Monday, February 14, 2011

Well Spivak-a-lula! She’s my ba-by!

Monday morning, 9 a.m

Says the grandfather to the granddaughter: Arre, you’re up early…

Replies the grand daughter to the grandfather: Yes, I’m going for a lecture.

A lecture?, like it were so unusual

Mmm hmm, I say, acting nonchalant, tying shoe laces.

Delivering or listening?

Stumped, amused, but truthfully and out of respect: Listening

Imagining the alternative though sends me out of the house a bit giggly.

Mayonnaise Toss rung yesterday to ask if I wanted to go for Spivak’s talk at the university. Mayonnaise toss = school friend, fellow blogger, chronic whiner – no wait: chronic whiner, school friend, current pursuer of a Masters in Lit and fellow blogger. I hadn't met her in a while. Spivak = Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, born on my father's birthday but five years earlier on Feb 24 , is a professor at Columbia University in New York, has very short grey hair -- kind of sexy, and is a voice of authority person when it comes to big deal things like post colonial theory and deconstruction. Never met.

No sequential logic, but of course I wanted to listen to Spivak talk. I even read her interview in The Hindu. The link was on a former colleague’s Facebook wall. I had to skim a lot because parts were boring and the other parts required a re-read to fully grasp, but surely clicking on the link qualifies me as as a curious kitty if not a literary heavy weight. Besides, I had nothing else to do and what a totally intellectual note to start the week on!

Plus, importantly, and to redeem my blonde-ness, I remember the name Spivak as a blast from my glorious academic past. She was someone we had to quote heavily in our under grad papers if all we girls -- and we were all girls -- were going to get anywhere. Ask anyone.

When friend and I walk into the Vice Regal lodge – the interiors of which, even in all my then seemingly-endless years at Delhi University I hadn't seen -- it's packed. Friend is not as jobless as I, but nonetheless, on leave on a Monday.

Vice regal interiors; same number of people behind me.
Trivia #1: Place is done up with Bose speakers
Trivia #2: Nehru delivered his Tryst With Destiny speech here.
(Remember, '
At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps,
India will awaken to life and freedom.
Presumably though, the Bose speakers are less historic.

Unintrusive back-of-head shots of Spivak-attendees

Once we're in and leaning against pillars because we're late and there's no place to sit, I get a text from Mayo: I saw you come in. Who are you with?

I tell her the name of person I am with and add, ‘friend and fellow intellectual’ (plus the necessary smiley, because even though she knows me well enough, imagine that being taken seriously.)

Later, after the lecture, Fellow Intellectual and Mayo pull my leg about this idle daily blogging – I send them both email alerts and am always, always conscious about how indulgent that is, but then like today, despite making fun of me, they plead Tech Retarded-ness and say aww, blog, blog, and just as well the alerts comes in our inbox since (we’re so stupid) we don’t know what for is a feed reader, oh and ha ha, since we’re all friends here, I’m saved the ease with which I would otherwise get a tad defensive.

Spivak was spunky. Twice, at least, she called herself intellectually insecure. I liked her without understanding her. That’s allowed, isn’t it? She wouldn’t drone on like some of the newbie lecturers we suffered back in college, one or two of whom were in attendance.

With that powerful voice and changing pitch and cadence and things, it wasn’t easy to sleep when Spivak spoke. Just as well for when it comes to teachers, surely keeping the masses up and blinking is a massive prerequisite, more so if their sentences, like the Speaking Spivak’s, start with “If capital is the strongest agency of validation into modernity…

I took notes – Compulsively! Copiously! Continuously! Ever since I hung up my journo spurs, I’ve been itching to take short hand. So I took notes. (Like a fiend on a sugar high, if I were to go about this ‘analogically’) And when I didn’t take notes -- compulsively, copiously, and um, continuously -- I took photos. How long to keep up with this validation into modernity crap after all? But Fellow Intellectual, you know the guy with whom I came to listen to the lecture – not deliver it – would glare at me whenever I’d click. Later, he called me an intrusive photo taker: you can’t DO that!. But at least he called me an intrusive photo taker after the lecture and when I was done taking photos, so for a while, I put my camera away, and also my pen.

This was like college. Remember college? God, what was I thinking? Literature ruined me.

Left vocabulary, the abdication of an epistemological task…

Maybe I should have done Philo.

I cannot declare a rupture with femininity…

It’s amazing how many of those cows did better than me/ I did

The vanity in being feudal urban radicals needs to be undermined…If I am not interchangeable with a Hindi-speaking Delhiite, urban subalterns aren’t interchangeable with rural subalterns…

Heh. I think I’ll adopt that as an insult. Done. Subaltern is the new plebian.

I want to share this. I look at my friend, my Fellow Inn’uhlegjuual, rebuker of my reckless camera usage, slinger of jute bag, wearer of kurta pajama, carrier of DU look, mocker those all over, as the crow flies, in red, on Valentine’s, Day and, hello, he’s awake. He looks like he’s paying attention, even. He catches my eye; so much for attention. I silently enunciate: ‘Are you hungry’? He shakes his head. We go back to Spivak, her epistemological this and her teleological that and the rest of her impenetrable sentences that in spite of themselves don’t put us to sleep.

I dare not tell her that though, witness as I am to her firmly but not rudely slamming the question-asker who started with “Hullo ma’am, myself so and so, that was brilliant talk, ma’am, thank you, even if I am subaltern and I did not myself understand all…” – and she said, "I’ll take up your very good question, but I want to first say, if you didn’t understand me, you have no right to congratulate me.”

Ooh! Ni-ce! Touché! Now on, till the last question is answered, goose bumps for all!

P.S. I have a job interview tomorrow. (To clarify grandfather-like doubts: I’m the interviewee, not the interviewer). Must decide what to wear. Something that doesn’t say 'tried too hard', but nothing that shrieks… ‘subaltern’.


Perakath said...

Sounds bloody boring. Mental masturbation for the DU masses. Are you sure Fellow Intellectual didn't go only because of you? Hall looks lovely though. Hope interview went well. Was it at a bakery?

Perakath said...

PS Count the number of compliments and jibes in that one.

Nimpipi said...

Hello, lawyer! Fellow intellectual, I'm pretty sure, did only go because of me.

Bakery jibe = ha ha but no! Still in the business of being a patrkaar, ye see.

Your score evens out, one jibe one compliment. No clear winner. No fun.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

First and foremost, good luck on the interview. It might have already occurred by the time you read this, so I hope it went well.

A room full of academics using big words. This is a scary scenario. My sister is a college professor and do you want to know what I think? (Of course, you do.) I think academics need to get out more often. They're not unlike all those actresses I used to date. They live in a vacuum and only associate with their own kind.

I enjoyed the spanking you gave me in my comments section. Is that what I have to do to get your attention? Write something that carries the faint scent of racism?

Nimpipi said...

TUB : I had dinner at Chilies in Ambiance Mall and the insides of the mall had, suspended from the cieling, what I can only describe as vertical paper craft chandeliers shaped like butterflies and flowers. Unremarkable except for the association in my head. Thanks to your china post, I kept thinking dora, dora, dora the explorer!

Such is the power of cross cultural blogging influences: you go mad.

Interview went okay, grilled by three men for 25 minutes. Said they'd get back to me. Asked how soon I could join, but didn't talk money. Have to send them writing samples. Inconvenient, this unwillingness to simply have them read my blog.

And racism shmasism, you mistaken yankee gent! You've got my attention all the time. That is
what you wanted to hear, innit? Brown cow is only dumb cow when it comes to museums and plays, thassall. But I'll be more outspoken. You have my WORD. Vaada mera vaada- promise, my promise.

The.Mystic said...

I agree with Perakath, it does sound boring as hell. But, such lectures are a good cure for insomnia, I have been cured many times, Nobel laureates are the best!

Best of luck with the interview.

Pringle Man said...

Everyone I like and look upto, I barely understand at all. That's the first step, to instinctively like someone, and then begin to know them, and disagree with them, and love them even more.

You know, it's so fantastic that there is this s.p.a.c.e. in Delhi, in our country, for people to talk and listen, and sure, deconstruction can mix a lot of things up, but the whole point is to challenge your ideas and learn new things, and not be self conscious about the act of it. Because by listening, you have as much power as the speaker, we're simultaneously defining this space, aren't we? I mean, people roll their eyes, exactly like what TUB said, and there is so much lost in not-communicating.

I'm sure you rocked the socks off that interview, and you're better behind words, you know that, only a matter of time before someone puts a mike in front of you.

(haha, and then some journo at HT will rip you apart while reviewing the stand up comic scene in delhi)

not that you'll do stand up comedy, but you will be entertaining. : )