During a 2014 speech to the United Nations (UN) general assembly, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, declared that yoga was an “invaluable gift” of India’s ancient traditions. Soon after, the UN, with the support of 177 member countries, passed a resolution to make June 21st the International Day of Yoga (IDY), a day to celebrate the health and wellness benefits of yoga practice. Each year’s theme (environmental protection, international peace etc.) highlights one further potential for yoga to benefit the world. Though it is a UN observance, IDY is one of the most unified and widespread of India’s international cultural engagements.
In a transnational context, co-residence and touch are not possible due to the geographic distance among family members. Instead, calling has become an elder care practice: sharing everydayness on the phone by sharing the details of one’s daily life is a way of enacting co-presence at a distance, not only as a feeling, but as a concrete practice that involves parents, their children, and phones.
Decades of medical anthropological work have helped disrupt notions of biomedicine’s soteriological basis, its unquestioning moral rightness, and its fundamental commitment of doing no harm. In our cross-border research on public health systems in Indian and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, respectively—two of the most militarized places on earth—we try to trouble and even undo the assumed good or neutrality of medicine by evaluating its darker, shadow side. As medical anthropologists, we are interested in how long-term conflict leaves traces in public health infrastructures, and how medicine’s soteriological foundations are manipulated, twisted, or mangled in everyday clinical practices, such that the lines between practice and malpractice can become exceptionally blurred.
When I began my fieldwork on sanitation work in Bangalore, India, the city had already suffered two decades of class polarization and environmental degradation, after being marked as a site for low-cost solutions, back-end support, and offshore expansion. So, I should have suspected that the paradoxes of progress would leave me tongue-tied: lost in my mother tongue (Kannada), along with everyone else’s.