Friday, March 27, 2015

Where the Rain is Born

Anton Chekov’s short story “The Bet” always reminds me of the awe that one can feel reading books, the powerful sway that books can have upon the reader. But then over the years I also realised from experiencing people who also read books that, “books are mirrors you only see in them what is already inside you”.

Let me go back to the story before I reach to narrate the reason for the above statement.                       During an evening of revelry a wealthy Banker and his guests debate the subject of capital punishment  While the Banker asserted that capital punishment was preferable to solitary confinement that kills the prisoner gradually, a young lawyer states that he would prefer to be alive and a life time of imprisonment than be killed. To this the Banker mocks that the young fellow would not spend five years in confinement and he was willing to pay him 2 million if he would spend 15 years in solitary confinement, no daylight , no human contact. They  enter into a wager.
An almost uneventful first year went by with the young lawyer ordering wine, cigars, good food and superficially exciting light novels and played his musical instruments.  The second year was often dotted with bouts of wailing, angry monologues and he drank a lot. From the third year, saw the young lawyer dropping notes for books- classics, philosophies, travelogues, medicine, religion, chemistry, languages and so on. As years went by the sound from inside the prison was barely heard. There were only notes for more books.

As the fifteenth year approached its end the Banker was truly getting nervous at the prospect of having to pay the lawyer as agreed in the wager. Plowed down by worry and deceitful, the Banker plots to kill the young man. Sneaking into the prison he found an emaciated figure stooped in a chair and oblivious of his entry. He found a letter written thus-“For fifteen years I have been intently studying earthly life. It is true I have not seen the earth nor men, but in your books I have drunk fragrant wine, I have sung songs, I have hunted stags and wild boars in the forests, have loved women…beauties as earthreal as clouds, created by the magic of your poets geniuses, have visited me at night and have whispered in my ears and wonderful tales have set my brain in a whirl. In your books I have climbed to the peaks of Elburz and Mont Blanc and from there I have seen the sun rise and watched it at evening flood the sky, the ocean and the mountain – tops with gold crimson. I have watched from there lightning flash over my head and cleaving the storm clouds. I have seen green forests, fields, rivers, lakes, towns. I have heard the singing of the sirens and the strains of the shepherds’ pipes; I have touched the wings of comely devils that flew down to converse with me of God… In your books I have flung myself into bottomless pit, performed miracles, slain, burned towns, preached new religion, and conquered whole kingdoms….

Your books have given me wisdom. All that the unrestfulness thought man has created in the ages is compressed into small compass in my brain. I know that I’m wiser than all of you.
I despise wisdom and the blessings of this world. It is all worthless, fleeting, illusory and deceptive, like mirage. You may be proud, wise and fine, but death will wipe you off the face of the earth as though you were no more than mice burrowing under the floor and your posterity, your history, your immortal geniuses will burn or freeze together with the earthly globe. You have lost your reason and taken the wrong path. You have taken lies for truth and hideousness for beauty. I don’t want to understand you.

To prove to you in action how I despise all that you live by, I renounce the two million of which I once dreamed as of Paradise and which I now despise. To deprive myself the right of money I shall go out from here five hours before the time fixed and so break the compact…”

The distraught Banker limped back to his house after reading the letter. The next morning the jail keeper announces that late at night he saw a shadow of a man wriggle out through the window, scale the high walls and vanish into the misty night.

Surely no further explanation is needed here of the outcome.

Now what would you say about folks who “trivalises” books, who do not value books? But who vainly reads them or impresses upon others that they read them? Who audaciously walks away with a book from your collection even without informing you and when you repeatedly over days remind that care should be taken to return, ferally glares at you that the book is lost and could not be found?                                                                                                                                          “Well if you fret much about a mere book, I can pay for it or buy you a new one.” The last statement is a swipe at your face and profanation to books.
When one sits back and analyses this particular incident that happened, what one could understand is that,“books are mirrors you only see in them what is already inside you”.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Pious Face of India

                                             The Delhi Gang Rapist

A month ago one impertinent, intemperate cantankerous  politician –a belligerent Marxist was sent to serve a prison term by the Supreme Court for calling the Judges a pack of fools. Now, looking at the restraint a Judge of a Delhi court has delivered against the airing of the BBC documentary on the “Delhi rapist interview”, terming that the telecast or publication of the interview will be detrimental to law and order, I ‘m obliged to endorse the view , after all the comment about the Courts was right.

Now, what did this reprehensible sexual assaulter say to the interviewer? He said that the victim has to be blamed for her torture and death and that if she had not resisted the rape she would not have been physically tortured but left to survive after gang raping her to the content of their perverted libido. Further it is reported that he said, they would only have assaulted the male companion leaving the girl after the rape. This statement and perhaps the fear of far worse outrageous comments from a remorseless criminal must have prompted the hue and cry against the telecast of the interview and the Government’s decision to ban it. But worse still must be the real reason to restrain the telecast or publication of the interview that would reveal a pitiless and incorrigible male psyche- the infamous male misogynism.

We must recall that many of the same politicians, and religious heads who display anger now over the interview were the ones who expressed that it is women who attract rape and women who go out at night are libertines and  deserve to be sexually assaulted etc. A bishop even termed rape (in another case of rape some months ago) as God’s instrument to test the will of the victim and it should be accepted with all grace.A Muslim leader in Kerala called for marrying girls by the age of fourteen as longer they remain unmarried more are their chances of walking the immoral way.

When such men cry foul and wail that they and the country will be offended if an interview with an unregenerate despicable mind is to be telecast, it oozes vulgarly of hypocrisy and falsehood. The interview I’m sure will reveal far more outrageous side of the rapist and generally that indeed being subsumed in a male psyche, will make apprehensive and nervy many male chauvinistic and misogynistic men. It is the backlash and the anger that it would create in the vast sections of the society and mostly among women, what rattles these male chauvinistic ogres.

The lawyer of the assailants A.P.Singh said this after the verdict sentencing the criminals to death“…..if my daughter was having premarital sex and moving around at night with her boyfriend, I would  take her to the farm house and with all onlookers around , douse her with petrol and burn her alive . I would not have let this situation happen. All parents should adopt such an attitude.” A perfect specimen of the Indian male psyche.

India is a country, were value of life is selective depending upon wealth and trappings of power. This is a country were cows are sacred than the well being of women. This is the country whose government takes the role arbitrarily of a dietitian and decides what people should and must not eat. This is a country where disrobing of Draupadi is not a scene from a legendary mythical treatise- it happens daily and often have the sanction of the male dominated society. This is a country where mythical Ravana is seen as a villain though he did not even once lift as much a finger to violate Sita whom he held captive in his abode; while Rama who was insolent and chauvinistic to send Sita through Agni to purify and ensure her chastity, who later succumbing to the innuendos of a plebian about Sita’s virtue banished her and his twin sons to the wilderness of the forest, is considered a God and an ancient Mosque is razed down to build a temple atop for him. We let women be treated as commodities wrapped inside the black shades of burkha and jihabs, we dictated by archaic religious diktats, deny basic sustenance and rights to women . We ignore the hearts and souls entrapped inside the black fabric drenched with sudate and nauseating with its bacterial odour.

Well these things are not new and the products of western influence or the age of computer and iPad or iPhones. The wretched side existed ,only that such heinous aspects began  invading  our living rooms thanks to the explosion of television and the voyeuristic TRP crazed television channels. Look at the huge mob and crowd that flock to police stations and courts, drooling, their dark brownish face contorted in glee and sleazy pleasure whenever a woman -a rape victim, a sex worker or a female girl – the victim of abuse is produced! They would all in their pious Indian minds gang rape the hapless victim many times over.
What do these tell?                  

Are we trying to wish away the loathsomeness in our minds and hearts by banning such revealing journalistic work? Are we afraid of being confronted by our alter ego?
Instead of understanding how despicable the male psyche works, instead of understanding the incorrigible nature of the rapist, instead of acknowledging that a greater social scourge is subsumed in our midst, we stupidly and hypocritically cry offense; that we will not let the grand design to tarnish India’s image succeed by airing the interview; in fact  naively by blaming a sinister plot to undermine India, we exhibit ourselves as a country of thugs, rapists, misogynists and buffoons.
Indeed we are adept at banning, at proscribing. For, we are afraid of facts, of reality, of light, we are afraid of our own self, our face. It hounds us. Doesn't it?

It is not the BBC documentary or the interview with the rapist that we are afraid of, that rattle us. It is us we are afraid of- our reflection.
We are just not pious and we cannot make believe we are.