Sunday, August 11, 2019

Unprecedented Confusions

FMS#373 || Faridabad-NCR || July 2019

Did you see the video?

Which one? The one you sent with the line "to increase your confusion"?

Yes. Isn't your workplace becoming somewhat like that?

Yes, something like it is happening. But the dexterity of the workplace in that video was of a different order.

Arre, at least show us the video!

I’m sending it. But let me quickly run you through it. It’s a PCB board making factory. The thing is, they make with precision, dexterity, and automation, thousands and thousands of boards, but they also make customised, unique, single boards with the same precision.

Raju keeps telling me about his circuit boards and sometimes shows me complex designs. I should tell him to have them made there. That’s possible, isn’t it?

Should be. Anyone can send a design from anywhere. They test it, make a board, and send it back.

So where’s the confusion?

What I understand is that along with doing our work in factories and workshops, we keep tinkering with, probing, and exploring technical objects.

It has been so for long, long years.

True, true. Our Autopin settlement was built by us over so many years. So at least for that long, we have.

The city itself is built that way.

Actually, much of the videos that circulate are self-made, self-learned, peer-gained.

Looks like it’s Raju-time! It’s a capacity, his confidence, becoming visible to all. He is happy, we are happy. So where’s the confusion?

The language that makes the world of work familiar and known no longer holds that world. Robots, artificial intelligence, automation, computation are changing the contours of how we work.

Work itself is getting confused!

And within this atmosphere, everyone's inner Raju is emerging stronger.

And the way we all are knitting, mending, binding, stitching the world together is probably unprecedented.

Amidst this then, we have two kinds of confusion. A joyful confusion and…

And an astonishing confusion.

FMS_373_Jul2019 by baatein1 on Scribd

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Beyond the Bounds of Certain and Uncertain

FMS#372 || Faridabad-NCR || June 2019

Can we agree that the question of ‘what life will be’ is always an open question?

For everyone?

Yes. Open for everyone, at all times.

So are you saying that nothing is certain?

Well done friends! What a cool conversational gambit. My lemonade seems warm in comparison!

There you go again, trying to sidetrack our conversation with irony. This isn’t about certainty, surety, uncertainty, unpredictability. Something else is at stake.

Ok. See life beyond ideas of certainty and uncertainty. So then, how else? Ok, the future is open. I agree intuitively with that. And then?

We do see each others’ ferment. Sometimes it feels like we are all engines. Whenever we see even a small dip in another’s ferment we ask, where is your spirit? What is making you feel discouraged?

Well, my friends mostly tell me I am as if in a space shuttle.

Well, we can see that. You never have an air of despondency hang over you. A thought strikes me: To keep open the question of what life will be, is something that needs nurturing between and practice by all.

You’re saying that asking another about the loss of their engine-fury comes from a shared terrain of intimate affinities.

And where does this shared terrain come from? I’m not asking rhetorically. This question really does crop up in my mind often, navigating the places that we do, with their uncountable people and millions of practices.

It’s an elegant and large question. A mystery, a riddle. The kind that gets flush with new tides of energies with every incident.


Don’t you feel that, on the assembly line, all of us could swing to a un-predictable rhythm—resonating with each other, unknown to each other—at any time? In a strange way we feel it, we can even claim that we know it, and sometimes we even speak it. This is probably what keeps the question, ‘what life will be’, open.

You might find this a bit out of context here. But do listen. In the factory in Manesar, I feel very cold while I work, even in this heat of May. The new machines, the new robots — they seem to need 16 degrees to be stable, otherwise it is said that there will be havoc. We are given training in yoga to help us adapt to new robot ways. And when I come out at the end of the day, friends say it’s all fun for you, you don’t have to sweat. And I say that I’ve done too high a production, too high.

So, what is this about?

The story is that I am really confused. Work is changing. The design of work, the way of work is changing. The logic of wage doesn't register in any meaningful way. What’s the calculation based on, I don’t get it. I do work equivalent to my wage in about one minute, maybe two.

What you are saying? Are you talking about possibilities? Are you saying the radius of our conversation is limited? Are you saying the ground has shifted?

What I’m probably saying is that the word ‘life’ itself has to be thought differently.

FMS_372_Jun2019 by baatein1 on Scribd

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Confidence of Many

FMS#371 || Faridabad-NCR || May 2019

Listen to this message I received: A heat wave courses through our factories this summer. Battles overflow from shopfloors onto streets. In one factory, permanent workers and supervisors were beaten up by temporary workers. Police. Permanent workers concede not to pressurise temporary workers when they refuse work. Day before yesterday, the MD circulated a memo to the staff: “It’s not right to issue dismissals with immediate effect. A 15-day notice should be given, so alternative work can be sought.” This is when till now the attitude has been to issue prompt dismissals at 2 AM!

Wah! An excellent description of today's milieu. There's a sense of current fluctuations in temperature around productivity.

We all sense these fluctuations. But describing them requires a certain observation and focus.

In a way this message expresses our collective achievement.

What do you mean?

There’s an image of many in the message. There’s a clamour. Collisions. Decisions. Changes. This is what collective is. And I say achievement because it has a confidence, a confidence of many.

This capacity — taking sharp decisions, taking decisions quickly — is an attribute of the new generation. Their idea of time is different. Perhaps the hold of institutions and organisations has weakened.

My neighbour works with an old insurance agent. He was laughing and telling us how today young people want policies lasting only five or ten years, no more. They tell him, who knows what lies ahead. Earlier people used to hear him out on 25 and 30 year policies.

There's one more angle to the liveliness of this message. It has a whiff of 2011 and 2012. The debates and arguments on time and pressure. We understood so much, when for ten days we de-occupied factories of the management’s control. We listened to each other, saw one another.

So in the last ten years, you’re saying, these debates and discussions have taken on new guises and seeped into daily, common conversations?

Yes. Everywhere, this fluctuation, this shift in temperature appears as an intonation, an accent, a shade in conversations. Such-and-such a thing happened in this factory. That thing happened in that factory. This happening and that occurrence, in this locality, in that city, in that region — these appear in the expanse of conversations. They make milieus.

It’s where the elan of this message comes from.

Fms May 2019 by on Scribd

The Making of Intimate Affinities

FMS#370 || Faridabad-NCR || April 2019

Today was amazing. Talked a full 54 minutes on the phone.

How come you managed that kind of time in duty hours?

There’s been a salary delay. So we all decided not to appear for work. A few hours, and we’re getting messages that salary is ready for disbursal tomorrow.

So simple. No tension. Enjoying the luxury of hour-long conversations. Is this for real?

Dost, I am now 24-years-old. Have been working for about eight years. The most effective acts are those which are made in a collective way with the expansive elasticity of freedom. This much I’ve understood. Like todays’ decision of not going to work. The salary delay was going on for a week. Will give half. Half later. Very irritating. So we all decided to withdraw for a day.

Now! When did this step become so simple! Word spreads between 1500 co-workers, a decision gets made, and acted on. And all this within a shift change? Remarkable.

This is no surprise. It’s common. We’ve done this many times. Ask any worker from any factory. It could be a 100-worker workplace or a 15,000-worker workplace. I bet that rare would be a worker who has not been part of at least one such moment. Rather, many times will be the norm. One can keep thinking the why’s and how’s of this, but no one can deny that it happens.

But you are also saying that this step is without tension. Rather, that it is with degrees of freedom. Are you saying that underlying this is a shared understanding of precise effects through minimum effort?

Listening to all of you it strikes me that these steps bear a deep impulse — an impulse of commoning and the making of intimate affinities.

Say more?

We sense it most in moments such as these. That’s why when you talked to your friend on the phone, you listened. Didn’t interrupt. Weren’t restless to have your own advice heard. This capacity is drawn from the commons of intimate affinities.

Yes, the conversation went very well. She shared the upswings and downswings of the last five years — her decisions, her promises, her doubts, her resolves. Yes, true, I did listen with care and patience. If this is because of an intimacy that comes from commoning, where else would we sense it?

Well, like when someone hums a tune and everyone picks it up?

Aaha! So the tune is important? That’s dangerous.

Agreed. If the tune comes hemmed in within a boundary, it does strike a suicidal blow. It exhausts.

Yes, if seen as boundary just of place. But if considered in the flow of time? Small acts, their repetition, their murmurs change the course, intensity, and recognition of the act itself.

Acts repeat. They appear here, then elsewhere. They get heard in another somewhere. They are borrowed here and there. They allow a discarding of other acts. They travel around and emerge somewhere as new, exciting. No one is held up on a pedestal in this viral process of commoning.

They are disobedient.

Of commands!

Irreverential of pedestals.


These affinities, these intimacies of commoning emerge in the force of our acts that persuade us out of the hold of commands.

When we push commands and pedestals away, to the edges.

This is also a way of seeing human experience.

This cannot be lived through or thought in sad or mourning ways. These are to be felt and lived with exuberance.

Fms April 2019 by baatein1 on Scribd

What's the Issue?

FMS#369 || Faridabad-NCR || March 2019

Who says, “What’s the issue”?

“Issue”, meaning?

Hello, I don’t know any issue.

Ooh! Issue means a case, an event. Some can be big. Some are small.

So, what’s your issue?

Speak softly. Issue is serious and ears are trained.

Relax. The sounds of these machines will keep our voices hidden from surveilling ears.

I’ve heard that they do ear exercises.

That’s their issue. How to keep ears alert.

These machine-worshippers never care for machines. Sounds will keep on growing.

It’s a circle. Alertness of ears. Sound of machine. Wear and tear of ears. Sound of machine rising. More alertness needed from ears. And on and on.

So this is your issue?

No. This is the issue that haunts cruel intelligence.

Aah! Speak softly. Electricity is gone; the generator will be on soon; speak then. But, what’s your issue?

Accident report. I’ve started understanding what accident report is. It’s crucial to get a written version. When an accident, do two things. One group, quick, go help. And the other group, go get the accident report written. Take copies.

You’ve thought a lot on this. So it does not remain an issue for you then.

What is issue? A kind of a knot? A complex knot? Or something else?

In my understanding, when we say ‘issue’, it’s about some kind of a dispute. Like if there’s a dispute about an accident.

Disputes are many. So are we swimming in issues then?

Softly please! This is interesting indeed. You will ask, why? Well, many disputes are contingent, they are relevant at the moment they are occurring. They have opposing sides, wrestlers and spokespersons.

Are you saying that some disputes becomes issues, and recede from us?

That’s their doubleness. Fluctuations of disputes stay within us in many formless ways. But if they are within us, the question becomes, who needs, who propels the turning of disputes into issues?

What I gather is that giving a form brings in a degree of control, a sense of being in power. It gives a perforated world an artifice of legibility.

But along with it an image of a collective gets created too.

Agreed, a collective image emerges. But this image is always a blur. The transformation of our world is rapid. Issues bubble up, and quickly dissipate. Some do reap short-term advantage from this momentariness.

The collective image is perforated; underneath it flow lively, alive, robust disputes with “no demands”.

We keep taking steps, acting, and do not articulate any demand. This happens in our workplace, in many workplaces, all the time. This confuses the management, makes it fearful.

Our self-confidence grows.

fms March 2019 by baatein1 on Scribd