- 1 A day in the life of a Wikieducator
- 2 The Shifting Centre
- 3 Film Review
- 4 Cinematic Representation of Cross Cultural Issues:
- 5 CINEMATIC REPRESENTATION OF CROSS CULTURAL ISSUES:
A day in the life of a Wikieducator
|Employer:||Deen Dayal upadhyay College, University of Delhi|
|Occupation:||Teacher, B.A (hons) English, |
I wonder whether it is only a teacher who thinks of collaborative efforts and legitimises it by calling it democratic.Who wants to take the onus of being original when there is comfort in collective faux pax.
Willing to learn should be an aspiration for every teacher, however when that wish begins to wane that is when you become a Wikieducator.
My workplace where I draw my identity as a teacher of English literature is a vibrant place where we conduct pedagogical experiments on a daily basis.My students are willing guineapigs.
I Love to
I love to do the following:-
- Watch and talk about Films
- Read and Day dream
- Sing and Dance
- Produce Radio Documentaries
What do i hope to achieve
- A Sunlit Space under the Blue
- A Space where happy exchanges happen
What I have Achieved Already
- An easily translatable belief system*
The Shifting Centre
The Shifting Center
(Synopsis of a Proposed Presentation For Freed)
The journey of margins to the center is an oft told tale, underdogs taking center stage is a cliché. We wanted to rewrite this story differently. We wanted to shift centers, instead of moving towards the hegemonic center of academic institutions both literally and metaphorically ,we wanted to create a new center with an alternative discourse.
This was to be ‘A centre of and for collaborative excellence’.
This presentation will be jointly done by the Faculty and Students of English Department. This will be a joint story telling session. This is what we do best as English Literature Teachers.
We teach in Deen Dayal Upadhayaya College which is both literally and physically on the periphery of Delhi University. It is an eighteen year old institution remarkably young in comparison to the hallowed precincts of hundred year colleges on the Campus. We dared to teach English language and literature to the BA and B.Sc students for the last fourteen years in a college which is predominantly dedicated to Science and Commerce Courses. We were doubly marginalised. The Department of English in Delhi University for many years shuffled their feet over granting us an Honours Course in English Literature and the College always believed that Great men were only born in Physics and Chemistry labs.
However the final blow came when in 2004, Delhi University in their rare flash of genius reduced the three years English Course to two years. And our very existence was under threat. Finally English Honours course came to the college by default. Three of us gave in writing how we will conduct the course without any additional teaching staff for the next three years. We took the challenge head on.
In this presentation while telling you the story of creating a new centre of English Language and Literature we will tell you how we use our skills to experiment with new innovative pedagogical exercises on a daily basis customized to specific needs.
Some initiatives listed below will be showcased in the presentation.
We use techniques of Mind Mapping and Free Writing borrowed from free and open sources of Education as learning tools.
We have introduced the concept of Group Learning instead of teacher based tutorials.
We encourage Senior Students to mentor their juniors.
We have designed two in-house courses to fill in the gaps in the existing curriculum;
1. Effective Communication Skills and Personality Development through Theatre
2. English Language Teaching Course.
At the culmination of three years, with some excellent results as our only prize we set out to collate the work we had done. Obviously the work that we had done in the previous years with equal zeal never got shared or shown. Wikieducator came as an answer to a search, a search for a space where we could showcase and at the same time sound off ideas on teaching and education which we were engaged in for the last three years. Wikieducator, we realised was also a space where we could coexist without hierarchies which invariably stifles talent in an academic space, yet a space where you stood corrected by your peers.
We think we have finally arrived at a place where we think freely, experiment innovatively and most importantly a shared space with our students and colleagues. A collaborative space like this teaches one to respect, regard, and appreciate common knowledge base.
The most fascinating thing about this space is that the Students most of whom are techno savvy and are not intimidated with the thought of using that space. They have become our instructors and guides. Their native talent at social networking sites can be efficiently tapped for communicating knowledge to their peer group. This seems to be an excellent partnership of form and content.
This presentation will highlight our shared aspirations and our shared goals and the story continues….
Dr. Anubha Mukherji Sen, Dr. Pramesh Ratnakar, Dr. Jayini Adhyapak.(All Associate.Profs in English, DDUC Delhi University)
Cinematic Representation of Cross Cultural Issues:
The Namesake ( 2006): The Film; A Case Study
Cinema always has been a potent medium for representing cross cultural issues. We need to remember that cinema powerfully documents evolving national and international identities and is the product of a cultural discourse. Cinematic renditions often signal a common cultural discourse, evoking a culture-specific memory that is personal as well as collective, rather like the way we partake in the historically significant moments of national narratives. The much acclaimed author and critic Salman Rushdie in the novel Midnight’s Children says:
Our physical alienation of India almost inevitably means that we will not be capable of reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost; that we will in short, create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, India’s of the mind.1
It is not a mere co-incidence that today we are discussing, The Namesake a film produced abroad by a non-resident Indian. Films like The Namesake is the fallout of a rapidly Globalising world where there is an attempt to cling on to ethnic and regional identities. The homogenising effect of the Mcdonald culture all over the world has led to a resistance towards integration and amalgamation. The Namesake continues the genre of filmmaking which has been witnessed in the recent past in the works of Damien O Daniell’s (East is East,1999). etc Deepa Mehta (Hollywood-Bollywood 2003), Gurinder Chaddha(Bend It Like Beckham 2002) . Mira Nair’s first film (Mississipi Masala )set the tone for this genre of films.
Clip 1: The Kolkata Montage: Cityscapes 00:05:00--------00:06:05
In this and the next clipping Mira Nair establishes the city landscapes through two collages of Kolkata and NewYork. At one end there is the hustle bustle of old Kolkata with its teeming humanity, vibrant chaos on the roads juxtaposed with a bleak black and white terrains of a NewYork suburb taken in tight frames and extreme close-ups. Kolkata has been framed through crane shots with its landmark Howrah Bridge and the Ganges flowing underneath. The crane shots provide a large canvass in which Kolkata has been indulgently and familiarly captured. The cinematic grammar immediately establishes the bias of the filmmaker towards a particular city, which is Kolkata in this case. In her directorial comment Mira Nair mentions how she wanted to establish the similarity and the dissimilarity of the two cities, how the migrant protagonists of her film blend in to both the landscapes with familiar ease after the initial period of struggle. Shots of houses nestling cheek by jowl, clothes drying outside the houses, rag a tag protest marches evoking the famous ethos of Kolkata which can be condensed into a slogan-Cholbe na,cholbe na. The squalor, the poverty of this space is apparent but the music both on the audio track and the visual track is happy and content. The spring in the footsteps of three girls going to college is almost contagious. That is the first cultural landscape that is offered to the viewer “The state of being an immigrant is living between worlds,” says Mira Nair, the film’s director. “You look outside your window and one day, instead of the Hudson River, you see the Ganges. I wanted the film to have this see-saw between cultures, a seamless see-saw. I literally grew up in this way, walking the streets of New York and the streets of Calcutta.” But out of those windows the characters in the film often see bridges: bridges in Calcutta, and bridges in New York, their similar grey cantilevers and beams offering the possibility that distance can be traversed. Both Ashoke and Ashima in their moments of crisis will view these bridges through their respective windows.
Clip 2 : In An Alien territory 00:14:40----------------00:16:20 In this clip we see Ashok walking the snow covered paths with his characterstic limp, Ashima in shadows in one side of the frame constituting a mis-en -scene of loneliness against a harsh backdrop. TheNewyork suburban landscape very stark and barren.A sharp contrast to Kolkata’s teeming population. You can see that there is no one around for miles together. How does one encapsulate the first experience of an immigrant coming to terms with his or her reality? Let us translate it in terms of our very basic and mundane needs of food, shelter and clothing, perhaps the primeval needs of every human being. Ashima’s homesickness comes out vividly when she improvises the famous Kolkata snack-jhalmuri with a very American Kellog’s rice crispies and nuts-perhaps the first cross cultural transmutation that we witness in the film.
Then we see Ashima’s lonely and laboured walk through the streets of NY in her cotton saree pulling a bag of clothes to the Laundromat. The anxiety, pain of this first encounter with America is reflected on Ashima’s face. There will be many such moments in her journey towards a new cross cultural identity. She however through the course of the film will cling to the vestiges of her Indian identity, her Indian sarees, her bindi, her Indian friends getting together over samosas every Thursday. Ashok’s small reprimand which mentions the value of dollar in terms of Indian rupee establishes the age old reason for which Indians have flocked the shores of America. This reference also helps to place the narrative in time. The chasing of an American Dream of plentitude and prosperity was a universal phenomenon which led to the formation of a multicultural America that we see today. It is however worth noticing how the Ganguli’s in the course of the film move to better living quarters.
Clip 3: The Memory Bridge 00:20:10----------00:22:00
In this footage, Ashima in her maternity gown looks at the nurse grappling with her saree. She seems completely resigned to her new location. She asks for a longer “frock” while the nurse finds her legs gorgeous .She looks at the Brooklyn Bridge and is transported to her home in Kolkata. The pain of separation from her homeland is visualized in terms of a montage of Kolkata, The mother drying her hair on the terrace, brother sipping coconut water in the adda down below, sister staring at the Tajmahal another enduring image from India, and the father painting idyllic sceneries of a tranquil world, the image of goddess laxmi carted on a rickshaw. The goddess, the Tajmahal and the painting will become recurrent cinematic motifs which will provide a semblance of rootedness to this immigrant angst which is both Bengali and Indian at the same time. The bridge will become a concrete imagery of distances that can be traversed and distances that separate us. The montage will end with Ashok bending down over a little toe on the screen.
Clip 4 : Arrival of the Second Generation Indian 00:22:45----------------00: 23:40 With this clip our immigrants have ushered in the second generation Indian, that enigmatic species who will have no memories like his parents to help him map his dislocation, disjunction from his country of origin. The Brooklyn Bridge which frames the arrival of this second generation Indian will never remind him of the Howrah Bridge in Kolkata. The pain and bewilderment of earlier scenes has given away to happiness for the central characters, they will now confidently assert their regional identities, their personal whims and fancies. They are not ashamed to wait for the letter to arrive from Calcutta or name their son Gogol. Ashok later in the film will in a humouros way remark that, ‘in a country if the president is named Jimmy, his son could be called anything’. Ashima has a new found identity; she will now uninhibitedly mimic the hospital officer. She will now stay in her adopted country to provide her son with opportunities. The name Gogol however epitomizes all the cultural confusion that can happen to a second generation Indian who will straddle two worlds simultaneously without a sense belonging.
Clip 5: Gogol Caught between Two Worlds 00:36:18:00-------------------00:39:50
This clip highlights the schizophrenic world of Gogol where he is indoctrinated to marry a Bengali, undergo a voodoo charm to ward off an evil eye and is gifted a collection of short stories by Gogol. His anathema and total incomprehension is writ large on his face. The loud soundtrack of rock music playing in his room seems like an attempt not only to drown his father’s voice but to also obliterate any links with his origins. Gogol’s search for a distinctive identity separate from his parents will begin by changing his name to Nikhil. The Russian literature and its influence on the Bengali littérateur is again apiece of history which most of us are ignorant about. The socialist, communist Russia in its heydays inspired the Indians to launch the Communist Party of India. To propogate the ideology the literature of the land was useful. For an entire generation of Bengali educated middle class Leo Tolstoy, to Dostoyevesky and Pushkin were household names in India and especially in Kolkata. I still remember reading my Russian masterpieces in Bengali translation. Such was the impact that every other Bengali had a Russian name and it was not at all out of place. Ashok’s refrain that ‘we have all come out of Gogol’s Overcoat’ and his insistence on calling his son Gogol may seem incongruous and that is because it is minus this cultural- historical semantic context.
Clip 6: The Richshaw Ride 00:45:40--------------------00:47:40
The America returned Ashima will declare her love for Ashok in front of Victoria Memorial. The colonial space is at once transformed into a romantic space. Traditionally speaking the spectacular white marble architecture which is reminiscent of the days of the Raj always has been a favourite place both for family picnics and lover’s rendezvous.Ashima is reclaiming that place once again like all other Bengalis except that she has learnt it in America. Ashima’s ride in a hand pulled rickshaw shows her natural ease and happiness in her own surroundings. She teasingly refers to Gogol as her American son, the children are embarrassed and scandalized and discomfited just like their mother in America. The political incorrectness of either riding a hand pulled rickshaw or praising Shahjahan’s Tajmahal is an Indian way of life which is indeed unfathomable for the American teenagers. The crowded railway station and yet another bridge over the Yamuna which frames the Tajmahal, all coalesce into a search for identity, a journey in search of roots. The mesmeric beauty of the The TajMahal compels Gogol to become an architect. Inevitably the cultural tourism leaves an indelible impact on on Gogol.The Indian journey perhaps indicates the beginning of an end at various levels. Next time Gogol will visit India, only to scatter the ashes of his Father and also perhaps to forget his American girlfriend.
Clip 7: Alien Encounters-1 00:56:25------------------00:57:25 Ashima has a new reality to come to terms with, son’s American girlfriend and his moving away from the Family. You see her working in a library, her new friend and all that suggests she has come a long way from the scared hesitant newly wed in the Laundromat. There is however yet another challenge that she needs to face, yet another cross cultural crossover that she needs to make. However strange, however alien she will face them bravely. The fact that children move out of parent’s house when they turn sixteen or the speculation that Max could be her son’s boyfriend are all ingredients of an alien culture which takes years of getting used to
Clip 8:Alien Encounters- 2 00:59:15------------------01:00:05 What we need to look at closely in this encounter is the awkwardness of behaviour arising out of different cultural etiquettes that clash with each other. Earlier in the scene Ashima accepts a gift from Maxine, Gogol’s girlfriend and says,”Why have you got all this there was no need”. In the Indian context this statement is supposed to be a polite way of thanking is actually a very rude remark by Western standards. Maxine is warm and spontaneous in her greetings, kisses Ashok and calls him by name much to the chagrin of Ashima. Inspite of all good intentions we can see Maxine failing miserably in her interaction with the Ganguly family.The fact that Ashok choses to tell his son the reason behind his name Gogol immediately after having met his girlfriend seems to be a last desperate effort by the parent to reclaim the son who is unrecognizable in the present context.
Clip 9: The Beginning of the End 01:22:00-----------------01:24:00 Father’s death will bring back Gogol to the family. It is interesting to note how Gogol reacts to this; he tries his father’s shoes, breaks down and cries on his father’s crumpled bed, shaves of his hair as a mark of mourning. It is interesting to note how cultural specific observances acquire significance in moments of personal crisis. Ashima thinks that he did not need to shave his hair off but Gogol says he wanted to. It would be worth investigating whether expressions of happiness, sorrow and grief is culture specific. It would be only pertinent to point out that wedding and funerals are carried out by immigrants with greater gusto than back home. It is in these tokens of culture that immigrants establish their separate identity.
I am reminded of an incident that happened to me while I was cruising through the fiords of Norway and singing Do-Re-Me on the top of my voice. An elderly English gentleman complemented me on my English pronunciation and wondered where I had learnt my English. He was very surprised to learn that I taught English in a Delhi University College. During the course of the interaction he mentioned that he had never been to London in his life though he stayed in England all his life. He said how in school atlas he saw India as a part of the huge British Empire and now British Isles have been reduced to a tiny portion in the world map. He also felt very bitter about how Indians with British passport still wore sarees and went to temples.
This gentleman was indeed was caught in a time warp but I did not feel any resentment towards him, in fact I felt sad. I as an Indian of this century would be most comfortable flaunting my origins, comfortable when I teach English or appreciate the western culture and heritage and yet tom tom my culture. This is the comfort zone which Gogol will aspire to in the last scene of the novel, reading his Gogol, traveling through the American terrain and the scene cuts to Kolkata once again. The tagline of the film says, “ The greatest journey’s are those that bring you home”.
Maxine arrives to extend her condolences in a black dress a symbol of mourning the Christian way. The house is swathed in white; Gogol has undergone a transformation with shaved head and a white dhoti and chadar. Maxine tries to cheer up Gogol and makes all the cultural faux- pas. She proposes to accompany Gogol to India to scatter his father’s ashes and Gogol immediately retreats and calls it a family thing. She proposes a holiday and Gogol, recoils in horror. She mentions how he could not be always staying with his mother and commits the ultimate sacrilege. You do not ask a grieving son to leave his mother alone. She violates the codes of culture unknowingly .He does not wish to include her in his Indian grief which parochial, narrow and selfish. Maxine pleads I consider you my family and Gogol the problem is with him and not with his girlfriend. He wants to belong to a culture which his parents imparted to him. His sister sonia on the other hand will marry an American whom we see occasionally in Gogol’s house. There is further miscommunication when the crying Maxine is consoled by Gogol’s aunt. She mistakenly thinks that Maxine is sad at Ashok’s demise. Maxine walks out in a huff leaving the bewildered and confused mashi behind.
Clip 10: The Homecoming 01:43:00------------------01:44:26
Gogol’s brief marriage to a second generation Bengali brought up in London, educated in Paris is another hurdle in his cross cultural makeover. Moushumi, his wife refuses to share his surname and refuses to be like her mother, confined to the house trying to keep the Identity flag flying high with regular get together’s at the Ganguly household. Gogol in his desperate need to belong and perhaps to fill an emotional vacuum hurriedly goes through a courtship and an elaborate Indian styled marriage. In his hurry he fails to recognize in Moushumi a truly global citizen who has lost her Indian roots. The marriage is doomed from the very beginning .Our very Indian Gogol reacts violently to Moushumi when he realises that she loves another and ends his marriage. Gogol in the next scene will be shown discovering the book of short stories written by Gogol. His life has come a full circle; his search for an identity is over. Whether Gogol is redeemed in his new persona is a question that we need to look at again and again whenever there is a documentation of cultural integration of an individual.
The film ends with Ashima deciding to return to India. She remains a tourist through her life and yet manages to acquire empowerment and a global perspective. She will happily accept her daughter’s marriage to an American but will return to the city where she came from.In her farewell speech, she says how America will always be her other home where she grew to love her husband and her extended family of friends.
It is worth pointing out, how Ashima defines the spaces that she inhabits during her life, Kolkata will always remain her home, NewYork will remain associated with her married life. She will return a widow to Kolkata hence perpetuating all the conventional associations of a homecoming. For Gogol home will be always NewYork with his Bengali origins intact.
To understand the new sensibilities of the contemporary diasporic generation one will have to understand how they view their homeland especially in the world of Globalisation. Speaking perhaps for the second and third generation migrants Stuart Hall says in his book Modernity and its Futures:
…Such people retain their strong links with their places of origin and their traditions, but they are without the illusion of a return to the past. They are obliged to come to terms with the new cultures they inhabit, without simply assimilating to them and losing their identities completely…. The difference is that they are not and never to be unified in the old sense, because they are irrevocably the product of several interlocking histories and cultures, belong at one and the same time to several “homes” (and to no particular home).2
The eminentpost-colonial theoretician Homi Bhaba calls them the hybrid people- product of the new Diasporas created by the postcolonial migrations. These people must learn to inhabit at least two identities, to speak two cultural languages, and should be able to translate and negotiate between them. The pressures of maintaining ethnic authentic cultures in an alien land and in the era of globalisation can be indeed traumatic. The experience of Diaspora and exile is even more extreme in global space where all boundaries are not merely permeable but very often merge. Is it then possible in these global times to acquire a consistent diasporic identity? Cultural confrontations and a new interpretation of the self challenge the comforts of tradition and the nation of origin emerges gradually. These films are documents of such cultural translations and can be narrated only in a manner of self –deprecation and in a half-mocking style. Homi Bhaba in ‘Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism’ says that: - In an attempt to mediate between two cultures, languages and societies, there always is the threat of mis-translation, confusion and fear. There is also and even more tragically the danger of a fearful refusal to translate, the threat of a retreat into cultural autism….3.
Ashima and Gogol will keep evolving as individuals in the context of cultural integration, cultural amalgamation and produce cultural creoles. In their cross cultural makeovers they may be unrecognizable like the triangular patties which is sold as samosas in UK,but their transformation will be inevitable and irreversible. The film The Namesake2006 is based on a novel by the same name written by Jhumpa Lahiri in 2001. She is a pullitzer prize winner for her first collection of short stories The Interpreter of Maladies 2000s.Like Mira Nair she is a second generation Indian in America. Both Mira and her friend Sooni Taraporewala who has also written the screenplay for the film identified with the novel completely and wanted to adapt it for screen. Jhumpa agreed and sold the rights of the book for the film. Two second generation Indian American women one from a Bengali lineage and the other from a Punjabi lineage felt the diasporic angst of displacement and dislocation intensely and documented it through their work. However for both of them the target reader or viewer was an Indian American and not the true blue Indian per say and yet it received acclaim both in America and in India. Interestingly enough our very own home grown Karan Johar was only too pleased to provide free publicity to Mira Nair’s film in India and holding a special screening for the film fraternity. He interviewed the director and the heroine on his special show Koffee with Karan and sang peans for the film. The interest was mutual,both Mira and Karan want a share in each other’s territory. We are already familiar with Karan Johar’s brand of filmmaking which sells abroad they are called chiffon and peppermint romances. What I am trying to point out here is the alliances that are forged across boundaries and across sensibilities across cultures for markets that are essentially Indian in origin and somewhere contribute to the emergence of ‘India’ as a brand. it is important to examine the inter-relationship between the cinema and other discourses within the private and public spheres of culture. One must pay particular attention to the ways in which cinematic texts are used and appropriated by a culture in its quest for self-definition. In this regard, it is also essential to consider not only the art-cinema of a given culture—films which often play primarily to foreign audiences—but also the popular main stream cinema of a national culture.
We also need to remember that when a novel is adapted into a film there is a transformation of meaning that takes place. Cinema and novel are two different modes of representation and the vision of the author may or may not get translated by the director of the film. In this case the diasporic angst has been crafted very differently in the novel and in the film. The different mediums have different grammar and syntax and hence convey meaning differently. For instance the marriage proposal scene as written in the novel and as captured and enacted for celluloid(page-8).Mira Nair lends the story many more nuances which are not part of the author’s vision. She locates the story in NewYork instead of Cambridge University,Massachussets. She foregrounds Ashima and Ashok’s relationship in the film whereas the novel is about Gogol’s existential dilemma. Ashok’s death is handled poignantly and Ashima’s loss is highlighted delicately and takes lot of cinematic space. Mira Nair explains it by saying that she wanted to carry the love story to another dimension .The author in an interview mentions her reasons to sell the rights of the novel for filming: 1.The author was overwhelmed by the directors offer who was an international celebrity passionate about her craft. 2. Jhumpa was curious to know how her work will be concretized in terms of visuals. 3 .Her extended family was incorporated in the film and she herself has been immortalized on the screen. And I will add two more reasons to this list; 4. Jhumpa’s Bengali immigrant angst finds a nationalistic dimension,a wider reach in terms of audience and a significant place in the emerging nationalistic discourse. 5. And lastly if you notice the cover of the book and the film DVD you will be able to infer how the success of the film has led to the reprint of the book and increased its sales figures. To quote Jhumpa, Money is always welcome (it was never a life altering sum).we really hope it is now a life altering some and then the American dream would be complete.
NOTES: 1.Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, London:Granta,1991,p10. 2.Stuart Hall ed., Modernity and Its Futures, Oxford :Blackwell,1992, p310. 3.David Boswell and Jessica Evans ed., Representing the Nation: A Reader, NY:Routledge 1999,p16.
CINEMATIC REPRESENTATION OF CROSS CULTURAL ISSUES:
The Namesake ; The Film, A Case Study.
PRIMARY REFERENCE: The Namesake : The Film, Directed by Mira Nair,2006. Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. India: Harper and Collins, 2007.
SECONDARY REFRENCE: 1.Salman Rushdie .Imaginary Homeland., London:Granta,1991. 2.PaulRiceour. Civilization and National Cultures, in History and Truth. EvastonIII: Northwestern University press, 1965. 3.Stuart Hall ed., Modernity and Its Futures. Oxford :Blackwell, 1992. 4. Stuart Hall. Cultural Identity and Diaspora. Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. (ed) Jonathan Rutherford. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1990. 5. David Boswell and Jessica Evans ed., Representing the Nation: A Reader. NY:Routledge 1999.
Dr.Anubha Mukherji Sen Reader in English Dept.Of English,DDUC. University Of Delhi.