Rainbow Series – Day 7: The Peacock and the Path to New Beginnings

As we approach a zero-covid Scotland, let us not forget the hard-learnt lessons, the lives lost and the promises made for new beginnings. Let us dare to dream a better, brighter future where kindness and empathy, and radical care and solidarity are at the centre of human interactions.

Radhika Govinda is a feminist sociologist whose work is on the gender politics of development, intersectionality and feminist knowledge production. She lives and works in Edinburgh, and can be reached at Radhika.Govinda@ed.ac.uk. Twitter: @GovindaRadhika

Rainbow Series – Day 6: The Squirrel’s Message

As someone who was born and brought up in India but is now living and working in Scotland, I have always tried to hold in the same frame my two worlds. But keeping in touch across different time zones and caring long distance for loved ones has not been easy. In some ways, the outbreak of covid-19 and especially India having sealed its borders from even Indian passportholders living abroad has been anxiety-inducing in that it forecloses even the possibility of travel were the need to arise. But in other ways, the pandemic has brought together my two worlds which are otherwise worlds apart. At times, the appalling inadequacy of state response has made me wonder if I am really living in a ‘developed’ country. At other times, I have chosen to focus on how the pandemic has strengthened old bonds of family and friendship (we are connecting a lot more on skype/whatsapp while balancing working from home with childcare) and opened up new windows (of time and space) for radical care and solidarity (through webinars and accelerated transnational activism). Each time I fret about what the future holds, I remind myself that, beyond the corona lens, the tree of life continues to grow and life-sustaining water continues to flow through the two places (Delhi represented by Qutab Minar and Edinburgh symbolised by Calton Hill in the painting) at the centre of my phenomenological world.

Radhika Govinda is a feminist sociologist whose work is on the gender politics of development, intersectionality and feminist knowledge production. She lives and works in Edinburgh, and can be reached at Radhika.Govinda@ed.ac.uk. Twitter: @GovindaRadhika

Rainbow Series – Day 5: Awesome Ants and the Why-Why Girl

‘Awesome ants and the why-why girl’*

Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been having rather vivid dreams. In one, I was in a mask-making factory and was stitching masks alongside hundreds of factory workers. In another, all human beings had a piece of the jigsaw puzzle and if we worked together to solve it, we would find the vaccine for covid-19…. The dreams are no doubt bizarre and waking up from them I am exhausted the next day but I’m convinced that working hard and working together, as people seem to do in my dreams, is the only way we can all make it! How many lives must be lost before this is understood?!

*I’ve taken inspiration for the title and some of the designs in this artwork from two of my son’s storybooks, Mahasweta Devi’s (2003) The Why-Why Girl, Chennai: Tulika, with illustrations by Kanyika Kini, and Vinitha’s (2018) Sara Learns To Fly, New Delhi: Katha, with illustrations by Nirzara Verulkar.

Radhika Govinda is a feminist sociologist whose work is on the gender politics of development, intersectionality and feminist knowledge production. She lives and works in Edinburgh, and can be reached at Radhika.Govinda@ed.ac.uk. Twitter: @GovindaRadhika

Rainbow Series – Day 4: Out of the Fishbowl

‘Out of the fishbowl!’


Why couldn’t the British, US and Indian governments take prompt and appropriate action to curb the spread of the virus? Why do they continue to prioritise economic gain over the well-being of people? I have felt angered and aghast at the sheer refusal by political leaders to see the big picture! Why can’t they put aside petty politicking over who will have access to consignments of masks, hydrochloroquine and remdesivir? Why are people hoarding toilet rolls? Why are domestic workers being ostracised as being carriers of the virus in India? Why is there BAME disproportionality in doctors and nurses’ deaths in the UK? The virus has shown that it does not respect boundaries but we as nations and individuals seem to be holding onto and reproducing them against all good sense…. In gond art, fish are depicted as having wings and as moving forward together in shoals. Why can’t we too respond by adapting to the changed circumstances and by showing radical solidarity in the stormy times of covid-19!

Radhika Govinda is a feminist sociologist whose work is on the gender politics of development, intersectionality and feminist knowledge production. She lives and works in Edinburgh, and can be reached at Radhika.Govinda@ed.ac.uk. Twitter: @GovindaRadhika

Rainbow Series – Day 3: Empathetic Elephants

Elephants are known to be kind and empathetic. After the first month or so of lockdown in Edinburgh, my mind has kept going back to how important it is for us to reconnect with nature, and to be attentive to the simple lessons that birds and animals have long known, lessons we seem to have forgotten as we have evolved: about kindness and empathy, about living in harmony with one another and with nature…. As the weeks have turned into months in lockdown, my family and I have valued the opportunity to spend time outdoors, albeit initially limited to our back garden and the meadows. In more recent weeks, we have been able to go hill walking, and my 4.5 year old has learnt to climb trees (a skill I suspect he wouldn’t have otherwise learnt given our urban lifestyle) and as I pick a flower or two on our walks he insists that I not pick the ones that the bees would miss! I hope we’ll remember to carry with us these learnings into a future free from the spectre of covid-19. If the rise in racial violence points to the dire need to embrace these learnings, the mutual aid groups that have been formed offer a ray of hope.

Radhika Govinda is a feminist sociologist whose work is on the gender politics of development, intersectionality and feminist knowledge production. She lives and works in Edinburgh, and can be reached at Radhika.Govinda@ed.ac.uk. Twitter: @GovindaRadhika

Rainbow Series – Day 2: Spring is Here

‘Spring is here!’

The first few weeks in the lockdown were a whirlwind of activity and anxiety. I had neither the time (what with balancing full time working from home with childcare) nor the courage to step out (so afraid I had felt of the deadly virus). When I finally set foot outside after four weeks, I realised that spring had already arrived while I had been trying to make sense of the new normal! The flowers were in bloom. The bees were buzzing around them as they would have normally done at this time of the year. Little seemed to have changed for them. This and being confronted with the uncertainty of life and the possibility of death made me think that I should be slowing down, taking the time to enjoy life and focusing on the things that really matter – my loved ones and my book!

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Radhika Govinda is a feminist sociologist whose work is on the gender politics of development, intersectionality and feminist knowledge production. She lives and works in Edinburgh, and can be reached at  Radhika.Govinda@ed.ac.uk. Twitter: @GovindaRadhika

Rainbow Series – Day 1: Anthropocene

As the days and weeks passed, and as nurseries closed and schools moved teaching online, drawings and paintings of rainbows started to come up on our street, on the neighbouring streets, and as it would turn out, all over the UK, as if signalling that everything was going to be okay, that a beautiful rainbow awaits us at the end of this storm that is the covid-19 pandemic.

My 4.5 year old and I too made a rainbow and put it up on our living room window. As the pandemic has stretched on, we have made several more, and now every window in our home is adorned with a handmade rainbow.

In the first instance, it is these rainbows that inspired this series of artwork, as I painted alongside my child. Hence the use of the seven colours of the rainbow in each piece.

Soon what I loosely call ‘painting’ became a creative outlet for the gamut of feelings I was experiencing – fear, anger, frustration, anxiety – and seeking – hope, resilience, comfort, calm. It helped get over migraines brought on by the stress of unending spirals of work and of anxiety about my family’s and my own wellbeing that even multiple doses of paracetamol couldn’t resolve. It enabled me to express the snatches of thoughts I struggled to coherently articulate in words, especially in those early days of the pandemic. Painting was cathartic. It was relaxing. It feels like a long-lost friend I have reconnected with after the passage of many years. Why did we ever drift apart? Painting has been a lifeline in these disturbing times.

But I am no artist. If you asked me about my distinct style, I would say that I don’t have one. What I have attempted with ordinary acrylic paint pens in this series is an amalgam inspired by gond, madhubani and tinga tinga artists and art forms.

There are seven pieces of artwork in this series. The symbolism of the rainbow or the seven colours of the rainbow appear in each piece. Over the next seven days, I will post one piece and accompanying reflections every day, in keeping with the symbolism of the seven colours of the rainbow.

Today’s artwork is titled: ‘Anthropocene’.

The Australian bushfires just before, and the oil leak in the Arctic circle, the recurring earthquakes, swarms of locusts and devastating cyclones in the South Asian subcontinent during the ongoing pandemic are all manifestations of climate change. Is the pandemic nature’s way of disrupting the world’s march towards unbridled capitalism? Is it the warning that we, as humankind, must heed if we are to survive?



Anthropocene/
The serpent carries within her the earth.
The tree of life grows on her.
Disturb her, and life as we know it is shaken.








Inspired by Ram Singh Urveti’s ‘The Tree of the Serpent Goddess’ from Bajju Shyam, Durga Bai and Ram Singh Urveti’s (2006) The Night Life of Trees, Chennai: Tara Books.

Radhika Govinda is a feminist sociologist whose work is on the gender politics of development, intersectionality and feminist knowledge production. She lives and works in Edinburgh, and can be reached at  Radhika.Govinda@ed.ac.uk. Twitter: @GovindaRadhika