Wednesday, March 03, 2010

What an Amazing, Manic 2010! Updates

Okay, for those of you (precious, precious few yous!) who follow my blog and have been wondering why there have been no updates, here is the low down: the past two weeks have been mayhem!

I have been madly working, writing, catching up on chores, organising.  For the first time in my life, I am even re-doing my humble abode to make it more comfortable and fit-for-purpose.  All in all, the blog has had to take a backseat.  Of course, part of running around chasing one's tale is that there is really very little to report or indeed ruminate upon.

However, there are two key updates:

First, I had a brilliant time at the LSE's Fiction of Development event.  As always, LSE has uploaded a podcast of the event that can be accessed here.

Some of the questions were rather predictable (and annoyingly so), but the positive side was to note just how many students are ahead of the curve: the best, most thought provoking questions came from them.

It also threw up the "developed" vs "developing" world divide in stark contrast.  The non-European/US students were far more aware, better prepared and more thoughtful. They were also willing to engage in debate, challenge their own and others' assumptions, and were far more passionately involved in the issues the panel raised.  After the event, over drinks, these were the students who approached me and raised even more issues that they felt had been left out during the session.

Having done similar events before, I guess this response could have been predicted. But one statement by a student made over a glass of wine really made me sad that we haven't moved beyond the narrow confines of the colonial mindset. She told me: "Thank you for being on the panel. Your views made me realise that I am not the crazy one. That there are other people who think like me."

Back in the 1980s, as a student in the American north-east, I would often keep my mouth shut on issues of race, gender, power because my views were so completely different from those being expounded by (mostly American) experts on campus.  I had hoped that this had changed in the past decades; that there was more diversity of voices and views for students who were still building their viewpoints.

Then again, I can't remember hearing/seeing anyone on a panel who articulated my thoughts. So if just by my presence or by my views, I can provide either validation or confidence to some student, perhaps I am doing something right.  And that in itself is no mean achievement.

Second, Palgrave Macmillan has just published Religion in Literature and Film in South Asia, edited by the wonderfully passionate and dedicated India scholar, Diana Dimitrova.  It has some really amazing essays by scholars in Europe, India and US.  It also carries my comparative analysis of Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan's star personas, the ways these interact with the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and how they reflect their respective zeitgeists.

So all  in all, very productive start to 2010.