Majlis and Public Participation: The Khaleej Way

As a stakeholder engagement specialist in the Khaleej working on social impact assessment work, forms of public consultation in the region are hardly understood under a western democratic lens.

Twitter discourse in the Khaleej is robust and people are highly intelligent and opinionated. The Majlis is informal and nuanced, should not be read as a counter to western style democracy, as cultures of participation differ influenced heavily by tribal norms and political economy of the country.

Writing, Representations and Voices

There are writing projects which have staggered from 2012, with these projects piling up into massive amounts of field notes over the years. In 2017 I managed to complete a poetry collection, which is on my laptop somewhere unpublished, hoping to get a publisher or an agent to read it.

The original book project has metamorphosed into different forms, but the spine remains the same- a non fiction narrative in to the travels and the conversations of a migrant, who calls the various neighbourhoods in 4 cities, kind of home, if not the idea of it. I am fascinated by how the margins of the city, helm the core- the taxiwallah, the auto wallah, the corner store, the eatery and the stories from their journeys- the family from North Bengal running a thela in Gurgaon or the Lucknowi Barber in Muscat to the Dhobiwallah in Bur Dubai, these are visible people with muted voices restricted to the transaction.

The role of the digital and how the margins negotiate the technology in their lived experience to articulate and emote is essential as well as charming. The ability to network for their micro businesses on their smart phones has increased the ability to seek information that was previously the preserve of the intellectual or the bureaucratic realm.

I interviewed a series of autowallahs during 2012-13 in Mumbai during the construction of the metro in Saki Naka, Andheri area and the most insightful of feedback on urban infrastructure was garnered.

But, who will capture these voices? On the other hand, is the migrant in the GCC is ever asked his opinion.

The act of writing is indulgence but also of representation. In this hyper data era, how we write matters, as it will take no time to convert words in to the black box of the digital archive.

Understanding Migration Humanities

Migration of the middle class or the professional classes has been a theme undergirding major literary works such as Suketu Mehta’s new work, Mohsin Hamid and Amitav Ghosh’s Gun Island.

More than Digital Humanities, Migration Humanities as a genre should be formalised as Diaspora literature is a window into the multi local experience.

Now where are the low income/low skill migrant voices ? Is the task of representation laced with socioeconomic privilege?

Hence MD Sharif and Mukul’s work with the deep organising and community engagement of Mohsin Malhar Da stands out as a breach in the ivory tower.

The Bengali Muslim Conundrum

A lot of Bengali Muslims over the years have been working in Maharashtra along with other states right down to Kerala and also in the NCR belt. I have encountered with them in Gurgaon and now in Pune. I wonder if some academics study internal migration patterns. These data points also point to the lack of work done by successive regimes in Bengal for the Muslim community. So much for secularism in rhetoric as the so called appeasement has not worked, and has led to Hindu en mass voting in 2019 and there might be a BJP government at Writers in 2021