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.)

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.

August 20, 2010

A Self-Hating Anti-Semite Jew

I am not from your country, but I have been following your local version of the Truman Show. Excuse me, but is this guy of the Jewish persuasion? I ask because I have noticed that he keeps harping about the Nazis and fascism and once he even wrote “I am a Jew”. I understand that your country does have a small Jewish population.

Since he also seems to be critical of the Israeli policies and has bad mouthed respected figures like Henry Kissinger, I am of the opinion that he may be one of those self-hating anti-semite Jews who take the side of the Palestinians every time anything happens in the Middle East. The number of such people has been on the increase ever since people like Tony Judt started joining these Israel bashers and got the attention of many in the mainstream, despite all the efforts by the pro-Isreali groups in the US and elsewhere.

I wonder whether he has a record of involvement in Zionism. A number of these self-hating anti-semite Jews are known to be former Zionists of one kind or another.

I appreciate your efforts in trying to contain people like him. Who knows, perhaps he is a Holocaust denier too. Or perhaps he supports those who are, you know, like Chomsky.

Good luck to you all.

August 9, 2010

No Letup

This is to inform the followers of the show that there has not been any lack of diligence or letup from our side, as might have appeared to some. As you might have seen today, we have been on the job. As soon as there is any rising up of spirits, any getting back to work, we act swiftly to hit where it hurts to ensure that the status goes back to staring vacantly. The techniques we have been using have proved very effective. Even though we have the advantage of observing all in real time, it requires a lot of commitment from many people in many places and and in many positions to make effective use of all the information.

For our continuously successful efforts, we wish to thank all those who have been supporting us and taking part in these activities of national importance (in addition to providing entertainment). We also thank all the followers of the show who have not let petty considerations of privacy, human rights etc. come in the way of patronizing and enjoying the show.

Together we have been able to come up with very effective ways of dealing with any kind of potential subversion, even when there is little evidence, without resort to problematic use of violence or even any argument. Let us hope that all subversion (what they call dissent or resistance) will soon be either eliminated or completely confined virtually.

We won’t need any prisons.

Under such confinement, it will gradually rot away*. This will further give us an opportunity to study the process of rotting away on subjects never before studied.

*Rotting being the process of bio-degradation, it is also ecologically beneficial. Ha! Ha!

July 27, 2010

पनहद

मैंने सोचा था
कमीनेपन की
कोई तो हद
होती होगी

इसका उल्टा जानने की
मेरी कोई इच्छा नहीं थी

पर कोई मेरे घर
आकर और खाकर
ज़बरदस्ती बता गया
कि नहीं होती
एकदम नहीं होती

July 10, 2010

Potential Replacements

There has been some concern about how long can the local-Truman last. It has been asked whether, in the eventuality of his unavailability due to migration, flight or ceasure of existence, the show will continue or not. We share this concern, but we might be able to help in addressing it.

We are the co-ordinating members of the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) in our place. As part of our national and social duties, we have been observing several noteworthy individuals. Based on our observations over the last few years, we have shortlisted a select few for special attention. These few might form a part of a shortlist of potential replacements for the show.

We believe that the LIUs in other places too might have their own shortlists. We suggest that these shortlists might be combined together and the process of selecting the replacement be initiated, so that there is no delay, in case we are suddenly faced with one of the aforementioned eventualities.

July 1, 2010

A Dose of Randomness

Predictability can indeed compromise the confidentiality aspect of the techniques being used for the show. It is not only intuitive, it is even supported by the probability theory. I know that the show is being coordinated by very competent people, but if I might be so bold as to suggest an improvement, I would like to say that introducing an element of randomness can reduce predictability significantly. We might, in fact, go further and associate randomness not just with individual events, but also with schedules. And the schedules themselves can be varied in timing, duration as well as length on the same principles. In other words, we can mix purposeful individual events (which have to occur at some specific time, either decided in advance or based on observation) with schedules that are of varying length, varying duration and continue for a varying number of days. These randomized schedules can serve as a camouflage for the purposeful events which require some confidentiality. As an additional benefit, their randomness can itself become purposeful in the same way in which the events are purposeful.

The problem can be formally studied in terms of the probability theory alone, but while implementing it in practical situations, we also need to take into account pragmatic, psychological and behavioral aspects. The latter are harder to study and require prolonged exploration that might require considerable resources. Ordinarily, i.e., under conditions different from those of the current decade, it would have been difficult to get support for such studies for a show of this kind. Fortunately, at present, we are in the midst of a security goldrush, otherwise known the terror goldrush*, that will most probably last for a long time. Therefore, it should not be difficult to get the required support. But wait, does not the said show owe its existence to the same goldrush? I think it does, but even so, we should try and get the required support and utilize it efficiently for the studies mentioned above.

* It really has terrorized the local-Truman. Ha! Ha!

So, my humble suggestion is that we should conduct these studies as expediently as possible and reduce the predictability to which the existing techniques are susceptible. Confidentiality is an important aspect and we should do everything we can to avoid it from being compromised.

June 28, 2010

A Nice Electric Game

That was a nice electric game today, though quite predictable, even for the local-Truman. The ones in the last few days were good too. But, as I said, the timing is becoming very predictable.

I don’t understand one thing though. We have quite a well oiled machinery in place and enough personnel. Then why should the effects be borne collectively when we only want to experiment on one person? After all, this show is very different from the original show where collective effects were unavoidable but also harmless. And if things become so predictable, the entertainment value might be reduced. In fact, I think even the desired effects might not materialize as much as expected. Most importantly, the confidentiality aspect might be compromised if the same techniques involving some level of visibility are overused.

Is there some plan to overcome such deficiencies? I will be happy to provide some feedbacks.

June 24, 2010

A Pussy

You must be joking!

For he’s a pussy kind of fel-low (and so say all of us).

Just consider the facts. He is so scared (of electric shocks, may be) that he has stopped cooking regularly even the faminish meals he used to cook. And he doesn’t eat out because he is scared of you know what. He has even stopped traveling and taking photographs of trees and fields from trains because he’s afraid of being reported to the police, after it happened only once! He’s so ridiculously totally completely scared that he has painted himself in the corner (though that is probably a good thing for the coordinators of the show). Can you seriously imagine him going to fight in the forest?

However, I am not saying that, as you suggested, all possible steps should not be taken from preventing this very unlikely event. Security is the paramount consideration in today’s life and we all know it. I wouldn’t want it any other way, just like any other good citizen.

But he’s a pussy and someone should go to his place and tell him that here is an interesting video that he might like.

June 22, 2010

A Hard Nut

I don’t think the local-Truman is going to do himself in and become heavenly. He is a hard nut. Techniques like electric shocks are not going to break him easily (pardon the pun). I think the symptoms that he is showing are actually of the agitation of a life-changing preparation. I am sure he is planning to join the rebels fighting in the forests. That is why he was watching all those videos about their history.

That said, I share in the opinion that the show must go on. If I am correct, he is a major security risk and he must not be allowed to bring his plan to fruition. All possible steps should be taken to avoid it.

But quite apart from the security aspect, I too will miss the show if it stops. It has added a new meaning to collaborative entertainment.

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