Sunday, October 21, 2018
Listening to Resonant Murmurs
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
FMS#364 || Faridabad-NCR || October 2018
How were the conversations?
Your investigations, like you were saying. You were going to ask your companions about the sparks igniting their lives — theirs, and the generation before them.
Gosh, please remind me!
Come on, stop joking. You launched such an argument on Sunshine Uncle, saying you will destroy the language of ‘helpless worker’ and start a completely new investigation. And that this will inaugurate a fresh milieu.
This I cannot forget. But you have spelt it out better than me.
How generous of you. Now come to the point. Did you have any conversations?
Yes, I did. And I understood a simple thing — for a good answer one needs to ask a good question. If one asks about helplessness, you hear notes on helplessness. And if you ask about spunk and joy, that's the direction replies flow in.
A poet in my neighbourhood says that poems come from the spark of living. And that a poet’s sharpest challenge is how to write the hurts of life without sacrificing the spark.
Your neighbourhood is immense. I asked one who has seen a lot in life what she would like to leave behind for everyone.
Excellent. This idea of ‘for everyone’. This question has a sense of both end and beginning. It is both singular and uncountable.
She replied, breeze. For me that evoked a resonant ambience in which she merges with everyone.
Asking a question and receiving an answer are intertwined. You listen well. Your listening captures the resonant. Listening sometimes gets lost when the listener asserts authority. Or you could say the continuous assertion of authority extinguishes listening.
You’re saying listening is a practice. But we are mostly schooled that only writing and reading are practices!
To me it seems there is as much ferment around listening as there is around thinking, writing, speaking.
Yes, a ferment. Recently a manager in a factory missed the time to listen to what was being said. And! Soon enough, the management had to run from the factory.
This is a strong port, through it we can try to understand the fluctuations of our intellectual lives. Ideas vanish because their protagonists no longer have the capacity to listen. But, this opens up spaces for many more voices to emerge.
The authority-seeking protagonists of vanishing ideas lament endlessly. This occupies much space.
You mean a lot of speech amongst and around us is the lament of authority-seekers? How to cut through that?
With laughter. That’s how we will hear other voices. We all know the swirl of thousands of murmurs around us. But there is one problem. Management that runs away afraid, returns with the might of the police, speaks the tongue of apologies and compromises, only to stabilise again.
No. Quakes remain. The murmurs stay resonant. And this is where questions we ask make an impact. Why? Because, I feel, resonant murmurs are world-making, future-making.
In short, our understanding that power is continuously destabilised and pushed towards vanishing, gives force and scale to the resonant murmurs around us.
Listening to these resonant murmurs is the decisive capacity in the now.
The amplitude of listening is built upon the strength of speech; the strength of speaking draws on the capacity for listening
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
FMS#363 || Faridabad-NCR || September 2018
We were standing at the railway crossing. It’s a good place for conversations with passers-by. It was a bit scatter though, this time; it was raining.
My meeting places were also in disarray. It’s as if the city is thirsty for rainfall, but when it rains it throws everyone.
One young man was walking, cradling his infant in his arms. He told me something lively as the rain.
Did that thrown you then?
Almost. He said that following a high court order allowing it, the management started planning reverting to the older minimum wage. We got to know. Call spread.
Then the same. Workers from three workplaces of the company assembled in the company headquarter courtyard. Seeing four hundred suddenly appear, the management lost its composure. It made assurances.
This had to be. Decisive acts. Collective will. Instant results. These are the paths of today. They are effective. I’m seeing it myself in my own workplace. News from other places is the same.
He was trying to get the child to sleep, but he was excited. He was happy.
This face of his — which has the pride, the glow of a collective — how is it going to reach his child?
What do you mean? The child is too small.
The child is small today. Not forever. In just a few years she will see the milieu, the rules that govern dignity, and the fluctuations.
I was never able to have this conversation with my parents. They take this form — of helplessness, of being compelled. The radiance of the collective that they would have been part of somehow never reached us through their words.
Like hollowed-out scabs between generations.
Are you also not able to speak with your children? Don’t mind, I just assumed your children are now older and have entered the world of work.
Nothing to mind in this. My kids are indeed older now, and this problem is none the simpler. Let me tell you a story. One of my colleagues told me how a senior manager patted his son’s back for having become an engineer and said, good you’ve escaped the labourer’s world. My friend said it felt like a slap. Our happiness at achieving something is interlaced with an attack on our dignity.
You weren’t able to fight this attack. I mean… let me put it another way. How will you fight this attack? You are always saying amidst yourselves that your lives have amount to nothing. I’m so angry with my father for always speaking like this. And it’s so annoying that his friends are always underlining this almost with a religious fervour.
Ha ha. I see you grew up with a lot of rage. This is not a one-way street. No one wants to be a worker. One becomes a worker. It’s a complex negotiation. You want to carry with yourself your pride, your capacity, your presence, the strength of your collective life, but you also want to keep your children away from this world of labour so they may imagine other worlds. It’s so difficult to sense when this distancing becomes an abyss.
I praise this understanding of yours. But I have a distaste for making helplessness the ground for relationships. It’s dangerous.
I agree. But your rancour, your anger is only further complicating the puzzle. It’s not unravelling much. You can’t change how you grew up. But we can inspire new ways of living. It needs new descriptions.
You just spun around to come back to the same thing — my anger is irrelevant, and all we need is a different description.
Tell me if there is another way. Otherwise we’ll all burn each other down.
Well now you are just scaring me. As if not listening to you will have dire consequences.
Ha ha. Not at all.
Well, let me test a different script and get back to you. Let me ask my friends to seek out some splendid and sparkling moments from the lives of their parents and their friends. And then let them ask, how come these spectacular moments remained as yet unuttered, unheard.
It’s Storm-Time; New Descriptions Wanted
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
FMS#362 || Faridabad-NCR || August 2018
Something’s brewing in my WhatsApp.
Friends write as well as forward lots. They bring many kinds of discernment, intelligence, tenors, reflections, idiocies, and rationalities into my day.
And then you forward them on!
Not everything. I mull over some, save some for later, forward some to close ones, and some to groups.
So listen to one forwarded to me. Though I must say, I get way too many “Good Morning” messages and fruits and flowers.
Ha! Maybe you have the rating of some god and those are offerings!
Maybe. It’s a bit facile. But listen to this message:
Time of life. Time for work. Time of employment. Earth time. Production time. Family time. Lifetime. All these are not irreconcilable. They are uneven.
Don’t mind. Don’t mind. Let him speak. Get into the groove.
Now I see what a forward I got the other day meant. It said:
This isn’t the time for criticism. It is the time to describe anew.
Exactly! I thought we were on the brink of a new description here, which is why, don’t interrupt!
Carry on then.
When I’m by myself, my thoughts circle around my family. What has happened, what is about to happened, what might happen, what I might have missed, what will come next, and so on. My mind drafts different kinds of pictures.
What do you do to break out from this vortex?
That happens when I meet someone else. Some topic jumps at us, and other worlds take over. In a flash the time of the family and the time of the world tremble together.
Tremble? In fear? Or do you mean something else?
No no. Think of the coolness of dawn. Call it a pulse. A quiver. When two flows come close to one another, collide, melt into one another, then a different form emerges. It is neither family, nor world.
Let me. I received a message:
Everything runs on our money, on our hard word. And those who rule over us know this.
I wrote back that everyone knows this, but it remains as a public secret.
Wait. Listen to the reply:
It was a public secret. Not any more. No one thinks any longer that power is the be all and end all. No one is waiting for anyone else to do things for them.
This reminds of a message. Let me find it. Oh, here:
Some work so they can eat. Some ask that they be fed. Some loot and eat. Those who loot sermonise. Those who live by hard work keep to themselves. Those who ask stare into eyes.
They announce themselves as honest. They’ve got some license to loot. They don’t even know the definition of ‘worker’. Are we a football? We don’t go begging. We were born to end labour. Petitions and prayers won’t end labour.
That was one storm. Who was that?
Yeah, this quality of time cannot be tied down, fettered. It stays invisible. But when it appears, it unseats many entrenched ideas.
This storm-time seems connected to the subterranean. Always flowing. It stays out of sight. Eruptions such as these give us a sense of the force that is brewing.
It seems to me this storm-time is in everyone around me. It erupts and ebbs. It’s frequent now.
You think the subterranean brewing is palpable today?
I cannot prove it; I can certainly sense it. I agree with you, a new description is definitely needed.
Not Inert, You’re Uranium
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
FMS#361 || Faridabad-NCR || July 2018
Continuous, increased production at continually reducing cost. We humans cannot keep up. Neither can Earth.
They’ll bring robots.
And what will they do about the planet? How will they replace it? Earth is this close to losing it on us humans.
So what should we do now?
We just have to start things over.
We have to reinvestigate why humans started production at all.
Not only started, but accelerated. Why?
There’s one ready answer: To control nature, and to make our lives better.
This answer no longer satisfies. Earth is not inert.
This is something I try to hold in my mind all the time, but cannot sense its dimensions in their fullness.
We experience the liveliness of nature. Got stalled by the rain. Felt peace in the shade of a tree. Fainted in hot summer breeze. Teeth clattered in the cold. Which incomprehensible dimensions of the earth?
Coal. Oil. Uranium. Lava. Earthquake. Begin from here, and earth is not inert.
Why this call to take the word ‘inert’ seriously, and also to displace it?
A predicament is shared by all. A pain from the feeling of being seen as inert underlies everything. And a restlessness that the expression of not being inert comes so intermittently.
I’ve been listening to you all quietly all this while. Don’t mind, but this conversation — though interesting — is a bit abstract. How is our living connected to it?
Inert, incapable, lazy, insufficient. These pervade our life. Just recently, 400 permanent workers found the gates of the factory locked on them. Anger, astonishment. And that feeling of having been seen as inert.
That’s there. Do what you can. Go on. Go to the labour department. You’ll get hollow dates and empty assurances. Go to leaders. They’ll advise that you wrap up and calculate your dues. Go to provident fund officers, and they will say they’ll investigate. And in all this, restlessness will rise, and that feeling of being shrunk.
So transparent, and yet the apparatus thinks it cannot be read.
Its masquerades are exhausted. And we can say we are the ones who have exhausted these disguises. The emperor is naked. How come it was a child who saw this?
Wasn’t carrying the weight of the past. Said it as she saw it.
The apparatus calling us inert is one of its masquerades.
Proliferate. Scattering can only be upended by proliferating. Percolate every story, seep into every heart, permeate every mind, radiate from every thought.
There you go becoming abstract again! You mean 400 people are not less. Spread out. In small groups, meet many at factory gates, at the time of entry, at the time of exit, at lunch break, in tea stalls, at neighbourhood gatherings, in buses, in trains, any place. Be uranium.
Apparatus fears this. You’ve always been that dancer who pierces the masquerade.
Entrapment of Less
Faridabad Majdoor Samachar
FMS#360 || Faridabad-NCR || June 2018
The company’s lawyer was of the opinion that there is actually no answer to this complaint. He said if someone raises a complaint that she or he has been dismissed without being paid dues, then what answer can there be?
What complaint was it?
One of the few that the Labour Department still receives, and which the department then asks the companies to reply to.
To most workers it’s clear that no relief is going to come to them through the Labour Department. Things have to be resolved at the workplace itself. You have to act precisely and immediately in large groups, or small, within the workplace.
But if one finds oneself alone, then a complaint to the Labour Department does yield a response.
You’re saying a complaint can become a step.
Yes, a complaint can indeed be an effective push.
Intriguing. I’ve always thought of complaints as a negative thing. It’s been my understanding, as you well know, that complaints are like air coolers. They bring the temperature down a notch.
What’s negative in that?
Things stay hanging between hot and cold. They don’t become acts. The onus keeps slipping and gets deferred to someone else, another. But I’m curious about what you’re suggesting.
You might be right, though. And yes, my reading is a bit different.
There’s a debate between us about complaints. Some of us are even convinced that this entire system is standing on the edifice of complaints.
What I have seen of collisions leads me to think that we have to bring in discernment and variation in our reading of complaints.
For instance, a complaint may open out a situation but remain confined to the person who has raised it. A frenzy of activity may begin between the Labour Department and the company on questions of illegalities. The department might then send summons, hearings could be held, and a figure for compensation begins to hover in the air. The company makes an offer to the worker, hoping to wrap things up. At this juncture, the shape things will take depends both on that worker’s ability to quicken his steps and keep the pressure on the company, as well as make an assessment of how long he is going to be able to keep this up.
In all this one also has to keep the mind still, and life running.
And everyone has ways by which they make an assessment of these capacities in oneself. It’s an awareness one may have about oneself, and yet it blurs when regarding others.
Only to find a deposit of it in some leader!
True, true. But I was hinting at another dimension. Everyone has an expectation of the scale and striving to which they think. They wait for it to emerge, and stay in anticipation of it. This sense envelops our own and collective acts at all times.
So your claim is that when we talk through or listen to a language of complaints, we are making an assessment of, or critiquing, or are in exasperation of the qualities of scale & striving that we find ourselves in.
For instance if I thought that this act of mine will enable 40 of my co-worker to join me…
But found only 15 in my support. It is here that a disappointment settles in, an anger and a litany of complaints takes over. Is this what you are hinting at?
No. I am hinting at not being able to read the enabling of 15 to stand and act with me. I’m talking about seeing this as less. And seeing the interval of this moment as less and as being of no consequence. Everything falls as less. 15… 500… 1000… 4000… 100,000. Always less. It is endless, this entrapment of less.
Sometimes we do laugh at each other on this disjoint.
Scale becomes everything and the intricacies and play of steps get de-valued. It’s self harm. Complaints trouble me.
Complaints are froth. Flotsam. Floating over what?
Over how we consider and regard one another.
Let’s all begin again!!