At the Clark House initiative when Lawrence spoke of the emergence and evolution of the social contract; and suggested ways in which we can resist- by active dissent, by withdrawal, by evolving a new relationship with nature, and spoke of the shifting terrain of the sunderbans where conceptions of property and nature have evolved ways of speaking to one another, I was reminded of the MCGM stakeholders meeting that we had organized a few weeks back for the residents of koliwadas, gaothans and adivasipadas at the ward office in Dadar.
As every community sent its representatives to voice its concerns to the MCGM while it is formulating the new Development Plan, there seemed to be distinct differences in the way that the arguments were put forth. The goathans seemed to be the most able to deal with the language of bureaucracy and planning- able to argue through legislations and documents. They even felt equal enough to the representatives of the MCGM to level base allegations against them. The koliwadas were more militant and aggressive- asserting rights to the sea, to livelihood that had been taken away from them- an anger towards the usurpers of the rights that they see as their and a demand to be seen as the ‘original’ inhabitants of the islands. The gentlest and the shortest presentation was made by the adivasipadas- who are denied existence in the plan almost entirely as those concepts of identity/property lie outside the realm of the plan almost entirely. Almost overwhelmed by the articulate and vociferous voices of the other two communities they felt that they were going to be subsumed under the clamor. They asked only to be recognized, be given water, electricity and some basic services- but the moment that I remember the most was when one of them stood up to speak first of the sun that they need to see in the morning- and ask that tall buildings not be built to the east of where they live- and most memorably when he decided to speak for the trees and the snakes of the forest as they did not have any representation in the room. He asked that their rights to ‘be’ in the city be also protected- and be prioritized as important when evolving the development plan. He told a story of how leopards and snakes are protesting against their habitat being eaten away by human beings by attacking them; and how he understood the way they feel because as an adivasi he empathized with their plight. He saw himself as half-animal and seemed to feel even more wild in the presence of the din of that conversation.
I also remembered the island of Majuli and the relationship with the ever shifting landscape of the tribal villages who lived on stilts and moved to higher and lower ground whenever the land changed shape; and the satras whose diagram hovered like a ghost over the land and reasserted itself after every monsoon- in exactly the same way.
And I thought of withdrawal from the clamor of conversation that speaks whatever the audience want to hear; of silence in the place of the simplifications and rationalizations that are spoken to allow one access to a world of international discourse on architecture/ on cities/ on artistic practice; of kaushik and disenchantment with the world of the art market; of distancing as a form of denial of the corruption of the world; of love and truth as priorities over fame and power; and of the 'social contract' of artistic practice when the figure of the artist as romantic recluse is also a commodity for our consumption.