Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Naraka Shoora: Turning Traditions on their head

Some weeks ago, sometime around the eve of Diwali, a friend of mine posed a question that would have made proud the masters who crafted the Agamas and Dharmashastras. ‘At what time is it’, he asked, ‘that the Narakasura, whom we consign to flames on the eve of Diwali, becomes a Narakasura?  Is it when the head-mask is put on? Or when the lights are put on? Or is it when the music starts? Or the moment the frame is made? Is there a specific moment?’ Continuing in this Agamic tradition, a friend of his opined that the real moment should actually start, when the effigy of the Narkasur is burnt down and the Diwali lamps are lit up. At the same time however, this respondent lamented that nowadays, we concentrate more upon creating Narkasur (the symbol of evil) than that quintessential mark of the Goan Diwali, the Akashdivo.

Kancha Ilaiah
When lamenting this inversion of the ‘traditional’ rules of the Diwali celebrations however, this contemporary Agamist may have grabbed the wrong end of the stick. Take the example of the public Ganesh festival, which has come a long way from the time of its invention by Lokmanya Tilak, and is today marked by loud film-music and often by drunken young men dancing to these popular tracks. While the poor Lokmanya must be turning in his grave, the contemporary intellectual Kancha Ilaiah has suggested that these trends, rather than being lamented should be seen as the Dalitisation of the Ganesh festival. Ilaiah’s argument would be that while Tilak’s public festival was intended to consolidate the population along nationalist, brahmanical, and thus elitist lines, the trend otherwise so lamented, should be seen as a populist correction of this trend.

In other parts of the country, the Dalitisation, or de-brahmanisation, of popular Hindu festivals has proceeded apace along rather different patterns.  This trend has been led by Dalit student organisations who have argued that the myths surrounding Hindu gods and goddess and their festivals are in fact symbolic representations of the history of 'upper' castes’ domination over the indigenous population of the country – SC, ST and OBCs.  To correct this history, they therefore re-interpret these events from a Bahujan perspective. Thus for example, the members of the All India Backward Students Forum (AIBSF) in the JNU campus in Delhi suggested that Dussehra was in fact a celebration of the killing of the Sudra king Mahishasa by the upper-caste woman Durga.  Similarly on the campus of the Osmania University, on the eve of Diwali, some students cast Naraka Chathurdashi as “Narakasura Vardhanti,” the death anniversary of Naraka. They reinterpreted the event as commemoration of the killing of the Dalit hero Naraka by the brahmanical figure Krishna, who killed Naraka to suppress the revolt by Dalits against upper castes.  Arguing that the Asura was appended to a name to demonise the character, Narakasura was now called “Naraka Shura”. In this reworking of the name, Naraka remains the name of entity, while the Asura is cast away to make Naraka a Shur-Vir, or brave warrior.

The event at the JNU campus not surprisingly, did not go down well. Upper-caste students taking offense to this inversion and demonization of brahmanical deities assaulted the students of the AIBSF. This sort of confrontational violence has not been universal however, and the modern history of Kerala and the Onam festival is perhaps an interesting example.

Mahabali returns to Kerala
Most people today, both within Kerala and without, see the festival of Onam as the moment when the mythical king Mahabali returns to his former realm, thanks to a final boon by the Vishnu’s Vaman avatar, to check on the well-being of his subjects. It is to welcome him and reassure him that all continues to be well, that Onam is celebrated with pomp and style. Writing on the historical evolution of this festival however, J. Devika argues that ‘Onam used to be, in many parts of Kerala, … more a celebration of Vishnu, rather than Maveli — Mahabali — and domestic rituals associated with Onam celebrated not Mahabali but Vamanamurty.’ She points out that a different interpretation of Onam was forged ‘in the decades in which the movement for uniting Malayalam-speaking regions into Kerala gathered force, one in which the left was certainly a hegemonic presence. Brahmanical mythology according to which Kerala was founded by Parasurama the warrior sage was insistently attacked by left-leaning and anti-caste intellectuals …who launched a scathing attack against the setting up of a depiction of Parasurama outside the venue of the Aikya Kerala Conference in the 1940s.’ As in the case of Goa, Puranic legends cast Parashurama as the mythical creator of Kerala, and clearly, the Aikya Kerala movement, set up to consolidate the Kerala state was seeking to draw on this origin myth to create a  popular history for the nascent Kerala sub-nation. As a result of this attack, Onam was converted from a festival focused on the Vaman avatar, to a celebration of the benevolent asura king Mahabali, an idea that was spread in school text books, and through them into popular imagination.

Mahatma Jotiba Phule
This overturning of the Mahabali- Vaman avatar relationship however, has a much longer tradition than that involved in the consolidation of Malayalam speaking territories into the State of Kerala. This tradition can be said to date back to the efforts of the 19th century philosopher and social reformer Mahatma Jotiba Phule. In a recent book,  The World of Ideas in Modern Marathi: Phule,Vinoba, Savarkar, G. P. Deshpande points out that Phule con­trasted Baliraja, the shudratishudra king, with Vamana, the brahmanical avatara, to make a point about the nature of power relations between caste  groups in the sub-continent.  Deshpande argues that the extent to which Phule returned to this myth in his work would allow us to see Phule as possibly constructing all recorded history as the history of the Vamana-Baliraja struggle. Not surprisingly, Phule is an important figure in the political pantheon of Dalit political groups.

The exploring of the social relations and social history encoded within the myths that form the basis of Hindu festivals may not be as simple a task as a merely intellectual discussion however. The attempt of the AIBSF on the JNU campus ended up with upper-caste students assaulting the members of the AIBSF. Given the sensitivity with which we in India take our religious figures, one can see that suggesting that it is not the Asura, but the Vishnu avatar who is the bad guy, may fall nothing short of asking for the cataclysmic to break down on us. The Dalit activist on the other hand, would argue that the un-deifying of the Vishnu avatar is central to undoing the brahmanical violence, perpetuated on Dalit communities on a daily basis, and in allowing Dalit communities to construct a history that explains the conditions that they find themselves in.

The options are admittedly not easy, and we don’t have to necessarily take a call now. We need to merely recognize that this social process is on, and watch for what happens. The Agamas were/are scriptures that lay out the ritual guidelines for the appropriate construction of an image that will subsequently be infused with the spirit of the deity. Given the attempts that are on to re-evaluate popular myths and interrogate belief-systems, it appears that the almost Agamic questions that were referred at the start of this column, are not entirely out of place?

(A version of this post was first published in the Gomantak Times 25 Nov 2011)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Tejpal Factor: Trigger finger of the colonial gun

You already know that the recently concluded Thinkfest, organized by Tehelka, was partly in the news for the wrong reasons. In addition to being hosted by alleged violators of the coastal zone regulations, and being backed by mining interests, serious charges had also been brought against the editor of Tehelka, Mr. Tarun Tejpal. One of these charges was brought by an anti-mining activist, Mr. Hartmann de Souza, who alleged that Tejpal had deliberately silenced a critical story on the illegalities involved in Goa’s mining industry. Subsequently, Tejpal got into trouble for making a suggestion that when people come to Goa, in this case guests at the Thinkfest, high on their priority was engaging in sexual and other sensorial excesses.

Tejpal responded to Mr. de Souza in a profoundly insulting riposte in the Hindustan Times, attempting to deny the charges of silencing the mining story; and denied the charges regarding his statement at the Thinkfest. In his rebuttal, de Souza piled one fact upon another to demonstrate the hollowness of Tejpal’s defence. One came away from reading de Souza’s response to acknowledge that there was indeed something sticky about Tejpal, Goa and the mining issue. What this systematic destruction of Tejpal’s fig leaf left untouched however, was the colonial thinking that Tejpal had demonstrated in his response to de Souza, and which seems to have manifested itself in his alleged statement at the Thinkfest.

Tejpal’s response to de Souza commenced with the title ‘Albert Pinto ko gussa kyon aata hai’ (What makes Albert Pinto angry?). For those not in the know, the title refers to the 1981 film by Saeed Mirza featuring the socio-political dilemmas that face a young working-class Catholic man in midst of the socio-economic turmoil of Bombay in the 1970’s and 1980s. Interestingly, while the film itself offers a critical and sympathetic look at a subalternsocial group that in addition to being a religious minority was further marginalized economically and politically, Tejpal’s title does the opposite. If there is a link to Bollywood in Tejpal’s title, then it is to the ‘Anthony Gonsalvez’ from the film ‘Amar, Akbar, Anthony’ (AAA). If Mirza’s film paints a realistic likeness of a community, AAA paints the Indian west-coast Catholic into a caricature. This caricature is not unfamiliar to us, Bollywood repeatedly casts, dismissively, the Goan-East-Indian communities  as jolly (read alcohol-charged) fellows, ready for the singing and dancing. One cannot really expect them to mount a serious argument, and they are at best given to spontaneous bursts of emotion; like children really. This reading of Tejpal’s title is borne out by the manner in which he structures his response, where he rebuts every allegation, only by mocking de Souza’s alleged inability to follow an argument, or his alleged collapse into hysterical anger. The underlying message of Tejpal’s response is unmistakable; you can’t take this de Souza fellow seriously, discussing with him being an experience akin to arguing with a child (or a drunk). This was a colonial tactic too. The white-man assumed a colonial burden of educating the childlike noble savages into civilization, and the techniques of democratic governance.

Tejpal then takes up another technique used by the white man in his colonial drive. One of the justifications for colonialism was the inability of the colonized native to effectively harness the resources of the locations they lived in. The colonizer was effectively doing them a favour by effectively exploiting the local resources for development. Tejpal informs us in his response to Mr. de Souza that “the house we bought was an old ruin in an inner village”. In his rejoinder to this riposte, de Souza informs us that there were also words like “I mean, look at Moira man, it’s a dying Goan village”. Tejpal would perhaps prefer if we did not rely on de Souza’s version of the conversation between the two of them, but it does not change the way in which we read Tejpal and his statement. The point of Tejpal’s argument is clear, he is doing Goa and Goans a favour by buying an ‘old ruin’ that Goans themselves (shame on them) do not value, and he is going to breathe life into it. Could the colonial logics be any clearer? The colonial master values (the delicate Goan architecture) what the local savage (the Goan so blindly destroying his own culture) does not. 

This logic of saving has been a part of the rhetoric of a good number of those who come into Goa buying Goan property, and oftentime home-bred Goans themselves. To make this argument is to fail to see the complex mix of reasons, the socio-economic and political reasons, why Goan homes are being pulled down. To blame the Goan is all too easy, but then this easy response is part of the colonial technique of simplifying matters so that the more complex argument brought on by the colonized seem like misplaced anger, and blind stupidity. We should not forget the histories of other colonized places, where impoverished persons of the local communities (be they the First Nations of America, or the adivasis of Central India, the aborigines of Australia) were first impoverished, and then made to sell to the colonizer what they would not have contemplated selling before. This process of impoverishment, and forced selling of livelihood and history, is not uncommon even today in large parts of India, not least in Central India.

Tejpal does not see himself as part of a colonial machinery. After all how could he, given that he sees himself as the good guy fighting against the evil forces of corporate greed. But perhaps Tejpal has not followed his own logic carefully. In his response he indicated that he pleaded with de Souza to make space for ‘complexity, in an intricately intertwined world.’ If we acknowledge this intricate intertwining that Tejpal suggests, then we must also acknowledge that while we fight the good fight elsewhere, we are also implicated in the evil conquests elsewhere.

The problem with the left-leaning Indian liberal is that they do not realize that they are as Indian as the Indians they fight on other fronts. Despite their battles, they share many traits of an Indian-ness, and they too are engaged in an Indian national project, though they differ on the tiny details of this project’s agenda. And so it is, when de Souza protests against the kind of colonial enterprise that Tejpal is associating with in the Goan context, Tejpals suggests that ‘I suspect, for him if it isn’t Goa it doesn’t count.’ What is this if not the kind of charge of anti-nationalism that gets leveled against all those who protest against the excesses of the Indian Union’s colonial project, whether it is in the mountains of Kashmir, the jungles of Jharkhand, or the banks of the Brahmaputra? Tejpal leveled this charge against de Souza three times, ignoring the personal history of a man, committed to another kind of Indian-ness.

The Indian left-liberal may oppose Hindu fundamentalism, but this is largely because they don’t like this ‘return-to-the-Vedas’ kind of Brahmanism that the RSS pushes. On other fronts, they will push their own particular brand of Brahmanism, a form that Pandit Nehru was particularly fond of. One could call this, ‘playing the white man’. On the one hand Kashmir is important because it stresses our Aryan roots, on the other hand Goa is important because as long as they continue to keep up this ‘piece-of-Europe-in-India’ story, they can continue to pretend they are white people. Let us not forget the alacrity with which the former play-spaces of the white masters were taken over by the post-colonial Indian babu; from Lutyen’s Delhi, to the Himalayan and other hill-stations, Pondicherrry, and Goa.

In light of the colonially loaded sub-text of Tejpal’s response to de Souza, one should not be surprised if Tejpal did indeed make those vile remarks in the course of the Think Fest. But we would do ourselves an injustice if we restricted our gaze to Tejpal alone. The larger issue is that there are so many Tejpal’s out there, busy pushing a contemporary colonial agenda. These Tejpals exist both within the ranks of the 'insider' as they do within the 'outsider'. The issue is, what do we do about them?

(A version of this post was first published in the Gomantak Times 16 Nov 2011)

Letters from Portugal: No dia 24, não vou trabalhar

Reports tell us that the protest in Lisbon on 15 October, as part of the Global Day of Protest was one of the largest demonstrations in the world on that day. This is in fact quite surprising for a country that, since the upheaval around the 25 of April 1974, has not been marked by grand demonstrations.  But then today the Portuguese have much to be afraid for; the consumerist paradise that was constructed in the years following their entry into the European Union seems to be falling apart with every passing day. Not a day passes when we are not informed that there are to be more cuts on social spending, that taxes have increased, and the Christmas bonus that is normally handed out will be culled. 

Eavesdropping on a conversation brought home the realization, that in a country marked by low salaries, the Christmas bonus, which amounts to the salary of a whole extra month, is very often the key to balancing basic household expenditures. Minus this bonus a good many homes will fall into very serious economic crises. Add to this, the general privatization of the economy and the sale of public assets. But, as if to add insult to injury are the suggestions that emanate from the Prime Ministerial Office that in the city of Lisbon, there are plans to curtail the hours of the metro system so that it stops even before midnight. This suggestion was responded to by one Portuguese person, as sending the message to the people that the role that the State had decided to play, was to only to ensure that the population could get to work. Beyond this limited objective, where the citizens are now seen as the route through which the State will pay off a debt, the State under the new leadership seems committed to abdicating its responsibilities.

It is for these reasons that the Portuguese landed up, from the leftist radicals, members of Catholic religious orders, and members of the comfortably placed Portuguese middle-class, to make their displeasure obvious. It was a heady experience, this sense of revolution; this boy getting up on one of the stone lions that sits guard before the Assembleia da República and burning a newspaper carrying the statement of the Prime Minister, the stand-off between the police and the people, and the general assembly of the people that followed. This general assembly saw divergent groups make their position, from the black boy who pointed out that it wasn’t, or it could not be just a ‘white’ thing, but the rights of the blacks in Portugal needed to be counted as well; to the person who pointed out that underneath the uniform they wore, the police-persons were their brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts. They may stand as a force between us and the Assembleia, but they would suffer the say cuts as those on the other side of that line. And then there were those leftist radicals (one has to love them for the sense of symbolic drama they bring to any demonstration), who urged an occupation of the Assembleia. 

In the course of this public assembly emerged a voice demanding a ‘Greve Geral’, a general strike of the population of Portugal, attempting a complete paralysis of the system, indicating how widely unpopular the budgetary cuts and other fiscal interventions were. This move was, as is to be expected, widely popular at the public assembly, and has been growing in strength, with various unions pledging their support to this general strike, and public discourse and discussion around the benefits of the strike growing. How effective this strike, scheduled for the 24 day of this month, will be in paralyzing the country, and in forcing some sort of rethink of the position this country finds itself in, remains to be seen.

It was under these circumstances that a little Facebook movement, called ‘Trabalhar’, popped up. The strap-line to this title read ‘No dia 24, eu vou trabalhar’ (on the 24th I will go to work). This ‘movement’ suggests that “Portugal is in an emergency, a situation brought about by the previous government. A general strike would work only to further harm the economy and send a negative signal to the outside world. On the 24 November, I will go to work, just as I do on other days”.

What is amusing about this little ‘movement’ is that like the comment on the decision to curtail the working hours of the Lisbon Metro, it has latched onto work. It seems to suggest that all that is at issue here, is about getting to work, as if hard work is lacking in the country, and it is hard work that will resolve the issues of this country. Nothing could be further from the truth. If there is a truth about Portugal’s current crisis, it is that as was famously pointed out by Alessio Rastani in that famous interview with the BBC, it is not governments that rule the world, but rogue financial institutions that rule the world through their speculative actions. To make the strike on the 24th about working or not working then, is to deliberately obfuscate a significant point.

A good look at Portugal would cure us of the fantasy that the trivializing of larger issues to petty party politics is the unique curse of our country. Here a situation, where the governance is effectively in foreign hands, is being further compromised, not through a strike that could call for a general reckoning, but by making the issue of party politics, and viewing the whole situation from the narrow perspective of the country’s financially secure groups. Furthermore, what the general strike would prove is also that life is not about work alone. On the contrary, we work, only because we want to live. It is a shame that we are being made to apologize when we assert this right to not live by bread alone.

(A version of this post was first published in O Heraldo 13 Nov 2011)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Newspapers and democracy: On stings, advertorials and ethics

Despite all the good that they bring, in terms of revelations of the dirty underbelly of our society, governmental operation or otherwise, there is always this nagging feeling that all is not quite right with the route of the ‘sting operation’. Our legal system, like most today, is based on the centrality of the conscious subject. Thus for example, one cannot compel an individual to give evidence against oneself. Despite the unpopularity of this idea among various segments of people, to do otherwise would result in fairly authoritarian systems, which would absolutely undermine the freedom and dignity of the individual.

Faithful readers of the Gomantak Times will realize that reference is being made here to the sting operation conducted by the journalist Mayabhushan Nagvekar against the ‘paid news’ services that the O Heraldo seems to offer. The point of this column is not to condemn Nagvekar for his operation, nor to hastily condemn the O Heraldo before the whole episode has been investigated and run its course. The aim of this column is to explore the suggestions made by the editor of the O Heraldo in his response, to Nagvekar’s charge.

The editor's statement to the allegations by Nagvekar, published on the website of MXMIndia,  suggested that ‘Herald is the only newspaper which used the tag “advertorial” on top of their news pages so that the difference between editorial and advertorial is clearly established.’ This suggestion seeks to draw a line between the practices effected by O Heraldo and other newspapers. The editor is suggesting here, that in doing so, O Heraldo, is in fact the more ethical of the pack. If this is true, this is a fair statement to make. However, the question we should be asking is whether it is ethical in the first place to allow “advertorials” in a newspaper, whether indicated as such, or simply placed there for the unsuspecting to swallow, hook, line and sinker.

It appears that we are not surprised today when a newspaper is seen as a commercial institution, geared toward generating a profit for its owners. We must not forget however, that the newspaper has come into this position of being able to generate profit primarily because it served larger ends. This larger end was the creation of the informed public sphere, or civil society, the basis of the modern bourgeois democracy.  The very notion of the public sphere is based on numerous ideas of honour.  The idea that ‘the public’ is of value, is educated, thus worthy of honour demonstrated in the form of presenting one’s idea passionately, without guile or artifice. This presentation of an opinion also relied on the idea of the honour of the writer, the journalist, who staked his honour on this guileless presentation. Finally, is the idea of civil society, where unlike in the ancien regime where decisions were made without reference to the people, reached through private arrangements, governance would be effected through the results of open discussion.

The newspaper served thus as a mouth-piece for ideological groups, each group proclaiming its position, creating through this process of publication, and reading, and subsequent response, the public sphere, a democratic space that could be relied on by the Government to carry on its task of responsible and responsive governance. Profit comes late into this equation, initially as a means to sustain an initiative, and convert a good idea, into an institution. The newspaper sold itself initially on the idea that what was being presented was an idea, unburdened by guile, personal or corporate profit. Indeed, the respect, the almost unparalleled access that the journalist receives is based on this history, this expectation that the journalist is representing one’s honourable opinion, one based on convictions, not on other extraneous circumstances.

One would be hard pressed to suggest that the ‘advertorial’ matches up to this hallowed history. Under the set of circumstances that create the advertorial, the journalist is not someone who presents her impassioned opinion, or a balanced review of a position. On the contrary, the journalist is now a hired hand. You pay money to the journalist, and the journalist is commissioned like some portraiture artist to paint a flattering likeness of the situation or person being presented to the reading public.

There is another possibility however that does not violate the political traditions of the newspaper as an institution. This is when the advertorial is not crafted by a journalist who works at the newspaper, but is merely a public relations agent. The job of this agent is precisely to be this hired hand – though one hopes that such agents also have ethical considerations that animate them. In such a case, the advertorial is just another form of the kinds of advertisements that we encounter on the birthday of a politician, of national events when we are force-fed ‘news’ of the greatness of the politician whose anniversary is being celebrated, or of the government in power. To be fair, this tradition, with the dubious exception where the government places ads to lavish praise on the electoral party in power, is a valid exercise of the public space created through the newspaper. The purpose of the newspaper is to present a point of view, and if the fan-base of a political leader seek to demonstrate why they love him, this is a part of the newspaper’s political tradition. We need to remember however, that where the elected representative is treated as a king, relations between the representative and the electorate are not the ideal relationship one imagines where representative is responsible to the electorate, or to a wider public, but one between subject and King.

Where the advertorial steps outside of the political tradition is when it takes up editorial space proper. When money alone determines what becomes news and what not. In the cynical world of late capitalism this position may not be shocking, but as idealist democrats, we reserve our right to be shocked by this practice. We reserve this right to be shocked because the point of a democracy is that whether rich or poor, everyone has the equal right to speak and to be heard. In a democracy, the poor especially have a right to have access to institutional frameworks that will speak truth to power. When money begins to start determining what makes it to the editorial page and what not, then democracy is in big, big trouble. When money determines whether a citizen is able to prove her point, or not, then democracy is in even deeper trouble.

Given the age of the  O Heraldo, and the rich political history of Goa that it represents, we owe to it the opportunity of believing it when its Editor suggests that they were striving to be honest to the political traditions of the newspaper when they indicate whether an item in the newspaper is ‘advertorial’ or ‘editorial’. However, may we also suggest to the Herald, that perhaps this distinction that they employ is riddled with problems, and it behooves them to move beyond this practice that has so unfortunately taken root in our democracy?

(A version of this post was first published in the Gomantak Times 2 Nov 2011)

Letters from Portugal: Mobile Connections

Sometime before the Portuguese economic crisis could get compounded to the even greater mess it is now in; when Portugal was seeking financial aid from the European Union and a right-wing Finnish political party threatened to block this possibility, a highly entertaining and enlightening video made its appearance. This video, which premiered at the Estoril Conferences, soon made its way to the internet, where it continues to educate the world about the Portuguese, their achievements and their idiosyncracies. Did you know, for example, that the Portuguese have more mobile phones that inhabitants?

It took a while to make sense of this bit of information. How could this be possible? Unlike the irrepressible human, mobile phones don’t just jump off the shelf and procreate. How then to explain this multiplication? The first logical step was to recognize that unlike in the ‘old days’ when a mobile phone was expensive, today even younger persons have the option to gain a mobile phone. But acknowledging this possibility does not indicate how the number of mobile phones outstrips the inhabitants (not just the Portuguese nationals) in the country. The easy answer it turned out was that almost every Portuguese has at least two mobile phones. Some even have three.

The easy question having been answered, the next question was why would any person want more than one phone? What earthly reason could motivate a person to collect phones in this manner? Was there some unique social need that the mobile phone was enabling? For example, as a conversation with a social activist in Goa pointed out, the mobile phone does meet a variety of social needs in Goa. In circumstances where physical privacy is hard to procure, and where romantic intimacy outside of marriage exists but is socially unacceptable, the mobile phone manages to provide the space that is not otherwise unavailable. If such is the case in Goa then, is it possible that the mobile phone is being put to similar use in Portugal? Could it be that there is one phone for use with the family, and another phone, whose number is handed out to paramours and the like, the existence of whom is unknown to the family?

Sadly it turns out, such flights of fancy cannot be sustained, given that the answer was once more or less straight forward. It turns out that there are around three major mobile phone service providers in Portugal; Optimus, TMN, Vodafone (listed in alphabetical order). Each of these service providers, in a bid to gain a large a share of the market as possible, offer schemes where for a little extra cash, one can speak for an unlimited amount to phones within the same service network. It turns out therefore, that when one has a large social network, and one wishes to be in touch with them all the time and not crimp on the amount of time spent on the phone, having more than one phone and enrolling in these loyalty schemes allows one to talk as much as possible.

There are other questions that emerge from this revelation. These are questions about what this kind of arrangement indicates about the Portuguese economy as well as society. One of the features of Portuguese society is the tight relations that exist not just among family, but among friend circles as well. Could the owning of multiple cell phones be another strategy through which Portuguese society innovatively harnesses technology and the market to maintain these kinds of solidarity networks? These however, are questions for another day.

(A version of this post was first published in the O Heraldo 30 Oct 2011)