RIP Jeganathan Ramachandran 3

Although we have communicated over the Internet quite recently, the last time I saw Jega in person was about 20 years ago! I remember visiting his place with my wife, Jane. We had a great conversation about art, religion and culture. Jega told us about his time in India, inspiring stories about learning from masters of traditional arts and sciences as well as demoralizing tales about Indian attitudes and customs around caste. We spoke on the metaphysical understanding of the world from an Indian perspective and also of the social conditions and the position of Indians in Malaysia.

We spoke of the extrinsic oppressions experienced by Indians in the Malaysian political equation and of the detriments that are inherent within the community. It is in this light that I want to highlight the work pictured above titled ‘The House Slave’ (2001) that was included in Bara Hati Bahang Jiwa. This image was painted in response to the suffering experienced by an Indian woman, a friend of Jega’s, who was caught in an abusive domestic situation. It serves as a symbolic reflection on the plight of women caught in the patriarchal failings of Malaysian Indian society. Many Malaysian Indian women suffer a threefold oppression – those of race, class (or caste) and gender. It is as revealing of Jega’s broad and polyvalent practice, as it is of the sacred ontology that, while he operated within the sacred Shiva/ Shakti tradition, his art was most progressive in its representations of gender in secular society.

On a more mystical or uncanny note, I recall how he quietly did reading of Jane’s face (Samudrigham) during our visit, and then, suddenly came out with a statement that she was a very healing person. There was some literal truth in this observation as, while it had been a long time before, Jane had worked as a nurse but we did not take this to be what he meant. As I had felt before, when I received the portrait of me he had made using the same interpretive technique, I felt uncomfortable. While I live within deeply metaphysical sense of reality, and while I am critical of the narrow-minded scientism that dominates the contemporary scientific world-view, I look at all sacred, magical and mystical knowledge as interpretations of signs and symbols patent or latent in creation. I rarely take such propositions as “Jane is a healer” to be intrinsically or literally true. Still, as the years have gone by since our last meeting, and as I have continued to live my life with Jane, I can not deny that there was truth in Jega’s vision. Indeed, I no longer question the reality of what he saw and read at that moment!.

Rest in Peace Jega. Long may your spirit resonate!

Image: https://www.afkcollection.com/gallery/artist/jeganathan-ramachandram

It’s Time to be Clear 8

The King is Dead, Long Live the King (also lets not forget the Queen). As Paul Street puts it, “It’s hard to get overly excited about Joe Biden on the Left.” as his ascendency to the Presidency of the highest power on the world stage, is premised on an “extremely low bar : he’s not a malignant fascist sociopath.” Street goes on to explain what he describes as Biden’s “corporate, imperial, white-supremacist, and patriarchal record.”

Biden’s second in command, Kamala Harris is, like me, Tamil. She is also African American. Indeed, she represents the present inclusive phase of the ever cycling identitarianism of American exceptionalism. However as Fawzia Afzal-Khan suggests, the identity politics of her election as the first female vice-president of the United States of America has, thus far, been only skin-deep. It is not, she insists, something we should “tout as a badge of honor or pride.” She furthers asserts that what we need instead, is an affiliative identity politics, rather than one that is merely skin-deep. While I sincerely wish America and Americans well in this dawning presidential cycle, I am not very optimistic.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/01/22/why-biden-may-be-less-evil-than-obama-and-clinton-and-why-this-may-not-matter-all-that-much-in-the-end/

https://counter-currents.com/2017/06/what-is-identitarianism/

https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/01/21/will-kamala-do-the-right-thing/