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Back to ‘family’ at CDS – How to push false pride under the carpet! Anonymous

May 10, 2013

This is a guest post by Anonymous

I went to the CDS campus today hearing of the great tumult there, news of which has been appearing off and on in the press. I was just curious. I know personally one of the SEWA ladies; she told me her version of events. The students, of  course, have been venting their ire amply. In the past few days, I have also seen many of their comments in FB which made me want to puke, partly because of the fact that the faculty members who they revile now were fawned upon just a few days back. Normal people cannot help marveling at such extraordinary ability to reverse emotions towards the same object and at the same time, land on all four emotional feet.

But more importantly, what rattled me most was the sheer idiocy of the writing — it appears that a good many of these people cannot reason from premises to conclusion, follow the elementary rules of identifying evidence and carrying out analysis, build hypotheses, distinguish arguments from assertions, and refrain from projecting one’s own petty little grouse against the authorities as the Universal Problem of All Humanity, amen! On the contrary, the SEWA lady, who is well past the prime of her youth, was cuttingly sharp in her observations. One of the presently-serving canteen staff, she told me with much pain that they had been quite like mothers to these students. Then she added, knowing that she had to back up that with evidence: “Chummathalla – not without basis, daughter! When there was the hartal, all of 48 hours, we stayed back here to cook for these kids. My children ate bread and bananas at home but since these students would have to go without food since everything would be closed, we stayed there like we were their family. And this is what they do to us!” Clearly, she knew that evidence had to be produced if any claim had to become an argument.

So the privileged research scholars of CDS are then a lot like the lowly likes of us, who struggle in Kerala’s universities: they seem generally clueless. Yes,privileged — even though the universities of Kerala are much better supported financially, not a lot trickles down to the students . And in other ways too. For example, I cannot write this in my name because it could well feed into department politics back home. But then, they also seemed equally capable of violence as any of the political . On FB, a faculty member who asked for a fair hearing of the SEWA’s version was being shouted, booed, jeered, and also asked to ‘behave’ herself! And it appears they can be viciously casteist but in an amazingly ‘careful’ way! For instance, while this upper class, elite feminist who they probably need to correct their drafts, give references and so on, was let off with relatively inane booing, one of the students did not hesitate to hint in public that the SEWA ladies could be potentially involved sexually with the head of the institution! Obvious, isn’t it?

CDS always looks so self-enclosed, so out of bounds, its students move so closely among themselves, so older students making a hesitant entry back into studies, mostly visitors to their library, are almost instantly intimidated by their self-assurance. I have overheard them moan about presentations and classes and seminars and felt thoroughly envious– they are, ah, developing their minds, while most of us studying outside are spending a lot of our time twiddling our thumbs, watching department wars and waiting for the outcomes, and generally managing to read what we can, hoping and praying that whatever we are doing will be somehow recognized as ‘research’. So the CDS students’ FB writing was indeed a revelation to me.

I reached there at noon, looking around closely, hoping to see some remnants of the protest that we ‘outsiders’ had heard of with so much awe. On FB they seemed triumphant that they had pummeled the ‘administration’ proper, scared to death the faculty and dragged their pride to the dust. But climbing up the steps that lead to the main building, I found everything as usual, quiet. Come on, I thought, the aftermath of the rebellion can’t be so peaceful! I didn’t step into the main building; it was somewhat past lunch-time, and so I thought the canteen must be the place where one might be able to see some action! So I turned and walked down the road towards the canteen, encountering on the way, a set of handmade posters on the wall — which, to my great surprise, said ‘SEWA sisters, we are not your enemies’, and generally claimed that the conflict was not between SEWA and the students, but due to some evil ‘administration’.

Now, this was a problem to me. I have had the occasion to obtain a temporary membership at the CDS library and the quickness with which it had been granted to me nearly took my breath away. Not fair, I’d thought then, having run from pillar to post to secure various papers and other documents in a university in Kerala (which nearly gave me an aversion to studies in general).But since my knowledge of the protest was largely from newspapers, I was also confused: as far as I knew, the first reports all said that the canteen service provider indulged in casteism? And reports today morning, as well as the SEWA lady’s account, both said that these students had accused SEWA and the head of the institution.So how could they suddenly turn into ‘sisters’? So what about the sexual promiscuity that the student hinted at? Or now that SEWA women have become the ‘sisters’ of these angels in human form, maybe their taint has vanished? What about the corruption charges they made on FB – do they change now that SEWA women are ‘sisters’ of the CDS students? And if the charges still hold, is it becoming to adopt the corrupt as sisters? And why on earth are they so reluctant to pay a little more, if these ladies were indeed their ‘sisters’?A journalist I know told me that the SEWA has asked for a rise of daily food price of Rs 20, which was brought down to Rs 8! Also, why were they so reluctant to hear their ‘sisters’ side and not just their ‘brother’s? And is it not a truth of all times that food served by our mothers and sisters is, verily, ambrosia?  Since they do believe in this apparently, why not show more patience? My questions were answered finally by one poster which said ‘we are not against SEWA, we are for public tendering’ [of the canteen]. So the family rhetoric is merely appeasement; it does not mean any real trust, which we are always lectured about as existing uniquely within the family!

‘Sisters’ indeed! People who couldn’t give those poor women the dignity of the worker or a place in the radical discourse of lower caste assertion, suddenly granting them unconditional entry into the metaphorical family! What sort of family, I wonder? The traditional joint family I suppose? How interesting that the champions of the democratic spirit should turn to this ancient institution! What dishonesty and such pathetic naiveté!  Did they think we would just swallow their statements whenever they gave them and in the same order? This seems to be the ultimate nauseating ploy to avoid an honest apology. The CDS canteen was perfectly fine; I have eaten lunch there several times. The food is simple, cheap, and very clean. We are allowed to self-serve the rice and some curries generously. There is good hot water and buttermilk. Of course, there is no fancy stuff, no aginomoto or whatever – but then, this is everyday food! But then false pride – that comes from being admitted into a hallowed group whose reputation is derived from the achievements of the past generations – stands in the way of making a decent apology.

I think these silly posters reveal a most infantile attitude. They point to a generation which may be top-class in economics, but rock-bottom in ethics or plain human decency!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Aparna John permalink
    May 10, 2013 10:48 AM

    Good one. Totally agree the students lack ethics and human decency. But I need to think twice to agree whether they are top-class in economics or research methods. You’ve very clearly pointed out how badly the whole thing shows that they don’t have any grounding in research methods.This is quite worrying quality of debate from a reputed research institution like CDS. Basic understanding of social science is absent! May need the Bottomore or Penguin dictionary explaining basic demand and supply principles, institutions (governance etc), cost and profit, subsidy,gender, caste,worker’s right, social exclusion (with national context), etc.

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