Inside and Outside of Time (अधूरी बातें )

On June 30, 2018 by admin

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Adhoori Baten  (Click for the Full Essay in Hindi).

 

HUG talks to Shubha, with reference to her reflective essay अधूरी बातें, on Time and Memory.

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HUG: Though your reflections in this composition flow from one thread to another, all sections, including the digressions, are woven into a tapestry. This is a weaving that I have often observed in your prose pieces. Here, I would like to talk about a seaming with Time. Time can be a prisoner, shackled and bound, but it also reserves the potential to be free, since its one end is always open and free—एक छोर खुला रहता है. Following this assertion, right at the outset, you hail time as limitless, unbounded (असीम), but then also as changing and transformative (सतत परिवर्तनशील). The first seems to indicate a geological, cosmological time, while the second leads to an identifying and measuring of time (शिनाख्त), and also its structuring (सांचे में ढालना) that eventually brings it to a visibility (पुनर्रचना, दृश्यमान)that is closer to historical time. How can the two things happen simultaneously?

Shubha: See, what you call historical time, lived time, is often not enumerated and visibilized. Think of our freedom movement. How much do we know of the hardships, humiliations and inner fights? Much is still shrouded, since what we get are vignettes. All true yes, and yet only vignettes. The knowledge system through which we filter that time period is refracted via a methodologically subjective and perhaps even Western ways. With other methods, some of them doggedly indigenous, the same can be said. Often history misses the power of time—the zeitgeist-युगीन सच्चाई, which it bypasses. This part is complicated. A slice of time has at least two or more sides to it—पक्ष और विपक्ष. Can we measure its wholeness? Are humans equal to such a task? Appreciating time is at best, a divided and fractured possibility and in that sense, time remains open-ended and limitless. And yet we must keep measuring and keeping track of the predicament that time commands. Say, women’s history in a certain time period: her voice, tone, anxieties, force, her sharp criticality and her collective thought and action, these we can keep track of. Movements of resistance are often overlaid upon glaring elisions. How are we to capture that time, a time that precludes and forestalls? Here we are attempting to splice open duration in order to make it enumerable.  This second effort cannot avoid histories.

 

HUG: In this context of identification and structuring of time and also with reference to the question of labour, you also refer to trade unions.

Shubha: Well, the trade unions have often debated and fought for a certain kind of time: the time of labour. They have often argued for a stipulated period of time for the worker, say 8 to 10 hours and so on. This is the time without, the measurable, quantifiable time within which questions of labour law and so forth are invoked. These are significant watersheds. But there is another kind of contiguity between labour and time. The relationships within the working class, the leisure time, its sense of beauty, the wage earners’ expressions which are also part of a certain time. What about the worker’s children, for instance? Or his health concerns? The feelings and anxieties that he has about his community members? The wholeness of it I mean-परिघटना. One must connect with existence and all existing tribulations. See, the trade union leader functioning within the late liberal climate has turned modern and smart, but is he sensitive and alive to the full social and cultural ambit of the wage earner? I sometimes wonder whether the unions ever were truly alive to human relationships emerging within a certain time-frame? How can one even think of total transformation of the social order without attending to the identification of such time on the part of the unions and such platforms? This has been the story of my life actually, this particular point that you are raising and I can go on and on.

 

HUG:Right. You seem to take us away from individual memory and also from the ossified, repeatable orders and rituals of the collective. But this successful forging of a relationship between subjective individual recollection and communal memory seems to be the order of the day, is it not? We see this in the forging of quick identities around language, organized religion, nation, family and closed ties of loyalty. And all these remain shrouded and penetrated through relentless, conspicuous consumption creating a happy, addled, obedient and genuflecting world. How is one able to even conceive social time or social memory in such a climate?

Shubha: I do not see social time distinct from the individual. That kind of decoupling is a mistake. One has always tried to understand and act the conflict, कश्मकश, enacted within the various forces in the social milieu. All kinds of navjagran, rebirth and renaissance dissolve the force of this conflict. These paper over power and the travails of the individual by talking merely about the individual! I mean, what have we done to the fabric of living? We have a mass of enlightened social beings but each one is feudal through and through. This is the primary diktat of the class system in our nation. There is no notion of humanity, and we use that word in lazy, daily recall. That kind of memorialization can only be ossified, alienating each one of us not into melancholy, but into happiness and more bubbling happiness. And thus, we turn more secretive and malignant by deploying memory, without actually visibilizing the hidden facets of time. We are not able to bring together the individual within the social at all, and the latter have remained an epiphenomenon.  What might structural change mean unless we attend deeply to relationships? No one even records time and we shout from rooftops about transforming it? It is in this context that I have tried to think about the selection of memory; the enumeration and unlocking of it.

 

HUG: This is an essay that is full of dazzling images—a hallmark of your writing. How does a composer, creator like you think of time even as you create art and poetry? You say, dreaming is part of memory and that the author has to be cognizant of the excess time in her life and also have a sense of leisure—यह अवकाश, यह अतिरिक्त होना—यह आज़ादी है and here you give us such a vivid image of the writer who uses memory like a tool-box; she follows the rhythm of memory. There is a discoloured thread in that toolbox that attracts all kinds of sensitivities, colour, molecules of fragrance, sounds of sorrow and joy. This is memory for the creative person. Things keep on sticking to this thread and there are things that also fall away. In fact, this is a long thread embedded with diamonds that have willingly arrived to make this thread what it is. This discoloured thread of memory hardens and turns more adept as it mellows with time.

Shubha:The creative person creates as she moves and travels, I think.  I mean creation is relentless. Expression may differ. But voices speak within us all the time. There are voices of detachment (वैराग्य ) and voices of intense and restive involvement.  This is perhaps the special sensitivity of the artist. No, actually it is more than sensitivity and feeling. It is valuation of time, beauty and also the vulnerability of people around you. The diamond studded thread visibilizes everything, brings memory to the fore. It unveils and things gain clarity. Memory and forgetfulness vie within the author. Nature and culture clash all the time and they begin to cohere too. This is such a thread that it has the power to clarify a lot of things that lie suppressed and hidden beneath our sensibilities. Do we dare to open and use our individual tool boxes?

 

HUG: In this context, one cannot but mention the section on rocks and time, which comes early on. That struck me as the most abstract and imaginative section of your essay. As if it could stand on its own, as an essential digression?

Shubha: I did not feel that section to be disconnected from my central thoughts.  You need to create a space for things which have no space amidst us. The forgotten ones—like the rock. There is no space for justice which can address the rock. Nothing can penetrate the rock. No beauty can sprout there.  We say: someone has died. Well he has died—that is all. It is all over. Gone. He cannot be seen anymore anywhere around us.  Old people, for instance, are like rocks. Their presence is liminal. Rejected and lost. Or workers: rejected from our sensibilities altogther. Or the poets, who keep on babbling.  The rock is discolored too, isn’t it? But it smells the ancient. Old, ancient and forgotten.

 

HUG: The obverse is the other section: the one on Kausar Bano and Zakia Jafri. That is the most concrete and historical point in your reflection. The section accosts us with a sudden and felt power. We are taken by surprise.

Shubha: I was thinking of so many women—those pregnant and working silently. Those who live like zombies and are deeply vulnerable visionaries. But they just live. Silently. We have full power to summon our memory for these deadened souls. You simply cannot desert them midway, can you? You must keep on visibilizing their condition. They must not turn into rocks in our memory.

 

HUG: And to turn sentimental with memory? You are quite scathing about individual wounds?

Shubha: Ah, to unearth wounds mean you are talking to yourself, not to others. It also means you are seeking some messiah and not taking responsibilities for the vulnerable and the forgotten amidst us.

 

HUG: What might relate work with memory then?

Shubha:  See, compartmentalizing disturbs me.  I like to think about the whole. The whole work. There could be some staying power in whatever we do—तन्मयता और निरंतरता. The daily wage earner’s biggest liability is that he works piecemeal. He is forced to do so. I see people living three or four lives, with different engagements.  I do not find that very dynamic.  I have a work to do. Each one of us has been assigned some work. When we choose to do what we do, we must do it well and fully—भरपूर. That kind of absorption will keep us away from the culture of using each other. When we say: the work of a lifetime, we feel that someone could identify and enumerate time in his own distinct way, by being part of the ebb and flow. That kind of living, I feel is powerful and contributory.

 

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