HIV/AIDS: Closing the Legacy

Ganga Rejuvenation: Old Water in a New Bottle?

Glory Alexander & Rajesh Talwar 28 November 2014 Ravi Agarwal & Himanshu Thakkar 21 November 2014
With over 35 million victims since its explosion in the 1980s, and as many individuals currently living with it, HIV/AIDS has duly acquired a status of exception in the popular imagination on public health. It is, indeed, the most aggressive epidemic of our recent history. The creation of the World AIDS Day, in 1988, seemed to mark the turning point of a permanent collaboration between governmental structures, independent bodies and individual initiatives towards the ideal of an hygienic world. But have we settled this yearly celebration for the lower goal of an awareness effort, when the actual objective should indeed be the total eradication of the virus? Then, what are really the scopes of concerted efforts, when deep shifts within and across cultures have not been attempted radically? Where sex is a familial taboo, children can, rightly, only turn to the education system to get the exposition guaranteeing at once the blossoming of each and the safety of all. And schools will be at the forefront of the national campaigns of awareness raising, this December 1st. But how far can these singular programmes percolate down into an education culture still gravely curbed by the puritanism of Victorian values? Indeed, AIDS is more than a disease: it has become an episode in the cultural history of humanity, and only a thorough cultural response will succeed in making the current generation the last HIV-positive humans of history, and thus closing its legacy. So that we are not observing the World AIDS Day on the 1st December in ten, fifty or hundred years. This week on LILA Inter-actions, Glory Alexander looks back at 28 years of responses to HIV/AIDS in India; she singles out the successes and remains concerned about the deep cultural hindrances. Rajesh Talwar evaluates the authenticity of world political leaders around the cause, and he explains how he discovered literature, and in particular theatre, as a powerful means to energise and complement institutional initiatives.Read button
Among the clouds, above our highest mountains, an old, very old, bearded man may be laughing. Or weeping. Twenty-five centuries, and one counter-example to his famous statement has emerged. We have indeed stepped into the same river twice. Our engagement with the Ganga today has not proved Heraclitus wrong. On the contrary, it shows he was doubly right: “for other waters are [ not ! ] continually flowing,” into the Ganga. What is flowing in the Ganga, between the waste, the pollutants, and the excrements? Would one find a drop of pure water as it arrives on the Bay of Bengal? No surprise, then, that all the promises of a revitalised India included the indisputable intention of cleaning the Ganga, during the last General Elections. It is a popular token, satisfying at once the fervour of the millions worshiping the river, and also the enthusiasm of the others, striving for a path towards a ‘developed India’. But behind the communications feat is a pre-existing history of nation-scale initiatives around the eco-system of the river. Over four decades, the governmental efforts have failed in fetching any result on the ground, highlighting the inefficacy of our political imagination, blocked at the historical stage of centralised governance. So, after decades, can we really talk of ‘rejuvenation’? This week on LILA Inter-actions, Ravi Agarwal highlights the short-sightedness of a political vision seeking at once development, and rescue from technological solutions. Himanshu Thakkar assesses the history of India’s public responses to the degenerating Ganga, and remarks how even just the few initial declarations of the political class betray the same deep misunderstandings about the nature and needs of our river.Read button

Children’s Day Out: Bringing Up Parents

Brave New World: Order in Place?

Himanjali Sankar & Gayathri Sankar 14 November 2014 Pravakar Sahoo & Ludovic Aubin 7 November 2014
Calvin is sitting on the back of the car. – “How do they know the load limit on bridges, Dad?” – “They drive bigger and bigger trucks over the bridge until it breaks. Then they weigh the last truck and rebuild the bridge.” – “Oh. I should’ve known!” The mock-heroic Calvin and his tease-happy father reveal a picture of lightness. In the words of another great American cartoonist, Theodor Seuss Geisel, the fact is but an evidence: “Adults are just outdated children.” As India celebrates Children’s Day, let us shuffle the classical kinship order to reaffirm the deeply playful potential of the parent-child bond. But this rapport goes beyond the jokes, the laughters and the complicities. A unique, intense and prolonged life experience, it must be recalled as the possibility of actual cohabitation, of patience, and of comprehension, when the everyday proximity makes understanding more than a luxury: an absolute need. This week, Gayathri Sankar and her mother Himanjali inverse roles in the performance of a dialogue, to explore the empathising capacities that develop through the years of a familial relation. Veritable nest of all human sociability, the family is also the fundamental playground of communication, expression, and language. Through the practice of a playful exercise, they make us wonder: can we, truly, arrive at the point of view of one another?Read button
Between dreams and actual history, it takes more than good intention and even genuine resolve for nations to turn ideals into concrete realities. Our words reflect the ambiguities of such major changes. We may talk of emerging economies, but the term emergence implies processes arising from existing systems, yet novel and distinct from the properties of those systems. Are the drafts of our emerging economies so fundamentally different from the rules of the past and present world orders? Likewise, before becoming the politically correct term of Western economists, the very word development went back to the late 1500 Middle French desvelopper, which meant taking out of an envelope. But, indeed, while developing countries is clearly the hashtag of our age, we cannot expect the said countries to unveil themselves completely free of the marks and folds of the Western envelope. A few months back, the new world leaders of the BRICS announced proudly the dawn of a new financial day, with a New Development Bank, multipolar in its very structure. But while its inauguration is still months away, doubts already arise as to the power struggles of its members, starting with China and India. And, on the other side of the Pacific, Brazil is portrayed as the ultimate model of a deeply multicultural society, while the recent popular arisings there have reminded us of the reality of its economy dependent on huge income disparities. This week on LILA Inter-actions, Pravakar Sahoo goes back to last summer’s instantaneous exaltation behind the BRICS’ New Development Bank, and highlights the deep paradigm shifts that the member countries will have to tackle to build a truly multipolar world order. Ludovic Aubin reflects on the recent Brazilian elections and their direct roots in the political era of Lula’s Partido dos Trabalhadores, which culminated in the paradox of the modern, multicultural and emerging economic power as a necessarily fragmented society.Read button

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the writers are their own. LILA Inter-actions will not be responsible for the views presented.

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