Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 27-28 (March 1995) p. 57.


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Of the Everyday and the 'National Pencil'

Calendars in Postcolonial India

D Kajri Jain

THE POSTCOLONIAL, THE EVERYDAY, AND THE ELUSIVE OBJECT OF THEORY

Hum turn ek kamre mem band hon Aur chabhi kho jaaye . . . Ten aankhon ki bhool-bhulaiyya mem Bobby kho jaaye.

(Song from the Hindi film BobbyY

In writing about calendars, perhaps it is appropriate to begin with a date. In 1947 (at the stroke of midnight on August 15) India gained formal independence from British imperial rule and began its life as a sovereign, 'postcolonial' nation-state. Also in 1947, the introductory volume of Henri Lefebvre's Critique of Everyday Life2 was published in France, the beginning of his lengthy meditation on the phenomenon of the 'everyday' (part of a wider French political and intellectual debate about popular and mass culture) which was, in a sense, to culminate in 1968 with the publication of Everyday Life in the Modern World3 (and indeed the events in Paris in May of that year). Is this coincidence of dates merely a contrivance on my part to partake of the "mystical glamour'4 of numbers? Perhaps, but it also serves to point up our ability to speak in terms of a 'meanwhile', described by Benedict Anderson as a form of simultaneity peculiar, and indeed essential, to modernity:

a simultaneity which is 'transverse, cross-time, marked not by prefiguring and fulfilment, but by temporal coincidence, and measured by clock and calendar.'5

Everyday life and colonialism: it is in their relationships with modernity that the two begin to take on a certain similarity. Both are conceivable outside modernity, but modernity is inconceivable without them. If the postmodern is what succeeds modernism (its success/or),6 then the everyday and the postcolonial are what exceed it (its excess/es). Created/expelled as byproducts in the continuing process of modernity's hegemonic (re)organization of time and space, the everyday and the post/colonial are sites both of modernity and of its simultaneous critique. This si-

Numbers 27-28


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