Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Musings on a Tuesday Morning

         "It is Dark only till you open your eyes"

Perhaps one of the most, if not the most captivating artistry with words and imagination I have come across has been in the writings of Salman Rushdie. People use varied words and phrases to describe his genre and style of writing; magical realism, abstract, fantasy and dreamland imagination, master class illusion, paronomasia, Houdini of literature and also mediocre, besides ‘absolute bullshit’.

He may be considered less in standing when put up with some of the Latin American exponents of magical realism. Well, then Nobel Prize is the sine qu a non of literary radiance.

When compared to the terrene writings, construction of sentences, choice of words and the plot itself for someone who have been breast fed on the writings of Blyton, Somerset Maugham, Hemmingway, Maurice Procter, RK.Narayan from the old to name a striking few, it was trifle difficult to imbibe the writings of men like Salman Rushdie.

I just finished reading three of Salman Rushdie’s books in the order, “Satanic Verses”, “The Enchantress of Florence” and “Joseph Anton”. While the latter is a memoir of his reclusive days- incognito and hounded by the blood thirsty cannibals of the Khomeini era Iran, the others are typical Rushdie class, the former ( The Satanic Verse) the controversial tome and took quite a while to read and use reference sites in the bargain for understanding, (I can only blame my limited comprehension for that).I must confess I have now begun, rather gained time (by default and by chance) and the appetite to enjoy the oeuvres of good writers.

Going back to the memorable beginning of a novel, “The Enchantress of Florence”, is unequaled.                                       “In the day’s last light the glowing lake below the palace city looked like a sea of molten gold. A traveler coming this way at sunset-this traveler, coming this way, now, along the lake shore road-might believe himself to be approaching the throne of a monarch so fabulously wealthy that he would allow a portion of his treasure to be poured into a giant hollow in the earth to dazzle and awe his guests………..”  
“But the sun fell below the horizon, the gold sank beneath the water’s surface and was lost. Mermaids and serpents would guard it until the return of daylight. Until then, water itself would be the only treasure on offer, a gift the thirsty traveller gratefully accepted.”                                                                                           

The Enchantress of Florence is set in the Mughal reign of Akbar, with occasional forays into the sixteenth century Florentine Italy and pulsating with life that the magical touch of Rushdie’s imagination could lend.
It was yesterday evening, when watching the “News Hour” on TimesNow channel that I began to wonder more and be quite afraid of what is in store for India should a bigoted, perverted and fanatic ideology in the guise of faith and religion were to come to power and with an absolute majority. The mindless frenzy, mobbishness and insane response to the literary creation “The Satanic Verses” and then “Shame” a novella of Tasleema Nasrin helped by mute, acquiescing and pliable governments in India and in some European countries, I find reflects the underlying venom and malaise in human psyche. The danger!

An antisocial called Pramod Muthalik the founder and lord of a fringe rightwing fanatic unit called “Sriramsean” vending his anger and wrath through menacing gesticulations and diatribe to the TV anchor and the civilised world as a whole when cornered by straight questions about his conduct and his self-proclaimed avatar as the custodian of Hindu Dharma and Hinduism was shocking, abhorring, bizarre and foreboding. Outrageously a man, a local head of his vile tribe who is a software engineer endorsed in equally frenzied manner the pathological ideology of Pramod Muthalik and that was far more distressing. They swore that they will hound and moral police any man or woman who to them are conducting against Hindu faith and Hindu dharma, because they have a right to safe guard Hinduism perse.

Mercifully in this age of live video telecast and information explosion such vile and perverted thinking elements are quickly exposed.  Though in some cases there are men who are roaming free even after a decade after approving and acquiescing social cleansing.
But what is amplified by the continuing ban in India on the book “Satanic Verses” and of late the meek withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s scholarly work on Hinduism is that individual freedom, freedom of thought and learning are continuously threatened in all religions and all faiths have demented men and women, cannibals preying upon a just and peaceful  society where individual rights and tolerance is helped to flourish through argumentation and civilized conduct than recourse to banning of unpleasant facts and resort to mayhem.

Ironically the book Satanic Verses is not banned in Turkey a secular country with a Muslim majority but is proscribed in India which claims to be the custodian of secular values.
As for men like Pramod Muthalik and others who have thrived raking up communal and religious divide and murder under the guise of saving Hinduism, the fact is such people are like locusts out to devour and deracinate Hinduism that for many millennia flourished without  abetting bloodshed or by slaughtering  non-believers, but mostly on free thought, free speech, argumentation and tolerance.

If men like Muthalik and his more famously infamous  brethren are concerned, distressed and incensed by the repeated denigration of Hinduism and what they call Indian ethos and culture, they should be voicing and acting against social evils like caste,discrimination based on one's caste and  un-touchability that plagues Hinduism even to this day.

Certainly we do not need the aid of a Rumpelstiltskin who is the creation of marketing mavericks to lord over us and tell us about Hinduism or a brother in arms of an Ayatollah Khomeini or a mediaeval Catholic inquisitor to play the divisive card, be a moral police or bludgeon people with their outlandish ideologies.

Why these people are frightened of books, of words is because they contain far more potent matters of reason, ideas and truth that can threaten and unveil the cannibalistic and satanic ideas that they purvey as heaven-sent. In fact they may even want to rewrite history erasing what they do not like even if it were true historical facts.


Meera Sundararajan said...

I have often been accused of being a "pseudo secularist" -whatever that means..!! I find it is the usual retort of these right wing saffron brigade guys. Intolerance to art and literature is on the rise. It is not just in the Muslim countries. The Bajrang dal does it quite often here. REmember what they did to Hussain's painting? I think we are headed the same way as some of these Islamic countries that we criticise. It is frightening!

BK Chowla, said...

We seem to find saffron beating an easy way out to prove oneself "Secular"..Fact is--no where in the world can you seperate relgion from politics.

Rama Ananth said...

I hate both politics and religion. Both these fields have become very corrupt. There are neither any good spiritual leader, nor any good politician in our country.

Tracy Terry said...

I admit that I have never had any success with The Satanic Verses despite having tried several times in the past. A little older and hopefully a lot wiser now I may well gave the book another try or would you suggest I give another of his books a try?

rudraprayaga said...

It is the politics that pave path for the fanatics.In comparison with other religions,Hinduism holds less number of fanatics,though they are there sure.

Saffron,white and green all play their part well in promoting intolerance here.

In some countries people can't watch movies,listen to music and have no entertainments.

In India some people hinder all the social activities,as if they are sent from heaven as the masters of all the people.

Here the aim is only vote-bank.So they play any satanic game to please the fanatics.

Magnificent work,but poor people like me need a dictionary by the side.Nicely narrated.

Musings said...
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anilkurup said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anilkurup said...

@ BK.Chowla,

“We seem to find saffron beating an easy way out to prove oneself "Secular”. Fact is--nowhere in the world can you separate religion from politics.”
The first part about “saffron beating” is an unnecessary and misplaced paranoia here – and unfortunately, that is often the case when even a dispassionate and apolitical person like me expresses the opinion mentioned in this post.
Saffron beating is certainly a worthwhile strategy that has been practiced by all shades of politicians to fool the saffronised. In fact the opposite happens on the other side too.
I have only mentioned dispassionately and in all sincerity, but with sense of outrage that the so called Hindutva core and fringe groups have almost usurped a way of life that has never dictated to any one like other didactic and skewed religions .But now under the guise of protecting their “Hindu culture and dharma”, these people are trampling upon the rights of the individual. Hindu culture and dharma is the freedom to practice Hinduism. Hinduism has never been and cannot be thrust upon by the sword or coercion. Both Christianity and Islam grew by the aid of the sword and gunpowder.
Why must Hinduism plummet to the pathetic level of other faiths? Hindus do not need a messiah or a prophet to resurrect. Because we never (Hinduism) lost its sheen; because hindusim is not a faith borne out revelation to some sorcerers holed up in some inaccessible mountains.
Religion has to be your personal matter and not the subject of one-upmanship and breast beating like gorillas. India certainly can be a place for a tolerant (I’m not using the word secular as that seems to of annoy you) and a free society that respects an individual’s right to think, and live freely.
In the rainbow culture that is in India and in today’s open world that is a mere village, refusing to cast away skewed , egregious and anachronistic notions that the Hndutva and the groups of minority faiths have is like endorsing kamikaze.
Religion is not a state subject and a matter in elections in many countries .It is not in all of Europe, the USA , Canada, Australia, and may other places. Well exceptions are the fanatic and obscurant countries in the Muslim world.
Certainly religion in India is not about God or supplicating to him- either be it with Muslims, Christians or Hindus. It is politics and vote bank politics. We will see salvation the day we realize that.

Usha Menon said...

Politics is a dirty game.

KGC said...

I wish more people can get access to your brilliant analysis of religious-politics. Thank you Mr.Anil Kurup!

Happy Kitten said...

Missed this post.. and hence got a chance to read your brilliant response too..

Wish India could shake away the mantle of religious fervour that seems to be shrouding it rather than freeing it!