Sunday, August 14, 2011

New semester

The new students have come into class, some have returned home for the long weekend of Raksha Bandhan (when sisters tie amulets to thier brothers wrists and recieve gifts) and Independence Day to collect their belongings from distant hometowns. Most came prepared to stay, but the odd one flies back to Calcutta or Dibrugarh or Trichur to say goodbye once more to the clan. Its lovely to be in JNU in this period, for there is all the excitement of just starting a new session. We are out of our informal clothes in which we have spent the long summer, and wear formal clothes to class. There is no dress code in JNU but the new students too come bathed and properly dressed in the mornings, as do the older ones. Radical no longer means unbathed as it did in the '70s. When I joined JNU as a student in 1977, Dr S.P Pamra who was my mother's friend said to her, "Why are you sending her to JNU? I was caught in a procession last week and they were all unshaved young men."
I have 67 students in one class and on paper 97 in the other, but every morning there are fifty to sixty students in class. The truth is that our class rooms are not big enough. The JNU contractor has for years been shortchanging everyone. Our roofs leak, our sewers come undone when there is heavy rain, blocking our entry and exit roads, the paint comes off, we even sometimes have to wade knee deep in our own houses. Last year was quite dramatic for most of JNU residents, this year is better, because it was sultry and did not rain as heavily. However the lilies are out, as are the hibiscus, the new mango saplings with their tender maroon leaves. I have two new books in press, one is called "Reading Marx, Weber and Durkheim Today" and the other is called "Nelycynda and Other Stories."
K.N. Viju dropped in to JNU on 12th August to give me his new book of poems. He was discovered when a school boy by Aubrey Menen. the collection is called Valley Beyond Mountain and here is a poem from that book

The Seed of Light
All that I brought from the skies above,
Was a seed of light wrapped in clouds.
All that I planted on earth's barren soil
Was a lone seed of that sunlight

All that the years did was drip drop
A lonely dew drop once a while,
All my expectations now
The sprouting of that single seed.

Isn't it amazing that the Malayalis are always thinking of rain and their native land, and seeds sprouting? i was a little perplexed by the President's speech which I heard in both  Hindi and English. She said that technology and agriculture, or technologisation of agriculture was what the state looked forward to. I thought our bursting granaries implied that covering the costs of the farmer was what all the  contemporary debates were focussed on. The farmers have kept our economy stable by saving in the State Bank of India, by not being consumerist, by believing in the future, and producing more than they had even hoped. Kerala has a great tradition of moving with the times, and the government servants whom I spoke to in Pallakad earlier in the summer all supported organic agriculture. Corporate hand holding by the Nation State is a backward step at this particular moment, when all the world looks to organic farming and the rights of local communities.

We have full granaries

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