Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Listening To Grasshoppers

In my most recent post, I was talking about Arundhati Roy and how she was discovered by lit agent David Godwin. Today I want to talk about her in the light of one of her essays on Genocide, a hair raising piece on what's happening in India in the name of progress and unity (two of the key words used by her in the essay), especially with reference to India's poor (which includes the adivasis and Muslims).

Whenever I think of her, I think of former President Kalam's book title: An Ignited Mind. Arundhati fits that description to a tee.

In the essay, Listening To Grasshoppers , she proposes that
Genocide, Denial And Celebration go hand in hand, that it's an old human habit, genocide, that it's a search for lebensraum, project of Union and Progress:

The day I arrived in Istanbul, I walked the streets for many hours, and as I looked around, envying the people of Istanbul their beautiful, mysterious, thrilling city, a friend pointed out to me young boys in white caps who seemed to have suddenly appeared like a rash in the city. He explained that they were expressing their solidarity with the child-assassin who was wearing a white cap when he killed Hrant.

The battle with the cap-wearers of Istanbul, of Turkey, is not my battle, it's yours. I have my own battles to fight against other kinds of cap-wearers and torchbearers in my country. In a way, the battles are not all that different. There is one crucial difference, though. While in Turkey there is silence, in India there's celebration, and I really don't know which is worse.

She even criticises the Amitabh Bachchan video, a campaign to inspire people to leave behind the "constraining ghosts of the past". To choose optimism over pessimism. The superstar says in the video: "There are two Indias in this country."

One India is straining at the leash, eager to spring forth and live up to all the adjectives that the world has been recently showering upon us. The Other India is the leash.

To her, this is an example of a "counterfeit universe".

Then, she dissects it:

It tells us that the rich don't have a choice (There Is No Alternative), but the poor do. They can choose to become rich. If they don't, it's because they are choosing pessimism over optimism, hesitation over confidence, want over hope. In other words, they're choosing to be poor. It's their fault. They are weak. (And we know what the seekers of lebensraum think of the weak.) They are the 'Constraining Ghost of the Past'. They're already ghosts.

"Within an ongoing counterfeit universe," Robert Jay Lifton says, "genocide becomes easy, almost natural."


You may agree or disagree with her views but this essay is a must read if you haven't already.

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