Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Heads or tails?

Tonight at dinner a musician resident talked with passion about how often injustices have a way of repeating themselves within society in ways that don't make any sense; and yet history has these deep roots that lead you to those spaces of hurt that have fermented the potential of any rationality, producing instead perceptions that can wound those very places where comfort had once been sought. She talked of her mother who had been an English teacher in a very poor and black dominated American town, and who had devoted her time to this space of learning rather than be in a more affluent educational space of teaching, because she believed so passionately in the cause of those oppressed communities having the opportunity of learning. However when she was to become the head of the department she was denied the job on the grounds of being white. How strange is the story of the fight against racism when it comes back in another framework of practice. Her mother won her case in the courts, not for financial gains, but to address a system that had failed itself by become what it had attempted to fight against.

But the truth is that we often fall into these traps of inflicting the very wounds we wish to have healed. I read a moving interview of an American soldier who fought in the recent war in Afghanistan, where she recounts the horrors she witnessed of human atrocities people inflicted on one another which were so dehumanizing and beastly. Today she is one of the many who live with the terror of nightmares that haunt her subconscious, and in her waking hours she is filled with the anxiety of having witnessed a history of violence that she knows will seep through many more centuries.

The conversation with the musician at dinner led to the issue of the massacre of the Native Americans in the USA. A community where their leadership was silently killed and their proud heritage pilfered and ransacked to finally become Hollywood fodder for C grade films. She spoke of the vagueness of memory; where we conveniently avoid the remembrance of the forsaken because it would shame us to do so.

I come from Gujarat where we still have the stain of a genocide so fresh in our history, yet very few care to want to remember this self inflicted tragedy. The land of the greatest freedom fighter, the land of the Mahatma; yet the magic wand of divide and communal unrest is still clasped so firmly in the hands of many political agencies. Of which womb do we come from when time and again we re-enact the same deeds of pain ; sometimes we are the victims and at others we are the perpetrators.


  1. While most appreciate the festivities of Thanksgiving Day, I cannot but wonder what signification it has for you. Does it represent the celebration of a wonderful human adventure, or the beginning of a horrible tragedy... Alas the story of the man who destroys his brother or his neighbor because of rivalry, ideology or cupidity is as old as mankind.

  2. Rekha -
    Greetings from New York, where I realise I don't have an email address for you. I think fondly of our dinner conversations at Montalvo, and get many compliments every time I wear your necklace.
    The new recording goes into production next week, hopefully, and the opera creeps forward.
    One day I will show up on your doorstep in Baroda.
    Safe travels, and my regards to Surendren.
    un abrazo fuerte, Gina