Friday, April 2, 2010

Annual Report (2009-2010)

What does a literary society do? Others have their task easily cut out: debaters debate, musicians sing, the dramatically inclined act. What do members of a literary society do? Pursue that rare commodity, that most rarefied of entities, literature? Indulge in literary stuff?

But what precisely constitutes literary stuff? Reading and writing? Yes, undoubtedly, but anything more? Is literature all about reading and writing and so should the scope of a literary society be just the encouragement of these activities, reading and writing? But in that case, how different would such an organisation be from a library that houses books and lends them out and, further, encourages borrowers to write about them? And where indeed are these books to be stacked if a literary society was really to function like this?

No, a literary society cannot be just this. Reading and writing should be an important component of what constitutes a literary society, but such an organisation cannot function on that alone. Literature cannot just be about reading and writing – there must be more to it…

Like what?

Like, for instance, discussions. Talks. Arguments. The interchange of ideas, the flow of ideologies. However much some of us might want it to, literature’s not really isolated from the material conditions which produce it so that an organisation dedicated to literature and so-called literary pursuits should focus on this as well. Apart from encouraging reading and writing, a literary society should also generate discourse on issues topical and otherwise. ‘Topical and otherwise’ because to focus just on what’s contemporary would be to ignore totally all that has been written in previous ages whereas to remain stuck in the past would be to become socially irrelevant. Such a society must strike a balance between that which was and that which is and so determine, or at the very least predict, that which will be.

Which is precisely what we as the Ramjas College Literary Society have endeavoured to do. As publishers of monthly journals we have worked to provide members as well as the student community at large in Ramjas a free and fully unbiased forum for the creative articulation of opinions general and subjective. As organisers of inter-college seminars, workshops and panel discussions we’ve attempted to generate discourse on a wide range of issues.

We started off this year with a three day seminar on Politics in DU. Our own internal elections had already been held earlier in August and the point behind this event, organised as it was in the first week of September, was to reflect on the nature and scope of politics within this University and particularly within this college. Our speakers included Mr. Debraj Mookerjee, ex-Election Officer, Ramjas, Mr. Safwan Amir and Mr. Nayanjyoti, both former Secretaries of the Ramjas Students’ Union and Mr. Manu Pande, then Presidential candidate for the Union elections and now, of course, our successful and much-beloved Union President. Each day concluded with screening of episodes from the series Yes Prime Minister!.

This was followed by a two day in-house seminar on music. Organised in late October and titled Music in Context, this event saw a spectrum of Society members analyse a wide range of genres from a variety of perspectives. Again, the idea here was to see how different types of music reflect, uphold and subvert different types of societal norms and institutions and in critiquing such genres as Country Folk, 80s Rock, Tibetan Folk, 50s and 60s Hindi Cinema, Gothic and Contemporary Bollywood members sought to relate music to the forces which produce it without completely stripping it of the pan-civilisational appeal that it undoubtedly possesses.

Our third major event of the year was a panel discussion organised on the 19th of November. With the overarching theme as The Future of Theatre in India, the panel consisting of Mr Arvind Gaur (Founder, ASMITA), Ms Misha Singh (Director, Black Cow Company) and Ms Kaustubhi Shukla (Member, Lakshya, Kamla Nehru College) deliberated upon theatre’s pertinence as a medium for entertainment as well as social change in twenty-first century India.

The culmination of all our efforts was, of course, our annual festival WORDSMITH. The three-day fest was held from the 3rd to the 5th of February. In addition to competitive events like Creative Writing (bilingual; prose and poetry), Elocution (bilingual) and Literary Quiz that were held over the course of the three days, the fest also saw a Paper Presentation on the theme of Literature and Cities. Additionally, a Panel Discussion and Interactive Discussion on the theme Experiencing Delhi was organised on the second day; the former, a session chaired by Mr. Mukul Manglik, saw Mr Yousuf Sayeed (independent film maker), Mr Anand Taneja (a student perusing his PhD from Colombia University) and Ms Kanika Singh (research scholar in history) put into context the diverse experiences a city with a cultural heritage as rich as Delhi’s provides to those who interact with it.

Of course, in giving this catalogue of events we cannot forget the innumerable meetings and reading sessions we’ve had over the year. Much of what we do and stand for lies not as much as in these inter-college events and competitions as in these simple meetings wherein we just thrash out issues from almost all possible angles. After all, literary criticism is not just the reserve of high brow seminars and panels and in decentring it so we’ve only sought to further democratise the way everyday people conceptualise, encounter and, so, finally produce literature. Our blog (http://ramjaslitsoc.blogspot.com/) is a particularly emphatic step in this direction.

The journey has been particularly remarkable so far. In the four short years of its existence, this Society has seen umpteen changes and reforms. While we got a more or less stable structure last year, this session saw us get orphaned in face of the Staff Council’s inability to get together a functional ECAC. Internally, the problem of language also remains: while we are undoubtedly bilingual, we speak and write the way we do because this is the language of our lived experience, the language we’re most comfortable in. This perhaps is symptomatic of a larger misconception, that as a Society we’re a branch of the Department of English – while we undoubtedly owe a lot to that in terms of both origin and infrastructure, yet we cater to a bigger audience than that limited by it. That this audience is not as forthcoming as we’d like it to be is a fallout both of the way we’re generally conceived as well as the way we work.

What is needed, therefore, is further decentralisation and democratisation of the way we function. We already have a precedent of office bearers from non-language departments so at that basic level our Staff Advisor in the years to come too can be any enthusiastic person from any other department. Then again, considering the recent spurt in creative writing magazines in Ramjas our successors will have to innovate in order to keep this Society relevant to as much of this college as possible. Just as literature and literary norms keep changing, so do we as a literary society need to constantly redefine the way in which literature is produced and explored in Ramjas College.

What had started off grandly as a group of fifty members has come down to a small yet efficient team of twenty. In this, if we were to look for it, none of us would really qualify as an imagined literary archetype: be it painting, singing, debating or dancing, all of us have something or the other which keeps us from the ideal. The way we look at it, this is more a cause of celebration than dismay: in the ultimate analysis, instead of being the fruition of the narrow pursuit of some Holy Grail literature in this increasingly fragmented world is the culmination of engagement with life in all its multiplicity. As a Society with no specific talent than the painstakingly cultivated power to write, spell and speak, we revel in this multiplicity and hope that it will continue to characterise the way we function in the years to come.

Pornography in the Indian Context

The motive of this paper is to examine the feasibility of the pornographic industry as a legal entity in the Indian context by taking into consideration a proportionate mix of morality and existing state of affairs. In doing so, I intend to analyze the moral position taken by the government on pornography with special reference to The Savita Bhabhi case.

Pornography as a product

The pornographic industry has settled down in most countries where internet based porn services are no more illegal. They have taken steps to ensure that the system is made use by those who are eligible to do so. They have set up separate servers for adult content, have special libraries which issue porn content to the eligible masses, licenses are issued – in short, a system is in place. The problem lies in the Indian context.
The apprehensions that I will deal with in this paper do not arise out of the idea of the so called “Indian culture”. The conservative argument terming pornography as something that is not in alignment with Indian ethos arises out of a discomfort with the physical language of love. We must understand that sexuality is not something to be ashamed or afraid of, discovering sexuality is a part of discovering oneself. Hence, this will not be any further debated in this paper.

As a part of the literary community the liberal argument is paramount to me – a well informed choice made by an eligible adult to consume pornography as a commodity must be respected. As it is, porn is readily available on the internet so it would be better if a system be set up in India too that will render recognition to pornography in India. In doing so we will save a number of youngsters who are many a times exposed to explicit material at a tender age.
In the opinion of Psychiatrist Dr. Harish Shetty, “Pornography does affect children because they get influenced and indulge in things that they are not supposed to at a tender age. They often tend to get false information and ideas, and at times they might get addicted to these sites.”
The problem in the Indian Context

The core problem with legalization of pornography in India is the generation of human resource for the industry. Before the consumption of the good – porn in this case, one has to make sure that the mode of production is safeguarded. As has been seen the pornography industry has long standing roots into human trafficking, child abuse and harassment.
Case Study: “Savita Bhabhi - The sexual adventures of a Hot Indian Bhabhi”
Savita Bhabhi - The sexual adventures of a Hot Indian Bhabhi is India's first cartoon porn website, featuring explicit depictions of the sexual adventures of a housewife named Savita. The porn site has become a face of freedom and a face of India's liberals.
In India, right to pornography is not recognized and pornography is illegal. The site and its developer came under fierce criticism recently. The Hindustan Times said in one of its headlines – “Savita Bhabhi tests India’s patience for porn”.

The site was being again and again censored by the Indian government until June 2009 when it was finally banned. Initially the creator of the site had chosen to remain anonymous, going under the assumed collective name Indian Porn Empire. However in July 2009, Puneet Agarwal, the creator of the site revealed his identity after a collective movement was launched to lift the ban.
Morally, the site has found favour with India’s liberals because of two reasons:
They believe that Sexuality need not be a matter of fear or taboo in our society. It is to be accepted and accepting healthy porn is a step in that direction. They believe that the ban shows the government’s bowing down to conservatives who have drawn this consciousness of the so called “Indian tradition”. The Indian tradition however (the liberal stand) has always had a special place for sexuality - Kamasutra and the Khajurao Temples are evidences of that.
Savita Bhabhi specifically has been looked upon as being representative of the sexual emancipation of women. Since long women’s sexuality and desires have been looked upon as evil. Men have on the other hand found overt sexuality a necessary advantage. A certain James Bond goes around having sex with numerous ladies and is glorified by the world. The secrecy with which female sexuality is dealt with has promoted myths such as terming woman with overt sexuality as witches.
c) In being a cartoon porn site, this itself eradicates the link with all human resources. No human investment.

These moral stands are further confirmed by other practical aspects.

The site is ranked 85th most visited in India. It received more traffic in a day than the Bombay Stock Exchange. This certainly proves that the site serves an audience and there are takers for it.
As it is there are many sites that contain pornographic material. This pornographic material unlike Savita is objectionable and gender insensitive. The government’s act of banning the site seems is hypocrisy.
Relevant Problems in the Savita Issue
It would be unfair to say that all is right about pornography or the Savita Bhabhi website. It has found critics and rightly so in many ways.
The conservatives especially have a problem with the use of the terminology “Bhabhi” or Sister in law in the material. Its use is debatable. On looking at it in the way the conservatives do – the reference can indicate a mistreatment of the female gender and especially to woman as a homemaker.

On the other hand creator Puneet Aggarwal believes that the term was essential. Savita Bhabhi is not porn made up by illogical nudity. It is an idea and has a plot. Savita is representative of the liberated Indian woman in quest for happiness and sexual satisfaction. As a result of a failed sexual relationship with her husband she turns to her brother in law. Hence the term becomes essential to give meaning to the whole idea.
The solution for this specific issue

Savita after all is not just another porn website, it has in many ways a moral fibre to it. The Indian Government can censor this site with discretion but to ban it when every other site on the internet is much more explicit and objectionable is unfair. The cyber laws must be strengthened and appropriate amendments made to block or separate all these sites.
My Solution based on a proportionate mix of Morality and Observation
In words unadulterated, the two hurdles that need to be crossed before legalization of pornography in India are:
There needs to be a cleansing of the system. A total dismantling of the network that exists and creates human resource for the industry. This network include the sixty thousand beggars of Delhi and numerous thousand children kept in corrupt orphanages.

A definition needs to be arrived for morally correct pornography. A censorship be constituted that will keep a check on the content of these sites. Separate servers for adult content be formed. If need be, porn be rather made available in public libraries and licenses issued.

- Arpit Kumar
B.A. (Hons.) English; I Yr.