The Unsaleable Triad: Time, Trust, Truth
At a time when India’s well-pronounced ‘progress’ agenda, as illustrated in the Central Vista redevelopment project and the like, has come to a direct encounter with the songs of the farmers of Punjab in the Capital, at LILA we are intrigued by all that seem to ‘sell’ and all who seem to ‘buy’ here and now. The market is a spectrum that covers everything from ideas to food grains—it makes you feel as though there is nothing outside of its reach. Our inquiry is not only to understand the curious interplay of objects and subjects within the constantly changing marketplace, but also to see if there is any possibility of ecologising the contemporary market while still retaining trade within a globalised world.
That inquiry brings us to a certain space of individuality that we feel must be necessarily nurtured amid the larger interactiveness of the world today. Dale Carnegie playfully brings this challenge to our attention thus: "Personally, I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms." You may find eating worms strange and that impression of yours might even be unwittingly reinforced by the fish that might relish strawberry and cream if they are fed with that. The question is, who decides?
Indeed, the global market exposes every local to a proliferation of ideas and objects, and that experience could be both enriching and devastating, for, it is a space where the lines between desire, persuasion and compulsion get blurred. And, it is in a crisis such as what the world is facing today, that we take note of these impacts, as it is before death’s intense presence that life’s most critical inquiries are always made.
The question that we ask in this issue of Inter-Actions themed ‘Market’ is this: Is there a possibility for the ‘upcoming world order’ to be a product in an equitable, just and collaborative market? Is there a way of co-operation that will replace our sense of strangeness about the ‘other’ with a sense of wonder and curiosity? If we were to make trade in a co-imaginative place, what are the factors that must be considered while bringing it to life?
The Co-Imaginative Triad for Future Trade
Time: Shivani Karmarkar in her regular column Aesthetics of Conflict discusses ‘time’ – how its availability or non-availability, its appropriate or inappropriate use, may lead to impacts ranging from the psychological to the phenomenological. We are indeed living at a time that is characterized by speed, a facet of modern life generated by the advancement of technology and perpetuated by the new market forces. If we must bring in a new order of things, we must take charge of time, and not let time take charge of us.
Trust: While the barter system worked on mutual trust and an understanding of each other’s needs, the market today has become a breeding ground of distrust and betrayals. In order to claim an ecology of understanding for our times, the most crucial movement that we need to nurture is in the direction of an urgent reclamation of trust in our societies. It is here that politics and the ideas it sells to the contemporary mind become important. The game of trust/distrust is played out to the fullest in the political arena. It impacts the socio-economic fabric of the country, and our Basic Conversations this quarter with writer NS Madhavan and sociologist Surinder S Jodhka offer us valuable insights about this playfield.
Truth: “What is Truth?” is a question that the world’s spiritual leaders have avoided answering directly. But, we have today gained the audacity to describe our own times as the post-Truth era. As Unny’s Leetatoon ironically indicates, we are already looking at a sequel for our post-Truth experiments. The elusive value of Truth is the biggest challenge for both buyers and sellers today—by-passing it is not the best way ahead for humanity. The question is: Can we now begin where Gandhi was forced to stop?
Our LILAIGHT of the Season is, for the first time, not a space but an idea, which is also an activity: Work. We present some radical reflections by design thinker Friedrich Von Borries and writer Manav Kambli on the concepts of work, productivity, human labour and the futures of their interactions in an attempt to understand the above triad of Time-Trust-Truth.
This quarter’s Renaissance Person is Anshu Gupta of Goonj. In a marketplace where money is identified with dignity, how do you position ‘charity?’ How do we bring a change in this paradigm, “where charity is received with dignity and without compromise”? Again, this brings us back to ‘work’ as a space where time, trust and truth must meet and lead one to a sense of meaning and dignity.
Reflections further accentuate this fundamental proposal that we are putting forth in this quarter: Our own experience of going through this pandemic, resulting in the delay in the production of this issue, has helped us engage with our writers in an almost visceral manner. We bring some voices that one may not normally associate with the ‘market’ – they show us how we can still cross over, wetting our feet in the river and yet not drowning: Baul singer Parvaty Baul’s reflection on ‘Sadhana’; Srijan Sandip Mandal’s thoughts on treading the path of credibility in history-writing; Subodh Patnaik’s experiences of theatre activism in rural Odisha; Thommen Jose on creating an App at his own cost, in an effort to be a true friend of the local farmers who are fast losing their ground in the global-capitalist market.
Wordactions this time presents translator Arunava Sinha who speaks of being a gatekeeper of the literary poly-system—resisting homogeneity from taking root in the country. Arunanva’s voice finds a fitting parallel in Bose Krishnamachari, our featured artist in Artactions, whose installation on the dabbawallas of Mumbai finds its place on our cover, too. His multifarious engagements with the world of art reaffirm the relevance of our T-triad in a market-driven world.
As we release this issue, the protest music of the farmers from Punjab is being shared widely on social media platforms, making us wonder how potent inversions of the very same media created by the capitalist forces and stubborn establishments, aiming to suppress and subjugate, are made possible when people get together keeping time as in a song, upholding their trust in the victory of labour and their belief in the true human need to feel alive and free.
Against this backdrop, we wish our readers a new year that must help us heal and make good for the time we seem to have lost. We hope to hold on to the lessons we have learnt through this isolating time. We deeply trust our basic instinct to survive and thrive in joy. Happy 2021!