TA Writer of the Week: Preeti Mohan, the mid-day writer

“Chennaiites will still pick a hot cup of filter coffee, accessible and affordable, over a branded cappuccino”, says Preeti Mohan.

Preeti Mohan is an unlike as lawyers and Carnatic singers as they come, and more like the average Chennai-ite who prefers filter coffee over a cuppa from an Upper East Side imitation. An opinionated writer with a deep understanding of cultural readings and feminist issues, she has a sweeping record of opinions, analysis and rebuttals in The Alternative that have swayed many a discussion on trending topics to an intellectual balance.

In this interview, she tell us about her life, the ‘spaces in between’ culture she likes to write about and her city of pride and joy that she loves for it’s resistance to foreign imports but not its hierarchies.

Preeti Mohan

Litigator by day with the pen as a weapon of choice

I am a litigating lawyer by profession and a passionate writer by afternoon [that’s when a lot of my pieces get written as I steal away some work time to write them up!]. I am an avid advocate of the woman’s cause, and find that the more we think that the cause has progressed with modernism, the more we find evidence to challenge and revisit that notion.

The spaces and stories in everyday lives is where I define culture

Culture, for me, is that intangible strand of identity that deeply influences how we live and who we think we are, but often does not get its deserved place of priority. It is often said that mainstream history is written only of rulers and the conquered, with the everyday lives of people largely undocumented and invisible. This is the space that interests me, and culture presents immense potential, particularly as religious and political debates get sharply polarized and appropriate the space of a substantial mass of people who don’t identify with them.

Indian traditions and folk tales by their very nature, lend themselves to constant interpretation and re-imagining. The diversity in the cultural spectrum is so rich that it makes any kind of homogenization and claims to authority by a few versions, impossible. While I do not necessarily subscribe to the divide of the traditional and the contemporary, I do often find myself questioning those traditional patterns that have served to exclude people, and entrench hierarchies.

The irony of old school versus foreign imports in Chennai

Talking about Chennai as it stands today, I find it wonderful that large brands ranging from clothes to food have been relentlessly chasing the city, and have not made much headway. Chennaiites will still pick a hot cup of filter coffee, accessible and affordable, over a branded cappuccino. They will still ride the ubiquitous Chennai auto, despite taxi services trying to capture the market. And they will still line the large expanses of the beaches for recreation, no matter how glamorous the new mall around the corner may be. Chennai does have a very strong cultural ethos that has resisted the kind of homogenous urbanization other cities have seen. A huge challenge though, is to work towards a city that is more cosmopolitan and inclusive, and break the divisive cliques of caste and class that still seem to have a substantial impact.

Sustainability to me is…

Sustainability in my life has much to do with ideas of justice and rights. I strongly believe that a society which is built on oppressive structures such as patriarchy and caste cannot be sustainable. To these ideas, culture is as relevant as politics, and I would say that my understanding of sustainability flows from both.

My favourite in TA

There is too much good writing on the Alternative to identify just one piece. I would say that your work on education is path-breaking, and I love the dialogues you have created around issues in education, and quite simply the world of children and learning.

Spreading the message of sustainability

The Alternative can expand its audience by broadening the geographical context of its stories. Generic but interesting writing that uses humour, satire, and caricature will also bring a younger, fresher feel to the publication.

We feature one such writer every week, who has enriched our platform with interesting and diverse stories and views in our TA Writer of the Week section. Suggest your favourite writers to us at contribute@thealternative.in.


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