Anil Bhatti

Anil Bhatti, Professor Emeritus, Centre of German Studies, JNU, chairing Andrea Allerkamp’s lecture on Moving Constellations: The Political Challenge of the Aesthetic Regime at the auditorium of School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, on 8 February 2018.

Two Years Worth a Lifetime

4 January 2017. After I had avoided humans, particularly those who are by default called friends in every sphere of my life for a very long time, Preety Jankeepersand and I met, had tea and paratha at Brahmaputra and walked for long in many secluded areas in the JNU campus. Preety, a kind and self-conscious girl from Mauritius,  has been a friend of mine who has been helping me when and where no other person would actually give a damn. Most friendships demand mutual investment and that reciprocity needs to be simultaneous lest the friendship expires. Preety has proved a different person–in her characteristic combination of quiet and frankness, and affection and aloofness, she would repeatedly and patiently get through my silent irresponsive solitude and do a few things to help me (calling me sometimes, writing to me often with some important information I need to act on) before she leaves quietly. She knew without somebody helping me I would not do certain things despite the consequences. Not many people would be so generous as her at least to a person like me–so aloof, so unpenetrably silent and incommunicable. I would ever remain indebted to her. So happily.

That afternoon we talked about a lot of things. Life in general. Plans for future–what we wanted to do in life, after the linguistic course. I had my camera with me too–I told her I wanted to take a few photographs of her. To remember her by. The easier way.

I had photographed her before too. This evening was calmer and quieter and we were more relaxed. But unfortunately, when we arrived at this particular place–a beautiful one, one we would unlikely visit on any other day–the sun had already set and I had to turn the ISO up and lower the shutter speed. Far beyond I would normally go for. (We did not plan to come here–some beautiful peacocks attracted our attention and we followed a couple of them which we saw and we ended up here.)

Though I wished we got to this place earlier, she was so cool and beautiful in her blue shirt and jeans in that twilight. We agreed we would come to this place again. Earlier. We have not yet gone there again.

I took six or seven photographs there. She was calmly beautiful in all of them. In her quiet and cute beaming beauty. Now the course has ended and she will go back to her country and I will muddle through following my dream. In difficulty. The time has come for me to publish the few photographs I have taken of her. Here are two of them. Up above.  I will add the other photographs too here. And various versions of the same photographs too.

I will remember this friend of mine. Ever in my life. Clearly. Without a cloud.

Lehar: A Short Play

Last night at about 8 at the JNU administration block yard. Dastak, a students’ theater group. They performed a short play. As part of the ongoing protest. One of my friends, Vineeth S. was in the team.

Taking theater shots is notoriously difficult. For you to take good theater shots, you should attend the actors’ practice and rehearsal rounds so that you get the whole emotion and tension of the play, and to get ready with your camera at the real show with you already knowing which way so and so actors will face and how they will interact. The whole dynamics of the movements and emotions in the play.

I did not attend the Dastak team practicing the play. I heard that Vineeth was taking a part in the play when all the preparation had been over. I knew I could not take good shots. Particularly when it is a short play. Seven or eight minutes.

The play was fast-paced. A lot of active collective physical movement. The dialogue being in Hindi, I missed most of the meaning though I got the sense. The crux. The actors played crowd, representative roles. Unspecific, common people in the public space. Politically and culturally marginalized section. Politically and culturally privileged section. The actors taking one role now and another role at another time. One very effective thing was for them to have involved the audience by extending the space of the play into the audience, making the audience feel the thrill, when the guardians of the cultural and political status quo violently chase the rising subaltern.

It all happened so fast that I could not take any presentable picture. Nothing. Here are three bad shots which I took during the play.

And the two after the performance:

Vineeth (middle) with two other actors.

Can the Modus Operandi of Foolhardiness Last?

When history is first and last the composite of what actually happen, speed becomes one of the determining factors in our political vector. Thus we need both fast thinkers who respond in action physically to the fast developments, to monitor, check and counterbalance them, and slow thinkers who look through the restlessly swaying and angrily struggling crowds in dissent to string the tumultuous events of the uncertain present on the thread of history, attempting to engineer a yet uncertain future carefully but tentatively, thereby looking at the present from an uncertain point from the future and thus sometimes giving checking comments on the activities which look best in the dark light of the current moment.

When armies are at war, they don’t just fight. They plan. They have meticulously planned courses of action but the victorious party is the one who are more flexible to fit into the uncertainty they encounter at the front depending on the unknown unknown, the unfolding unknown, and the constant change in the enemy’s monoeuver. While they constantly keep updating themselves to the constant changes in strategy and tactics of the enemy, the leaders remain holding onto the main plan that transcends the bloody war whose cries are shelling their ears at the moment.

The current events at the JNU is a war of ideologies (in the plural), and it is therefore serious. The world is still living in the struggles of ideologies and this proves Fukuyama’s end of ideology struggle thesis wrong. Major ideologies are usually the products or constructs of the old handed down through generations, preached by the elderly generations and practiced by the volatile youths, mostly youths who are full of energy but have not yet developed the finer faculties of self-scrutiny and telescopic looking into the future. This youthful immature enthusiasm is what was displayed by the DSU sloganeers and is still being displayed by the ABVP.

Fortunately, the slow but eventually powerfully building swell of response to the ABVP and BJP activities has been thoughtful and it seems to have an insight penetrating through the mess into the future of the nation’s politics of freedom and questioning. There is some evident foolhardiness about the Modi government so much that it almost looks like their modus operandi, and given this we can expect a lot more muscle of the state apparatus being bent to snuff out what makes the JNU what it is. However, still considering the larger number of sensible people, including academics, historians, intellectuals, journalists, artists, professionals, that make up our country of the largest democracy in the world, and the support we are now beginning to receive from parts of the world, we can hope that freedom will win over ultimately and we will see the enemies of freedom, thinking and questioning will fizzle out and die in the near future.

My Friend Atul Kumar Singh

World Book Fair, Prgati Maidan, New Delhi, 8:15 PM, 15 January 2016

And I add the following on 17 January. The picture was taken earlier at the same event that day as the one above. This man moved faster than the shutter speed :). It was hard to photograph him in that available light without compromising on the resolution much. Not a good shot. Still here it is.

At the JNU

This tree (I guess it got uprooted in a storm) must have been lying there for quite a while now (though my eyes have missed it all this time). Let to lie–its branches have been cut cleanly, its twigs are absent (not even dry ones on the grass, let alone the leaves), and the hole in the earth the uprooting had left has been somehow landfilled though imperfectly so, maybe by time. The result–there is some hardness about it indicative of some human hands gone into it after the fall.

Just right in time, the bird came and perched on the tree.

The following is from a slightly different perspective. I moved closer to the tree.

The uprooting must have torn the roots severely–the primary roots are severed from the rest of their parts that still remain underground but covered by the red earth. They are also without the secondary roots–the smaller ones–that held the tree to the ground.

A weak sunlight almost imperceptibly creeps in through the dead roots–now just a thing.

All around, the trees are all green. This is from one:

It was lunch time, and I had to wait until the bank is back at work. So, I walked to the PSR (I don’t know what that means–everybody calls it the PSR) to see the rocks.

On the way I saw a colony of ants all come out of their underground nests up on the ground and hyperactive like they were preparing for a war. I had never seen ants hurrying like that. The action covered about four square feet. I quickly took a couple of shots–that froze their movement. Shocking. But it never occurred to my mind that I should rather take a video shot.

Zooming in you can see the ants quite clearly. But here are a couple of closer shots:

And this:

A few minutes ago there was sunlight, though weak. Now the fog has filled the sky above the campus and the invisible sun showed its presence only through its diffused light. This light has its beauty as in the following shot.

The tanks were behind me watching the ants.

Walking on, I saw a bush I had never seen, and it bore tiny fruits. Beside the dusty path, it was all covered in dust. I randomly took this shot–it’s not good, but I appreciate myself for this–I happened to choose probably the cleanest part on the tree and to take that I had to physically strain myself so much that on I could not hold the camera comfortably, which is evident in the picture. Even the composition is not so good.

A few further steps from the bush, there stood a stunted tree with a couple of its twigs broken causing the leaves they supported turn red and yellow. The leaves were dying prematurely.

Further toward the rocks, the dry grasses looked beautiful.

And this:

Looking around, right behind my back was a path leading down to a forest:

The bare branches into the far, about the upper right corner in the above picture, attracted my eyes. I zoomed that in and took the shot below:

Moving on, I saw more of this tree. It was at a far distance and I had still to zoom in. It was so far and small that I could not see the branches clearly (neither in the viewfinder nor in the monitor) that the frame has cut some of the twigs on the right off the frame.

This leafless tree led my eyes to what stood next on the left–another tree with vein like branches and twigs and not many leaves.

Looking rightward, the side of the PSR has rocks embedded into its belly:

This one is from a slightly different perspective:

Now, the summit of the PSR:

And this:

Interesting, two friends are sitting on the cluster of summit rocks. They had been seeing me taking photographs. They looked at me now, and taking the advantage I signed at them I was going to take the pictures of the rocks (it was clear they would be in). The boy facing me signed back to me and I interpreted that as “No problem. Carry on.”

And this:

Now that they had agreed to me taking the shots, I took longer waiting for a better position. Maybe the camera pointing to them long made them feel uncomfortable, the boy in blue started to move faster than the shutter speed at which I had set my camera to soot them. I turned the camera away from them, pretending to take other pictures. After a while they left (later they smiled at me when we met–I was walking back to the library and they were leaving in a car).

Five minutes after they had left I occupied their position.

Viewed from the top, it was all foggy. The sun would not come out again. Even a tree nearby wore its gloomy winter looks.

The yellow leaves of a plant were the most colorful thing visible.

The deep red flowers are bougainvilleas creeping up through the yellow bush.

The rock face below the top rocks looks calm. The central library is shrouded in the fog.

The opposite side of the hill:

When I returned to the bank, they had almost already ended their day. “Please come on Monday,” the banker attending the last customer said smiling warmly.
And this on the roof of Narmada: