COVID-19 came and demanded urgent understanding. Strange as it is, this way of talking makes the invisible visible. To this end, we inscribe upon it, structures of our making. Yet, there is this uneasy feeling that the virus does not care for our structures. It does not play by the rules of our ‘universal’ reason or our humane emotions. It just borrows the machinery of our cells to multiply its being, which consist of a rudimentary chain of proteins. So rudimentary that it is broken down by bubbles of soap. This miracle of simplicity has disrupted our complex moves; we misstep and falter. It rides on and weighs down the terms of our self definition, the terms of sociability.
This monsoon issue of Yendai examines ways of imagining contestations. The idea of taking up subversion as the theme of Yendai had come up on earlier occasions and unfortunately addressing it seems to be topical given the circumstances we currently find ourselves in. Even as we agree on the theme, our approach and ways of understanding subversion differ. We approach it through two ways. First, we see sub-version as acts and practices that challenge the status quo. Second, related to the former, are the ways in which such practices become productive of new manifestations and cultures that may ironically become hegemonic in themselves and invite subversion. Acts of subversions calls for imagining new aesthetics and sensibilities through the questioning of hierarchical practices of hegemonic cultural domination. The present issue is devoted to the possibility of capturing resisting narratives that emerge in such contested fault lines. Subversions are attempts to check the deliberate acts of forgetting put in place through singular meta-narratives and violent repressions of truth. The metaphor of a palimpsest encapsulates the idea of subversion/sub-versions with the hope of reading meaning in acts of over writing and re-writing in the scrolls of time. It is used to explore the many layered existence of a cultural form and not solely the act of writing. In this edition of Yendai, we bring four poems, two visual works, two short stories and four essays on this theme.
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?
Root and being are inextricably linked. What are roots but another name for home, for the ultimate destination that one leaves only to return? And what is rootlessness but another state of homelessness, exile and prolonged yearning? These coterminous conditions can also spawn zealous, self-proclaimed protectors and a corresponding number of homeless ‘strangers’. Cultural movement is to roots what migration is to rootlessness. Or is it that simple? If we consider roots as also having to do with (shared) values, how do we draw the line between claims for indigenous rights and the ethical necessity of acknowledging contemporary tragedies surrounding the gentrification of spaces and identity?