Sunday, April 3, 2016

Illustrious Expletives: A College Magazine and After

(The cover page of the controversial college magazine in Kerala)

College magazines are little tinder boxes of passion and righteousness. Two things feature prominently in them; love and revolution. Both these passions that the young generations value most all over the world especially when they are in the college campuses need not necessarily be expressed in the matured frame of mind. Ignited by the idea of establishing a world which is devoid of all censorships and creating a society that functions on the dictums of equal rights and justice for all genders, students bring forth college magazines, which are often circulated amongst the students, enjoyed, critiqued, trashed and at times archived. This is a romantic web which is created out of the fine threads of utopian thoughts and seen from the perspective of a student it is not a bad idea to be a part of the production of a college magazine.

 (The Editorial Board)

Abundance of revolution and romance never discounts a college magazine of its serious intent. There are several college magazines published in the world, meticulously handwritten and finely illustrated by the best talents of a given time in the campus and many cherish them for their content and production. Cheap production and printing technologies have changed the look and finish of the college magazines that often reflect the editor’s and the production team’s familiarity with the magazines that they admire or the magazines that cater to their political affinities. In the pre-internet days, college magazines were the avenues where the ‘silent and deceptive’ ones amongst the students came out with their real talents in writing poems, stories, essays and so on, though many of them would put their authors into pure shame in their matured years. At the same time, so many established writers too have done their debut publishing in the college magazines, handwritten or printed.

 (a page from the magazine)

In Kerala, handwritten magazines and college magazines have always been a craze. With the arrival of blogs and social media, almost every literate Malayalee with a facebook account attempts some kind of creative writing on a daily basis. Some of them almost take revenge on the college magazine editors who had discarded their ‘masterpieces’ when they were in college, while writing in the social media. However, in the days of intolerance, at least in Kerala, a college magazine has hurt the sentiments of the, yes, the right wing people. The controversial magazine has come out from the Zamorine Guruvayoorappan College in Kozhikode, North Kerala. A cursory google search tells me that the magazines that had come out of this college before too have rubbed many people wrongly. Today, anything that refers to Rohit Vemula, Death Sentence, Bharat Mata, Islam, Beef, JNU and so on could create some tension in the social sphere only because some sections of the Indian society feel that uttering these words are as good as sedition or as good as hurting the sentiments of some religious groups.

 (a page from the magazine)

The magazine in question is titled ‘Viswavikhyathamaya Theri’, which could be roughly translated as ‘Illustrious Expletives’ or Universally known Abuses. I would go by ‘Illustrious Expletives’. The crux of the editorial content of this magazine is how ideology has subordinated language into a sort of oppressive tool and derived expletives from the words that were once used to connote the downtrodden, Dalit and other fringe communities. India tops amongst the world countries in using expletives in daily parlance. In North India, each sentence that is exchanged between people both in the public and private domain is underlined by a word of abuse, which in fact refers to the subordinate position of women in the society. It is ironical that a dominant society that calls the country a ‘mata’ (mother) and even resorts to honor killing to protect the gene pool of the family through denying the women of their conjugal rights, turns its daily language into a basket of expletives that highlight the private parts and incestuous relationships of women absolutely objectifying them into usable and transferable commodities, by excluding them even from their physical agencies.

 (from the magazine)

Such naturalization has happened almost in all the societies in India and elsewhere where the male folks have taken the reigns of the society. Language is a primary tool of control and subjugation and Malayalam, the native language of the Keralites, is not different from such ideological and chauvinistic co-optation. The magazine deals with the history of such co-optations and analyses how this linguistic turns had taken place over a period of time by slow, steady but violent exclusion of the subject communities. The magazine analyses various such manifestations in the articles written by the student writers and some of them are written by in-house scholars. To be very frank, while going through essays and expressions, what I could gather was the passion and angst with which those articles were written and I should appreciate it. But if someone asks, whether they are the ultimate critique, well researched and well argued to establish the counter points, I would say,  most of them have failed miserably. But one should not avoid the passion with which these articles are written and they should be respected for the very intention.

 (from the magazine)

While I appreciate the choice of the content that includes the mandatory translation of Rohit Vemula’s last letter where he quotes Carl Sagan (that gives the dead a sort of super sensitive and imaginative qualities and his aspiration to become a poetic writer of scientific matters stands justified despite the absence of his such writings in the public domain for qualitative scrutiny), a debate on death row, a discussion on the Kodungalloor Bharani festival where songs created out of expletives are sung as a ritual, mandatory discussion on theatre and films. Etymological origins of certain words that are currently used as abusive words in Malayalam language also are brought into the ken of discussion to prove that it too has happened as a result of the linguistic apartheid. As a neutralizing point, I came across extremely ‘natural’ romantic poems, stories and notes which perhaps, I should say, did not have any literary merit. The illustrations go well with the sloganeering attitude of the articles but not so commendable when compared to the illustration that the Kerala populace is familiar with.

 (a page from the magazine)

I am surprised why the ABVP, the student wing of the BJP took this magazine as an offence to the public or private sentiments and even went to the extent of burning a copy of it within the college premises. Like the cases that are highlighted in the vigilant media dominated by the debate television, this magazine is lionized beyond proportion. It could have been avoided by sensible people even within the ABVP (right wing does not mean being dumb). A college is an expression of the general sentiments of the students who have elected a college union. Had it been an ABVP led union, the magazine would have been of a different sort and wouldn’t have even been noticed by many. First of all by making something like an ‘internal’ college issue into a public matter it at once causes a fruitless debate and also gives a lot of media space to the not so talented people. If ABVP thinks that a magazine like this could hurt them, then what about all the mainstream magazines published in Kerala? They are much more vocal and critical about the issues. A right wing party, though logic is the last thing that they would listen to, should heed to the apparent and visible fact that censoring by force will never suppress the rebellious thoughts generated in the minds of the young people who are instrumental in producing this college magazine. Amongst them, the really talented and rigorous ones would migrate into the mainstream politics, literature and academics. And they will demolish the illogical right wing sentiments, if not today, tomorrow. 

No comments: