Friday, 22 April 2011

Fear and loathing in McLo

For the past 7 years, I have been going to McLeodganj at least once a year, with the exception of 2009. Over the years, I have seen the place transform.

What earlier used to be a quiet tranquil town is now abuzz with activity. Whether that is good or bad is not for me to judge. But I do miss the sense of calm that used to be all pervasive, even in the main chowk. What used to be a small bus-seat adorned video hall where you could watch screening of movies like Eric Valli's Himalaya or Kundun, has now given way to swanky eateries catering to the domestic and international tourist market. The nearly empty  road, where while walking down, I befriended some of my oldest Tibetan friends , is now home to only shoppers. Small empty cafes where you could spend a whole day reading, is now full of just-arrived tourists.

Though all this makes perfect commercial sense, a part of me is anxious. I have seen it happen to Darjeeling, reached after it has already happened in Shimla, and see it happening in McLo.

Somewhere, in the hectic pace of being a tourist hot spot, the place loses it's soul..

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Looking to the East, are we?

Over the past few months I have been noticing an increasing trend, particularly among the artistic community, and been intrigued by the reasons behind it.

What I see, is quite a few artists/ designers have started to communicate their names in the surname first format somewhat akin to the East Asian format. Some have even shortened their surnames to initials. For instance someone named Vikram Roy, would now call himself Roy Vikram or even R. Vikram. Whats the big deal, you might say.

Now consider this, earlier, when India was at the peak of its colonial influence, the pre-independence era, many scholars would change their names to make it more palatable to the West. So the Bandopadhyays became Banerjees, in some cases even Bonnerjis. The psychological aspect of such a change could be viewed as a desire to belong or be more user-friendly to the West.

So does the new naming order signify a definite paradigm shift in the psychology of the Indian art community. Are we trying to belong to East Asia? Also, considering that unlike East Asians, most South Asian surnames have distinct caste-based overtones, would this newly adopted format be wise?

Many public figures including politicians and film actors have earlier gone in length to adopt caste-neutral surnames like Kumar, Dev, etc. That was understandable. However, the sudden re-emergence of caste-focussed names, especially in this format, where family name precludes first name, is something that intrigues me. Are we doing it consciously, keeping these implications in mind, or is it just a fad to be "different" ?

Without being judgemental, I am just plain curious. I would love to hear the reasons behind this new naming format from all of you.

P.S. I am a self confessed Japanophile, but I have yet to feel the need to flip the format of my name.