Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Travelling...

Which means I'll miss the DBM 2nd anniversary!

Blogging in the midst of 3CFF

When friendly bloggers like Shivam Vij assure me my not being addicted to blogging is good, I feel somewhat happier and un-guiltied about the sporadic nature of my posting. But I genuinely have been busy for the last few weeks with the TRI Continental Film Festival - which has just finished in Delhi (very successfully!) and is starting in Bombay tomorrow.

Here is the screening schedule:

25-27 Jan: Mumbai
29-31 Jan: Bangalore
1-3 Feb: Chennai
3-6 Feb: Kolkata

Do come for the screenings! I'll be travelling to Bangalore, Chennai and Calcutta.

Meanwhile, The Hindu pressed us for an interview with Rabbi - our chief guest for the Delhi festival - glibly assuring us a great front page coverage of the festival. Here is what she finally delivered. These media people, I tell you.

(If this is not it, Mandira, if there is another story to follow, I promise I'll apologise with the deepest humility.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ghazal 605

How will you hear these lines, sings a titter in my cunt,
If I fashion a poem of the jitters in my cunt?

It was late when I discovered the shape of roundness
(Imagined in my palm) stirred a glitter in my cunt.

Loving you is treacherous -- an hour ago sweetness,
Unspoken hostilities are now bitter in my cunt.

The sounds I taught to remember myself to scream
Are yet one quarter the primal Schwitters in my cunt.

I sell condoms to the unversed, teach them safer sex.
Yet there have been times I willed your litter in my cunt.

She often singes innocents with her hotheaded glare
That for oglers intends the hitter in my cunt.

My sheer cunt, still, is enough to give you pleasure.
You practiced -- to worship, to play the zither in my cunt.

Eve reclaimed the vagina, but the unfinished tales
Of good girls to come still clatter-clitter in my cunt.

Slowly discover rules for yourself, Monica.
Cheer's vitalest, let not dolor fritter in your cunt.

Monday, January 09, 2006

the regulars

Delhi really is a small city.

When I lived in Jangpura Extension, I’d meet him at the Moolchand traffic crossing on my way to work. One day, he wasn’t there.

Then things changed in my life. I moved to Defence Colony. This morning, I met him again on my new route to work. We see each other, the light changes, cars move ahead by a few metres. He follows.

“Hello. It’s been a long time since we met.”

“Yes. You stopped coming to Moolchand, didn’t you?”

“They closed that crossing. I’ve been here for 3-4 days now.”

“And before that?”

“L… I live in G…, you know.”

The light changes again. We smile at each other and move on.

And I’m suddenly happy Delhi’s such a tiny city.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Review: NHRC Disability Manual 2005

It is a huge task to try and cater to “lawyers, NGOs, academics, human rights activists and the general public” as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) wants to, in its recently published Disability Manual 2005. For a lawyers’ handbook, it may be enough to include legislation and case law, academics may prefer critical analysis, and activists may need practical examples from real life. The Disability Manual works best as the first, with faint swings at the other targets.

The disability rights movement began in the 1970s in the aftermath of the American civil rights and women’s rights movements. Today international norms and legislation duly recognize persons with disabilities as rights holders and enjoin national governments to actively promote the necessary conditions for the disabled to fully realize their rights.

The manual, a sturdy publication with good production values, is divided into six parts. The first explains the historical and conceptual underpinnings of disability jurisprudence. The understanding of disability has changed from medical (disability as individual pathology) to social to the human rights definition in vogue now, with factors as wide-ranging as wars, poverty, natural disasters, crime, occupational disasters, and Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) of the World Bank brought under scrutiny. These are looked at briefly and one wishes the language was more lucid and the text more elucidated, especially since this chapter is meant to be foundational to the rest of the manual.

The models that inform law and policy have also shifted, but in the strange way law has of enduring, continue to uneasily coexist. The charity model, the bio-centric model, the functional model and the human rights model are examined in the next chapter with particular regard to their impact on Indian legislation. The final chapter in this section outlines the fundamental right to equality as guaranteed by the Constitution of India, the Directive Principles of State Policy, along with statutes like Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities; Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995; Mental Health Act, 1987 and Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992.

The four parts following trace international norms and legislation relating to the protection and promotion of social and cultural rights, economic rights, and civil and political rights of the disabled. These are dealt with comprehensively but staidly. There are useful tables that compare international standards with national standards contained in laws and regulations, and also tables comparing general rights with rights specific to the disabled.

The sixth part deals with international mechanisms and procedures that can be deployed to advance the rights of persons with disabilities. The role played by international human rights law and procedures is, here at the end, properly contextualized and attempts to adorn them with a “talismanic quality” are protested. The chapter explicates with hypothetical cases the procedural options available to someone wishing to protest a human rights violation or issue internationally. This is the one place in the book where case studies, albeit hypothetical, are used, and, not peculiarly, they immediately enliven the text.

Eight annexures, beginning from national legislation to international frameworks and principles, make up the tail end of the book.

As suggested earlier, people engaged in the advocacy of disability rights might not find the Disability Manual stimulating since they would be looking for more case studies, more strategies, more hands-on tips and advice on how to challenge rights infringements. They would want to know what lies beyond rights jurisprudence. Law and legal change have proved ineffective in bringing about social change, and the attitudes of pity and discrimination against the disabled so prevalent in society have not yielded to the rights discourse which ends up seeing the disabled subject as single and monolithic.

A discussion of the Ability Fest’05, where disability-themed films were screened for four days and created an air of excitement and debate in Chennai, or the colorful India Gate demonstration which bemused all the passers-by and hangers-on, would have added something extra to the manual.

All said, the manual fills a gap long felt for a comprehensive publication on disability rights in India. It is hopefully the first of many to come.

Monday, January 02, 2006

journal (v. intr.):

Let me declare, first, that this post was composed in my journal. Of course, I was sitting then on a train going from Ranchi to New Delhi, laptop ailing in the suitcase and hundreds of miles away from an internet connection, but even if I were at home with everything technical in place, I'd probably write the first draft on paper. It is about the old-fashioned thoughts flowing smoother on paper yada, but it's also about a relationship I share with my journal.

We try to spend some quality time together everyday, my journal and I. Usually in the mornings, but if I'm running late, and can't, by late evening I can sense a kind of pressure growing within me. Some miscreant words and actions involuntarily part my company.

To avoid this lowgrade consternation, journaling has a crucial place in my life. I pour out many emotions on these pages, much I'd rather not share with another soul. I vent without self consciousness, let my pen travel wherever, however it will. I reproach. I whine. I'm petty and nasty. I write first drafts, redrafts, onlyever drafts. I make peace with myself here - and to get the best results I don't censor anything.

Fastforward fifty years. Say I've written and published and become known. Say I die. And all these numerous journals of mine are published unabridged.

What will the readers read? Who will the readers meet? Not, or not just, Monica Mody the known.

The thought's exhilarating yet dreadful. And this is why, after reading Joyce Carol Oates' review of The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, the journalista in me finds myself obliged to proffer a counter.

For Oates, Plath's journals "present a very mixed aesthetic experience". Is aesthetics the point anyway? Journals are not after all "unrevised, inferior work", they are a space to sift and cleanse the soul. A space where one finds the energy and wisdom to go on living our quotidian and creative lives, where we come to terms with our truths and lies and half-lies.

This -
Confronted with a manuscript so uneven in quality as these journals, Plath would certainly have discarded hundreds of pages in preparation for its publication -- lengthy, breathless adolescent speculation about boys, dates, classes, career (''Can I write? Will I write if I practice enough? . . . CAN A SELFISH EGOCENTRIC JEALOUS AND UNIMAGITIVE [sic] FEMALE WRITE A DAMN THING WORTH WHILE?''); sketches and drafts of stories aimed for the lucrative women's magazine market; awkward early poems (''Down the hall comes Mary, bearing sheets / Crisp squares of folded linen / And, dressed in green, she greets me / With a toothless morning grin''); countless reiterations of physical symptoms (''Woke as usual, feeling sick and half-dead, eyes stuck together, a taste of winding sheets on my tongue after a horrible dream''); petty squabbles with Hughes; and the determination to be a good wife -- must not nag (ergo: mention haircuts, washes, nail-filings, future money-making plans, children -- anything Ted doesn't like: this is nagging).'' Plath's ceaseless anxiety over submissions to Ladies' Home Journal, The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic and other magazines runs through the journals like a demented mantra; the mailman is both the blessing and curse of her existence through the entire span of these journals. Surely such repetition might have been avoided.
- I don't agree with. Readers of journals don't, shouldn't, read them expecting to find precision or brevity. They come to them for - or find - all the murk and beauty of the human mind, in its higgledy-piggledyness. This, I hope readers of journals remember, is not the person the journal-writer is: what would an ubermicroscopic examination of the self yield but a distortion? Neither does it detract from the writer's "major"ness or skill.

My opinion may alter radically once I actually read Plath's journals. As of now, I find the designation "piranha voice" for Plath's journal voice a wee bit unjustifiable. You see, I know. I know I can, too, obsess endlessly endlessly about things big and small.

***

This book, borrowed and read in college, was what got me to take my "diaries" seriously.

***

Just finished reading Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates and found it truly fabulous.

After ages a book I read at one go not piecemeal five minutes snatched before bed or driving.