अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

May 19, 2011

Sicilian Grand Prix Attack?

Filed under: Absurd,Logging,Network,So It Goes,Technology,Work — anileklavya @ 4:24 pm

There is a website that I have, which has been inoperative for some time. There was not much content on it anyway. However, while working on another site located on the same server, I noticed that the site was being accessed heavily, but since it is inoperative, the web server is logging the errors.

This started on May 11th, 2011. The error log has become huge by the standards of any website that I maintain. It’s size is 8 MB. It has more than 60000 entries, most of them being for the inoperative site I mentioned. And the total number of *distinct* IPs from which the site has been accessed is nearly 20000: way beyond the traffic that I get for even those sites which are operative and regularly used.

Two of the entries in log file indicated that someone had posted a link to download a free book called ‘Starting Out: The Sicilian Grand Prix Attack’. But there has been no facility to add comments for this site on this server, although there was on the server where the site was earlier installed. So perhaps the cached post was from the earlier server.

The important thing is, there were only two requests for this post or this link to the book.

But then I searched for it on Google and saw the cached post about an hour ago.

From a few minutes after that, there is a flood of requests for the same link to the book on Sicilian Grand Prix Attack, even though the site is still inoperative. There are also more attempts to add new comments.

The ‘attack’ seems to continue and the size of the error log file is growing even now.

Meaning what? You tell me.

[Some information that might perhaps be relevant: The site was about a query language that I have designed. I had submitted a paper about this language to a workshop at a very prestigious conference. The paper was rejected. I received the notification on the 7th. Over the next two days, I had an exchange of emails with the PC chairs and the organizers of the workshop about my dissatisfaction with the reviews and the reviewing process. I also asked them to forward my comments to the reviewers. I could be identified from my comments, even if my name had been removed.]

(There are many simple explanations of the above. One of them is that the writer is a moron.)

April 28, 2011


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?

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.

December 28, 2010

Revealed: The Protesters Have Red Blood


The medical records and documents of the Protesters recovered from a few of their top leaders apprehended recently have revealed secrets about the lives of the Protesters which they would have probably liked to remain hidden. The records and documents provide answers to very important questions about the personal lives of these miscreants, authorities have informed our special investigative correspondent.

The purpose of these investigations was to highlight the great irony of the lives of these Protesters, which is that while they have been revealing and protesting against the official and institutional activities of the state and corporate leaders — and which has placed them at the centre of the firestorm about the controversy related to the right to know and the right to justice — in their personal lives they have been highly secretive. The investigation also aimed at finding out the truth about the consistency between the high moral ground taken by them and the realities of their own lives.


One of the glaring facts to have come out of these investigations, based on the records and documents we mentioned, is that these protesters have blood with the color red. Apart from the obvious political implications of this disturbing fact, it is also worth noting that most criminals and terrorists have red blood. It will have to be seen how the Protesters and their sympathizers are now going to explain the high moral ground they have been taking, even as the authorities and corporate leaders have been humbly trying to get them to enter negotiations.

The documents and records recovered, as well as our interviews with people who have had encounters with them, also make available details about their body shapes, their bodily fluids, the clothes worn by them, the diseases they have had, and a lot more.

Officials who helped us in the investigations, have observed that a careful analysis of these details indicate that crimes and immoral activities like rape, sexual deviance, unprovoked violence, unfair treatment towards women and minorities, financial irregularities, as well as not washing their hands before and after protesting, sleeping irregularly and listening to romantic and boisterous songs are fairly common among the members of these Protesting groups.

We have found out that some of them come from troubled families.

Not only that, some of them even have children.

In an astonishing act of arrogance and disregard for the security services, one of them had sent emails and documents addressed to ISI Calcutta. We are trying to find out how the ISI came to establish a full fledged branch with a public address in Calcutta.

We are in touch with experts and will be updating with a report about how this could be an evidence of the delusional and psychotic nature of the people involved in these groups.

The media’s focus for the last few months may have been on the troubling details of the cases that some of the protesters are facing. But it’s fascinating to discover how their lives have had so much unhappiness and lack of privilege – not that you’ll be reading about it on their all-disclosing websites any time soon.

December 25, 2010

Property Rights on Tragedies

Looking into a hypothetical future, let us suppose the (to be) richer countries of Africa were, like the richer countries of Europe, form a union as powerful and influential in World Politics as the present EU. While, as seems likely, India still retains caste based structure of its society. In this world, some politician in India professing to represent the lower castes makes a statement to the effect that India’s higher caste dominated parties discriminate against the lower castes, quite like the white colonialists in Africa against the black skinned people.

Should one expect the African Union to react sharply against this? Whether one should or not, one might have to, if one goes by yet another bizarre event in a world that once again seems to going totally mad.

There has been a strange tussle going on between a certain senior politician of the Congress party in India and the right wing Hindu conglomerate that goes by the name of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteers’ Union) or the RSS. The Congress politician in question is as good or bad as politicians with a relatively better reputations go in India. The RSS is an organization directly connected to the party (BJP) that was in power at the central government a few years ago and still is in many states of India. The RSS has been the subject of numerous studies by scholars (Indian as well as Foreign) and everyone who knows something about it knows that the right wing conglomerate has always had more than a soft spot for Hitler, Mussolini and the Nazis. Therefore, it is quite common in India to find one of its critics (and that of its various offshoots) mentioning the Nazi connection. It might be that sometimes it is overdone, but there is no doubt that in order to understand the nature of the ideology and the politics of this massive but amorphous organization, whose history goes back to a time long before independence, you have to know and understand their admiration for the Nazis and the Fascists generally.

The tussle that I mentioned involves the death of one of the police officers during the Mumbai terror attacks (26/11, as they call it). The accusation made by the said politician is that some Hindu terrorist outfits (relatively new kids on the block as far shooting and bombing kind of terrorism by non-state actors is concerned) were responsible for the death of this officer.

This tussle has been going on for some time now. But what concerns us here is that during this tussle came a statement from the Congress politician that BJP kills Muslims in the name of nationalism, like the Nazis. And that their hatred towards the Muslims is comparable to that of the Nazis towards the Jews. On strictly objective grounds you might say that this is not hundred percent accurate. However, notice that the word used is ‘comparable’, not ‘equivalent’. But, if you want, you can also verify for yourself that there is a significant amount of truth in this statement. Again note that I mean the comparison with the Nazis, not the death of the police officer, about which I can’t say anything.

You can also verify for yourself that during the last two decades (at least) the ideological difference between the Congress party and the BJP (or its earlier avatar) has narrowed down so much that sometimes it is hard to make out which is which. Still, since they are the two major parties and they have to fight elections with each other, they have to criticize each other too, sometimes quite severely. Therefore, it is very normal to see such tussles between the two parties or their leaders, though usually they don’t involve something as spectacular as a multi-day televised terror attack. No one takes much notice as this is a part of the electoral routine, except those whose profession requires them to.

But what do you know. Once you have resigned yourself to the idea that strange things happen, you are made to find out that stranger things happen. Thus it is that we find that soon after the most recent Nazi-BJP/RSS comparison, the Israeli government has taken offence at the ‘invocation of the Holocaust’ by the Congress leader to hit out at the Hindutva (i.e., RSS) organizations. To quote:

The Israeli Embassy reacted to this on Monday through a terse, one-sentence statement that it didn’t approve of the massacres of the Jews being used for political sabre-rattling. “In response to the enquiries from the press, the Embassy wishes to stress without entering the political debate that no comparison can be made with the Nazi Holocaust in which six million Jews were massacred solely because they were Jews,” the statement said.

There are several things that one can note here. One is that the Holocaust as a single event was not mentioned. Another is that even if it had been mentioned, there were other victims: the Gypsies (who are in the news as victims again in 2010), the communists, the homosexuals, the handicapped, the Catholics and even German dissenters. Then there were the members of the conquered ‘inferior’ and not so inferior races, killed in huge numbers (even excluding those killed in battles). Yet another is that comparison is not equivalence and that comparison can, should, and has been used since the beginning of civilization to warn (or caution) against the repeat of the equivalent.

The Israeli statement seems to suggest that through some mysterious legal logic, Israeli state now holds copyright over the Holocaust. Not just that, the statement even seems to suggest that Israel holds the rights even over the Nazis, that is, if you want to compare some ideology or some atrocity to those of the Nazis, you have to first check with the Israeli government.

If only we could be sure that this is just an extremely unusual incident of idiocy. One can objectively try to understand this as an example of a process of mythology creation through which a real event has been appropriated by an institution (a religion, or more accurately, a government claiming to represent a religion) and has been entered in some sacred text so that it now comes exclusively in the domain of that institution’s rites and rituals and theology. But there is not much comfort in such an explanation.

There is another explanation, but it has been put forward previously and I will leave it to others or to the reader.

What next? India holding a copyright on the partition massacres? We will have to share it with Pakistan (and Bangladesh too). The EU holding a copyright on the Black Plague? American Indians on ethnic cleansing? Africans on slavery and racism? The EU again on chemical warfare?

It is said that the whole population of the city of Delhi was wiped out several times: as part of what is called Qatl-e-Aam (Universal Murder or Murder at Large). One of those supposed to have ordered a Qatl-e-Aam in Delhi was Nadirshah, one of the so many to invade India. There must be some exaggeration here, that is, there must have been survivors, just as there were in the Holocaust, but it is an historical fact there were general massacres in Delhi ordered by some invaders. Even the language (Hindi-Urdu) carries the residues in the form of expressions like Qatl-e-Aam itself and ‘Nadirshahi hukm’ (Nadirshah’s order).

So perhaps Delhi should get the rights over Universal Murders. Of course, the rights will have to be negotiated with other claimants. They will have to be narrowed down to Universal Murders in a Single City or something like that.

To be fair, on closer reading, the quotation given above says that “In response to the enquiries from the press, the Embassy wishes to stress…” In other words, it is ‘the press’ (presumably Indian – and right-leaning) that seems to have extracted the statement from the Israeli government. Were they playing their own role in invoking the Holocaust for political sabre-rattling on behalf of the party compared to the Nazis? The Israelis were ready to oblige though.

Be that as it may. What I know for sure from my personal – first hand – experience is that if certain people (and they are very large in number) were able to do as they badly want to do, there would be massacres in India on a scale the world has never seen before. And I am not talking about those who are formally known as the ‘terrorists’.

This is just a statement of fact which I make here, typing on this keyboard, without much feeling at this moment.

And I have realized (in the following moment) that it is now (Merry) Christmas.

December 8, 2010

A Day of Shame

It could have been, in a different world.

In today’s world, it is more appropriate to call it A Day of Shamelessness.

But History will ultimately call it A Day of Shame, if there is any hope even for History.

The night of the hunter being over, perhaps we should now prepare for the morning, when we will have to say hello, Mr. Stalin and hello, Mr. Hitler.

It would be a tricky thing. They would be behind the screen and we won’t have a way to make sure that they are even there. But we will have to behave as if they are.

Good actors will have better chances. Bad actors, like this one, will have to look for other options. Many have already started to look.

Have you?

November 17, 2010

So Dissent is Just a Disease After All

If you are even a little bit well read, you might have come across the name of Bertolt Brecht, even if you don’t recall it now. He is well known as one of the most important figures of twentieth century theatre (theater for the more dominant party). But his influence goes far beyond theatre. It extends to movies, literature, poetry (he was also a poet), political thought and so on (not excluding the Monty Pythons). It even goes beyond the boundaries of the East-West or the North-South divides. I wasn’t surprised at all when I read yesterday that there are ’30 something’ MA theses in South Korea alone (written in Korean) on Brecht. In India, he has been widely written about and heavily quoted by intellectuals, especially those writing in Indian languages. One of the most respected Hindi poets, Nagarjun, even wrote a poem about Brecht. I would have loved to provide a translation of that poem here, but I don’t feel equal to the task as the poem uses words whose equivalents in English I am unable to think of. Some poems are translatable, some are not.

Brecht has been on my mind these days as I have translated some of his poems (from English) into Hindi in the last few days. This excercise included a bit of surfing the Net for his name too and as a result, I came across something that made me write this. Or, at least, acted as a catalyst or the precipitating agent for writing this.

I don’t mean to present a brief bio of the man here. You can easily find plenty of material about him on the Internet and in any good library. I am not even a minor expert (in the technical sense) on him or his works. But I might mention here that some of the things he is known specifically for, include these:

  • His plays and his active theatre work (in particular the ‘epic theatre’ works like The Life of Galileo, The Threepenny Opera and Mother Courage and Her Children)
  • His theory about theatre, which is centred around the idea of the ‘alienation effect’
  • His poetry
  • His affiliation to Marxism (though of the dissident kind)

It should not be hard to guess now (if you were unfamiliar with him earlier) that it is the fourth point that would get most people interested, either approvingly or otherwise. You write plays, you do theatre, you pen poems, that’s all quite alright. No problem. Have your fun. Let us have some too. We can spend time discussing and arguing about it too. But being a Marxist is taking this business to a different territory. That’s politics. That might lead to talk of revolution. Or, at least, to that of radical change.

And so it does. Intellectuals, artists and activists around the world who are not satisfied of being a real or potential (‘wannabe’) Salman Rushdie or V. S. Naipaul and who want to do or say something more about the injustices in the world, in the society, in the institutions, have almost all paid at least some attention to this guy. Some disagreed and turned away, some agreed wholeheartedly and became loyal followers and some agreed partly and adapted his ideas and techniques according to their own taste and their own views about things. One from the last kind is also someone with whom I have happened to be concerned recently. That one was Fassbinder, a prolific filmmaker from the same part of the world as Brecht. Another filmmaker (from India) of this kind was Ritwik Ghatak. But about them, later.

Brecht’s ideas about ‘epic theatre’ (the quotes are there because it is a specific theory or a specific kind of theatre, not necessarily what you would guess from the words: it is a technical term) were a result of synthesizing and extending the ideas of Erwin Piscator and Vsevolod Meyerhold.

About the alienation effect, this excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Brecht gives a fairly good introduction:

One of Brecht’s most important principles was what he called the Verfremdungseffekt (translated as “defamiliarization effect”, “distancing effect”, or “estrangement effect”, and often mistranslated as “alienation effect”). This involved, Brecht wrote, “stripping the event of its self-evident, familiar, obvious quality and creating a sense of astonishment and curiosity about them”. To this end, Brecht employed techniques such as the actor’s direct address to the audience, harsh and bright stage lighting, the use of songs to interrupt the action, explanatory placards, and, in rehearsals, the transposition of text to the third person or past tense, and speaking the stage directions out loud.

But more than this somewhat technical aspect, what attracts me to the ‘Brechtian’ art, was expressed extremely well by Erwin Piscator in 1929:

For us, man portrayed on the stage is significant as a social function. It is not his relationship to himself, nor his relationship to God, but his relationship to society which is central. Whenever he appears, his class or social stratum appears with him. His moral, spiritual or sexual conflicts are conflicts with society.

I read this only today, but as my (few) readers might have noticed (which I explicitly expressed once), almost all of what I write here is about ‘Individual and Society’ (which is also one of the most common tags that I use). For me, the above is the crux of the Brechtian enterprise. But I should add that in my opinion the Brechtian technique, along with its variants, is not the only technique for achieving the goal (for expression in art as well as for scholarly investigation) outlined in the above quotation. Still, I can’t resist saying here that it is the key to understanding Fassbinder. Many a reviewer of Fassbinder movies has made a fool of himself by ignoring this.

Having provided this little context, I will move now to the thing that precipitated this article. Yesterday, after posting one more of the translations of his poems on a blog, I came across a post that pointed me to a news story from Reuters. Since it is from Reuters, it has been carried by many other news outlets.

The story reports that a researcher from the University of Manchester “has uncovered the truth behind the death of German playwright Bertolt Brecht”. It goes on to say:

Professor Stephen Parker … said the playwright died from an undiagnosed rheumatic fever which attacked his heart and motorneural system, eventually leading to a fatal heart failure in 1956.

Previously it was thought his death in 1956 aged 58 had been caused by a heart attack.

So far, so good. But here is the precious bit:

Parker said the playwright’s symptoms such as increased heart size, erratic movements of the limbs and facial grimace and chronic sore throats followed by cardiac and motorneural problems, were consistent with a modern diagnosis of the condition.

“When he was young no one could get near the diagnosis,” Parker, 55, told Reuters. “Brecht was labeled as a nervous child with a ‘dicky’ heart, and doctors thought he was a hypochondriac.”

Brecht’s childhood condition continued to affect him as an adult, making him more susceptible to bacterial infections such as endocarditis which affected his already weakened heart, and kidney infections which plagued him until the end of his life.

Parker believed that his underlying health altered the way the playwright felt and acted.

“It affected his behavior, making him more exaggerated in his actions, and prone to over-reaction,” he said. “He carried the problem all his life and compensated for this underlying weakness by projecting a macho image to show himself as strong.”

I have quoted at this length because I didn’t want to lose anything in the paraphrase. So this researcher is a medical doctor? Wrong. He is an expert in German Literature. And he derived all these conclusions from Brecht’s medical records. The report ends with this gem:

“Going into this project I felt I didn’t really fully understand Brecht,” he said. “This knowledge about his death opens a lot of new cracks about the playwright, and gives us a new angle on the man.”

As the Americans (and now even the Indians) say, Wow!

The Superman might have been fictional, but we now have a Super Researcher. Nothing short of real superpowers could have made him achieve this amazing feat: “his underlying health altered the way the playwright felt and acted”. Felt and acted! That is a nice summing up of the whole business of existence. The key to all this was rheumatic fever! This would make a nice present to an absurdist poet looking for ideas. An expert in German Literature goes through the medical records of a man who was born in 1898 and died in 1956, having lived in various countries during one of the most tumultuous periods in history (when there were no computers: well, hardly). He (the Expert) felt “he didn’t really fully understand” Brecht and by going through these medical records (one of the key exhibits being an X-ray) and found out that all this ‘epic theatre’ and the ‘alienation effect’ and affiliation to Marxism and his poetry and his immeasurable influence on a large fraction of the best minds of the world for the last three quarters of a century was just the result of his rheumatic fever. All his politics was just a simple disease.

As if this wasn’t enough, there is something else that would have caused cries of “Conspiracy theory!” if a different party was involved in the affair. His research shows that the 1951 X-ray report, which showed an enlargement to the left side of Brecht’s heart, was never shown to the playwright or known about by his doctors and it may have been (emphasis mine) held back by the German security services, the Stasi, who had a grudge against the playwright.

So all of you loony lefties, you commie fairies, this idol of yours was just a sick man. And if he was not, well, then he was at least (indirectly) killed by a communist government. So wake up, man! Give up all this talk about the individual and the society and injustice and imperialism etc. Get back on track and let’s live up the market dream together. We can change things. Yes, we can.

To be fair to Professor Parker, he has written a ‘literary biography’ of Brecht and it might be that he is not really claiming all of the above. However, what matters in the world outside the closed academic circle of experts on German Literature, is the effect of the reports of this study on the common readers. And what appears in these reports is, to use a word from the report itself, quite a sinister subtext. The Indian media right now is full of such reports (often of a much cruder, laughably cruder, moronically cruder variety) with similar, barely concealed subtexts, with obvious relevance to the current political situation in the country.

The ‘study’ apparently says nothing about the effect that his blacklisting in Hollywood might have had on him. Did the FBI (or any of the other agencies) had a grudge against him? Here was one of the most admired and influential playwright who had sketched notes for numerous films, but he got to write the script of only one movie that was directed by Fritz Lang. He was interrogated by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and decided to leave the US after that. He lived during the period when his country went mad and so did the world, with millions upon millions dying. He saw Germany descend from relative decency into barbarism. He later also saw the degeneration of the revolution in the Eastern Block. Did all that have anything to do with what he was and may be even with why he died relatively young? Parker doesn’t seem interested in such trivialities and externalities. At least Reuters doesn’t, because I don’t have access to the complete and original ‘study’ as written by Parker.

Very long ago, I had read one of the novels by that great favourite of those looking for gentlemanly humour, P. G. Wodehouse. In that novel (whose name I don’t remember), one of the main characters (Jeeves, perhaps) decides to go, for some reason, on a kind of fast. And from the time of the very next meal, his whole personality starts changing. He becomes dissatisfied with lot of things. He starts finding faults in everything. His good nature is all gone. In short, he becomes the caricature of a dissenter.

Finally, when things go beyond a point, the plot has him give up the fast, may be with some persuasion from others. As soon as he has had a good meal again, he reverts to his usual self. The dissenter is gone. Then comes an editorial comment from the narrator which goes something like this: If only Gandhi (no ‘Red Top’, as you probably know) were to give up his fasting antics, he won’t be creating so many unnecessary problems. As far as Wodehouse is concerned, he has won the argument against the whole idea of Indian independence and whatever else Gandhi said he was fighting for.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on poor Wodehouse, as cautioned by Orwell in his defense, because, for one thing, the humourist was just too innocent of political awareness.

A scholar of Brecht and one of the biggest news agencies in the world, however, belong to a different category.

But this is not such a unique event. Parker has just given a new meaning to the idea of pathologizing troublesome people. To the idea of ‘finding dirt’ on people who don’t follow the rules of the game. It is just a sophisticated version of the understated witch hunt against Julian Asange. A small attempt at rewriting History in somewhat Orwellian sense. The motivation is all there, as more and more people start talking about the ‘churning’ and ‘renewed stirrings’ for a more fair world. Yet another facet of the psychological operations (psyops) in these times of the gold rush.

(Using Bob Dylan’s words, we could say that Professor Parker is perhaps just a pawn in their game, but of a different kind than Wodehouse was for the Nazis.)


One of the significant influences on Brecht was Chaplin’s movie The Gold Rush.

Life is full of poetry and drama.

And melodrama.

October 14, 2010

खुश हुआ खुश हुआ

[ये श्री अनिल एकलव्य जी के एक विद्वतापूर्ण शोधपरक लेख का खड़ी बोली कविता में अनुवाद है। मूल लेख बिजली के खेल में हुए हार्ड डिस्क क्रैश के कारण खो गया है। उसे रिकवर करने की कोशिश चल रही है। तब तक यही सही।]

जंगल-जंगल पता चला है
धोती पहन के मोगैंबो खिला है
पगड़ी पहन के गब्बर सिंह सजा है

पिछली बार जो लठैतों-डकैतों ने
तोड़ा-फोड़ी और पिटाई की वो याद ही है तुम्हें
तो ये मसला अब बहुत लंबा खिंच गया है
जज साहिबान, अब इसे लॉक किया जाए

अबकी अगर शामत न आई हो
तो समझ से काम लो और चुप बैठो
हमने रियायत कर दी है तुम्हारे साथ
पर लठैत-डकैत अभी संत नहीं हो लिए हैं

ज़रूरत पड़ी तो जो कहा गया था
वही होगा
तलवारें निकल आएंगी म्यान से
और जो भी करेगा विरोध
वो जाएगा जान से

हाँ, ये ठीक है – अबकी कोई शोर नहीं
बड़ा डिग्नीफ़ाइड रिस्पौंस रहा है
लगे रहो, जमे रहो, सीख जाओगे

खुश हुआ, मोगैंबो खुश हुआ
गब्बर सिंह को ये शरीफ़ाना नाच
ब-हु-त पसंद आया
ये परिवार के साथ देखने लायक है

परिवार समझते हो ना?
क्या करें
आजकल के बच्चे परिवार संस्कार
सब भूलते जा रहे हैं

उसके बारे में भी कुछ करेंगे
सर्च एंजिन वालों से भी बात चलाई है
पर फिलहाल तो इस फिल्म को
अगले साल ऑस्कर में भेजेंगे

[कविता में किए इस अनुवाद में घटिया फ़िल्मों का ज़िक्र आने का ऐसा है कि अनुवादक बेचारा खुद एक भयंकर घटिया फ़िल्म में एक ऐक्स्ट्रा है। दुआ कीजिए कि इस नई फ़िल्म को ऑस्कर मिल जाए। तब शायद अनुवादक को भी इनाम में माफ़ी मिल सके।]

September 2, 2010

Two Azads and the Crown

Once there was an Azad whose stories we are taught. He was declared by the government of the day to be a wanted terrorist, but was considered a freedom fighter by the people. He was ultimately hunted down with the help of treacherous informers (so we are told by books sponsored by today’s government). He was killed in an encounter with the security forces in a park. That was a real encounter in a real park, even if some details might be contested.

Then there was another Azad who was also declared by the government of the day to be a wanted terrorist. A lot of people of the country considered him to be fighting for them. He too was killed in an encounter by the security forces, except that the encounter this time was a fake encounter, something which we Indians have come to take pride in, so much so that we have films made in honour of (Fake) Encounter Specialists, sometimes by directors belonging to the minority community whose members are much more likely to be the targets of such encounter deaths.

We are, after all, a secular democracy where the Rule of Law is respected.

Another thing common to both the Azads was that they were revolutionary socialists (krantikaris: क्रांतिकारी).

And another difference was that whereas the first Azad was hunted down as part of the declared policy of the government, the second Azad was one of the revolutionaries with whom the government claimed to be planning to conduct a dialog. He was shot to death from point-blank range in cold blood (in the honorable national tradition of fake encounters), apparently after picking him up from a place where he was traveling in connection with the preliminaries of dialogs which were supposed to be held. In other words, unlike with the foreign colonial government, with our own democratic government he was most probably enticed for a dialog and then got murdered in cold blood. The purpose, it seems, was just to show what we can do to people who dare to oppose us. And no one can touch us. So don’t mess with us. Such a thing is also known by another name: assassination.

The stories carried in the colonial media were biased to the extent that they called the first Azad a terrorist, while the stories in the vibrant free media of the our great democracy were almost total fabrications fed by the security forces.

Security? Really? For whom? From whom?

Along with him, another person was killed. He, a freelance journalist, was summarily and secretly executed for being sympathetic to the Maoists, or perhaps just for being found with the second Azad.

Is any strategist talking about the blowback?

What about the things going on in the region that is (as we were taught) India’s crown? Or should we say the Jewel in the Crown?

I apologize for writing this unoriginal and boring piece. I know hardly anyone will be surprised by anything contained in it.

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