Who is the ‘self’ and who is the ‘other’? To imagine the other, one starts by imagining the self. Likewise, the self needs the other to define itself. It becomes a chicken-and-egg question. This imagination of the self and the other can be formed based on various aspects. It can begin from the most striking physical attributes, it can be built on culture, food or even smell. Who is this self and who is the other? Can the self be imagined without the other? In a world that’s marked by rapid mingling as well as violent segregation, what is the relevance of the imagination of the self and the other?
In this autumn issue of Yendai, we bring three essays and four poems which look at the theme “Imagining the Other” through different lenses. Somjyoti Mridha’s “Stories of/from Kashmir” looks at how marginalisation of Kashmir valley in the political sphere is accompanied by cultural otherisation of Kashmir valley and its inhabitants in the non-Kashmiri Indian public sphere. It also delves into how this process created the space for a counter otherisation of the Indian state and Indian populace in Kashmir valley.
The otherisation of female gender vis-a-vis nationalism is thoughtfully presented in Dr Yamini’s “Patriarch(s) and Nation(s): Wilful Erasures of Female Selves” through an analysis of the film Raazi. The author brings forth the problems in the patriarchal nature of nationalism which reduces the contribution of a woman working for her nation to her domestic roles as daughter, wife and mother
Kumam Davidson and Himmat Tampakmayum bring focus on the misrepresentation of the Pangal in mainstream Manipuri art and literature through an analysis of Hijam Anganghal’s popular novel Jahera which was later produced as a film. The authors go deeper into the topic by bringing forth how subsequent representations of Pangal, starting from Jahera written sometime in the early part of 20th century to present day play Mangluraba Lann (2018), pose serious concerns on the issue of hegemonic representation, mostly by the Meitei.
The fragility of concepts like citizenship and identity, as defined by a nation state, is metaphorically captured in the poem “Forehead” by Shalim M Hussain. In many cultures, forehead commonly represents a person’s destiny. In Hussain’s poem when a claim was made on the forehead, the stake was so high that the owner of the forehead has to run away from the country only to return at a more peaceful time. That claim could alter the identity and destiny of the owner.
Md Ziaur Rahman’s “Our Ngari and their Masala” poignantly tugs at the hearts of all migrants who long for their food. And, how that provokes hostility from the majority inhabitants of these new lands. The poem brings out the alienation that originates when one is denied the space to celebrate one’s culinary traditions even as an internal migrant within one’s so-called own country. “Our Ngari and their Masala” is about the othering of food, smell and flavours. It is also about political identity and affiliation.
“Barbed Men” succinctly captures the militancy-related othering, how a population is alienated due to militancy/occupancy and how the representative of the occupiers, here men in uniform, become as miserable as those they occupy. The occupier and the occupied are both completely dehumanised and gradually turn into the “Barbed Men”.
“Pobitora” by Rimi Nath is about the othering that is marked by memories and nostalgia. We all migrate and become migratory birds. Sometime we migrate physically, sometime emotionally. The trail left behind is the only connection between the then and the now.
The autumn issue of Yendai is a bouquet of narratives that imagine or describe the nature of othering.