अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

December 31, 2011

A Challenge for RTI Activists in India

There is a major issue that most people, including activists in India have not given as much attention as it merits. That issue is of surveillance of ordinary people, especially within offices, gated societies, campuses and in some cases even independent houses. The use of electronic devices for surveillance is far more widespread than the occasionally reported phone tapping cases. Potentially, and I think in reality too, this is hampering all kind of normal activities that people can indulge in, including acts of dissidence and protest, which I think are the special target of such practices. It has come to the point where any kind of protest activity in India is being ‘nipped in the bud’, at least in urban areas. This is making all the talk about there being democracy in India a joke.

Whether or not I am wrong in saying the above, there is sufficient evidence about the potential and real misuse of surveillance devices. This is part of a worldwide trend that has intensified in the last ten years and many such cases have been reported in various countries, including by the mainstream media, which usually avoids such topics these days. One concrete, practical action that can be taken in this regard is to demand information about this under the Right to Information Act. Since I am not competent enough to do this on my own and I have no contacts of any sort whose help I can take, I challenge (or appeal, whichever way you like to see it) the RTI activists to demand this information from the government as well as corporations.

I list below some specific points which I think should form the basis for such a demand. I only write them down here as rough indicators.

  1. Has the government sanctioned the use of electronic surveillance devices against ordinary people? It yes, who gives authorisation in specific cases and on what basis? What guidelines are followed? Who verifies that these guidelines are followed? Is there any mechanism through which the targeted person can ask for justification for any such surveillance?
  2. Are these devices being used in hotels, hostels, campuses and offices? What safeguards are there against their misuse? Who looks after this? On what basis are these places identified? Are they also being used in independent houses? If yes, what are the details?
  3. Are local administrators or managers or private security agencies allowed to make their own policies regarding this, ignoring any consideration for privacy of individuals? What is the mechanism through which information can be obtained about this and how can any redressal be sought?
  4. Are there any constraints about sharing the information collected through these means? Who decides about such things? Has it become a complete free for all where any administrator or manager or private security company can collect and disseminate such information?
  5. What is the role of IT companies in this, especially outsourcing companies such as TCS, Wipro, Infoys, who have huge numbers of employees, many of whom at any given time are not engaged in productive work? Are these employees being involved in unauthorised and illegal surveillance on ordinary people? What are the details about this, how can they be obtained? If this is happening, does the government know about it and was this officially sanctioned by the government?
  6. Is the information (or any falsified/distorted version of it) collected through surveillance (by whichever agency) being used for punitive purposes against people who are seen to be (rightly or wrongly, with justification or without justification) indulging in some kind of dissidence activity such as opposing the policies of privatisation and corporatisation of everything? If yes, what is the legal basis for this?
  7. Is such information being used to disrupt services such as Internet access and electricity supply for people who are being targeted by the surveillance policies?
  8. Is such information being used to launch smear campaigns against people seen as opposed to the official or corporate policies?
  9. Is such information being used to generally “make life impossible” (as one think tank writer proudly mentioned in one of his articles: on a dissident media website, no less) for the targeted people?
  10. Is such information being given to shopkeepers, hair dressers etc., with the instructions to not provide proper services (or deny providing services) to the targeted people?
  11. Is such information being used to ensure that the targeted people are denied jobs that they apply for? Is it being used to form a kind of (formal or informal) blacklist for employment and related purposes? Is it also being used to create hindrances in the work of these people, if they do get a job.
  12. What is extent of the use of surveillance of any kind in academics? What is the purpose of such surveillance? Are students being involved in such activities as developers, system administrator and informers in general? What are the details of surveillance related projects sanctioned by the government specifically for academic institutions?
  13. To what extent are the communications service providers being used for surveillance, whether for the government or for corporations or for any other organisations?
  14. Does the government know about the use of surveillance devices by the large right-wing organisations and corporations/institutions sympathetic to them? If yes, have any steps being taken to stop this? Has there been any investigation into this?
  15. In case the answer to most of the questions above is negative, is there any mechanism to take action in case evidence is made available that would indicate that the answer to at least a few of these questions may be affirmative?

I have written the above only as initial notes. These can be refined and improved and extended. I would welcome any suggestions.

Full Disclosure: I am writing this as a person who believes that he has been a target of such practices for the last many years, although I don’t even claim to have indulged in much protest of any major significance. I am writing this almost as a last resort, having tried to ignore this issue for a long time, hoping that it would cease in due course. I don’t know what else I can do about this. Please note that being part of the ‘IT community’ in India, I am both more prone to it and also more likely to notice it.

I know how some people are going to react to it, but unless I thought it absolutely necessary (a matter of life and death), I wouldn’t have written it. I am generally not given to stick my head out easily, though I do try to call a spade a spade. I am no Bradley Manning. But I guess my head is already out.

December 1, 2011

The Original Mark Twain

A day or two ago Google put on its search engine interface what they call a doodle. It was for celebrating the 176th birthday of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain. I used to have trouble recalling his real name, so commonly known and popular his pen name has become, something like that of George Orwell, who, by the way, wrote an essay about him titled ‘The Licensed Jester’ (note this down as evidence of contradiction).

I had read Huckleberry Finn during my first college degree days. At that time I was aware of the fact that Mark Twain was a famous writer. I had read a few short things by him in English text books. I had also read a part of Tom Sawyer, but couldn’t finish it because it had to be returned. But I did not know about this book, Huck Finn. I didn’t know that it was considered the first Great American Novel. But even before finishing that shortish novel, I had no doubt that it was one of the best American novels ever written.

Note the self-referentiality and pomposity and keep it in mind while reading the rest of this article.

But this article is going to be more of a cut-and-paste (copy-and-paste, to be exact) job. That’s because this is the only way to do justice to what I want to say here. And there is no editor and a board of reviewers to look over my shoulder, so that makes it easy. The source is also in public domain, so no legal problems. If you are a fair use fanatic, go read something else.

If even people like me have trouble recalling his real name, it can be expected that few people (other than literary scholars and may be some other literary geeks) know the story of the origin of his pen name. Those who do know, only know a part of it, and that too the part that is less interesting.

Now I can add here that there is a theory among scholars that this story is perhaps not factual. I am not aware of their arguments and since Mark Twain himself explained in detail why he became Mark Twain, and I also know him to be one of most honest people in literature or elsewhere, I will ignore that theory and get on with the one that I like.

In fact, when I first read this story it made such a great impression on me that I have been aching ever since to write about it. The story forms Chapter 50 of another of his great books, Life on the Mississippi. I read it some years after I had read Huck Finn and this time I had borrowed the book (from the British Library, if I remember correctly: note this down for your later judgement). Since I had it in my own name and was ready to pay the fine for late fees (which I did very frequently and they were substantial sums for me at that time), I was able to finish this much longer book (I was as busy as anyone can be in those days: note it down). I liked it almost as much as Huck Finn. For the record, I completed reading Tom Sawyer much later and didn’t like it that much. No match for Huck Finn.

The story, or the part of the story that is commonly presented and known, is also given on the Wikipedia page about Mark Twain:

He maintained that his primary pen name came from his years working on Mississippi riverboats, where two fathoms, a depth indicating safe water for passage of boat, was measured on the sounding line. A fathom is a maritime unit of depth, equivalent to two yards (1.8 m); twain is an archaic term for “two.” The riverboatman’s cry was mark twain or, more fully, by the mark twain, meaning “according to the mark [on the line], [the depth is] two [fathoms],” that is, “The water is 12 feet (3.7 m) deep and it is safe to pass.”

The Wikipedia page goes on to say that he “claimed that his famous pen name was not entirely his invention” and that “In Life on the Mississippi, he wrote:”

Captain Isaiah Sellers was not of literary turn or capacity, but he used to jot down brief paragraphs of plain practical information about the river, and sign them “MARK TWAIN,” and give them to the New Orleans Picayune. They related to the stage and condition of the river, and were accurate and valuable; … At the time that the telegraph brought the news of his death, I was on the Pacific coast. I was a fresh new journalist, and needed a nom de guerre; so I confiscated the ancient mariner’s discarded one, and have done my best to make it remain what it was in his hands – a sign and symbol and warrant that whatever is found in its company may be gambled on as being the petrified truth; how I have succeeded, it would not be modest in me to say.

As I said, the complete story forms a full chapter of the said book. The title of the chapter is “The ‘Original Jacobs'”.

Mark Twain was not faultless, of course, and he was also not one of those who only seem to become faultless by adopting the current orthodoxy about political and social correctness, taking no risks of their own, and having done that, they entitle themselves to judge and sentence anyone from the present or the past, say, for having shown a little bit of racist tendencies in the seventeenth century or of being a little sexist in the first half of the 20th century.

That is not to say that he did not do some nasty things in his time. In fact, the interesting part of the story is about just that. Then there is also the fact that he displayed considerable literary/stylistic prescriptivism in blasting some writers and critics of his time, but I am not going to go into that.

The introduction to the story is that there was another man who had used the pen name Mark Twain. He wasn’t a literary writer, but he was something impressive: impressive enough for Mark Twain to say that it was an honor to be the only one hated by him.

So here comes the copy-and-paste of the 50th chapter of Life on the Mississippi (I have left out the final paragraph, which is not relevant to the story):

Chapter 50 The ‘Original Jacobs’

WE had some talk about Captain Isaiah Sellers, now many years dead. He
was a fine man, a high-minded man, and greatly respected both ashore and
on the river. He was very tall, well built, and handsome; and in his old
age–as I remember him–his hair was as black as an Indian’s, and his
eye and hand were as strong and steady and his nerve and judgment as
firm and clear as anybody’s, young or old, among the fraternity of
pilots. He was the patriarch of the craft; he had been a keelboat pilot
before the day of steamboats; and a steamboat pilot before any other
steamboat pilot, still surviving at the time I speak of, had ever turned
a wheel. Consequently his brethren held him in the sort of awe in
which illustrious survivors of a bygone age are always held by their
associates. He knew how he was regarded, and perhaps this fact added
some trifle of stiffening to his natural dignity, which had been
sufficiently stiff in its original state.

He left a diary behind him; but apparently it did not date back to his
first steamboat trip, which was said to be 1811, the year the first
steamboat disturbed the waters of the Mississippi. At the time of his
death a correspondent of the ‘St. Louis Republican’ culled the following
items from the diary–

‘In February, 1825, he shipped on board the steamer “Rambler,” at
Florence, Ala., and made during that year three trips to New Orleans and
back–this on the “Gen. Carrol,” between Nashville and New Orleans. It
was during his stay on this boat that Captain Sellers introduced the tap
of the bell as a signal to heave the lead, previous to which time it was
the custom for the pilot to speak to the men below when soundings were
wanted. The proximity of the forecastle to the pilot-house, no doubt,
rendered this an easy matter; but how different on one of our palaces of
the present day.

‘In 1827 we find him on board the “President,” a boat of two hundred and
eighty-five tons burden, and plying between Smithland and New Orleans.
Thence he joined the “Jubilee” in 1828, and on this boat he did his
first piloting in the St. Louis trade; his first watch extending from
Herculaneum to St. Genevieve. On May 26, 1836, he completed and left
Pittsburgh in charge of the steamer “Prairie,” a boat of four hundred
tons, and the first steamer with a STATE-ROOM CABIN ever seen at St.
Louis. In 1857 he introduced the signal for meeting boats, and which
has, with some slight change, been the universal custom of this day; in
fact, is rendered obligatory by act of Congress.

‘As general items of river history, we quote the following marginal
notes from his general log–

‘In March, 1825, Gen. Lafayette left New Orleans for St. Louis on the
low-pressure steamer “Natchez.”

‘In January, 1828, twenty-one steamers left the New Orleans wharf to
celebrate the occasion of Gen. Jackson’s visit to that city.

‘In 1830 the “North American” made the run from New Orleans to Memphis
in six days–best time on record to that date. It has since been made in
two days and ten hours.

‘In 1831 the Red River cut-off formed.

‘In 1832 steamer “Hudson” made the run from White River to Helena, a
distance of seventy-five miles, in twelve hours. This was the source of
much talk and speculation among parties directly interested.

‘In 1839 Great Horseshoe cut-off formed.

‘Up to the present time, a term of thirty-five years, we ascertain, by
reference to the diary, he has made four hundred and sixty round trips
to New Orleans, which gives a distance of one million one hundred and
four thousand miles, or an average of eighty-six miles a day.’

Whenever Captain Sellers approached a body of gossiping pilots, a chill
fell there, and talking ceased. For this reason: whenever six pilots
were gathered together, there would always be one or two newly fledged
ones in the lot, and the elder ones would be always ‘showing off’ before
these poor fellows; making them sorrowfully feel how callow they were,
how recent their nobility, and how humble their degree, by talking
largely and vaporously of old-time experiences on the river; always
making it a point to date everything back as far as they could, so as to
make the new men feel their newness to the sharpest degree possible,
and envy the old stagers in the like degree. And how these complacent
baldheads WOULD swell, and brag, and lie, and date back–ten, fifteen,
twenty years,–and how they did enjoy the effect produced upon the
marveling and envying youngsters!

And perhaps just at this happy stage of the proceedings, the stately
figure of Captain Isaiah Sellers, that real and only genuine Son of
Antiquity, would drift solemnly into the midst. Imagine the size of the
silence that would result on the instant. And imagine the feelings of
those bald-heads, and the exultation of their recent audience when the
ancient captain would begin to drop casual and indifferent remarks of a
reminiscent nature–about islands that had disappeared, and cutoffs that
had been made, a generation before the oldest bald-head in the company
had ever set his foot in a pilot-house!

Many and many a time did this ancient mariner appear on the scene in the
above fashion, and spread disaster and humiliation around him. If one
might believe the pilots, he always dated his islands back to the misty
dawn of river history; and he never used the same island twice; and
never did he employ an island that still existed, or give one a name
which anybody present was old enough to have heard of before. If you
might believe the pilots, he was always conscientiously particular about
little details; never spoke of ‘the State of Mississippi,’ for instance
–no, he would say, ‘When the State of Mississippi was where Arkansas
now is,’ and would never speak of Louisiana or Missouri in a general
way, and leave an incorrect impression on your mind–no, he would say,
‘When Louisiana was up the river farther,’ or ‘When Missouri was on the
Illinois side.’

The old gentleman was not of literary turn or capacity, but he used
to jot down brief paragraphs of plain practical information about the
river, and sign them ‘MARK TWAIN,’ and give them to the ‘New Orleans
Picayune.’ They related to the stage and condition of the river, and
were accurate and valuable; and thus far, they contained no poison.
But in speaking of the stage of the river to-day, at a given point, the
captain was pretty apt to drop in a little remark about this being the
first time he had seen the water so high or so low at that particular
point for forty-nine years; and now and then he would mention Island
So-and-so, and follow it, in parentheses, with some such observation
as ‘disappeared in 1807, if I remember rightly.’ In these antique
interjections lay poison and bitterness for the other old pilots, and
they used to chaff the ‘Mark Twain’ paragraphs with unsparing mockery.

It so chanced that one of these paragraphs–{footnote [The original MS.
of it, in the captain’s own hand, has been sent to me from New Orleans.
It reads as follows–

VICKSBURG May 4, 1859.

‘My opinion for the benefit of the citizens of New Orleans: The water
is higher this far up than it has been since 8. My opinion is that the
water will be feet deep in Canal street before the first of next June.
Mrs. Turner’s plantation at the head of Big Black Island is all under
water, and it has not been since 1815.

‘I. Sellers.’]}

became the text for my first newspaper article. I burlesqued it broadly,
very broadly, stringing my fantastics out to the extent of eight hundred
or a thousand words. I was a ‘cub’ at the time. I showed my performance
to some pilots, and they eagerly rushed it into print in the ‘New
Orleans True Delta.’ It was a great pity; for it did nobody any worthy
service, and it sent a pang deep into a good man’s heart. There was no
malice in my rubbish; but it laughed at the captain. It laughed at a man
to whom such a thing was new and strange and dreadful. I did not know
then, though I do now, that there is no suffering comparable with that
which a private person feels when he is for the first time pilloried in
print.

Captain Sellers did me the honor to profoundly detest me from that day
forth. When I say he did me the honor, I am not using empty words. It
was a very real honor to be in the thoughts of so great a man as Captain
Sellers, and I had wit enough to appreciate it and be proud of it. It
was distinction to be loved by such a man; but it was a much greater
distinction to be hated by him, because he loved scores of people; but
he didn’t sit up nights to hate anybody but me.

He never printed another paragraph while he lived, and he never again
signed ‘Mark Twain’ to anything. At the time that the telegraph brought
the news of his death, I was on the Pacific coast. I was a fresh new
journalist, and needed a nom de guerre; so I confiscated the ancient
mariner’s discarded one, and have done my best to make it remain what it
was in his hands–a sign and symbol and warrant that whatever is found
in its company may be gambled on as being the petrified truth; how I
have succeeded, it would not be modest in me to say.

The captain had an honorable pride in his profession and an abiding love
for it. He ordered his monument before he died, and kept it near
him until he did die. It stands over his grave now, in Bellefontaine
cemetery, St. Louis. It is his image, in marble, standing on duty at
the pilot wheel; and worthy to stand and confront criticism, for it
represents a man who in life would have stayed there till he burned to a
cinder, if duty required it.

I find it interesting that the part that this chapter focuses on is always left out from the usual accounts, as far as I know (I am not a Mark Twain scholar, so I am only talking about what I have read).

I also feel that there is a lesson somewhere in this story for those who are receptive. How many would be receptive to such a lesson is something depressing to think about these days.

As a bonus for having read thus far, I invite you to read this, which was not published in his lifetime and about which he said, “I don’t think the prayer will be published in my time. None but the dead are permitted to tell the truth.”.

September 21, 2011

सांस्कृतिक कार्यक्रम

पहला: मार साले को!
दूसरा: मार साले को!
तीसरी: मार साले को!

कोरस: मार साले को! मार साले को! मार साले को!

पहला: मर गया क्या?
दूसरा: लग तो मरा ही रहा है।
तीसरी: अभी पूरी तरह नहीं मरा।

कोरस: मार साले को! मार साले को! मार साले को!

पहला: अबे ये देख वीडियो तेरा।
दूसरा: दिखता नहीं इसमें तू मर रहा है?
तीसरी: नहीं मानेगा, और लगाओ इसके।

कोरस: और लगाओ इसके! और लगाओ इसके! और लगाओ इसके!

पहला: मान जा! रस तो तेरा सारा निकल गया है।
दूसरा: रस तो सारा कोरस को चला गया है।
तीसरी: अब बचा क्या है? अब क्या करेगा तू?

कोरस: अब क्या करेगा तू? अब क्या करेगा तू? अब क्या करेगा तू?

September 5, 2011

The Missing Clause

There is a legal agreement written in very legal language that I had to read today. It’s called Mutual Confidentiality Agreement and is required to be signed by two parties who plan to collaborate on some commercial product or service.

After having plodded through the legalese and having understood most of it (I have an advantage in this regard), I found that there was one clause that was glaringly missing from it.

The document lists all the conditions that apply when the Disclosing Party discloses something to the Recipient. It has a section euphemistically titled ‘Injunctive Relief’ that might send the shivers down the Recipient’s spine, depending on the power balance. It also lists all the exceptions under which these conditions may not apply. Such conditions include “court order” and “as required by law”.

What is missing is something that should be included in all such documents post-9/11, in all countries that went for the security Gold Rush, which practically means all countries, (almost) period.

That missing clause should go something like this:

An (unintended) disclosure by the Recipient to any number of third parties of any of the Disclosing Party’s Confidential Information will not be considered a breach of the agreement if it happens under any of the following conditions:

  1. As part of surveillance operations carried out by the State and any of its agencies, the institution in which the Recipient works or any part thereof, the Local Version of the Truman Show, the Connectivity Service Providers, the Private Security Companies, the Local Quasi-authorised Vigilante Organisations or any other such agencies added to the list till the eve of the day the breach is considered for scrutiny.
  2. [Talking of eve] As a result of eavesdropping by the agencies and organisations listed in 1.
  3. As a result of disclosure by the people involved in (a) surveillance and (b) eavesdropping by the agencies and organisations listed in 1 to any of their superiors, colleagues, sub-ordinates, business associates, friends, relatives, family members or strangers.

The clause sounds very reasonable in the post-9/11 world and makes perfect legal sense. After all, any disclosure made (unintentionally) under conditions listed in this clause would not be the fault of the Recipient and it would only be for The Good of The Country and The World and The Humanity (as everyone knows and agrees to).

I have one doubt, however. Won’t the addition of this clause almost nullify everything else in this agreement to mutual confidentiality?

But the clause is required. Isn’t it?

And what about that poor thing, The Market?

Is it already being forgotten in favour of other things?

April 28, 2011

हक़

कोई मेरे पास आए
साथ चलने के लिए
और मैं उसे भगा दूँ
दुत्कार कर
फटकार कर
सबके सामने
बेइज्जत कर के

तब भी अगर वो ना जाए
तो मैं उसके होने को ही
नज़रअंदाज़ कर के दिखा दूँ

वो बार-बार आता रहे
और मैं बार-बार यही करूँ
तो क्या मुझे हक़ बनता है
उसे दोष देने का
इसलिए कि उसने साथ नहीं दिया
इसलिए कि वो अब साथ नहीं चल रहा
जबकि मेरी खुद की सांठ-गांठ उन्हीं से है
जिनकी यातना और दुत्कार से बचते हुए
वो मेरे पास आया था

साथ चलने के लिए
इसलिए कि किसी और को
यातना और दुत्कार दिए जाने से रोका जा सके

जबकि मुझे यही नहीं पता
कि वो क्या कर रहा है
और क्यों कर रहा है

किसी के सारे रास्ते बंद करके
(दुनिया से ही टिकट कटा लेने को छोड़ कर)
क्या कोई किसी को पाठ पढ़ा सकता है
कि जीवन कैसे जिया जाए
कि नैतिकता के मानदंड क्या हैं?

March 21, 2011

इंकलाब के पहले

अन्याय हर तरफ फैला है
पूंजी का बोलबाला है
सच का सर्वत्र मुँह काला है

ये हालात तो बदलने ही होंगे
बदलाव के हालात बनाने होंगे

तभी तो इंकलाब आएगा
हर जन अपना हक पाएगा

पर उसके पहले बहुत से काम
जो अभी तक पूरे नहीं हुए
वो सब के सब निपटाने होंगे

वो कोने में जिसे अधमरा करके
बड़े दिनों से डाल रखा है
वो अब भी, हद है आखिर,
कभी-कभार बड़-बड़ किए रहता है

उसे सबक सिखाना होगा
उसके भौंकने को बंद कराना होगा
पहला बड़ा काम तो यही है
इसके बिना आगे कैसे बढ़ सकते हैं?

फिर आपस के झगड़े भी तो हैं
तगड़े हैं, एक से एक बढ़ के हैं
एक-दूसरे को सबक सिखाना होगा
एक-दूसरे का भौंकना बंद कराना होगा

दूसरा बड़ा काम यह भी तो है
इसके बिना आगे कैसे बढ़ सकते हैं?

फिर कुछ डरे सहमे
असुरक्षित लोगों ने
अपनी बुद्धि का
अपने ज्ञान का
और तो और
अपनी प्रतिभा का!
(हद है!, हद है!
कितनी अकड़ है!)
आतंक फैला रखा है
यहीं, इंकलाबियों के बीच!

उनका मटियामेट कर के ही
सच्चे इंकलाबी दम ले सकते हैं
उन्हें अपने साथ लाकर नहीं

एक तीसरा बड़ा काम यह जो है
इसके बिना आगे कैसे बढ़ सकते हैं?

ऐसे कितने ही काम और हैं
जिन्हें निपटाना है
इंकलाब के पहले

इसी से याद आया
एक काम तो यही है
कि इन कामों में
जो अड़चन पहुँचाए
उसे हड़का-हड़का के
आपसी झगड़े
ज़रा देर को भुला के
मिल-जुल कर
ऊपर पहुँचाया जाए

इसके बिना आगे कैसे बढ़ सकते हैं?

February 13, 2011

The Moral Laws of Comedy and a Paradox

The Moral Laws of Comedy

According to Eklavya, the three moral laws of comedy can be stated as follows:

  1. The First Law: If you can’t laugh at yourself, you have no right to laugh at others.
  2. The Second Law:If you can’t laugh at more powerful people, then you have no right to laugh at less powerful people, irrespective of where you are on the power spectrum.
  3. The Third Law:If you can’t laugh at the society (or the institution or the group) you live in or belong to, then you have no right to laugh at the individuals in that society (or the institution or the group), including yourself.

An extension to the first law is:

If you can’t laugh at your own society (or institution or group), you have no right to laugh at other societies (or institutions or groups).

The revised (and recommended) statement of the same laws will have the word ‘can’t’ substituted by ‘don’t have the courage to’.

The zeroth moral law of comedy defines ‘laugh’ as a specific kind of laugh that is meant to be a negative comment or critical judgement, such as the laugh associated with ridicule, sarcasm etc. It also defines ‘comedy’ to include humour and satire.

A corollary of these laws is that if you violate any of these laws, then you are not creating comedy (or humour or satire). You are just being mean spirited, petty minded, spiteful, nasty, hateful, bitchy etc.

Simply put, you are being immoral.

A generalization of the laws can also be derived. Such a generalization would apply to criticism and punishment too. Thus, the Moral Laws of Criticism (Punishment) can be given as:

  1. The First Law: If you can’t criticize (punish) yourself, you have no right to criticize (punish) others.
  2. The Second Law:If you can’t criticize (punish) more powerful people, then you have no right to criticize (punish) less powerful people, irrespective of where you are on the power spectrum.
  3. The Third Law:If you can’t criticize (punish) the society (or the institution or the group) you live in or belong to, then you have no right to criticize (punish) the individuals in that society (or the institution or the group), including yourself.

Punishing the society needs some explanation. You can’t obviously punish the society in the way you can punish individuals. And one of the axioms of morality says that collective punishment is immoral, so punishing the society in the above sense can’t mean collective punishment (something whose innumerable manifestations we see in all ages and from all kinds of people, institutions, societies etc.). For the purpose of stating the above laws, punishment of society means changing it in some way. And only that way will be moral which changes it for the better. This sense of punishment, therefore, is nearer to treatment or curing in the medical sense.

The zeroth moral law of criticism (punishment) defines ‘criticism’ in a way that would include the ‘comedy’ mentioned above, thus the generalization.

That extension of the first law also applies here:

If you can’t criticize (punish) your own society, you have no right to criticize (punish) other societies.

The Sin-Song Paradox

Any application of the Moral Laws of Comedy (among other things) is associated with and complicated by a Paradox known as the Sin-Song Paradox.

This moral paradox can be stated (according to Eklavya) as follows:

In most societies, we are taught from our childhood (at least in schools, or perhaps only in schools) that we should hate the sin, not the sinner, i.e., it is wrong to hate the sinner (an individual) and right to hate the sin (an act). However, in practice, the norm in all societies is to hate the sinner, not necessarily the sin (if at all). That is why we have all the systems of punishment, whether legal or social or otherwise.

Similarly, we have another such inversion with regard to systems of belief. Ignoring the cases where a system of belief is respected only because of the power it wields (that being covered by a different moral paradox), we are supposed to (or we pretend to) respect those systems of belief which are shown (or proven) to be rationally and/or morally correct, but in practice, we respect those systems which are advocated by people who are, as individuals, rational and/or moral in their lives and their conduct. In other words, we are supposed to like a song because the song is good (musically and/or lyrically), but in fact we like that song (a system of belief) because the singer is good. The converse is also true.

Thus, in the first case, we focus on the individual, when we should, in fact, be focussing on the act. And in the second case, we focus again on the individual, when we should be focussing on what the individual is saying or advocating. This moral inversion is closely related to violation of the third moral law of comedy, which involves focusing on the individual, when we should actually be focussing on the society.

It is a paradox, and not simply a contradiction between theory and practice because the norm that is followed in practice is assumed to be a moral norm too.

In fact, the violation of the three laws as well the above paradox, all involve wrong focus on the individual, when the focus should be on something else.

From the moral view of the world, it can be derived from the above laws of comedy and the Sin-Song paradox that a lot of our (i.e., the world’s or the society’s) problems stem simply from this wrong focus on the individual.

January 16, 2011

Everybody Loves the Trauma Show

The phone rang, though I wasn’t expecting any calls at all. The call was not from any ‘contact’. I received the call, that is, I answered.

Me: Hello?

There was a girl at the other end. It seemed to be a call from a call centre. Let’s call her the Representative.

The Representative: Hello. May I talk to Mr. Anil Eklavya?

Me: I am Anil EKlavya.

The Representative: Sir, could I take some of your time?

Me: Yes, sure.

The Representative: Sir, I am calling from the LoveTrum Show…

Me: Love Trauma Show?

There was a pause at the other end. Possibly some sniggering too.

The Representative: No, sir, the LoveTrum Show.

She spelled out the name.

The Representative: The LOcal VErsion of the TRUMan Show.

Me: What is that?

The Representative: Sir, it is a kind of reality show.

Me: Reality show?

The Representative: Yes, sir. It’s a show in which the participants don’t need to be in the studio.

Me: Meaning?

The Representative: You can be in your own home and still be in this show.

Me: But I am not interested in any show. In fact, I don’t watch any T.V.

The Representative: Sir, could I take some of your time to explain in detail?

I thought for a moment and decided to let her complete. I don’t get any calls from girls anyway.

The Representative: Sir, this show is not a T.V. show. We have participants who just live in their own homes. Also, it is a multimedia muldimodal show. It includes still and moving images, audio, online activities, travel or anything else that the participant might do.

Me: You mean the whole life of someone is put on the show?

The Representative: Not always, sir. Sometimes some parts may be left out.

Me: Parts that the participant does not want to be shown?

The Representative: No, sir. The content of the show is not decided by the participant.

Me: Then who decides it?

There was a long pause.

The Representative: I am sorry, sir. I can’t help you with that.

Me: So the participant does not know when he is on the show?

The Representative: No, sir. The participant does not know that he is on the show.

Me: You mean the participant is put on the show without his knowledge or permission.

The Representative: Sir, the participant is selected after due process.

Me: Yes, but he is not told that he is being put on the show?

A pause again.

The Representative: No, sir. The participant is selected after due process.

Me: How can there be such a show?

The Representative: There is, sir.

Me: But how can it be allowed?

The Representative: It is allowed, sir.

Me: But who will watch such a show?

The Representative: The show is not watched, sir, it is followed. It is a multimedia multimodal show.

Me: OK, but who will follow such a show?

The Representative: It is a very popular show, sir. It is one of the most loved shows.

Me: I have never heard of it.

The Representative: It is an unlisted show, sir.

Me: Unlisted?

The Representative: Yes, sir. It is not publicly advertised.

Me: Then how do people follow it?

The Representative: We have a network, sir.

Me: Which company runs it?

The Representative: There is no company, sir.

Me: Then who manages it?

The Representative: It is run according to the Extended PPP model, sir.

Me: PPP model?

The Representative: The Public-Private Participation model, sir.

This time I had to pause.

Me: What if someone doesn’t want to be on the show?

The Representative: The participants don’t know that they are on the show, sir.

Me: What if they do find out?

The Representative: Don’t worry, sir. It does not affect the show.

Me: What do you mean it does not affect the show?

The Representative: The participant cannot affect the show, sir.

Me: What if he shifts from his place, home or office?

The Representative: Wherever you go, the show will follow you, sir.

Me: Me? You mean I am on the show?

This time there was a long pause.

The Representative: Yes, sir. You have been on the show for many years.

Me: What are you talking about? Many years means what?

Pause again.

The Representative: Sorry, sir, I can’t help you with that.

Me: You mean I am on the show and I can’t get out of it?

The Representative: Don’t worry, sir. The show is very popular.

Me: But I don’t want to be on the show.

The Representative: I am sorry, sir. The participant is selected after a due process.

Me: What process?

The Representative: Sorry, sir, I can’t help you with that.

Me: What kind of people would watch – follow – such a show?

The Representative: All kinds of people, sir. We have a very large and diverse following from all sections of society and from all regions. It has been certified to be beneficial for the society, the country and the world.

Me: But I am like J. D. Salinger. I am like Boo Radley. I don’t like to be on the show.

There was a very long pause this time. I thought the call got cut.

Me: Hello?

The Representative: Hello, sir. That only makes it more interesting, sir.

Me: But I don’t want to be on the show. How can I get out of it?

The Representative: I am sorry, sir. The participant is selected after a due process.

Me: What if I move to some other place?

The Representative: Wherever you go, the show will follow you, sir.

Me: What if the participant kills himself?

The Representative: As I informed you, sir, the participant doesn’t know.

Me: But you have told me just now.

The Representative: This is an exception, sir.

Me: What if the participant kills himself?

The Representative: Don’t worry, sir. Everyone has to die sooner or later.

Me: But what if the participant does kill himself?

The Representative: We have a waiting list of participants, sir.

Me: This is amazing. What if I make it public?

The Representative: That is not possible, sir.

Me: What do you mean it is not possible.

The Representative: It is an unlisted show, sir.

Me: It won’t be if I make it public.

The Representative: No one would believe it, sir.

Me: What if your call is recorded? I have your number too.

The Representative: The number does not exist, sir.

Me: What about the recorded call?

The Representative: You can record anything, sir.

Me: So, whatever I do, wherever I go, I will be on the show?

The Representative: Yes, sir.

Me: So why are you calling me?

The Representative: You have been selected for a special offer.

Me: What offer?

The Representative: You can follow someone else, sir.

Me: Someone else like me? Who is on the show?

The Representative: Yes, sir.

Me: How many people are on the show?

The Representative: I am sorry, sir, I can’t help you with that.

Me: Is there anything I can do without being on the show?

The Representative: I am sorry, sir, I can’t help you with that.

Pause from my side.

The Representative: Would you like to subscribe, sir? We have a very interesting case.

Me: No, I don’t want to follow anyone.

The Representative: Are you sure, sir?

Me: Yes, I am sure.

The Representative: Thank you very much, sir, for your time. Have a nice day. And don’t worry, sir.

The call ended and I wondered whether I had made a mistake.

January 9, 2011

One Suggestion for the Possible

At the beginning of this new year of a new decade of a new century, once again there is a cry from parts of the progressive left that what we need is some suggestion of the possible, rather than the ‘religious’ prophetic cry of ‘woe’ from the margins. So here is my brief attempt at the same.

Every sensible person now knows that there are two worlds, one which has all the resources and the power, and another that has close to nothing. The citizens of this have-world are few in number as most of the humanity belongs to the have-not-world. Mountains of evidence is available in favour of this ‘theory’. All the documentation is there. All the empirical evidence is there. And logic does not contradict it either. So this is as much of an established fact as any fact can be.

And the distance between the two worlds is growing.

How is it then that the have-world is able to maintain its hold over the vastly larger have-not-world? All logic seems to contradict such a possibility, but it is there.

The answer, not very original, is that there is something wrong with the binary division of the world between the haves and the have-nots. We know that this division has always been there. It has only become sharper in recent times.

For maintaining their stronghold over the world, the haves have always been promoting some of the have-nots such that another world is created. This is the world of the have-somes. You could call it the Middle Class, but that should be done only for the purpose of convenience, not as a technical term as used conventionally. It consists of managers, professionals, scientists, experts, intellectuals, artists, small businessmen (or whatever remains of them), doctors, security officers, bureaucrats and so on.

This second world, the world of the have-somes, the Middle World, serves the purpose of a buffer zone between the Top World and Bottom World. It does so very much in the sense Empires or even Great Powers talk of buffer zones between themselves and their enemies. It not just protects the Top World from the discontent and possible rebellion of the Bottom World through the passive act of just being there. It also actively manages the Empire of the Three Worlds on behalf of the Top World, with little concern for the Bottom World. It administers this Empire, it provides the security infrastructure. It curbs the tendencies for insurrections. It also looks after the Moral Affairs, which are very important if it has to carry out its complete brief. It keeps the Hope alive among the citizens of the Bottom World. Hope that is based on thin air. If all this doesn’t work, it can, perhaps with a heavy heart – perhaps not – resort to brutal violence against those who have little protection except the elements (where still available) or pure chance. It can create mythologies of fear to justify that violence, regardless of the comparative amounts of violence by those in whose names the mythologies are created and its own violence.

Note that I am talking as if it is the Middle World’s violence, whereas the consensus seems to be that it is the Top World’s violence. The violence (in all its forms, not just of the blood and gore variety) is indeed carried out on behalf the Top World, but the one that actually carries it out is the Middle World. No doubts about it. Are there? Well, there is a little imprecision here. At the ground level, much of the violence is carried out by citizens of the Bottom World – against their own brothers (if we can still talk in terms of the brotherhood of men) and also against the ‘bad citizens’ of the Middle World who refuse to accept the role they are supposed to play.

But these citizens of the Bottom World, agents of the Middle World, acting ultimately on behalf on the Top World, are acting just as drones. As humanoid robots. That’s what they have been reduced to. Being that seems to them the only way to a decent life. Hopefully.

The first question, then, is this. Why do the citizens of the Middle World accept this degrading role for themselves? The second question is, how are they able to manipulate the Bottom World for the benefit of the Top World?

The answer, again not very original, is that in return they get comfortable lives (to varying degrees), they get security, they get relatively satisfying work to do. But above all, they always have the golden carrot ahead of them. The chance to leapfrog into the Top World, either temporarily or permanently. This last one is the clincher.

But the last one is a bit of a lie. It’s basically the lottery system that can work both ways – the Calcutta Derby way and the Shirley Jackson way. Even the first part should cause at least some resentment. It does. Except that it is kept within manageable limits.

So how does this management of the Middle World itself happen? It mainly happens through the mediation of what is called the Media. By which we can now only mean the Corporate Media. Well, there are other aspects, but this one seems to me to be of prime importance. And I am only going to talk about one suggestion of the possible.

The Corporate Media ensures that the Middle World functions properly. That is because it lives in the in-between-world, with one foot in the Top World and the other in the Middle World. It is the buffer between the Top World and Middle World. Using a heady mixture of technology, psychology, language and images, it controls the minds of the people of the Middle World and to some extent even of the Bottom World. Control where control matters for its purposes. Where it doesn’t, the minds can be allowed to be free, thus causing the illusion of being completely free.

Yes, the above picture is a bit simplified. But I use it to lead up to a suggestion for the possible. You can take it as the idealization step of the scientific method.

The suggestion of the possible is to work for dismantling this crucial link, clearing up this buffer zone between the Top World and Middle World.

Work to get rid of the Corporate Media.

It is not as difficult as it seems. At least it is not so now, with the technology that CAN allow people to join together in REAL solidarity, even if all kinds of barriers have been put by the loyal (you know to who) citizens of the Middle World.

If we can get rid of the Corporate Media or any of its avatar, possibly the Top World will have serious problems managing the Middle World. And possibly the Middle World will not be so inclined to manage the Bottom World for the Top World.

It may not happen.

But it is possible.

However, to be able to achieve this, we need to change our ways too. One of hallmarks of the left has been its divisiveness, which was hilariously portrayed by the Monty Pythons in the Life of Brian (and that is just one example).

We can disagree with each other. We can criticize each other, sometimes severely. We can even fight each other sometimes. But we should stop being enemies. That’s the bare minimum. Otherwise everything is doomed.

It is already happening to some extent, but can we take it to its logical conclusion?

‘We’ specifically here refers to the little dissident ‘medias’ that we are involved in. In general, it can mean all the left. Or why just that? It could mean all decent human beings who believe in the Romance of Justice, more than they believe in the Romance of the Plunder.

We have to associate with each other (or is it ‘one another’: this is always a grammatical puzzle for me). In spite of our differences. We have build alliances. We have use each other’s work. We have contribute to each other’s work. We have to recognize each other’s work. We have to come to defend each other whenever it is needed.

We have to come out of our false (pardon a little exaggeration) but comforting little solidarities and form a big REAL solidarity. A solidarity that may not even require one to physically ever face another. It will be the solidarity of the mind. It will be a moral solidarity.

It may not, and sometimes it may, be a solidarity of everyday social relations. Can you be in solidarity with one who may or may not be willing to meet and talk to you in physical proximity or to have dinner with you, but who is willing to participate with you, work with you?

Can you now?

नीरस नाम की रोचक कहानी

7 जनवरी, 2011

(मूल लेख)

ज़ेड नेट या ज़ी नेट, आप अंग्रेज़ी वर्णमाला के आखिरी अक्षर को जिस भी तरह उच्चारित करते हों (जो इस पर निर्भर करता है कि आप पिछले साम्राज्य के प्रभाव में पले हैं या नये वाले के), का हिन्दी संस्करण शुरू किए अब चार साल से ऊपर हो गए हैं। एकदम ठीक तारीख दी जाए तो 1 दिसंबर, 2006 को हिन्दी ज़ेड नेट की वेबसाइट शुरू हुई थी। तब से काफ़ी कुछ बदल गया है। ज़ेड नेट खुद अब ज़ेड (ज़ी) कम्यूनिकेशन्स बन गया है, जिसका एक प्रमुख भाग फिर भी ज़ेड नेट है।

हिन्दी संस्करण की शुरुआत इस तरह हुई थी कि अपन ज़ेड नेट अक्सर पढ़ते रहते थे और एक दिन अपन ने देखा कि इसके कुछ अन्य भाषाओं में भी संस्करण हैं। पाठकों-उपयोक्ताओं के लिए लिखा गया एक निमंत्रण सा भी दिखा कि अगर आप इनमें से किसी में सहयोग देने या एक नई भाषा के संस्करण की शुरुआत करने में रुचि रखते हैं तो संपर्क करें। अपने को लगा कि भाई हिन्दी में भी इसका एक संस्करण होना ही चाहिए, तो अपन ने माइकल स्पैनोस, जिनका नाम संपर्क के लिए दिया था, उन्हें एक मेल लिख डाली। जवाब आया और ज़ेड नेट के लेखों का अनुवाद करके हिन्दी संस्करण की वेबसाइट बनाने का काम शुरू हो गया। पाँच लेखों के अनुवाद से शुरुआत हुई, जो नोम चॉम्स्की, माइकल ऐल्बर्ट, अरुंधति रॉय, जॉर्ज मॉनबिऑट तथा तारिक़ अली के लिखे हुए थे। उस समय वेबसाइट ज़ेड नेट के ही सर्वर पर बनाई गई थी, क्योंकि हिन्दी ज़ेड नेट के लिए अलग से कोई इंतज़ाम नहीं था।

बाद में कुछ अन्य लेखों के भी अनुवाद किए, मगर और कामों से समय निकाल कर उतना नहीं हो पाया जितना सोचा था। फिर भी धीरे-धीरे चलता रहा। उम्मीद यह थी कि अन्य लोग भी अनुवाद में सहयोग देने के लिए मिलेंगे, पर एकाध लेख के अलावा कोई और अनुवाद करने वाला नहीं मिला, लिहाजा एक व्यक्ति से जो हो सका वही होता रहा। एक समस्या यह भी थी कि हिन्दी की अपनी वेबसाइट न होने के कारण कुछ भी करने (चाहे टाइपिंग की कोई गलती सुधारने जैसी ज़रा सी बात ही हो) में भी काफ़ी समय लग जाता था क्योंकि ज़ेड नेट की वेबसाइट भी जिन लोगों के सहारे चल रही है, उनके पास भी पहले से ही बहुत से काम हैं और वे अन्य गतिविधियों में भी अपना समय देते हैं। और यह कोई व्यावसायिक मीडिया तो है नहीं जहाँ कागज़ी हरियाली की कमी न होती हो।

आखिर 2010 के मध्य में ज़ेड संचार नाम से हिन्दी ज़ेड नेट की अपनी वेबसाइट zsanchar.org के पते पर चालू की गई। इसे शुरु करने के कुछ समय बाद यह लगा कि जब वेबसाइट हिन्दी में है तो अंग्रेज़ी का अक्षर ज़ेड नाम में क्यों है? नतीजतन एक नये नाम की खोज की गई, जो ‘सह-संचार’ पर आकर रुकी।

आप अकेले नहीं होंगे अगर आप सोचते हैं कि यह नाम बड़ा नीरस है। अपना भी यही ख्याल है। नाम के साथ एक और समस्या है। ‘सह-संचार’ हिन्दी में सोशल नेटवर्किंग के समानार्थी के रुप में भी स्वीकृत होता लग रहा है। यह दूसरी समस्या शायद इतनी गंभीर नहीं है। जैसा कि भाषा विज्ञान में आम जानकारी है, एक ही शब्द के एक से अधिक अर्थ हो सकते हैं। बल्कि उच्चारण और वर्तनी एक जैसे होने पर भी दो शब्द हो सकते हैं, जैसे दिन वाला ‘कल’ और पुर्जा वाला ‘कल’। इसलिए दूसरी समस्या का समाधान तो हमने यह मान लिया कि एक शब्द है ‘सह-संचार’ जिसका अर्थ है सोशल नेटवर्किंग और दूसरा शब्द (या नाम) है ‘सह-संचार’ जो ज़ेड (ज़ी) कम्यूनिकेशन्स का हिन्दी संस्करण है।

पर नाम के नीरस होने की समस्या फिर भी बचती है। तो यह लेख उसी समस्या का स्पष्टीकरण देने के लिए लिखा गया माना जा सकता है। स्पष्टीकरण इस तरह कि नाम चाहे नीरस हो, पर उसकी कहानी नीरस नहीं है, बल्कि काफ़ी रोचक है।

वैसे हिन्दी संस्करण के नाम में ज़ेड (ज़ी) होने का भी एक वाजिब आधार है। और वहीं से हमारी कहानी शुरू होती है।

बीसवीं शताब्दी में कला का एक नया माध्यम सामने आया जिसे सिनेमा कहा जाता है। बहुत से शायद इस माध्यम की किसी भी कलात्मक संभावना से सिरे से ही इन्कार करते हों, पर उनसे बहस में भिड़ने का अभी अपना कोई इरादा नहीं है। तो इस नितांत नये माध्यम की सबसे बड़ी खासियत यह है इसकी पहुँच बहुत कम समय में बहुत बड़े जनसमूह तक एक ही समय पर हो सकती है और बहुत तेज़ी से फैल सकती है। इक्कीसवीं सदी और भी नये माध्यम लाती हुई दिख रही है, पर सिनेमा जितनी पहुँच तो अभी भी किसी अन्य माध्यम की नहीं है। टी वी की पहुँच कुछ मामलों में अधिक हो सकती है, पर उसकी कलात्मक संभावनाओं पर सवाल इस हद तक उठाए जा सकते हैं कि अधिकतर तो एकमात्र कला जो उस पर कभी-कभार नज़र आती है वो सिनेमा ही है। संगीत, नृत्य आदि भी पहले दिखते थे, पर वो ज़माना तो चला गया लगता है। इंटरनेट पर बाकायदा एक कलात्मक माध्यम के उभरने में शायद अभी कुछ समय लगेगा।

तो सिनेमा की इस असाधारण पहुँच के कारण ऐसे बहुत से लोग भी इसकी तरफ आकर्षित हुए जिनको प्रतिबद्ध कहा जाता है। हिन्दुस्तान के ही सर्वश्रेष्ठ सिनेकारों में से एक रितिक घटक, जिनका प्रगतिशील राजनीति और उससे जुड़े थियेटर से लंबे समय तक वास्ता रहा था, का कहना था कि उन्होंने सिर्फ़ इसलिए सिनेमा को अपनाया कि इसकी पहुँच बहुत बड़ी है और अगर हम अपनी बात ज़्यादा से ज़्यादा लोगों तक पहुँचाना चाहते हैं, तो सिनेमा को नज़रअंदाज़ नहीं कर सकते। रितिक घटक जैसे अन्य कई सिनेकार विश्व सिनेमा में हुए हैं जिन्होंने इस माध्यम का प्रयोग न केवल कलात्मक अभिव्यक्ति, बल्कि नैतिक-राजनैतिक कथन के लिए भी करने की कोशिश की है। उनकी राह में बाज़ारवाद, रूढ़िवाद तथा पूंजीवाद (भ्रष्टाचार को छोड़ भी दें तो) के चलते अनेक बाधाएँ आईं और वे किस हद तक सफल हुए यह कहना कठिन है, पर उनमें से कई काफ़ी लोकप्रिय फ़िल्में बनाने में कामयाब हो सके, या कहना चाहिए कि उनकी फ़िल्में लोकप्रियता हासिल करने में कामयाब हो सकीं।

इन्हीं में से एक बहुत बड़ा नाम है कोस्ता गाव्रास। यूनानी (ग्रीक) मूल के गाव्रास का नाम लेते ही तस्वीर उभरती है ‘राजनैतिक’ फ़िल्मों की। यहाँ राजनैतिक से वैसा अर्थ नहीं है जैसा प्रकाश झा आदि की फ़िल्मों से जोड़ा जाता है, बल्कि वैसा है जैसा प्रतिबद्ध साहित्य के साथ जुड़ा है। यह अर्थभेद राजनीति तथा राजनीतिबाज़ी का है – पॉलिटिकल और पॉलिटिकिंग का।

ऐसी राजनैतिक फ़िल्मों में भी एक खास श्रेणी है उन फ़िल्मों की जो हमारे ही समय (यानी पिछली एक सदी के भीतर) की वास्तविक ऐतिहासिक घटनाओं पर आधारित फ़िल्मों की है। कोस्ता गाव्रास ने ऐसी ही फ़िल्में बनाने में अपनी महारत दिखाई है। ‘मिसिंग’, ‘स्टेट ऑफ़ सीज’, ‘एमेन.’ (पूर्ण विराम नाम में ही है) ऐसी ही कुछ फ़िल्में हैं। पर शायद उनकी सबसे प्रसिद्ध फ़िल्म है ‘ज़ेड’ (या ‘ज़ी’)। यह आधारित है यूनान की ही राजनैतिक घटनाओं पर जब वहाँ अमरीकी दखलंदाज़ी की पृष्ठभूमि में फ़ासीवादियों द्वारा एक लोकप्रिय उदारवादी नेता की हत्या कर दी गई और उससे जो घटनाकृम शरू हुआ उसकी परिणति सेना द्वारा सत्ता पलट में हुई।

‘बैटल ऑफ़ अल्जियर्स’ तथा ‘ज़ेड’ वे दो फ़िल्में हैं जिन्हें इस श्रेणी की फ़िल्में बनाने वाला हर निर्देशक अपना काम शुरू करने से पहले देखना ज़रूरी समझता है।

कोस्ता गाव्रास के नाम के साथ यह कहानी भी जुड़ी है कि ‘ज़ेड’ की असाधारण (और शायद अप्रत्याशित) व्यावसायिक सफलता के बाद उन्हें (फ़्रांसिस फ़ोर्ड कपोला से पहले) गॉडफ़ादर निर्देशित करने का ‘ऑफ़र’ दिया गया था, पर उसे उन्होंने रिजेक्ट (या कहें ‘रिफ़्यूज़’) कर दिया क्योंकि उनके अनुसार स्क्रिप्ट माफ़िया का महिमामंडन करने वाली थी और वे उसमें कुछ बदलाव करना चाहते थे, जिसके लिए स्टूडियो वाले तैयार नहीं थे।

खैर, यह समय था विश्व युद्धों के बाद अमरीकी साम्राज्यवाद के पहले बड़े फैलाव का, यानी वियतनाम युद्ध का और ढेर सारी अन्य जगहों पर अमरीकी समर्थन प्राप्त सत्ता पलट और तानाशाही का। पर यह समय अमरीकी नागरिक अधिकार (सिविल राइट्स) आंदोलन का भी था। नोम चॉम्स्की और हावर्ड ज़िन जैसे लोग इस आंदोलन में सक्रिय थे, और जो छात्र इसमें शामिल थे उनमें एक थे माइकल ऐल्बर्ट,यानी ज़ेड नेट के संस्थापक।

जब मैंने पहली बार ज़ेड नेट पढ़ना शुरू किया था, उसके कुछ ही समय बाद मैंने यह अनुमान लगाया था कि हो न हो इसके नाम में यह अंग्रेज़ी का आखिरी अक्षर जो है, उसका कुछ संंबंध कोस्ता गाव्रास की फ़िल्म से है और यह बात मैंने अपने ब्लॉग पर भी लिखी थी। बाद में खुद ज़ेड नेट पर ही यह लिखा देखने को मिला कि यह अनुमान सही था।

बात इतनी अजीब नहीं है। दरअसल (आधुनिक) ग्रीक भाषा में इस अक्षर का अर्थ है ‘वह अभी जीवित है’ और उस फ़िल्म के अंत में यह अक्षर या शब्द इस अर्थ में एक लोकप्रिय नारा बन जाता है कि अमरीकी दखलंदाज़ी के विरोधी जिस जनप्रिय नेता की हत्या कर दी गई थी वो जन-मन में अब भी जीवित है, यानी जैसा कि ज़ेड नेट के मुख्य पृष्ठ पर लिखा है, प्रतिरोध की भावना अब भी जीवित है (द स्पिरिट ऑफ़ रेज़िस्टेंस लिव्स)।

सार यह कि ‘ज़ेड’ अंग्रेज़ी अक्षर नहीं हुआ, बल्कि एक राजनैतिक कथन हुआ। इसीलिए अगर हिन्दी संस्करण में भी यह रहता तो उसका वाजिब आधार था।

फिर यह ‘सह’ क्यों आया? मज़े की बात है कि यह भी ऐसा मामला है जहाँ एक ही उच्चारण और वर्तनी होने पर भी दो शब्द हैं – पहला तो सहने के अर्थ में और दूसरा सहयोग के अर्थ में। हमारे लिए दूसरा वाला मामला लागू होता है, हालांकि पहले को भी अक्सर झेलना पड़ सकता है।

लेकिन उससे भी मज़े की बात एक और है। वामपंथियों के खिलाफ़ एक आरोप जो अक्सर लगाया जाता है वह है कि जो व्यवस्था (या मनोहर श्याम जोशी के अनुकरण में कहें तो प्रतिष्ठान) अभी हमें जकड़े हुए है उसकी बुराइयाँ तो आप बहुत बताते रहते हैं, पर उसका कोई विकल्प आपके पास नहीं है। जो विकल्प माने जाते थे, यानी साम्यवादी व्यवस्था आदि, वे भी असफल साबित हो गए हैं। ये आरोप सच हैं या नहीं इस पर तो हम अभी नहीं जाएंगे, पर जिन माइकल ऐल्बर्ट का ज़िक्र हमने किया, यानी ज़ेड नेट के संस्थापक, वे एक विकल्प (पार्टिसिपेटरी इकोनॉमिक्स या पैरेकॉन) की परिकल्पना और विकास की कोशिश में अनवरत लगे हुए हैं, उसे हिन्दी में ‘भागीदारी की अर्थव्यवस्था’ या ‘सहयोग पर आधारित अर्थव्यवस्था’ कहा जा सकता है। तो सह-संचार के ‘सह’ को आप उससे जोड़ सकते हैं।

पर वो तो बाद की बात है। उससे पहले की बात यह है कि ‘स’ और ‘ह’ (संयुक्ताक्षरों को छोड़ दिया जाए तो) हिन्दी या देवनागरी, बल्कि ब्राह्मी, वर्णमाला के आखिरी ‘अक्षर’ हैं, जहाँ ‘अक्षर’ शब्द का प्रयोग अंग्रेज़ी के ‘लेटर’ या ‘कैरेक्टर’ की तरह किया जा रहा है।

आपके बारे में नहीं मालूम, पर अपने को तो यह कहानी बड़ी रोचक लगती है। अगर ज़्यादा हो गया हो तो चलिए थोड़ी बहुत रोचक तो है ही। नहीं क्या? अगर नहीं तो कोस्ता गाव्रास की कुछ फ़िल्में ही देख डालिए। और देख ही रहे हों तो लगे हाथ रितिक घटक की फ़िल्मों पर भी हाथ साफ़ कर दीजिएगा।

(जो भी हो, यह याद रखा जाए कि सह-संचार अनिल एकलव्य की वेबसाइट नहीं है, चाहे अभी तक इसका ज़िम्मा लगभग पूरी तरह उन पर ही रहा हो। यह ज़ेड कम्यूनिकेशंस का हिन्दी संस्करण है। आप इस संचार में सहयोग करना चाहें तो एक बार फिर निमंत्रण है। संक्रामक रोग का कोई खतरा नहीं है।)

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