अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

October 16, 2010

Indifferent Rebellion – I

Growing up with Hindi books and, to a lesser extent, Hindi movies, I was constantly (but silently) enraged at the way certain characters in many of these books and movies behaved. These characters were usually women: unmarried, married or widowed. They lived with extended families or ‘joint families’. The behaviour that enraged me involved silently tolerating all the wrong that was continuously done to them by family members, by neighbours and acquaintances and even by strangers. The reasons why they were singled out (though ‘singled out’ is not a very accurate phrase as we will see) for tormenting ranged from their being dependent on others, say, because the parents had died, to simply because they were women. You can still see these characters (in some form or the other) in the soap operas of 21st century T.V. and even in occasional Hindi movies, though these movies now avoid such things: they now focus more on the brighter side of life, which their target multiplex audience is more accustomed to as well as more comfortable with.

To take a typical case, you would have this joint family where there were at least two brothers with their parents and at least one sister. Both brothers are married, one from the beginning of the story and the other usually during the course of the story, possibly after a courtship. The courtship would serve the purpose of providing a happy prologue (which could be quite long) before the sad, tragic body of the story. The end might be happy too, but I won’t go into that. Instead of a courtship, you could have a happy growing up of the younger brother’s would be wife in her loving parents’ home, followed by an arranged marriage.

So this new member of the extended family would join with as great expectations as an Indian woman of her time could. See a few old Indian family dramas if you want to know what that means as I won’t go into that either. Soon she would realize that her expectation were ill founded. All the other members of the family (except usually her husband) would start going after her like proper sadists. It would be very misleading here if I don’t mention that ‘all others’ is not the right way to put it as the members who would really do most of the tormenting would be the other female members of the family: the mother-in-law and the sister-in-law. I might note here that the Hindi words for the mother-in-law and the sister-in-law of a woman evoke the image of most likely to be unpleasant relationships. Hindi has a different word for sister-in-law for men, which doesn’t evoke such an unpleasant image. In fact, the word evokes quite a naughtily pleasant image.

I didn’t create that image, so don’t go after me on moral grounds. Or nationalistic grounds.

The expectations were ill founded and instead what would happen is that the new member would be required to do all the dishes, to wash all the cloths and to cook all the food and more. Then she would be viciously targeted for all her mistakes in everything that she did. The mistakes, in most cases, won’t even be her mistakes. She would framed repeatedly.

The husband, the younger brother (or younger son, if you like), might not participate in the tormenting, but he would either not come to her defence or would be very unwilling and ineffective to do anything. More usually, he might not even notice what is happening. And here comes the starting point of the behaviour that enraged me: the victim would not even tell him about the ways she is being tormented.

She would not tell and she would not protest. She would quietly tolerate (possibly with some meek protest initially) everything that is done to her. And I would be shouting to myself (silently) why the hell is she not saying anything. Why is she not protesting. Why is she not hitting back.

And so on it went for a very long time. Then I understood something and it made sense. At least it made some sense, even if making some sense is not the same as being completely justified or being the right thing to do. But then who am I to definitely say what would have been the right thing. I was not that woman.

Let me remind you here that this particular woman is just an example of the characters I am talking about. And let me also clearly state that they are not just (at least not completely) the product of pulpy and bad writers or writers of the Sadist school. These characters were found very commonly in the Indian life and they still are (I hope to a lesser extent).

These characters, dear reader, were some among your ancestors, whoever you might be, in whichever country. That is, if you yourself are not one of them.

I have been aching to write about this, but (to borrow a phrase from Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant) many things between the heaven and the earth came in the way. Till a few hours earlier when I read the story The Road by Vasily Grossman.

Let me also clarify that these characters are not of the slave-girl category of the Fassbinder film-play. They are not of the ascetic-hermit variety either. Nor are they Gandhian satyagrahis.

Nothing like Mel Gibson’s Passion, so don’t accuse me of blasphemy. Passion is being used here just as an English word (in its older sense), not a religious concept.

Vasily Grossman was called the Tolstoy of the USSR by Martin Amis. The Road is about (and from the point of view of) a mule being driven on the way to the Battle of Stalingrad. Robert Chandler, who has translated Grossman novels, mentions ‘evocations of the horror of war and the miracle of love’ all appearing in this universal story. But as the introduction to the story (not written by Grossman) says, it is about a ‘mule wrestling with Hamlet’s dilemma on the long road to Stalingrad’. This is the part that concerns us here because the dilemma is not just the mule’s (or even Hamlet’s). It is the dilemma of the characters I have introduced above.

And just like the mule in the Grossman story, these characters of real life and pulpy Indian stories resolve the dilemma by becoming indifferent:

It was impossible now to tell him apart from the old mule walking beside him, and the indifference each felt towards the other was equalled only by the indifference each felt towards himself.

This indifference towards himself was his last rebellion.

To be or not to be – to Giu this was a matter of indifference. The mule had resolved Hamlet’s dilemma.

Having become submissively indifferent to both existence and non-existence, he lost the sensation of time. Day and night no longer meant anything; frosty sunlight and moonless dark were all the same to him.

Indifferent not just to others but also to oneself. Indifferent to being or not being. But this indifference was not the result of conscious thought and analysis. It was spontaneous and instinctive. And, arguably, it was almost the only way to survive the life one had landed in. Survival by being indifferent to survival. It was not stoicism, just as it was not masochism. It wasn’t even necessarily the lack of courage or of any other abilities. But with some lexical license, we could call it The Passion. Think of Tarkovski’s Andrei Rublev or Dreyer’s Joan of Arc. So what if it has nothing literal to do with Christianity. So what if they are not painters or warriors but just ordinary mediocre people. As the hunchbacked sexton Algot says in Bergman’s Winter Light, he too in his own humble way has suffered a lot. And so what if they have been portrayed a lot in pulpy Indian stories without even Grossman’s (or, to be impudent, my) insight.

Let’s call it The Passion of the Mule. Or, to be a bit discreet, let’s call it The Passion of Giu. Does it ring a bell? Let it ring. No harm is intended and none is being done.

There is another candidate. We could call it The Passion of Balthazar. How could we forget Bresson in such a context?

At this point, if you are familiar with the Hindi-Urdu literature, you might mention Krishan Chander’s talking donkey (Ek Gadhe Ki Aatmakatha: The Autobiography of a Donkey). But I don’t think that is an appropriate comparison and bringing it in is probably an unacceptable and irrelevant digression. Premchand’s Hira Moti, the oxen, are only a little more closer, but not quite.

There is, of course, the difference (though not always) of degree between real life and fiction. The scale of suffering could be smaller in real life and its manifestation might be different too. I would give you a very common scenario: a frequent motif in real life. There is a woman who is either living with or is visiting her extended family. She has a child. Something happens that is not very unusual in her or the family’s life. She feels that she has been unfairly treated. The matter might involve her child, perhaps vis-a-vis other children in the family. What does she do? She roughly goes to her child and starts beating her or him. Sometimes right where the row took place and sometimes after first taking the child to her room (if she has a separate room). She might or might not shout while she does that. And, more likely than not, she would cry while she does the beating.

This reaction to (quite often justifiably) perceived injustice seems on the surface to be not the indifference of that mule or of the more archetypal characters. But it is just an emphatic display of that same indifference. I have mentioned this particular behaviour just to prove that this instinctive indifference is actually a kind of rebellion, even if she herself is not explicitly aware of this. The only thing this woman cares about more than herself (and may be her husband) is her child. By unjustly punishing that child (and thus punishing herself: more than she could have done by directly punishing herself) she is only showing that she has been treated unjustly. The child too seems to understand this.

How do I know all this? I could tell you, but I won’t. At least not now.

If you want, you can go ahead and laugh at these characters, real or fictional. I don’t feel the inclination to join in. I would like to better spend my time laughing at some other characters.

Before continuing, I would just add a confession (to avoid misunderstanding and silly allegations) that I have only read this one story by Vasily Grossman, though I have read (in translation) other, mostly pre-Soviet, Russian writers.

(To bo contd.)

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January 11, 2010

400 m Dogfoodbowl

A lot of you had suggested new events for the coming series. It was very hard to select the few that we can accommodate. Out of these few, the judges have selected one for special mention. It will be called the 400 m Dogfoodbowl.

400 m is the right distance to cover in one go at good speed. Sprints are for those who start with an abnormal burst of energy but soon run out of it. You know what it can be compared to. Not very respectable. Kilometers are for half starved barefooted people who have to run because they can’t afford to ride. Can be compared to the same as above if you replace the young with the old. 400 m, on the other hand, represents healthy prosperity.

Direct hit on the ball to put it right into the hole is a good thing but doing so with an indirect hit is better. You hit one ball, which hits another. This second ball, in turn, hits the ball you want to put in. That’s a whole different level.

Combine these two things and you have got the star new event for the coming series.

But before we say more about it, there is an announcement to make. Most of you must be aware of this, but those who don’t, especially the newcomers, should take a note. In keeping with the tradition, you can bring along with you your own pardoned little things. However, since there are space and other constraints, we can only allow one pardoned little thing per kickarticipant. This is a restriction, but it will allow you to focus on dressing your little thing as well as you can. Let’s come out and show how well we treat little things as long as they are not impudent. Let us prove that we don’t hate little things. We love them like our children. But we should also make it very clear that if they misbehave, we are not going to treat them like our own children. So don’t allow your interest in dressing little things come in the way of the kickevents.

Coming back to the new event, though there will be no direct kicking, there is no dilution of the focus. The event is still about kicking little dogs. The novelty is that the player will do it as part of a 400 m race. The race will take place on a two storied track. The player will kick a dummy dogfoodbowl on the upper level. On the lower level there will be the little dog who will be chasing the real dogfoodbowl. The two bowls will be equipped with computing devices which will be connected through a bluetooth connection. As the player kicks the dummy bowl, the real bowl will also move forward. But, as you know, dogs can run much faster than human beings. To take this biological factor into account, the speeds of the bowls will be adjusted according to the ratio of the speeds of the player and little dog. This ratio will keep changing based on the actual speeds at any instant. This will ensure that the player does not have to run too fast to keep up with the dog. In fact, it will be the other way round.

Still, the event will require from the player that he or she be not only a first class runner but also have very good foot-eye coordination and that too while in motion on feet. You can be sure that the event is not going to be an easy one.

For all this effort, every player will be treated at a special banquet, apart from the usual medals etc. for the winners. The bowl that the little dog will be chasing will have the choicest canine delicacies, which will be given to the pardoned little dog brought by the player. The chasing dog won’t be starved. It will given what it deserves. If it does exceptionally well in the race, it might even be given a piece from the bowl it was chasing. After all, it will have to run in several other races and we don’t want it collapsing in the middle of the event.

So all of you who think they can be champions at this event, start practicing. The details about getting a slot at the track will be announced later.

January 3, 2010

Kickarticipate

We are pleased and honored to announce that the long awaited series of events are about to begin.

At the dawn of civilization, people started giving up their isolated lives and took their first steps towards what would much later be called Social Life. They started to work together and thus their lives became interlinked. They started to participate in common activities, leading to the development of the first institutions. Since those primitive days, we have traveled a long way. Some of the words used to describe social life are no longer so appropriate. Thus, in tune with the social life of the times, we call all of you to kickarticipate in the events you have long been waiting for.

Nothing brings more joy than kicking little things. And the best way to do so, in the hallowed traditions of civilization, is to do it together. Till now we have been doing this on a small to medium scale and in a scattered manner, but let us now shift from this somewhat anarchic way to a properly managed and well organized way of kicking.

Accordingly, this season we will be bringing to you a very varied set of events centered around kicking little things. Since the program has not yet been finalized, you are welcome to send any suggestions. The only condition is that the things to be kicked should be little (literally or metaphorically), should be alive and should not be able to hit back. Things which hit back cause unpleasantness and we do not want any unpleasantness on such a joyous occasion. Let everyone enjoy without any hindrance.

However, after some discussion and based on your feedback, we have decided to allow things which are able but unwilling to hit back.

Many suggestions have already been made about how the events should be designed. These include kicking indoors and outdoor, in person and by proxy, in sunlight and under artificial light, solo and as a band. And so on. The events could also be categorized according to the weight and age of the kicker and the kicked. The possibilities are limitless. The only limiting factor is the number of kickers and kickables. We are in touch with the sponsors (who have also agreed to provide prizes for the medalists) to ensure a reliable supply of the latter and have replacements ready during all times. But we need your cooperation for the former.

As you already know, the focus this time will be on kicking little dogs.

One of the attractions will be musical kicking. In this type of event, you can bring your own favorite piece of music and kick with the music (and perhaps even dance while you do it). From the popular Singing in the Rain to the classical Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, everything is allowed. You can even bring music composed by you. But do try to bring only very good music. The events should maintain the standards for good taste.

Once again, the events are going to begin soon. The rehearsals have already started. Be sure to turn up in good strength. We can all make it a great success.

December 29, 2009

Vitaliate

So someone brought down the image of your profession, country, community etc.? You got to vitally retaliate. Know that little dog outside? Why not go and kick it in the head real hard. It really deserves it. Remember that other day when someone kicked it in the belly and it barked back? Not just that, it even growled back at the next person who had just brought his foot near its head. Not even touched it. Needs a lesson. The next time it growls back it should be kicked till it stops. This can’t be allowed to go on.

You got kicked too? I know, but that was by a superior. That’s more like a friendly thump on the back. We are not talking about that. There should be some order.

And also do something about the guy who brings the newspaper. He brings bad news and brings down the image of all good things. There should be a law against such news. But those freedom bullshit people won’t allow such a law to be passed.

Still, at least remember to kick that little dog and any other little thing that shows any impudence.

On the bright side of life, there is also the fact that newspapers are now focusing more on the news that is paid for. Such news must be better news on the whole than the outdated socialism kind of news.

Live professionally, hire your body, mind and soul and kick little dogs real hard.

In the head.

Don’t miss any such occasion. Gradually they will disappear.

April 8, 2009

Watch the Experiment

The movie to watch now is Das Experiment, which is based on two real social experiments.

There are many such experiments going on right now.

In most cases with involuntary participation.

Not really in labs.

And on a much larger scale.

And not so benign either.

Sooner or later the results are going to be visible.

Even if neither the participants nor the perpetrators want them to be.

They have a habit of moving out of control.

 

P.S.: The documentation says no violence (whatever that means) allowed.

February 12, 2009

The End of the (Hard Copy) Newspaper Age

Filed under: Absurd,Access Denied,Evil Creativity,Fascism,Newspapers,Sadism,So It Goes — anileklavya @ 10:13 am

For me, at least.

Almost ever since I learnt to read, devouring one or more newspapers has been an integral part of my daily life. Perhaps no other part of my routine has been that consistent. I still read a newspaper everyday (of course, there are exceptions), but now the newspaper is the online version. Unlike for some other people, this is not a matter of choice for me. I would still like to read the paper on paper. But due to some circumstances created by others, I have been forced to forego this habit.

About two years ago I stopped getting newspapers in my hostel room. There are a large number of people in the campus who want to keep teaching me a lesson for some reasons. They are not content with just once or twice. They want constant unrelenting punishment. So, things like taking away (it’s not really stealing, not always, though sometimes it can just be that) the newspaper from my door happen so frequently that at one point I had to decide that the whole thing was not worth the regular anguish of finding your paper missing etc. (this etc. is not empty: some interesting stories lie in there).

So, for about two years or so, I have not been reading the newspaper in hard copy and the age of hard copy newspaper has ended for me. Well, actually, last month the newspaper guy did ask me again if I wanted paper and just to check how things would be now, I said yes and paid him. I got what I expected. Only worse. Now the papers are gone even more frequently. So when the newspaper guy came again yesterday to get next month’s payment, I asked him to stop delivering papers to me. But he said he has already booked etc., so I paid him for one month more and asked him to stop after one month. By the way, I have not been reading the newspapers which I have been getting for the last month because I don’t want to get into the habit again and then first suffer the anguish of the missing paper (only a hardcore newspaper reader can understand what that means: but the people who I talked about know that it means quite a lot, whatever it may be) and then suffer the withdrawal symptoms once the papers have to be stopped.

This post is being written today because the paper is missing again today, the very next day after I paid for the papers that I am not going to read. And I have no doubt at all that it is missing by design, not by coincidence.

Those who know a little about me, also know that there are a lot many other things which others would consider more worthy of concern that…

Hopefully there are some people out there who would understand what and how much this post means. I would have been so much happier not to have to write a post like this. But then there might be other people who have faced similar things.

Or worse. Yes, it can always be worse, of course.

Perhaps it will be, because I do know that as a result of writing this there might be further trouble. Perhaps it is and I am not writing much about it. It can still get worse anyway. But I had to get this out.

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