Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hate as a Unifying Force

Hate has always been a powerful unifying force. It is also a productive force, in the sense it produces hysterical mobs, indiscriminate violence and mindless destruction.It produces irrational killings machines. It produces hysterical mobs which kill and ravage mindlessly among Hindus, Muslims, Sihalas, Tamils and well, Maharashtrians. It doesn't mean every Hindu or Muslim or Tamil or Marathi is a fanatic, but it means that most of sensible people in these communities can do very little apart from protesting, to stop these killing machines on rampage. You cannot obviously reason with these fanatics. It also mean that there is a wide-spread implicit and unexpressed support to these killer mobs from the people who are not directly involved in these crimes. As a sensible and rational member of these community, the only choice you have is to avoid being part of covert supporters.

The reason for my recent despair is obviously the lynching of a North Indian person on a Mumbai suburban train.It follows the violent agitation by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena under inspiration of Raj Thackeray and to say that there is no real link between the two things is to pretend and to prevaricate.The lynching may not have been the act of MNS workers, but the hate campaign against the North Indians launched by the party is definitely a motivating influence.

You saw it in Gujarat of 2002, you saw it in the anti-Sikh genocide of 1984, you saw it in the bloody Tamil- Sihala conflict since the eighties.

What we need to do is to probe deeper into why we love to hate. One school, like psychoanalysis would say that it is instinctual to hate and kill and there is very little we can do about it. The other would be the Leftist approach which would put all the blame of desire to kill on the social inequality. The first one comes closer to `nature' school of personality psychology and the other comes closer to `nurture' school.

I would say that hatred is because of BOTH the things: aggressive instinct and the social context. As if the problem is not simple enough.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Aapla Raj, the Truth behind Democracy and the Good Ole Bill

Aapla Raj Thackeray has played his cards like a seasoned Indian politician. He has courted arrest and hogged plenty of media attention and become a sort of hero and a martyr for the `masses'. From the times of the Mahatma, going to jail was a surefire way of becoming a hero and a martyr and thus winning sympathy. If a politician goes to jail, he is bound to win elections. Raj Thackeray is a pain in the old fat asses of the Congress, the BJP and last and the most of all, the Shiv Sena. He has hijacked all the tricks of Shiv Sena and robbed them of originality. Democracy is usually a veneer. Our Good Ole Bard Bill Shakespeare saw through the whole thing quite early. The justly famous Julius Caesar exposes how democracy works. Democracy is nothing more than mobocracy and the person who knows how to sway the sentiments of masses wins the day. Democracy is usually demagogueocracy. Raj Thackeray has plenty of support from Maharashtrians and Maharashtrians are usually looking for a scapegoat. They need someone to vent out their frustrations which are usually brought about due to their own limitations like laziness, boorishness and non-enterprising nature. The poor North Indian people were sitting ducks. Aapla Raj has not only eaten into Shiv Sena vote bank but also has emerged as the next `bhai' of Mumbai. The worst hit by this rise of New Hitler is the Old Hitler, his uncle. He has shown that what his uncle can do, he can do better. And what about the hapta rates now? Have they gone up after the arrest?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

TS Eliot and Neo Ravi Kiran Mandal

On Friday, 10th Oct., yours faithfully was invited to deliver a lecture on `Contemporary Marathi Poetry' in the Dept of Marathi. The thing is I am not a very good speaker when it comes to delivering a lecture in Marathi. I spoke about what we mean by contemporary poetry in the first place. I said that the term `contemporary' is theoretically a problematicterm, especially after Einstein’s theory of relativity. Time no longer can be considered as something absolute and homogeneous. Therefore, idea of some `standard' time which can be treated as an absolute frame of reference is no longer meaningful. Hence, the term `contemporary' (`contemporary to whom’) looses its force. Times flows with different speed in say for instance a village and a city. The recent quarrel in contemporary Marathi scenario can be traced to different perception of time ( in a village, a town and a city) and in attempts to prove that one's own sense of time is absolute and other's sense of time is `inauthentic'.
I added that by contemporary poetry I mean poetry written in contemporary language, from a contemporary perspective, taking one's own life and society as the context and as a frame of reference. Even if one is dealing with `timeless' subjects like God or Death, the poet is writing in the context of his society and life. I gave the example of Varjesh Solanki's poem `Icon' which is addressed to God as an example of a contemporary poetry. I read Hemant's ` Shopping at a Mega Mall' and Saleel's ` Dharan' ( The Dam) as examples of contemporary Marathi poetry.
The question and answer sessions had the usual questions ( obviously from the teachers) regarding the poetry of Abhidhanantar circle ( if at all there is something like it) being by and for the elite, being insensitive and all that. I responded saying that poetry, at least creative and serious poetry, is not written ` for' or by keeping a particular class in mind. Then this poetry was labeled as ` new Ravi Kiran Mandal' Wink. The questioners had absolutely no idea of the creative process involved in writing poetry. If teachers of literature and some of the so called poet-critics themselves are so abysmally ignorant of this basic process, what can you expect from others?
When you are doing something new and groundbreaking you have to prepare yourself for all sorts of idiotic responses. Unfortunately in Maharashtra as probably in other places, you are also supposed to educate your readers about what you are doing. This is not plain illiteracy. In fact, it is ignorance of people who are supposed to know and the ignorance of those people whom society thinks they know.
So a caveat from TS Eliot is useful here: take no critic seriously who has not written a significant work himself. The reason he knows nothing about how poems are written. Besides, it is not the duty of the writer to educate the uneducated literates. A writer cannot afford to go around curing people of their stupidity. Let us leave these `honourable men and women' to their fates. Pound said that even if you get thirty readers for your poems, you have done your job. He meant the real readers of course and even if your poetry is read by more than three hundred people, expecting thirty intelligent readers seems to be too much to expect.