitement for him lies in ‘ferreting clues and then following them up step by step to the discovery or confirmation of a fact or facts, of which one has obtained a suspicion or hunch’. Years back we named our startup after the Baya Weaver bird. It was good to know that it was Dr Salim Ali who first came up with the first correct interpretation of the extraordinary breeding biology of the Baya Weaver bird. He attributes this to the time he was ‘living jobless in the seaside cottage’ of a family.

He studied birds of the subcontinent and beyond. He does that from Tibet to Nilgiris down south of India and further to Indochina and onwards to Europe. Then on one of those conferences, he rides all the way to Uppasala, Sweden!

Riding through France, he writes –

“I had ample experience also of some other unlovable traits of the Frenchman- at least the Frenchman of the capital. It happened to me so many times before I decided to quit Paris that I cannot believe it was just individual lack of friendliness and courtesy, but perhaps a crude and deliberate display of the Frenchman’s notorious linguistic chauvinism. Paris was new to me, and in spite of a close study of the city’s road map before I started out each day, when one suddenly came upon a diversion for road repair, it was easy to get completely lost in that maze of streets and boulevards. Unfortunately I speak no French, and every time I pulled up by a pedestrian for help in the politest English I knew, he looked at me, then turned his back and walked away without even pretending to be apologetic.”

Many such delightful accounts and tales of admirable enthusiasm make up this biography. ‘A rattling good read’ as a review said.

First things first – bombings & governance


Image: The Aside Blog ; Visualization: Out of Sight, Out of Mind,

Derek Gregory at Geographical Imaginations shares this interesting special issue – Game of Drones of the New Inquiry. From the set of essays, Madiha Tahrir‘s reportage on bombings in Pakistan is a painful read of what the human condition looks like amidst the killer drones which has been more frequent in the Pakistani skies that the birds themselves perhaps.

Here is an excerpt from her essay Louder than bombs – 

When you ask Sadaullah or Karim or S. Hussein and others like them what they want, they do not say “transparency and accountability.” They say they want the killing to stop. They want to stop dying. They want to stop going to funerals — and being bombed even as they mourn. Transparency and accountability, for them, are abstract problems that have little to do with the concrete fact of regular, systematic death.’

Concerns of a weak or failed state are not that of transparency and accountability. It is violence. This is what Madiha’s reporting from Pakistan shows. The extreme violence and destruction that envelopes the countries must be acted upon first and foremost. I felt this even as we endlessly discuss transparency and accountability in graduate programs in development, public policy and international relations. It is not to argue that these are less important but that governance issues are of secondary concern. Moreover, these are long term pursuits which are tweaked and tinkered with as a country rolls down the path. It does not take a human toll in the way that bombings does and drone attacks do. If in Pakistan one could not get a decade long drone attacks to stop, where is the chance of realizing anything on the governance front and of the golden ideas of transparency and accountability.

I find that discussions on governance, especially in failed states and weak states seldom talk of violence. This often is the backdrop in which the failures of governance are likely to operate. And yet, there is an assumption that accountability of governments and transparency of institutions are essential criterion for alleviating such states. How does one achieve this without putting an end to the violence of various kinds that these states are going through – could be civil war, bombings, drug wars etc. Dispensing with this issue and pursuing a sanitized discussion on how governance operates in these states and ways to improve it, I find is futile.

Violence is comparatively easier problem than governance. An interesting example is El Salvador where a truce between major drug gangs led to an almost immediate drop in killings across the country. Daily killings averaged 5.5 after the truce from 14 killings per day. The case cited is that of a domestic affair of a country. Yet it is illustrative of the change in human and civil atmosphere that it brings about for people to then think about other challenges at hand.

It could be argued that Pakistan’s case is a bit too complex. And such reasoning as – it is easy enough to stop the bombings, is rejected as naive. But lets see it this way. If something as clear and attributable as bombings (and drone strikes) is hard to stop then is cutting the gordian knot of governance in these states any easier?

Here is a Pakistani kid talking of how he likes his days to be –

“Now I prefer cloudy days when the drones don’t fly. When the sky brightens and becomes blue, the drones return and so does the fear. Children don’t play so often now, and have stopped going to school. Education isn’t possible as long as the drones circle overhead.

Drone Strikes: Tears in Congress as Pakistani family tells of Mother’s Death

So what do we talk about first?

Anatomy of a Disaster: Cyclone Phailin


High speed winds sweeping states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh (Image: Deccan Chronicle)

This month we are on an assignment which takes us to cyclone affected districts of Orissa. Reflecting on what we saw from our travel in the region in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin (which struck India’s eastern coast on October 12, 2013) it appears that Odisha’s preparedness and response to the disaster is an extraordinary example of what states can achieve if they really get themselves up to it.

Identifying the action in the simplest fundamental sense is necessary to inform discourse on disaster preparedness and response. Given the meteorological information available from IMD this disaster which was almost certain to occur. But was it expected to be as catastrophic as it ended up being, is an open question. Cyclone Phailin, a Category 4 storm (for reference: Hurrican Katrina was a Category 3 storm, of lesser intensity than this) was estimated to make a landfall (approaching from Bay of Bengal) on October 12, 2013 by the Indian Meteorological Department, in the coastal town of Gopalpur in Odisha state. It made a landfall at 9.15 pm IST. During its approach winds sped through the coastal areas at about 200 km/hr speed along with generating huge waves on the coasts. On October 8, 2013 four days before the cyclone, the Principal Secretary to the state of Odisha communicates information on Cyclone Phailin to the district administrations, particularly to those of Ganjam, Mayurbhanj, Puri and Balasore districts. These lie on the coast and were likely to be severely hit by the cyclone. In the next three days before the cyclone gathered strength, these four districts were to make an evacuation plan, a relief plan, a micro plan for all the blocks of every district to ensure maintenance of essential services like telecommunication, drinking water availability and food. Along with this teams to act on all these aspects were to be constituted and operationalized.

The unexpected element in this disaster was floods due to an extremely heavy rainfall in the aftermath of the cyclone. As soon as the cyclone left, coastal districts were flooded from the sea inundating large stretches of land as much as 20 kilometers inland. This was not anticipated. Further, the excessive rainfall triggered another round of floods and this time in interior districts as well. Neither the state nor the district authorities were prepared for the floods. This made cyclone Phailin unique in its impact. `

This, to those familiar with Indian bureaucracy and the political context would attest is a task which would take months together and certainly hard to realize in a three day period. Yet, the records now show that over 1 million people were evacuated within this period, housed in cyclone shelters and supplied with essential items – food, water and sanitation. Many senior officers are reported to have worked round the clock during this run up to the landfall of the cyclone and for several weeks for relief and rehabilitation after the cyclone had passed. The scale of the response mounted grew and proceeded with unprecedented rapidity. This is where the question lies. How could a state and the proverbial Indian bureaucracy known for its slow response operationalize such a large operation and perform flawlessly, delivering lowest ever lost of human lives while braving the severest natural disaster that has hit the eastern coast of India in the last 14 years?

It is remarkable that Odisha lost only 59 lives in Cylone Phailin which is dubbed as the most powerful and dangerous cyclone that has hit the eastern coast of India. It was more severe than the Supercyclone of 1999 which had caused very high loss of life and property in Odisha. “Odisha’s handling of the very severe cyclone will be a landmark success story in disaster management,” said Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) for Disaster Risk Reduction. The state government, which fixed the target of “Zero Casualty” during the cyclone, had earlier said it had evacuated as many as 9,83,553 people from the coast. (FirstPost)

So what worked for Odisha?

A defining characteristic that we observe in the government’s response to the disaster is that government officials consistently went beyond their outline duties and made several moves which went beyond their duties. The highly localized action taken by various functionaries of the government departments was a consequence of human decisions, indecisions, trial and error rather than rationally organized action. In this dynamic entity, they reconceived their own role as insignificant by itself yet essential to the whole (an argument by Sarat SS and others in the “sociological citizen”). For instance, upon receiving a telephonic report of a marooned village in floods, the Block Development Officer rushes with relief supplies late in the night with a farm tractor trucking the supplies driving through the high levels of flood water. The officer’s brief does not necessitate such an action yet he makes a rather foolhardy attempt to reach the marooned village. These instances are exactly the kind of actions that the paper seeks to find an explanation for. Dismissing them as random acts of individuals would be far from reality because in every tragedy such acts are reported and there appears to be several such individuals risking their lives, going beyond their briefs as public officials.

The difference could be that the individual in times of crisis is a “sociological citizen” The following discussion from Silbey et al (Silbey SS, Huising R and Coslovsky SV, L’ Annee sociologique, 2009, 59, The “Sociological Citizen” Relational Interdependence in Law and Organization) appears instrumental to the argument that I make here.

“Where other fail to act, the sociological citizen is enabled and endowed by that web of constraining associations, which provide the material and symbolic resources for intervention and reconstruction. In other words, by recognizing one’s location in an extended network of associations (Latour, 2005) a sociological citizen has an extended, rather than constricted, set of opportunities (resources, schemas, persons) with which to fashion solutions to local problems (Burtm 2004; Granovetter, 1973).”

For those familiar with the work of humanitarian and relief agencies of the UN and several independent ones, it would be easier to recognize how difficult aid workers find comprehending the situation that they see in places suffering any of the tragedies that are indicated in the paper. It is in the interest of these humanitarian and relief agencies as well as governments to understand what lies underneath the individual behaviour that they see in the field. Accordingly, they would be required to promote and encourage some behaviours and curb others. An informed decision on these can be taken when one understands the sociological basis of their actions. The consequent understanding, it is hoped, will drive better disaster preparedness and responses by all those who are affected by it and of course government agencies primarily.

Absurdity of fasting as activism (or fancier still – social intervention)

Here is a crude joke which sums up whats happening at this place I attend.

An ageing philanthropist, a promising young mountaineer and an activist are flying in a small plane. Half way in their journey the plane develops a snag. The pilot declares that the plane will crash soon, grabs a parachute and jumps off the plane. The three men are horrified at this and look for parachutes. The activist manages to grab one in the scramble (experienced as he was in stuff like this. Hadn’t he managed to break the security cordon and ripped off the state flag last time?) and jumps off.

Now, the philanthropist and the young mountaineer remain. Philanthropist says to the other,

“Son, as you see I am much older than you are and have seen many glorious seasons in my life and lived it well. I do not regret dying at this age. You have a long life ahead of you. Please take the remaining parachute and save your life.”

The two of them are in a strange but poised silence.The young man then figures things out and replies,

“Sir, we need not worry. The activist in his haste has jumped off with my backpack. There are two parachutes here and we both will make it to the ground safely. Come. Let us not delay.”

This has much to do with my irritation at the string of mails that are urging people to not eat (as in fast) at least one meal of the day and instead consider sending the food over to the people whose homes (considered slum) were recently demolished by the city’s municipal corporation. More on that here. There is an understanding that a meal shifted from one set of people to the other is likely to help the situation in some manner. If one argues on the morality, humanitarian and other such ethical-moral-spiritual concerns then I will sure have to ask him to cut the crap and on further insistence to shut the f*** up.

Why does it escape these young folks who are driven by a concern to help the distressed people that a meal once or twice a day really doesn’t matter. The significant bandwidth they spend on organizing the logistics of this food support program (and mind you just as a one off thing) takes more effort and resources than the help or impact that it is likely to have. In anyway, these people are able bodied men and women who are generally capable of managing their food. So, why such an ill thought idea to help is something I am trying to understand.

The fiery zeal of “helping” and “working” for a “cause” is probably burning their thinking as well. Why not take some time to figure out what the people rendered homeless might require at the moment. It is often seen that they value resource support, legal representation and other help of similar nature more than their immediate food and clothing, unless it is a natural disaster or calamity including difficult weather.

Taking a more broad sweep, I have often felt that this is what is wrong with the Indian variety of activism – poorly thought ideas of intervention (poorly understood as well) and the haste to run and do something. The activists would be quick to retort “but we do grab attention and bring the issue to focus”. I say that is not all and that is not even the starting point. More on that later. At the moment, it is much about venting out my exasperation at this variety which sits all around me and spams my mailbox with such bleeding heart mails asking me to give up food.

Footloose Livelihoods: Living with hawkers of Kuppam

Our last field study on vegetable hawkers of Kuppam comes to a close with a presentation and a small poster exhibition that was put up in the university. This one shares the presentation that includes a synthesis of our observations, as well as some highlights as posters.

For a look at Field Notes from our field site read this and this.

And thanks to @alongarun and @praveenasridhar for working on the posters.


A view of the posters displayed in the university foyer

We had the following posters up as an exhibition to communicate the outcomes of our experience in Kuppam. And the process in itself was interesting, considering that Indian academia generally lacks a sense of effective communication and presentation of their studies. The review for this small exhibition ranged from ‘needless’, ‘overdone’ to ‘very good work’.

Better late than never

This blog has been in the making for over three months now. Off late  I have been getting better at giving myself enough excuses for not doing it- let the graduate program gain some traction, let me develop clear ideas, topics must be researched properly and other such blah. And then I hit the ceiling and began writing, taking a cue from @praveenasridhar ‘s – bas likh (just write)! Start and the rest follows. And here I go.

The other trigger is the interesting discussions, conversations and ideas that seem to be multiplying by the week. I now shun the long form and get going with the fast and dirty, which always seem to have rescued me. Long form writing on the other hand has been a holy grail.

I hope to keep it regular and interesting enough. The other purpose of sharing the information with some close friends with whom I collaborate will be given priority over some ‘brilliant, sparkling essays’ that I seem to have chased for a long time now!