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Calcutta 1981

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Jean Racine

Session I. A. The Foundations of the Present: Understanding Calcutta

1. Images of Calcutta

From Black Hole to Black Box

Gaston Roberge

Texte intégral

  • 1 Rudolf Otto (1860-1937): German philosopher and historian of religions. He pointed out the non-rat (...)

1Images mask and unmask the reality. It will not be surprising if in our discussion of Calcutta we first deal with the "images of Calcutta". A number of these images bear witness to the tragic evolution of Calcutta from a "city of palaces" to a "hell of a place". Other images encompass various emotional responses to the city. The local Bengali images, for instance, often project a hate-love relationship which depicts Calcutta as a female figure. On the other hand, the image created by most foreign visitors convey a quasi-sacred awe (Otto's attraction and repulsion)1 which involves Calcutta as a locus of life.

2For the social scientist these images are facets of the city itself, and as such, they are parts of the very phenomenon he studies. Indeed Calcutta is both itself and its images. In order to know and understand Calcutta, therefore, the images of Calcutta must also be dealt with. But this requires the creation of yet more images which will in turn become part of the reality of Calcutta. Thus, the intuitive, spontaneous, uncriticized images of the poets along with the no less intuitive, but reflexive and criticized images of the scientists combine to form a global multifaceted image of Calcutta. For poets and scientists alike form images of reality, the former with the view of relating to it emotionally, the latter to hopefully master it.

  • 1 Sinha S., (ed.),Cultural Profile of Calcutta, The Indian Anthropological Society, Calcutta, 1972, (...)
  • 2 Id., p. 7.
  • 3 Id., p. 10.
  • 4 Sinha S., (ed.), Aspects of Indian Culture and Society, The Indian Anthropological Society, Calcut (...)

3It could be argued that the discussion of Calcutta's images might better come at the end of our seminar, since the seminar will help us to "form an image of Calcutta". In fact, ours is not the first attempt at forming an image of Calcutta. The Indian Anthropological Survey organized an experimental seminar on Calcutta in January 1970. The society called the seminar "Cultural Profile of Calcutta"1. Introducing that seminar Dr. Surajit Sinha first evoked a common image of Calcutta as "a city of furious creative energy"2 and went on to explain that the aim of the seminar was to arrive at "an adequate anthropological picture of the city of Calcutta"3 (my emphasis). Thus, the seminar was an attempt at drawing a profile, a picture of the city. Later in the same year in his presidential address at the Fourteenth Annual General Meeting of the Indian Anthropological Society (July 31, 1970), Dr. Sinha discussed the "scope for urban anthropology and the city of Calcutta". He described Calcutta in the following terms: "To the upper and middle class citizens of Calcutta (the group to which the Calcutta social scientists also belong) the poverty, population and violence ridden city has gained the image of a massive uncoordinated human aggregate which has reached an irreversible state of anomy. One gets the feeling that the city is fast getting out of the grips of control Systems and conventions of the upper strata and yet the lower classes are not yet unified into an organized decisive upsurge towards gaining social control and defining new norms" (my emphasis)4.

  • 5 Ibid.

4Dr. Sinha expressed the view that "we should first of all try to critically describe the people of Calcutta in varying social and situational contexts". (my emphasis)5.

5I do not know how much has been done in the last ten years to "critically describe the people of Calcutta". In the foregoing remarks I simply wished to indicate the continuity between the 1970 seminar and the present one as well as the relevance of the study of the images of Calcutta. I shall confine myself to describing critically not the people but the images of the people of Calcutta. I shall start with some of the images proposed by foreigners, then I shall discuss some of the images created by the Calcuttans—mainly Bengalis. I shall then take the liberty of discussing briefly the image of Calcutta which I spontaneously form. In order to transcend all these images I shall have recourse to the mental constructs of Systems theory. These constructs are of a much higher level of abstraction than the current poetic and scientific images of Calcutta. But, however abstract, these constructs are nonetheless images and, thus, they have to be dealt with as such. For, they also mask/unmask the reality. They map out the territory, and in no case should the map be mistaken for the territory. This preliminary warning deserves emphasis. For, the poets who entertain a hate-love relationship with Calcutta perhaps hate Calcutta's reality and love Calcutta's image. And city planners who wonder why some of their programmes do not work may well confuse map and territory.

THE BLACK HOLE 2

Foreigners' image: tristes tropiques

  • 6 Levi-Strauss, C., Tristes Tropiques, Paris, Plon, Collection Terre Humaine, 1965, p. 169.
  • 7 Lelyveld, J., "Can India Survive Calcutta? A heart breaking report on a decaying city" Imprint, No (...)
  • 8 Roberge, G., "Louis Malle's Calcutta". Amrita Bazar Patrika, March 12, 1971.
  • 9 Lelyveld, J., in Calcutta, Photographs by Raghubir Singh, The Perennial Press, Hong Kong, 1975, p. (...)

6"Asia frightens me: it's the image of our future"6 wrote Claude Levi-Strauss. The point is not whether the controversial anthropologist ever understood Asia, and more particularly Calcutta. I am simply recording what a serious human scientist felt about it all. For Levi-Strauss the tropics are a sad picture. And I hope I am not being perverse in summarising in this phrase of Levi-Strauss the images so many foreigners form of Calcutta. A group of American and British urban experts, for instance, are reported to have said that they had "not seen human degradation on a comparable scale in any city in the world"7. Film-maker "engage" Louis Malie, helplessly indignant, made a film image of Calcutta which is indeed a sad image8. In his commentary to Raghubir Singh's "Calcutta" Lelyveld spoke of Calcutta as a "hell of a place"9. And that many tourists avoid Calcutta is well known.

  • 10 Guillebaud, J.-C., in Le Monde, "Calcutta: a hundred metres of footpath" 19-20 August 1979. Reprin (...)
  • 11 Eliade, M., La nuit bengali. Paris, Gallimard 1979.
  • 3 Buddhadev Bose (1908-1974): one of the formost poets and writers of contemporary Bengal (J.R.).
  • 12 Bose, Buddhadev. Hathat Alor Jhalkani. 1932, quoted in Sivaprasad Samaddar: Calcutta is, The Corpo (...)

7And yet there is also a positive reaction among foreigners. A sympathetic journalist recently wrote, "if one can get over one's spontaneous horror and disgust one is astonished to find that after all one has a strong liking for this furious nonsense of 9 million people"10. Mircea Eliade, another social scientist and a long time guest of Calcutta, also experienced a strong love for this city, a love which he directed on one woman, it is true, as a sort of embodied metaphor of his emotional relationship with this city. He wrote, though not specifically about Calcutta: "The Indian society simply delights me, I hold Indian friendship as priceless and at time I feel a strange love —divine as they have it here— as I look at a woman as a mother. Then I feel that I am a son, that I need caresses and that nowhere shall I find a maternal love as desinterested, noble or pure as I can find it in India"11. One is reminded of Buddhadev Bose3 a Calcuttan who felt that one ought to relate with Calcutta as one does with a mistress12. In spite of, and perhaps because of, this intense love so many foreigners experience for Calcutta, the city nonetheless offers them a sad image. Is it arrogance on their part? Is it true compassion? I cannot say.

Indigenous images: "romantically yours"

  • 13 Dasgupta, Alokranjan in Cultural Profile of Calcutta. op. cit. p. 162-168.
  • 14 I am thankful to R. Antoine for contributing the following:
    This is a free translation of the descr (...)

8The romantic love for and hatred of Calcutta which not a few Bengali men of literature experienced has been discussed at length13. I must confess that going through this literature I always feel uneasy. It seems to me that the intensity of the emotions expressed in this literature is not matched by a concrete commitment to the beloved city. But perhaps I am wrong in this. I wonder if it is typical of a people with deep rural roots to think of cities in romantic terms. Whatever that may be, there is a long tradition of such romanticism in Indian literature. And with due consideration to differences of time and place the eulogy of Calcutta by Buddhadev Bose is not very different from the description of Ayodhya one finds in the Balakanda of the Ramayana14.

9However, apart from these expressions of a romantic love there are several other types of indigenous images of Calcutta. I shall mention three which seem to me more significant. A first type is that of what I would call "the uttermost". The images of this type are those of complacency. You can predicate any ugliness to Calcutta... so long as Calcutta tops in this quality. You'll offend a Calcuttan if you say that Calcutta is dirty. But you'll please him immensely if you say that his is the dirtiest city in the world! I would even go so far as to say that not only do these superlative images nurture complacency, paradoxically they have come to create a sense of security. It is as if the very acuteness of our local problems were a guarantee that succor will come to us. Our ugly, famished "mother" will, through some sort of a miracle, take care of her children.

  • 15 Gupta, R.P., "From Sutanuti to Kalikata" in A Film Miscellancy, International Film Festival, Calcu (...)

10A second cherished image is that of Calcutta as the trend-setter. Having described the squalor of the city, a writer immediately added: Yet, Calcutta retains "its wanted role as a pace-setter in cultural and intellectual fields of India. Calcutta disturbs but it cannot be ignored, and in fact, manages to extract the love and admiration of even many of those whose stomach tums at its physical horrors and its overwhelming ugliness"15.

  • 16 Lahiri, Kartik. "Kalkatar Gramatya" in Ekkshon Sharady, 1885.
  • 17 Sen, J., The Unintended City, An Essay on the City of the Poor, a project and publication of the C (...)

11A third group of indigenous images is that of Calcutta as a non-city. A Bengali writer spoke of Calcutta's grammatya, a rurality which does not imply rusticity16. A social worker and thinker wrote of an "unintended" city, that is, the city which the planners cannot cope with and which nonetheless goes on growing as if according to its own laws17. This latter group of images is, to my mind, among the most significant ones. They suggest an awareness that Calcutta as a human agglomeration cannot be called a city of an unqualified manner. Indeed there are several million people in Calcutta, but that is not enough to have a city. Actually, only a minority in the Calcutta metropolis enjoy the basic facilities of a true city. What can you call the place where the rest of the people live?

A personal image of Calcutta

  • 4 Adda: a major feature of the Bengali way of life. Adda is an informal group discussion, a free deba (...)

12To me, after having spent nearly twenty years in the city, the best image of Calcutta is that of an open field, or more precisely, to use the Bengali term for it, a maidan, that is, a place of exchange-social, economic and political. The manner in which people behave in Calcutta does not appear to me as being the way one stays in one's home, but the way one frequents a place of social intercourse, a place of "furious creativity", to again use Dr. Sinha's phrase, or, on a lower key, a place of adda4. Calcutta, as a "maidan", therefore, is much more than a huge market, much more than a place for economic exchanges. It's essentially a cultural centre, that is, a place where are cultivated those qualities of mind, individual or collective, which give a social group its social identity. One would readily think of the Greek "agora" which was also a sort of "maidan", but I deliberately avoid the term because I do not wish to go into a discussion of the eventual differences and similarities between the Greeks and the Bengalis.

  • 18 Williams, Raymond. The Long Revolution, London, Penguin Books, 1965 (1961), 399 pages, see Chapter (...)

13I am almost rushing through this survey of some of the images of Calcutta. To be exhaustive is to little consequence to me, because I am convinced that all these images are inadequate. Their basic inadequacy cannot be made up by increased quantity. Even an "adequate anthropological image of Calcutta" (and how I wish we had one) is inadequate. We must strive for better and better images. As Raymond Williams has put it, "Our thinking about society is a long debate between abstraction and actual relationships. The reality of society is the living organization of men, women and children, in many ways materialised, in many ways constantly changing. At the same time, our abstract ideas about society, or about any particular society, are both persistant and subject to change"18.

14Several questions arise regarding the ideas or images we have of Calcutta. What are the commoner's images that describe "the living organization" of which he/she is a living part? Are there physical (real) images of the city which correspond (one is not seeking isomorphic similarities) to these mental images? What are the real relationships binding the Calcuttans into a living organization? What is the significance of the images mentioned earlier in this paper? Do they contribute to social awareness, to social evolution? Or do they provide a static frante of reference? An anchorage for the 'status quo'? Much as I would like to discuss these questions at length, I propose to leave them open for deferred consideration. My purpose is ultimately to propose a new set of images, but first I shall classify more or less rigorously the images mentioned so far as follows:

  • 19 Do I need to point out the recurrence of the term "furious" used by both Dr. Sinha and Mr. Guilleb (...)

* images of the physical set-up:

- the black hole,

- the hell of a place.

* images of interpersonal relationship:

- individual: the mistress, the mother.

- collective: the non-city, the "maidan"

* images of on-going processes:

- the furious nonsense of 9 million people.

- the city of furious creative energy19

Towards an adequate imagery

15We should now look for images capable of accommodating most elements of the three categories of images mentioned above. The image or mental construct that will best achieve this is that of a communication System.

16The human agglomeration of Calcutta is repulsive by its physical set-up, it is true, but it is fascinating when perceived as the locus of "a furious creative energy". Information and Systems theories are the best mental constructs to deal with such complex entities. For these constructs have been elaborated precisely to gain a new understanding of more and more complex entities —like large societies which have not only the power to alter their own structures but also to select new goals. Unfortunately, the images of cybemetics, information and System theories require more than a minimum of initiation in order to lend themselves to use. A number of mental habits have to be modified in order to be able to understand societies with the help of these concepts. In particular, persons who are used to linear and fixed causality (as it obtains in classical physics) find it difficult not to seek for an efficient, predetermined, causality when they try to understand social processes. The greatest obstacle to change-the so-called development-is precisely the general inability to perceive our environment in a new manner.

  • 5 Feedback is the reaction between the output and the input of an element or organ when a signal is (...)

17Without going into the details of information theories, I shall describe Calcutta as a goal-seeking System, open to positive feedback5, sensitive to information coming from its wide environment, and drawing energy from its rich culture and agriculture. This approach provides the possibility of transcending the level of the various images discussed so far. In other words, it makes a metalanguage possible, for without a metalanguage, a discourse on Calcutta can only be tautological, redundant, and even solipsistic. This is extremely important because the majority of the people living in Calcutta are image-less in this sense that they do not have images of their own. Their self-image is introjected from the images mirrored into them by the dominant class. The vast majority of the Calcuttans do not have the means, spiritual or material, of producing their own image. A metalanguage about Calcutta can free the dominant and dominated groups from the mental constructs which at once express and enforce the relationship of domination.

THE BLACK BOX6

  • 6 In the theory of communication and cybemetics, "black box" is a general term refering to the eleme (...)
  • 20 Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an Ecology of Mind, New York, Bailamme Books 1972, "The Roots of Ecolog (...)
  • 21 Wilden, Anthony. System and Structure, essays in communication and exchange. Tavistock Publication (...)

18Addressing a group of urban planners concerned with environmental quality control in Hawaii in March 1970, Gregory Bateson proposed an image of the "dynamics of ecological crisis20. In his view, there are three root causes of current threats of man's survival: technological progress, population increase and certain errors in thinking and attitudes which he labelled hubris. The image he proposed was slightly modified by Anthony Wilden to illustrate, in a simple way, "the complex interrelations between epistemology, ideology, economics, and the "pillage of the third world". Wilden's figure is that of "the relationships of biosocial imperialism"21. 1 would like to draw from these two figures by Bateson and Wilden in Order to speak of Calcutta as a black box —consisting of an infinite set of black boxes— to illustrate the living Organization of Calcutta with emphasis on the interrelations between population growth, technological growth and economic growth. The Calcutta System can be seen as having three main Subsystems which feed on available energy. The relationships between the Subsystems are perturbed by negative factors (black box o): inflexibility, bound or non-available energy; entropy, or tendency to disorder.

  • 22 Wilden, op. cit. p. 209.

19Each of these factors, population growth, economic growth and technological growth, is linked with each of the two other factors. The relationship is that of a positive feedback or runaway relationship where "the more you have, the more you get". Wilden has commented on that sort of relationship as follows: "Unlike the contrary control System of nature, negative feedback, which seeks out deviation and neutralizes or transforms it, positive feedback increases the deviations between input and output in the communication between the Subsystems of the ecosystem. In the short run, this is fine for those who invest their money at compound interest or who draw their profits from underdeveloped countries, but in nature all runaway Systems (such as a forest fire or a supernova) are inexorably controlled, in the long run, by negative feedback at a second level. Second-order negative feedback takes the form of a metasystem (the elaboration of new structures, morphogenesis) or the destruction of the ecosystem involved. In social terms the first of these responses to positive feedback is known as revolution. The second is extinction"22.

Fig. 1.1. The living Organization of Calcutta as a black box (from a sketch by Wilden, inspired by Bateson)

  • 23 Roberge, G., "Communication Media and Developing Countries" in Vidura, Press Institute of India, N (...)
  • 24 Wilden, op. cit. p. 210.

20The links between the Subsystem being primarily information, that is, not consisting of things, but of relations and differences, they are particularly sensitive to ideology, especially where they intersect in the ‘o’ area. Ideologically the growth and desire for growth is fuelled by what Bateson has called "hubris", a typically Occidental sort of sin. I have discussed "technologist hubris" elsewhere23. It is essentially a "conviction that technology will always find an answer"24 to any problem, and it involves a number of attitudes which are inimical to man.

21In countries which are euphemistically called "developing" there is technological and economic growth but this growth does not contribute to the welfare of the majority of the people. This can happen only if a part of the system has the power and the will to define the other part of the population as its own environment and exploits it. Within the population, therefore, there are Subsystems which have been reduced by the dominant class to an environment to be exploited much in the same way as man has done for nature. This opposition within the System, is, of course, suicidal. For, any System which exploits its own environment necessarily destroys itself.

22An extensive and thorough discussion of Calcutta as a black box (or rather black boxes) is not possible here. Since ours is not a seminar on cybernetics, it may not be even necessary to go into further details of System theory. However, once the city is seen as a communication System, it is possible to draw from this image a number of guidelines for action.

  • 25 Bateson, op. cit. p. 490.
  • 26 Wilden, op. cit. p. 210.
  • 27 Bateson, op. cit. p.492.

23Both Bateson and Wilden agree on this: "the problem... is simply how to introduce some anticlockwise processes into this System"25 "without a right-wing revolution which would be dependent on the straightforward elimination of surplus consumers26. Bateson suggested: "it appears, at present, that the only possible entry point for reversal of the process is the conventional attitudes towards the environment"27. I would generalize and say: "the conventional attitude" towards practically everything.

24It would seem therefore, that the first and most necessary thing for us Calcuttans to do is to pause for a fresh perception of our problems. We know these Problems only too well: they are part of our flesh, they clog our lungs, they are constantly with us. But we do not sufficiently know about our problems. Can we do as much as really pause for a while? Or, have we become like the mad man running in the Street and who was asked by a friend "Where are you going?". "I do not know", said the mad-man, "but I must go there fast".

25I suggest that the major problem that we do not sufficiently know about is that of "technologist hubris". Our population growth, as we are already experiencing, is fast pushing us into a state of famine. To counter it we seek to accelerate our technological growth and tend to look at all human problem with the arrogance of a technologist.

26A remedy to technologist hubris is the cultivation of the imagination. We must create the images of what we wish to be: only in this creative act can we free ourselves of the crippling images we have come to nurture. The creation of a new image requires the creation of a new imagination, in a word, of a new self. We are our own images. For, images do not lack "reality". They are. And they are either polluted or healthy.

  • 28 Wilden, op. cit. p. 349.

27The cultivation of the imagination requires an unconditioned readiness for change. However, as Wilden has said: "the fear of radical changes has become a greater fear in our society than the fear of death itself'28. Fear of change, unreadiness to change result in loss of flexibility: a socio-economic organism is the locus of "furious creative energy" and as such cannot seek the stability of mechanical or even biological organisms. The System is capable of changing its own structures and even its goals. It is even possible to think that the primary goal of a society is to set itself ever new goals.

  • 29 Wilden, op. cit. p. 365.

28We must all be clear about this: our social sicknesses are not accidental. They have been —unwittingly or not— programmed into our social System. To quote Wilden again, "Whereas it may be possible to say that an organism dies as a result of accumulated accidents, the decline and fall of a socio-economic System always appears to have been the result of (for it) a necessarily increasing inflexibility in its relation to itself and its environment, an inflexibility which is the necessary result of its 'instruction', and not accidental''29.

  • 7 In communication terminology, noise means any phenomenon that occurs in the course of a communicat (...)

29Similarly, the introduction of anticlockwise processes into the System cannot be accidental. This is not to say that randomness on the one hand, and "noise"7 on the other hand, are to be excluded from our programming. On the contrary, our socio-economic System must remain open: what may present itself as random may be the integration in a new structure; what first "sounds" as noise may be integrated as information. Indeed, in a complex System like a society, the randomness of aberrant ideas, the noise of dissent are essential. If nature has closed itself to randomness and noise how would man have appeared? If we close ourselves, how can man ever be what he only started to become?

  • 30 Bateson, op. cit. p. 489.

30The cultivation of the imagination as a remedy to Calcutta’s problem? This may be judged too much of a long term solution to be practical. To answer this objection, I would like to say that in the strider sense, it does not take time to change one’s mind. It takes courage. Short term solutions often lead to long term Problems. The most tragic example of this is that of DDT. DDT was invented in 1939 and proved a successful ad hoc measure and the inventor was awarded a Nobel Prize. By 1970, DDT began to be prohibited. "And we still do not know... whether the human species on its present diet can survive the DDT which 'is already circulating in the world and will be there for the next twenty years even if its use is immediately and totally discontinued”30.

CONCLUSION

  • 31 Selbourne, D., An Eye to India, The Unmasking of a Tyranny, London, Penguin, 1977, p. 262.

31In his book, An Eye to India31, David Selbourne mentioned with a note of disapproval that at the peak of the Emergency in India (January 14, 1976), while so many tragic events were taking place throughout the country, there were lectures on structuralism in this very Cultural Centre for four evenings. I wonder what Mr. Selbourne would think of the present seminar on Calcutta and especially on my Suggestion that a therapy for Calcutta's ailments is the cultivation of the imagination of the Calcuttans themselves. Apparently, when we were holding our sessions on structuralism, Mr. Selbourne was writing notes for his book. I take it, therefore, that after all, he also believes that some form of thinking is necessary especially in times of crises. I humbly hope that the foregoing thoughts would qualify as a basis of thinking beneficial to Calcutta. For, like J.C. Guillebaud, I have overgrown my spontaneous horror, disgust and indignation, in fact long ago, but unlike Guillebaud, I am not surprised any more at my intense love for Calcutta-this "furious nonsense of 9 million people". I can't help it.

Notes

1 Sinha S., (ed.),Cultural Profile of Calcutta, The Indian Anthropological Society, Calcutta, 1972, p. 283.

2 Id., p. 7.

3 Id., p. 10.

4 Sinha S., (ed.), Aspects of Indian Culture and Society, The Indian Anthropological Society, Calcutta, 1972, p. 70.

5 Ibid.

6 Levi-Strauss, C., Tristes Tropiques, Paris, Plon, Collection Terre Humaine, 1965, p. 169.

7 Lelyveld, J., "Can India Survive Calcutta? A heart breaking report on a decaying city" Imprint, November 1968, Vol. 8, No. 8, p. 7.

8 Roberge, G., "Louis Malle's Calcutta". Amrita Bazar Patrika, March 12, 1971.

9 Lelyveld, J., in Calcutta, Photographs by Raghubir Singh, The Perennial Press, Hong Kong, 1975, p. 19.

10 Guillebaud, J.-C., in Le Monde, "Calcutta: a hundred metres of footpath" 19-20 August 1979. Reprinted in Jean-Claude Guillebaud: Un voyage vers l'Asie. Paris. Le Seuil. Collection Actuels, 1979.

11 Eliade, M., La nuit bengali. Paris, Gallimard 1979.

12 Bose, Buddhadev. Hathat Alor Jhalkani. 1932, quoted in Sivaprasad Samaddar: Calcutta is, The Corporation of Calcutta, 1978, p. 247-248: "In the last few years what an extraordinary spread of Calcutta and at what speed! Calcutta will grow more. It is still the capital, because it is the seat of commerce. Today the merchants are kings. Calcutta is marvellous for its pomp and dust, for its discharge of filth and array of lights, for its sickness, ennui, craze, wanton gaiety and promiscuousness. All this is a rapid stream of life, without a break. Our Rabindranath never looked upon Calcutta with love in his eyes, which, whenever I recall gives me pain. Among the new Bengali writers a few have cast their eyes back on Calcutta. I am one of them. I love this city. I love Calcutta —not as one loves one's mother but one's mistress: Calcutta is like a young woman who does not give in easily. First she turns away her face and keeps to herself the secret of her heart. To get her is a matter of earnest endeavour. But once she gives in, her feminity knows no limit and she has no comparison. The poor enchanted will then breath a sigh and say to himself, "I have nowhere else to set my mind, I am eternally yours!"

13 Dasgupta, Alokranjan in Cultural Profile of Calcutta. op. cit. p. 162-168.

14 I am thankful to R. Antoine for contributing the following:
This is a free translation of the description of the city of Ayodhya, capital of King Dasaratha, as given in the Balakanda of the Ramayana. Canto 5, slokas 5-22: "The land of Kosala was rich and prosperous. Situated along the bank of the Sarayu river it enjoyed abundance and plenty. Its capital was Ayodhya, a city world-famous. Manu, the father of mankind, was its founder. It spread over a distance of twelve yojanas (some 96 miles) and its width was three yojanas. Its broad streets were beautifully laid out. The royal path ran through it, strewn with jeweis and flowers and continually watered. Its king was Dasaratha who reigned in it like the Lord of Gods in Heaven. It had gates and arches, well laid out shops. Artisans of all kinds manufactured instruments and weapons. Bards and minstrels entertained it. Banners fluttered on its high places and its fortresses were armed with deadly weapons. There were troupes of actors and actresses and the beautiful city, with its girdle of sala trees, contained gardens and mango-groves. Deep were the moats of its fortresses. Horses, elephants, cows, camels and donkeys were in abundance. All around were the powerful vessels and merchants hailing from different countries were established there. Its palaces looked like mountains covered with jewels and, with its rich apartments, it shone like Indra's Amaravati. Resplendent like Mount Kailasa with its swarms of beautiful women, its dazzling jewels and its sky-scrapers. Its houses were closely built along levelled streets. There were different kinds of rice, and the juice of sugarcane flowed like water. It resounded with the sound of drums, tambourins and lutes. It looked like a celestial chariot of Siddhas with its well-planned quarters and its virtuous inhabitants. Its archers were expert: they did not use their arrows for visible targets but for invisible ones, guided by sound alone. By the strength of their arms they killed with their sharp weapons the mad lions, tigers and boars roaming in the forests. Such was the city where King Dasaratha reigned."

15 Gupta, R.P., "From Sutanuti to Kalikata" in A Film Miscellancy, International Film Festival, Calcutta 1975, Department of Information and Public Relations, Government of West Bengal, pp. 11-17.

16 Lahiri, Kartik. "Kalkatar Gramatya" in Ekkshon Sharady, 1885.

17 Sen, J., The Unintended City, An Essay on the City of the Poor, a project and publication of the Cathedral Social and Relief Services, Calcutta, 1975.

18 Williams, Raymond. The Long Revolution, London, Penguin Books, 1965 (1961), 399 pages, see Chapter 4: "Images of Society," pp. 120-142. The quote is from p. 120.

19 Do I need to point out the recurrence of the term "furious" used by both Dr. Sinha and Mr. Guillebaud in the sense of extremely intense?

20 Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an Ecology of Mind, New York, Bailamme Books 1972, "The Roots of Ecological Crisis," pp. 488-493.

21 Wilden, Anthony. System and Structure, essays in communication and exchange. Tavistock Publications, 1972, Vol. 30, pp. 207-210.

22 Wilden, op. cit. p. 209.

23 Roberge, G., "Communication Media and Developing Countries" in Vidura, Press Institute of India, New Delhi, October 1979.

24 Wilden, op. cit. p. 210.

25 Bateson, op. cit. p. 490.

26 Wilden, op. cit. p. 210.

27 Bateson, op. cit. p.492.

28 Wilden, op. cit. p. 349.

29 Wilden, op. cit. p. 365.

30 Bateson, op. cit. p. 489.

31 Selbourne, D., An Eye to India, The Unmasking of a Tyranny, London, Penguin, 1977, p. 262.

Notes de fin

1 Rudolf Otto (1860-1937): German philosopher and historian of religions. He pointed out the non-rational nature of the religious experience, and the ambivalence of sacredness. Men are at once fascinated and terrorised by the sacred (just as Kali, the tutelory goddess of the Bengalis, fascinates and terrorises) (J.R.).

2 In 1756 Siraj-ud-Daula, nawab of Bengal, captured Calcutta. 146 British prisoners were packed in a tiny room called the Black Hole, the then military jail of the Fort. 123 of them died of suffocation during the night. This episode points to the beginning of the struggle between the legal sovereign of Bengal and the British who, thanks to Clive, won the decisive battio of Plassey the next year. The Black Hole had also become the symbol of the inhumanity shown by Calcutta to the new-comers (J.R.).

3 Buddhadev Bose (1908-1974): one of the formost poets and writers of contemporary Bengal (J.R.).

4 Adda: a major feature of the Bengali way of life. Adda is an informal group discussion, a free debate. The adda does not aim at arriving at an agreement or decision. In the adda, one speaks for the pleasure of discussion and exchange of ideas (J.R.).

5 Feedback is the reaction between the output and the input of an element or organ when a signal is transferred into a System or, in other words, the reaction of the effect upon the cause. If the reaction amplifies the cause, it is said to be positive (cumulation process). If the effect tends to counter the cause in an attempt to reach a balance, the reaction is negative (regulation process) (from Abraham Moles et al., La Communication, Paris, Denoêl, 1971. pp. 247-248) (J.R.).

6 In the theory of communication and cybemetics, "black box" is a general term refering to the element of a System, the internal function of which has to be overlooked provisionally. It conditions or simply transforms an input signal or phenomenon according to a known law called "characteristic". Black boxes can be divided broadly into two categories:
- the open Systems: the output-or effect-is directly linked to the cause which produced it, according to the "characteristic" = simple causality.
- the closed Systems: the output is sent back into the inlet (circular reaction or feedback) and superimposed on the input: the final product at the outlet is then a function, on the one hand, of the cause on the input, and on the other, of the structure of the reaction circuit.
So black boxes are "simple structure atoms" of the world of organisms, enabling the constitution of special elements from the whole. Ibid, pp. 4748 (J.R.).

7 In communication terminology, noise means any phenomenon that occurs in the course of a communication without being part of the purposeful message proper. A noise is the sound one does not want to hear, the picture one does not want to see, the text one does not want to read, but which however, draws one’s attention (from Abraham Moles et al., op. cit. 1971, p. 48) (J.R.).

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1.1. The living Organization of Calcutta as a black box (from a sketch by Wilden, inspired by Bateson)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/5215/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 176k

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