Links: Fictional Elysium and real Mumbai

Photo: Mine, with a little help from a Flickr filter.
Photo: Mine, with a little help from a Flickr filter.

Long time, no update. So here we go. These pieces are from last month.

Travelling in Mumbai, the one thing you keep seeing are hoardings and a lot of them are for fancy real estate. All these hoardings sell us one basic idea: we’ll give you an artificial world that will keep out the real one. Then I saw the trailer of Elysium. Et voila:

“People have asked me if I think this is what will happen in 140 years, but this isn’t science fiction. This is today. This is now,” said Blomkamp in an interview to the British newspaper The Telegraph. He got the idea while on holiday at Tijuana in Mexico, where Blomkamp and a friend were arrested by the Mexican police (for drinking beer on a stretch where it’s not allowed). …
In India, if you’re rich, you create a personal Elysium and distance yourself as far as possible from the unwashed masses that make up the rest of the country. As more and more cities and small towns look to create these artificial realities, there are now different worlds that Indians inhabit depending upon their buying power. Look at the advertisements for new real estate projects, and all of them promise the buyer a contained world of artificial luxury, modelled upon a foreign ideal.  … The foreignness of the design, instead of being a problem, is what makes these homes and offices desirable. They emphasise a sense of distance between those within from those without. Walk in through the secure doors and step into the lift, and the building is intended to be a cocoon that drowns out the sounds from outside. Inside, there is the space that you don’t see outside. Here, there’s someone keeping everything clean and shiny, in contrast to the dusty jaggedness outside. From the colour palette to the very air you breathe, everything is not just different inside modern office and residential complexes; more often than not, they’re markedly alien to an Indian aesthetic, traditional, vintage or contemporary. In the 2000s, we’re doing precisely what Blomkamp has imagined for the 22nd century in Elysium. The technology to set up a space station that would be as physically comfortable as life on earth is presently beyond us, so we’re working as hard as we can to establish that kind of metaphorical distance between the wretched and the successful. Our skyscrapers are much further away from ground reality than the number of floors that they comprise. Blomkamp’s Elysium isn’t really in the future. It’s all around us right now.

You can read the entire piece here.

Last month, a young photojournalist was gang-raped in Mumbai. Like pretty much everyone who works in Indian media, I heard about the incident that night itself, a few hours after it happened. Exit sleep, enter insomnia, rage and despair:

The dictionary defines ‘victim’ as a person who has been “harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.” The journalist who was gang raped yesterday has been seriously injured, but she’s no victim. She’s given the police enough details for them to be able to round up suspects. She has valour and strength and all our prayers for a complete recovery of body and spirit. She is a survivor, I am a victim. As are thousands of women who aren’t safe in a country that demands of them patriotism, sacrifices and taxes.

It might have been better if we were numbed by the constant reports of violence committed against women, but I’m not immune to the toxicity of rape yet. So I have one question: where is a woman safe in India?

Statistics tell us the largest percentage of sexual predators in India lurk within family and close friends, so homes are dangerous spaces. The streets are unsafe even when it’s light and you have company. Public transport is the least secure because curtained by crowds, sexual harassment is painfully easy. Private transport is so fraught with danger that certain car models are popularly known as ‘rape-mobiles’. So where would you have us women go?

No, I wasn’t really raped yesterday. It was someone else, but I’m making this about me not just because I’m sickened by voyeurism masquerading as debate, but also because these crimes inflict physical suffering upon one woman but are committed against all women in this city and country. It is personal. It could have been any one of us. It happened to her, yes, but a tiny fraction of her experience was felt by all of us working women in India. What would you have us do to be and feel safe?

You can read the whole thing here.


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