India

Raghu Rai

When I think of India I automatically think of their cultural diversity. I think of their beautiful attire and huge weddings. I think of their spicy food. I think of their dedication to their religion, assuming they are religious… However, I most certainly don’t think of art when India is mentioned. So when I came across the photographer Raghu Rai I was quite surprised at how intrigued I was about his photographs. From my assumption, Rai’s photographs give clear insight into the Indian culture and their social norms.

For my entire life I have lived in the Sutherland Shire, that has its own culture within itself, which is almost the opposite of the Indian culture in Rai’s eyes. Due to the fact that I have really only been exposed to the same traditions and way of life, I have an uneducated perception of India and therefore further study is mandatory.

PAR72902.jpgPhoto credit: Raghu Rai ‘Mother Teresa at her refuge of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. During prayer.’ <http://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K7O3R13L27M> 

Throughout my research I came across Rai’s image ‘Mother Teresa at her refuge of the missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. During Prayer’ so I decided to do some background study into the Hindu religion to give me greater insight into their traditions. I found that over 80% of the population of India identify themselves as part of the Hindu religion. According to Cultural India, Hindu religion is based on the idea that human and animal spirits come back to earth to live countless times in various forms (Cultural India, 2017). As mentioned by Cultural India, Hinduism believes a person is born into a privileged life because of the good they have done in a past life, where as people born into poverty have done wrong in previous lives (Cultural India, 2017). Rajhan claims that prayer in the Hinduism religion is extremely important to those who follow, some of the reasons they pray is to depend on god during distress, to ask god for enlightenment and they pray for they’re surrendering themselves to god completely (Rajhans, 2017).

According to BBC, Hindu people pray or worship whenever the individual wishes, majority of Hindu homes have a shrine where offerings are made and prayers are said which is generally on a daily basis (BBC, 2005). This information is no real surprise, but it is beneficial and interesting to gain some deeper insight into the Indian religion. Through having this understanding of Indian traditions I believe it will not only heavily influence my interpretation of the photographers work, but also essentially my own art making practice when I begin to re create a series based on my response.

PAR309424.jpgPhoto credit: Raghu Rai ‘Hand building highway – Hydrabad, 2004’ <http://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K7O3R13L27M&gt;

The photo above is Rai’s ‘Hand Building Highway’, looking back on this photo a few weeks later after doing further research I have responded to it in a whole new way. Little did I know is that Indians balance heavy and at times awkward objects on their head as it is the most appropriate form of transportation for them. As mentioned by Dweck (2010), the ancient art of this balancing act is common practice anywhere in developing countries and is generally performed by women. According to Dweck (2010), people can carry loads of up to 20 percent of their own body weight without using any extra energy beyond what they’d use by walking around unencumbered.

As stated by Whittle (2016), the fact that women routinely carried heavy loads on their heads in pre-industrial societies reminds me that much of the routine work, like collecting water, gathering fuel and laundering linens was physically demanding on their bodies. Not to mention that agriculture in the pre-industrial economy required a lot of fetching and carrying on foot generally between house and fields and farm and market and majority of this was done by women.

For my digital artefact I still aim to create a photographic series based on my relation and interpretation of Rai’s long line of work. I will take images that are based off similar experiences to the Indian culture but in a way that relates to my own traditions. For example, when I see ‘Hand Building Highway’ I automatically think to how we transport our essentials, either in a car or truck so perhaps I could photograph that in response to Rai’s image.

Reference List:

BBC, 2005, Hinduism: Worship, BBC, viewed 14th September 2017, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/worship/worship.shtml&gt;

Cultural India, 2017, Hinduism Religion India, Cultural India, viewed 14th September 2017, <http://www.culturalindia.net/indian-religions/hinduism.html&gt;

Dweck, J 2010, The Art of Carrying Things on your Head, Slate, viewed 14th September 2017, <http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/08/head_case.html&gt;

Whittle, J 2016, Why do women carry things on their heads?, WordPress, viewed 14th September 2017, <https://earlymodernwomenswork.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/why-do-women-carry-things-on-their-heads/&gt;

 

 

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The Rough Guide To ‘The Rough Guide To Indian Classical Music’

It all started at work on Friday night. The floor was dead, which fortunately gave me the freedom to escape the customer service desk and find the time and opportunity to quiz and discuss with my manager, N, on what or whom he would consider being seminal classical Indian pieces and performers and where I could find hear them. N was very enthusiastic about my endeavour to explore the sonic history of India and mentioned a few pieces and wrote a list of performers he considered important on a piece of scrap cardboard, which I would later lose in a brain explosion; however he made it clear that it would be difficult to find examples of these pieces and artists as they were more than likely never recorded to tape let alone converted digitally, explaining that he enjoys his subscription to the World Music Network as they aggregate a variety of Indian music, but he was unsure if I would be able to find classical Indian music through the service.

It was 10:30 pm on Friday night when I sat down to explore and hopefully begin my adventure into classical Indian music, open to the fact that I may not find exactly what I was hoping to experience but would find a piece of Indian music I’d never imagined existing. I began by Googling the World Music Network, and explored their website, finding their Rough Guides to world music. I found it interesting that there were separate classifications of Indian and Bollywood music. Finding guides to Psychedelic India and Psychedelic Bollywood peaked my curiosity, however, I managed to hunt down a title called The Rough Guide To Indian Classical MusicBeing a student I tossed up the idea of signing up for the paid subscription service or purchasing the album outright, eventually deciding to do neither of those two things and attempt to find the album on Spotify. Thankfully for my back pocket, the collection of songs was there.

Before I listened to the album, I took my time taking in the cover art. Depicting an elder Indian man wearing a red religious head scarf, playing what I assume is a flute in a what looks like a temple. The guide features nine songs, lasting a duration of 74 minutes; but includes a bonus ‘disk’ six track album by Debashish Bhattacharya which if included as part of the collection doubles the duration of the album. The last decision I had to make, given it was now 11 pm was whether I could listen to the full album or simply the guide then and there, weighing up the pros and cons I decided that I should listen to just the guide as the team who designed the sequence of the guide and the inclusion of the bonus ‘disk’ intended for them to be separate entities before streaming services entered the mainstream and altered the way people experience recorded music.

The guide opens with Annapoorne an instrumental track which I found sounded familiar yet jarring like folk music exploring crazy temporal elements and utilising violin, hand drums, bells and what I think is those drums that have a beater on a string attached which make noise when shaken. Track two represented the most familiar musician on the compilation, Ravi Shankar, performing Devgiri Bilawal Dhun, a track I’m confident I have unconsciously encountered in Hollywood film soundtracks, I definitely appreciated this track a lot more than the first, while it is another instrumental track it features use of hand drums and sitar. The track sounds like acoustic psychedelia composed using an unorthodox scale much higher than what I am normally comfortable with but ultimately it is a very enjoyable listen. The next cab off the rank was a live performance of the El Taal by Allah Rakha & Zakir Hussain. This is the first Indian classical piece I have consumed which features a vocal of sorts, while it is difficult to describe the vocal seems to be used as more as a rhythmic element rather than a melody or narrative driver; however, I could be misinterpreting this as I am not familiar with Hindi or the genre of Indian classical. The melody seems to be created through a flute or a stringed instrument I am unfamiliar with, the melody is looped throughout the track while the rhythms created using drums and the human voice intertwine, and drive the track toward a crescendo to finish. El Taal is an interesting track which leaves me looking forward to researching instrumentation and Sadhathava Pada is the fourth track on the guide, and is the first track to recongnisably incorporate human voice as more than just a rhythmic element and allow it to act as a narrative device and lead the melody played on violin. Ahir Bhairav represents the biggest surprise as what I consider to be traditional instrumentation is intertwined with piano passages I did not expect to hear in this sonic adventure. Thumri Bhairavin and Dhun Punjabi Ang are similar in nature to track two, heavily centred upon sitar use but sound more soulful than psychedelic. The closing track to the guide, Raga Chhaya Nat, is the longest song on the album, it features an English narration as well as all other instrumental elements and rhythmic devices heard throughout the guide. It is an incredibly nice way to summarise my first experience of Indian classical music.

 

I’ve thouroughly enjoyed ‘The Rough Guide to Indian Classical Music, and will definitely seek out more and dive deeper into the genre. I am in love with the psychedelic elements present in what I have heard so far. I would like to further understand the difference between Indian and Bollywood music. I look forward to finding out more about the instrumentation and speaking to N about my experience and begging him to give me another list I should check out.

 

 

 

Reflecting on Hindi TV as an Autoethnographer: Mahabharat and Hindu Epics

Watching the first episode of the 1988 Hindi TV-series Mahabharat and accounting for my experience by live-tweeting my thoughts and opinions on the show has left me with a lot of questions. Is television anywhere near as popular in India as a pastime as it is in Australia? What was the real message behind the show? Why on earth was Ganga killing all her children?

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Ganga and King Santanu (Image Source)

With these questions and my cultural assumptions in mind, — which can be found in my first post here — reflecting on my autoethnographic accounts of a cultural phenomenon can be insightful and revelatory. Reflective analysis not only highlights “dominant narratives” and “ways of thinking” about culture but also pursues a deeper understanding of such experiences on a larger cultural scale (Warren, 2009). By scrutinising my initial comments and assumptions, and by conducting a little more research on all those postulations I tweeted about, here I am, trying to make sense of my Mahabharat experience.

My first enquiry is into the prevalence of television in India, and more precisely, the popularity of Mahabharat across the country. Researching this felt like a history lesson, but albeit an intriguing one. Television for me is a staple, and consuming programs on TV like there is no tomorrow is something I pride myself on. Television in India was introduced in 1959, however “transmission was restricted to areas in and around the capital city of Dehli for over a decade” (Kumar, 2006, p.57). With the arrival of the TV in the Indian family home came the inevitability of globalisation, and moreover a connection to “an increasingly mobile world around them” (Kumar, 2006, p.64). Television allowed families to share in entertainment experiences, created a bond between individuals and the characters they saw on-screen and moreover kept people informed.

As for Mahabharat, “the religious epic captured the collective imagination of Indian viewers” (Kumar, 2006, p.76) since its inception and release. Programs such as this have entrenched a sense of national identity for members of the Indian community (Kumar, 2012), and have been reflections of Indian values, mores and social and cultural norms. To say the show was successful would be an understatement, reaching a diaspora of over five million individuals. “Within weeks of its launch, the TV show became part of many Sunday morning routines” (Awaasthi, 2016). The Mahabharat series has since seen two modern adaptations released as a result of its popular reception in the past, with Lavanya Mohan (2015), writer for the The Hindu stating that “BR Chopra’s Mahabharat revolutionised Indian television of the nineties.

Now that context has been somewhat established and the history of Indian television successes has been explored, my next question is about the content I saw in the first episode of Mahabharat. There were several times throughout the course of the 40 minute show I was left scratching my head in confusion. Was this simply because of a cultural barrier or was the show itself confusing? My guess is the aforementioned.

Mahabharata — note the ‘a’ at the end this time — is one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. Denoting information on the development of Hinduism, the poem was traditionally attributed to be the work of Vyasa. According to James L. Fitzgerald (2009) of Brown University, the Mahabharata presents sweeping visions of the cosmos and humanity and intriguing and frightening glimpses of divinity in an ancient narrative that is accessible, interesting, and compelling for anyone willing to learn the basic themes of India’s culture.” The sacred text was the basis for the television series Mahabharat, and the first episode I saw was regarding the story of Devavrata.

To put it briefly, the first instalment of the Mahabharat series shares the story of King Shantanu and the relationship he has with the goddess Ganga, with whom he marries in human form. She is described by her “superhuman loveliness” (Rajagopalachari, 1979, p.19) and Shantanu’s infatuation with her is duly noted. Following the birth of their children — they have several throughout the course of the first episode — Ganga drowns them in the sacred river Ganges. The first episode of Mahabharat doesn’t explain why Ganga does this, however it is believed that it was due to a curse. So, mystery solved? I think so.

Watching the first episode of Mahabharat with absolutely no knowledge on traditional Hindu stories, the Mahabharata or Sanskrit epics proved challenging to say the least. Not only was it made clear that I was an outsider in this cultural experience, but it also highlighted how unfamiliar cultural phenomena can lose meaning when shared across transnational borders. As I tried to make sense of my Mahabharat experience my own understandings of Hinduism and India’s entertainment industry were confronted with new ideas and interpretations.

As I have acknowledged before, autoethnography demands self-reflexivity and openness to interpret a cultural experience. By researching my cultural assumptions and addressing my ethnically driven concerns with information from books, eminent media platforms and social and historical commentary, my experience and understanding of Indian television and the Mahabharat experience I encountered has profoundly changed. The next time I sit down to watch an episode of Mahabharat I won’t be so thrown by Ganga drowning her children, and I will be able to appreciate the cultural heritage present in the telling of a great Hindu epic.


References:

Balancing my Yin and Yang Through Yoga; an Autoethnographic Experience

In my first autoethnographic response to yoga I’d begun analysisng my experience with the practice even though I’d already been doing yoga for quite a few months. I still find it fun, however since I’ve been practicing yoga for this project, my uni load has increased ten fold and I’m lucky to get to go once a week. They say if you don’t have time to meditate 20mins every day, then you should meditate for an hour. They obviously don’t understand how limited your time is when pulling all nighters to submit 3000 word essays.

I complete my practices at the Yoga studio down the road called Body Awakenings. The teachers are really helpful and nice and there is no judgement because everyone is just as terrible as you are. The classes do have a female majority of all ages but there are usually a few men who complete the practices regularly too (boyfriends being dragged along by optimistic partners?)

I love the yoga studio itself, you could just walk into that room and feel relaxed even if you don’t complete the practice. There are multiple scented candles, purple and white walls with a giant mandala painted on one and wooden shutters to keep the bright lights out, all of which sets a relaxing ambiance.

The classes run for approximately an hour with multiple styles to choose from including Hatha Yoga, Core Yogalates, Slow Yoga Flow, Yin Yoga, Yin Yang Yoga, Core Yoga Flow, Restorative Yoga, Core Pilates, Gentle Yogalates, Basic Yoga Flow, Roller and Release with Core Flow, Qui Gong, Meditation along with Teen, Prenatal and Mums and Bubs Yoga classes.

As there are so many classes I haven’t had a chance to try them all, (also not all of them apply to me seeing as I’m not pregnant or a teenager.) However I have tried Hatha Yoga, Yin and Yin and Yang Yoga, Core Yoga Flow, Restorative Yoga and Core Pilates.

My favorite for sure was Yin Yang Yoga because you can relax while holding poses for 2-5 mins while incorporating normal flow yoga where poses are held for 10-20 seconds. Plus it makes you feel cleansed and energetic afterwards.

I researched how this actually worked because the class just involved a whole lot of bending over and lying down and it just seemed to good to be true.

Yin Yang yoga style incorporates a balance between deep long stretches and a Hatha style flow. It’s designed to simultaneously release energy flow and expand flexibility through penetrating deep into connective tissue. Further developing muscular strength and stamina with the combination of the two styles.

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An artistic representation of the Yin Yang Ideology depicting the balance between night and day and the sea and sky. Credit Yogi Surprise, Pintrest

Many people are familiar with the ancient Chinese Yin Yang symbol which emphasizes balance and the cycle of life, how one force dominates and is thus replaced with the opposing force. This is often used a metaphors for life and death, heaven and earth, night and day, health and sickness, poverty and wealth and the cycle of the seasons (winter to summer). Known as the Tai Chi (or Taiqi) symbol, this ideology is mirrored through the yoga style as it balances stillness and movement throughout its practice. Ester Ekhart , describes Yin Yang as best for people who are tired, overstimulated, have overactive mindsets and erratic energy.  I feel this directly applies to me and was invented with myself in mind which must explain why this practice just felt right. My balance between work, uni and attempting to maintain a social life is all out of whack and my inner eye needed some ancient yin yang to work that out.

Here is a Youtube tutorial for a 35min Yin Yang class for beginners to advanced levels of yoga, aiming to release stress if you want further insight into the style by Yoga with Kassandra.

My research has also uncovered that Yoga itself originated in India, beginning as a spiritual process which had the ability to heal yourself and inner being. Many practices which are today defined as different yoga styles, originated in India around the same time that Hindu ideology begun to emerge, therefore the two are often associated with one another. Despite this, it is important to note that the two are separate as yoga is more a way of thinking and living instead of a religion. A Cure Joy editorial emphasizes ‘ It is wrong to identify yoga through religion- just as it is wrong to identify an American product as a Christian product’. I like this metaphor as it helps you visualize how the practice of yoga itself differs from the Hindu religion despite their similarities in ideology.

Yoga styles practiced in the west, can be traced back over 5000 years ago. However as early transcriptions regarding the practice were secretive and passed on orally and written on palm tree leaves which are easily lost or damaged, it is possible that the practice of yoga is over 10,000 years old.  There are 3 different periods which have influenced the creation of yoga as it’s practiced today in the west.

The Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India developed the beginnings of Pre-Classical Yoga and coined the term ‘Yoga’ in the oldest of the 4 sacred Hindu texts, the Rigveda which is a collection of ancient Indian Sanskrits. Yoga was then refined by the Brahman’s priests and Rishis who documented the practice in the Upanishad, consisting of over 200 scriptures. The Upanishad utilized the idea of ritual sacrifice and applied it to the practice in the sacrifice of individual ego through self-knowledge, karma and wisdom.  The Classical period of yoga begun in the 2nd century and is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras which were the first presentation of yoga that cultivated many different styles and conflicting ideas which were seen throughout the practice. Patanjali was the first to denote the idea of the Eight Limbs of yoga in the Yoga-Sutras. Because of this he is seen as the ‘father of yoga’ as many of the Sutras outlined still influence modern styles of yoga today. The Post- Classical yoga period saw yoga masters attempting to refine the practice futher to explore the physical- spiritual connection between the mind and the body as a means to rejuvenate the body and extend life. This period saw the development of Tantra Yoga, utilizing radical techniques to cleanse the mind and body and ‘break the knots which tie us to our physical existence’.

Modern Yoga was bought to the west by yoga masters in the 18-1900’s. Hatha Yoga which is the most common style practiced in the west encompasses many of the fore mentioned attributes including sacrificing individual ego, self-knowledge, karma practice, wisdom, The Eight Limbs and the separation of mind and body as alternate entities. The first Hatha Yoga School was opened in 1924 by Krishamacharya in Mysore in India. (Today is known as Mysuru) It wasn’t until 1947 that Indra Devi opened a yoga studio in Hollywood, and since then it has been embraced by stressed out white people like myself worldwide.

Brought to me by the ancient yoga masters in India, practicing yoga has helped me feel like I’m getting my life together, or maybe I’m just more clam as it’s falling apart. Regardless my experience with yoga has made me feel enlightened and I thoroughly enjoyed expanding my knowledge on the history and origins of the practice.

 

References;

 

 

 

 

My Autoethnographic Experience With Yoga.

For my autoethnographic project I will be attempting to practice yoga and observe whether it has an impact on my lifestyle and relaxation levels. I have a basic knowledge of yoga, essentially that it is an ancient practice which is a really good form of exercise as it lowers blood pressure, stress and can enable people to have a more relaxed outlook on life. As a broke and stressed out uni student I need more of all of those things in my life and therefore have absolutely nothing to lose by attempting this. Except maybe a little dignity when I discover I am not as flexibly inclined as I originally assumed.

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Caitlin Turner who goes by  Gypset Goddess on Instagram. Photo via Instagram

 

I have been doing yoga for the past 8 months in between uni, working and  going on holidays I can’t afford, in an attempt to get some zen and relaxation into my routine. I am generally a very high strung person who is stressed about anything and everything. However I realized there must be a better way of dealing with life in general than this. Hence; yoga.

Currently I aim to go 3 times a week and I usually leave feeling somewhat relaxed (never completely) with the impression I have done some exercise even though I basically stayed in the same spot for an hour, sticking my ass into the air and lying on a mat.

Last night I went to a Yin Yang yoga class which involved a lot of twists and turns and holding poses to release pressure on the joints which helps cleanse the body of toxins.

This morning I woke up at 7 am,  and instead of feeling as exhausted as I usually would when I wake up at the crack of dawn, I felt refreshed and energetic and my brain felt somewhat clearer.

I’ve never had this reaction since I began practicing yoga. I’ve felt relaxed and found myself able to concentrate on things better, however this is the first time I’ve felt full of energy after a class. It was awesome.

In my initial experiences practicing yoga I found it surprisingly easy as a result of my many years of dancing as a child into my teens.Giving me a bit more flexibility than a lot of beginners and helped me to enjoy the practice more initially.

Things started getting harder and more strenuous when I realized the class I was attending was in fact one of the easy ones. Meaning I probably wasn’t as good at yoga as I’d hoped.

After doing a Hatha yoga class a couple of weeks later I learnt 3 things

  1. Yoga is not to be messed with for the faint hearted
  2. Yoga is awesome when you do it right
  3. Yoga instructors have the lungs of aliens and can spend 30 seconds taking the same breath and expect you to do the same. They should all be Olympic swimmers or something because that is amazing and unnatural.

 

Hatha yoga is one of the more traditional styles and focuses on keeping breathing and movement in sync. As yoga encourages deep and long breathing while doing quite difficult exercise, this was something I struggled with. Trying to keep my ass and leg in the air  while feeling like my wrists are going to pop out and practicing ‘mindfulness’ with ‘relaxation breathing’ simultaneously, sometimes proves difficult.

Although I’ve attended yoga for a few months now, I realized I didn’t know much at all about the background and theory behind the practices. Therefore it was time I completed some research and found out what it actually was I was participating in.

Hatha yoga refers to any type of physical yoga and consists of 8 Limbs which emphasize the steps for a healthy and happy life.  The limbs are outlined in the Sutras and each one relates to a different aspect of achieving a healthy and fulfilling life. The Limbs include the 5 Yamas which are directives on how a yogi should undertake aspects of life towards others. I find them similar to the 10 commandments of Christianity, however they appear to be less strict and enforced and are more guidelines rather than specific things you can’t do which are considered bad or sinful.

Including;

  • Ahimsa: reffering to non-violence against others and is often used as an argument for choosing to be a vegetarian.
  • Satya: practicing truthfulness
  • Asteya: not stealing from others and also alludes to not bringing people down to make yourself better
  • Brahmacharya: refers to chastity but can mean either celibacy or just control of sexual impulses
  • Aparigraha: not coveting what others have

The next limb is the Niyamas and is broken up 5 ways again to describe how one should act ethically towards themselves.

  • Saucha: referring to cleanliness and alludes to keeping pure intentions
  • Santosa: contentment with oneself
  • Tapas: self discipline
  • Svadhyay: self study to look within yourself for answers
  • Isvara pranidhana: surrender to a higher power

The other 6 of the 8 limbs of yoga include:

  • Asana: the physical practice of yoga postures
  • Pranyama: the practice of breathing exercises
  • Pratyahara: the withdrawal of senses, so the outside world isn’t a distraction from the internal inside individuals
  • Dharana: concentration, the ability to focus uninterrupted by internal and external distraction.
  • Dhyana: Meditation and the ability to extend your concentration beyond a single thing
  • Samadhi: bliss, and the transcendence of the self through meditation where an individual merges with the universe. This is also known as enlightenment

I’ve heard allusions to some of the Limbs before during my practices, however what I didn’t expect was the implied chastity practice in Brahmacharya. As I’ve always seen yoga as a free and relaxed form of practice which allows individual interpretation of the limbs, I didn’t expect such a direct instruction regarding sexuality. I would expect this from the stricter religions although because yoga has such Buddhist and Hindu roots, there would be some sharing of morals and guidelines.

Over the next few weeks, I aim to practice yoga and attempt to observe the 8 limbs which aim to attain health and fulfillment. I will document my practices and how I feel and then my auto ethnographic experience to how well I was able to achieve a better lifestyle through undertaking yoga.

 

References:

Watching Hindi TV as an Autoethnographer: Mahabharat and Live-Tweeting

I have been a fan of Bollywood film ever since I was first introduced to the three-hour classic Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham in high school. I can quite clearly remember being amazed by the intricate details in the costumes, the set designs and the drama throughout the course of the film. Last year I even dedicated my DIGC202 project to my Bollywood film experiences through the form of a YouTube channel.

Wanting to stick with something somewhat familiar to me — that being my growing appreciation for Hindi culture, —  I decided to focus my autoethnographic research project on my experience of Hindi television. In doing so, I hoped to further heighten my understanding of Indian culture and thus become a more culturally aware individual.

 

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience.”  By live-tweeting my personal experience of a Hindi television show — an aspect of Indian culture entirely foreign to me — I hoped to produce an authentic account of my experience that could enhance my understanding of Indian culture. Autoethnography as a methodology aims to “facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders,” and whilst viewing Hindi TV for the first time, my status as a cultural outsider became painfully apparent.

Upon deciding on experiencing Indian TV for my autoethnographic research project, I was then tasked with finding an appropriate Hindi television program. It was here that I became awfully aware of the fact that I was an outsider looking in. When choosing an Indian TV program to watch, I found it incredibly hard to locate a show online that was both accessible in Australia and had English subtitles. I initially wanted to watch a TV show called Comedy Nights with Kapil due to its SNL parallels and comedic value in India, but after several failed attempts to find an episode with English subtitles, I gave up and chose something completely different. Due to its universal accessibility — meaning it was available with English subtitles on YouTube — I chose Mahabharat as the field site of my autoethnographic research.

Mahabharat, produced and directed by B.R. and Ravi Chopra, was first aired in India in 1988. It tells the story of the Hindu epic of the same name, abounding in religious, social and political history and commentary. The 94-episode series falls into the historical-drama genre and was well received by audiences across India and made popular transnationally thanks to the diversification of Indian diaspora.

In order to share my autoethnographic experience of Mahabharat and provide a detailed account of my thoughts, feelings and interactions I decided to live-tweet whilst watching the first episode. Twitter has been utilised among many as a tool for interactive communication, accessible to the masses as a way to actively participate in conversation and debate (Kassens-Noor, 2012). In choosing Twitter as the outlet for my initial accounts of Mahabharat I was aware that my unfiltered commentary would be readily accessible to any user who happened to search the Mahabharat or DIGC330 tag. It is believed that live-tweeting “promotes connections with real-life learning, thereby encouraging critical reflection and fostering enhanced understanding” (Kassens-Noor, 2012, p.11). I wanted the live-tweeting process to not only enhance the cultural experience I was immersing myself in, but to ultimately challenge the way in which I “see how every day communication produces cultural norms” (Warren, 2009). Some of the tweets I shared whilst encountering Mahabharat for the first time — and the first impressions, cultural assumptions and opinions I had on the show — have been included below.

  • My initial commentary on the gender roles presented in Mahabharat reflected a disparity between men and women:

  • The significance of religion and spirituality in Mahabharat was addressed on several occasions:

  • Ideas and thoughts I shared on issues of translation in Mahabharat, or concepts I simply did not understand revealed my status as a ‘cultural outsider’:

  • My final tweets regarding the conclusion of the episode summed up the messages or lessons I interpreted throughout the program:

In my attempts to discern unfamiliar cultural meanings and contexts, I have been able to expand on the knowledge I had previously possessed on Indian social values and norms. Moreover, by participating in my viewing experience of Mahabharat I have been able to question my own place in the world, and how this in turn shapes the way in which I interpret or make sense of others. Mahabharat as a field site has consequently both enlightened and challenged my “assumptions of the world” and has hopefully made me a more culturally appreciative and understanding individual.


References:

  • Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P., 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.
  • Kassens-Noor, E., 2012, ‘Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets’, Active Learning in Higher Education, 13(1), Michigan State University, Sage Publications, pp.9-21.
  • Warren, J.T., 2009, ‘Autoethnography’ in Encyclopaedia of Communication Theory, SAGE Publications, p.68-69.

Manga and Anime in India

Each week, I will be focusing on one countries and looking at Manga and Anime culture in that country. I will look at Manga and Anime fandom, how they interact with each other and also how they receive the content, foe example, is there any television channel that broadcast Anime or how they receive a Manga.

I will be focusing on India this week. After looking at many articles and fan site. I found that Anime and Manga popularity is increasing. However, finding source of Manga and Anime legally is quite hard. Not many store in India sell Manga and finding store that selling Anime is even harder and it is not available in video rental store. Anime become popular after Animax India launch in 2004, with the arrival of Animax and increasing popularity of Anime, many children’s channel had increase their number of Anime.

Manga and Anime fan in India interact with each other through social media, club and event. India have many event that related to Anime and Manga. In 2011, India host it first ever Comic Con and India will host its 5th Comic Con in 2015. Comic Con is not only event, there are many other event such as Anime Con. There are many Manga and Anime club in India, for example, The Bangalore anime and manga fan club have more than 2000 members even though they only have 500 members 2 years ago. Another big club is Mumbai Anime Club, this club host many event and they also have more than 2000 members.

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Picture from Mumbai Anime Club Cosplayers

My experience of reading Manga and Anime is usually through website but I was first experience Anime through TV. My first Anime is probably Digimon and it is still one of my favorite Anime. For Manga, during my high school, many of my friends was reading Manga and I read it when they finish or when I have noting to do at school and thats is when I start to like Manga. Finding Manga and Anime is not too hard in Thailand. There are many store that sell them and many poplar store that sell movies usually have Anime section. Which is a lot easier to find compared to India and Australia (I never see store that sell Manga or Anime).

This song from Digimon Adventure 02 brings back so many childhood memory.

 

This one from Digimon Adventure

After looking at many sites and learning about Manga and Anime culture in India, I think that there are many limitations for it to gain popularity. As finding Manga and Anime in store is hard, many have to go to online source in order to read or watch Anime and Manga. They also have to be able to read Manga or watch Anime in English because finding the source for Manga and Anime is already hard but finding it in Hindi is even harder. Furthermore, one of the best TV channel for Anime (Animax) is not available on most DTH operators now and that result in people have less exposure to Anime. With less Anime, new viewer who never experience Anime before won’t be able to know if Anime is good or not and thats make it so that Anime will only popular in a small circle of people who already experience Anime but Anime and Manga popularity in India is increasing and Animax might be back on DTH operators.

Reference

Pillalamarri, A 2014, ‘Japanese Cultural Influence Grows in India’, The Diplomat, 29 August, accessed 1/09/2014, http://thediplomat.com/2014/08/japanese-cultural-influence-grows-in-india/ 

Tanna, S 2012, A Study of Circulation of Manga and Anime in India, accessed 1/09/2014,http://asiancultureindustries.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/a-study-of-circulation-of-manga-and-anime-in-india-shilpa-tanna.pdf

 

Fair isn’t fair

So this post will be a little bit different to my others ones simple because of I will be discussing something I am already somewhat familiar with thanks to growing up with a Filipino mother. My first introduction to skin whitening lotions occurred when I was 9 years old and standing in a lotion aisle at a supermarket in Manila. I was dumbfounded… It was one entire aisle dedicated to lotion, most of which had skin whitening properties. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how this was such a popular and commonplace product. After wandering around shopping malls and getting stared at ad complemented by almost everyone because I had fair skin for a Filipino, and then watching television and realizing that half of the celebrities were also half Filipino and half white like me, it became apparent that being white and pale had been fetishized within the Philippines.

 

 

While exploring these Nivea commercials on YouTube it seems clear that this is not just some fad in the Philippines but a cultural aspect across numerous Asian countries including India, South Korea and Pakistan. And it’s not just lotion either, the continent of Asia apparently spends a collective $18 billion a year on skin whitening products including lotions, pills, lasers, creams and surgeries for both men and women. Apparently nearly 40 percent of women in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines used skin whitening and lightening products. It’s safe to say that these commercials are extremely commonplace in Asian media.

 

My first impression of these skin whitening lotion commercials is that Filipinos and Indians are clearly more comfortable with trying to alter their appearances and secondly I think that it is a little bit racist and unsafe. Additionally I get the impression that there are a lot of fair famous people like the celebrities featured in the commercials. However, looking further into the cultural contexts of these commercials it appears that it is more about class than anything else. If you are fair then people assume you are rich and stay inside all day, but if you are darker (regardless of genetics) it is assumed that you are poor and work in fields all day.

It is argued to have historical origins during the Han period where it was ideal for high class women to be almost stark white. Some historians also attribute this trend to Western influence especially after World War II as some may have seen Americans as the ‘winners’ and you know… everyone wants to be a winner. Some countries like China take it a whole step further, women go swimming in full clothing, and walk everywhere with umbrellas or giants hats to protect them from the sun.

 

I find it extremely intriguing how some of these Nivea commercials accurately represent these standards and how in depth they are in various Asian cultures such as that of the Philippines or India. Below is a independent documentary about skin whitening in India and how the ideals are strong enough for grounds of discrimination.

 


http://www.vagabondjourney.com/white-skin-a-chinese-obession/