Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A-vivek of N-arundhati

A-vivek of N-Arundhati
                                    (Inspired by: “Walking with Comrades by Arundhati Roy/                 

When Narundhati treks through the jungles as a guest of Maoists, her biases
ignore the blisters on her city feet. The mosquitoes that relish blood, heedless
to the age of their victims, serenade to her, in a 'thousand star hotel'.
What Narundhati says is part fact, the part where she describes guns
and explosives in a region termed Pakistan by leaders and policemen --
a Pakistan within India where followers of Mao seek a bloody revolution!

When she quotes a Harvard returned politician or a Naxal leader verbatim, she stays partly
in right, stating their high-headed thoughts about cost of progress and freedom at midnight.
I root for her when she describes the plight of farmers, counterfeited by a green revolution,
or when derides the blind march into globalization or the abject immorality of the corrupt.
When Narundhati asks if a fact is a fact in her fiction, or if our judgment of Maoists is right,
or suggests that India need 'feral poetry', she is enchanted by her wordplay. Her fiction
writer’s instincts laud her, as she pens lines lyrically in a cinematic setting to die for (not in)
and her protagonists are Davids fighting a 'higher caste, fascist' Goliath-state.
In episodes that trek her journey with lilting rhythms, every typed word is paid for, is wanted
by a popular magazine, and she anticipates the applause she will get from the Eastern left,
and the Western right. 
She is partly right when she describes how CIA's jihad
of late eighties in Afghanistan finished off Russian communism and spawned
Taliban style communalism in Afghan & Indian territory, bringing Kashmir its tensions
(and some intellectuals their liberal pretensions). She appears partly bright
when she describes the rise of Hindutva as a political force in that nineties disquiet.
Since her writing is tight, she urges connotations to bare themselves and subtleties
of diction in this colonial language, appeased by her 'hysterical rhetoric', look like ecstatic,
climactic arguments, but what interests me always is what escapes her,
or what she omits or leaves out.
Like Kashmiri Pandits, who don't feature in her computation of what went wrong in 1988-
89, though historically speaking, those lands belonged to those hundreds of thousands:
now refugees in their own country, driven out by 'Azadi guns'.
When she forgets is that in this Indian Palestine, the oppressed is the Hindu, whose homeland,
memory of forefathers is being wiped out, and there is no Darwish to sing of this loss!
But her reading of the historic is undone by her histrionics. She ignores
what she dislikes, and in her surreal imagination, Gandhian protest is a vice.

Hinduism, which gives her name, but deserves only her distaste, is the problem she must cite.
Her unintelligent comments about Kashmir or Taj Mumbai siege (as Rushdie called them),
her howl: "justice or civil war" reflect she’s Narundhati: yet her prestige persists in spite of her sleights,
for a country she calls a Nazi-like police state                                                                                                

by tolerating her, belies the atrocities she cites:
while she sees only death and shadow lurk on our stage
Isn't she surprised, why she is still unscathed and alive?
Truth is seldom as black or white, but my stanzas seem stunted for I am imitating Narundhati's style.

See I am stumped by her contradictions, though as an Indian, I am deemed capable of reconciling
the opposites. Narundhati, the embedded journalist, describes rapes, arson, murder by police as malice,
yet urges us to sympathize with Maoists who count mutilated corpses as a prize.

Years back, on the shores of Narmada, she cried hoarse with non-violent protesters,
"Narmada bachao, bachao" "Narmada bachao, bachao"
and now in Maoists camps, she despises those methods.
"Lal salaam comrade! Guns uthao, uthao"
She cites Charu's and Mao's affection for gore, and tells us, in her Delhi accent...
O don't be a bore,
look at these tribals dancing, look at their songs and folklore...
who'd think they have killed a score.

When she writes, "I tell them Delhi is a cruel city that neither knows nor cares about them,"
she forgets that the Indian city destroyed the most number of times, never though by pacifists,
is the city of Hindu memories, of Ghalib, Mir and Sufis, of Sikhs and seekers of many faiths,
but our city-girl thinks cities as contraband
and like Mumbai, her 'karmabhoomi' is ostracized from her skies.
Likewise, millions of children born into consumer cultures, are vultures
as per her writing, which insists world markets are ulcers, progress = prosecution,
pro-Hindu idealism = fascism, police = thieves/rapists, leaders = hate-mongers. If her arithmetic of India,
America, World is really that simplistic, and caustic, I wonder, what qualifies her to be a critic?

As a teenager, I volunteered one summer for teaching the slum children in Delhi. As a reward
for my sincerity, I was led into a small, unlit room one afternoon, to talk to a high-ranking Maoist.
"We must rid our nation of these intellectuals, professors, politicians, landowners, high castes,
scientists, and wipe out the rich.
                                                       Blood is the only water than can wash the strains of anguish
that distinguish my people," he said. He quoted Marx, Majumdar, French revolution, Russians, Mao.
I looked like an ancient cow quoting Gandhian or Buddhist or Hindu philosophy,
and the forgotten principle of Christian non-resistance: of turning the other cheek.

I tried to decipher why I was an enemy. "You represent the worst of elitists, Sharma;
studying in a fancy engineering college, Convent educated, Brahmin, or course you’re a fascist".
My distinct unease told me I was condemned by the prejudice of this self-appointed jurist!
I lacked potent phrases to debate with him, so I described how I had toiled hard all my life
under extreme family pressure and my success was fruition of the daily, honest sweat
of my parents who had risen from Himalayan poverty, which doesn't ask your caste
when it affects you, though employers cite it when they reject you.
"Many innocents must die too. The fire of sacrifice, the Goddess
calls for a bloody revolution."
                                                  That three hour meeting still baffles me. I am at loss for words,
it hurts. For him, Chinese excesses or Stalin's policies are justified. The morbid horror of it,
rages within me, and as I devour literature from all times -- Tale of two cities, If this is a Man,
Doctor Zhivago, Train to Pakistan or Manto's stories -- I realize every activism and ideal
that strives to reverse biases, by justifying repressive policies and atrocities of present day
in the light of past excesses, rationalizes exactly what it criticizes. War begets war, lust, lust,
hate spawns hate. I agree markets lack compassion and conscience, but collectives can be callous
as well, Dickensian crowds can turn into mobs and guillotine,
and Achebe’s tribals are capable of being innocuous or fascist!
If only we had the right acumen, we would triumph over ourselves and turn human,
but we lay down a landmine, we turn our holy lands into Palestine, we outline
new charters of hate, wiping Jews or Tutsis or Hindus or Red Indians or Muslims
or Cambodians, or Tibetians or Armenians, priests and pilgrims, ultra-rich and urchin,
wiping whole generations off our slate!  

I don't know why Narundhati's mother thinks India needs a revolution, or why
Narundhati listens to grasshoppers and they speak her mind, about 'democracy
as a demon-crazy'. I lived in Chekovian villages, in beat-up small towns,
in places where people don't worry about abstract isms and nouns,
rather stick to their daily needs, banal fancies and follies, ageless celebrations and strife.
We are the poor or middle classes, our daily living supplies more solace and sorrow to our lives
than the craving rich can conceptualize.

When I read dream-like sequences of rural, joyful life, I realize,
even Tolstoys can lack the facts, and that ignorance leads to lies.
See the Soviet history, witness its birth, youth and demise!
Yes Naom Chomsky's is a learned man, and Howard Zinn knew his People’s history,
but when N-Arundhati talks their language, she lacks their informed gallantry,
their reverence for their national ideals, their ability to denounce propaganda, backed with facts.
Not every ape is a Hanuman, for it takes a lot of spirit, guts, grime and gyaan.
To be a Zola, rather than a bhola, requires more than a kurta and a jhola!

In Narundhati's analysis of India: there is a civil war-like situation
between Muslims and Hindus, tribals and corporations, Maoists and state machinery,
dam builders and those displace by dams. And of course, Narundhati is the liberal star
smug, satiated, saturated by her own self-defined idioms of calamity and causality.
Her writing shows, how she deifies the episodes of carnage, and her urge is to disgrace
the land on which she stays. In her prose, terrorists get rationalized, and as she breaks
into outbursts, aimed at foreign readers, buyers of her books, admirer of her looks,
who lap up what she writes, especially her calling much maligned Hindus -- fascists,
or thinking of Kashmir as Palestine or her support for bloody revolutions. Half-truths are half-lies,
and my lament is... many trust her, and thrust biased policies on Indians using her near-sights.
Her rhetoric: 'Mumbai people asked for it, people who are neither in government, nor rich,
nor Maoists asked for it, Kashmiri Pandits asked for it, Hindus & Sikhs killed in past centuries
asked for it, the children of twenty-first century asked for it, Americans killed in 9/11 asked for it,
the races and regions continuously misrepresented by colonial mentality Orientalists like her
asked for it, asked for it, asked for it".

Why Suyodhan is called Duryodhan, why my write-up is full of A-Vivek, and why N-Arundhati,
who I support for her activism on many issues, is the locus of my ardent criticism?
While Narundhati has a Booker and I haven't even won a cooker, I still am an argumentative
Indian, as Amartya Sen would call me. Trust me, it takes more than a token speech to appall me.
Tell me, if I can be considered discreet if in my words, there is no middle ground, no layers, no gray.
Too much talk, and too little thought, too much debate, that too without consulting the proletariat!
Too many victims, too little praise, too much rhetoric, without perspective of the current or the historic!
Anger is easy, but solutions are harder, and in India, where bureaucratic cobwebs usher
answers at the pace of a lazy snail and facts are files buried in dust or disgust somewhere:
her urging us to burn down our the storehouse and file-keepers too leads us nowhere.

My voice falters in any discourse. My lament: I am innocent. If I cite Hindu philosophy,
I am labeled fundamentalist; if Islamic, labeled terrorist; if Jewish, Zionist. If I state
my thoughts, my name says I am a Brahmin, also my education was in Catholic school.
I am my father's son, so related to the government. I live in United States, so I represent the empire.
I am a poet means I am fanciful; an engineer, which implies I limp in humanities,
and by the sheer luck of being the son of a honest man, and a scientist, after a lifetime of toil,
I am still struggling to earn a foothold on our soil. But while I cannot even represent
my own self, how and why does a Narundhati triumph as a correspondent?
If Maoists win their mineral-rich forests, Kashmir gains independence, minorities and castes vanish,
will we reach the state of param-sukh: absolute solace and prosperity, will it be end of our anguish?
If democracy isn't right for us, how do we know unlike in Russian heydays, comrades will fight for us?
Why don't you forsake it Vivek? You don't know what you don't know. Half-truth only parasites on us!

1. (A-vivek: Absence or lack of the ability to determine what is right and wrong, fact and fiction, fair and unfair, sacrosanct and rubbish, ephemeral and eternal. Arundhati was Vasistha’s wife, and name of a vine; but it also means ‘kundalini‘ or supernatural facility, and N-Arundhati therefore is a negation of the Arundhati; i.e. lack of faculty to look at the factual and at the intellectual, and since Arundhati is associated with fidelity, N-Arundhati also has lack of fidelity as a meaning).
2. Arundhati Roy gave a lecture tour after the article in Outlook, and my poem was written after hearing a lecture at MIT, where it was clear that her content and concern were, for most part, motivated by grabbing attention.
3. The poem like this one is considered politically motivated by most poetry journals. Most newspapers cannot publish it for my own political affiliations are unknown, and I come with no recommendations.


Vivek Sharma said...

From desicritics:

Champaklal Bhogilal
July 13, 2010
12:35 PM
I can't comment on the grammatical/technical aspects of this poem, but it is one of the rare Desi Critics poem that was not too abstract for me to understand!

My first "encounter" with the Naxalite/Maoist ideology was when I was visiting my aunt somewhere in the Deccan.

Her husband used to work as a mining engineer in a state govt owned company. On the day of my arrival there was a funeral being held in the neighbourhood.

Apparantly the deceased was a mining engineer in the same govt company. He had made the mistake of asking a naxalite-worker-union-leader to wear a safty helmet before descending into the mine.

When the worker refused, he was suspended for not following the safety regulations. Twenty four hours later the engineer was hacked into small pieces in front of his family by the same worker and his axe yeilding naxal posse.

A Roy is a shitbag extraordinaire, the grand dragon of the leftist media in India along with her uncle P.Roy, the Karat couple and N.Ram.

Nobody in India now takes her seriously anymore. Lol, she even has dragged the Booker Prize jerks down along with her. However, she makes for a nice jabulani for the Indian right wing.

Bhagwad Jal Park
July 13, 2010
02:57 PM
For me, one sentence in this poem tells me all I need to know about the naxal movement:

"Many innocents must die too. The fire of sacrifice, the Goddess
calls for a bloody revolution."

Enough said.

July 13, 2010
02:59 PM
bravo vivek for this riposte in the colonial language

July 13, 2010
07:52 PM

I read some of Arundhati's article in Outlook. While it is true that she has been a blatant partisan, I have to say that in this particular case she has done a terrific job. The other side of the story has to be heard too, and you can't dismiss all of it as biased.

In general I am not for violent methods. And the history of communism hasn't been all that good either. We should do everything to highlight the problems of the tribal people and try to find a humanitarian solution. We can't let the large corporates dictate how our natural resources are exploited without adequately benefiting the country.


Vivek Sharma said...

July 13, 2010
08:38 PM
I agree with RK.

In the article that is referenced, i cannot at all see how Roy is:

"for most part, motivated by grabbing attention."

(even though the above remark is about a lecture she delivered at MIT, not the article per se.)

July 13, 2010
09:39 PM

no, it is more about tolerance

(in the same vein as chomsky and zenn in the us)

roy has to be tolerated as sharma for the views espoused

Vivek Sharma
July 14, 2010
01:22 AM
RK, Commonsense: Let me start by saying that I support the struggle of farmers against MNCs, tribals against preying government and corporations, and all the exploited people...

But my despair or anger is against the idea of indiscriminate bloodshed that has been going on in name of an unclear notion of communism. In the country of Mao, we have more billionaires than in our country... There is something bizarre about the ability of "poor" to own and use so many expensive weapons... I don't know what Arundhati intended to convey by praising Guns over Gandhiji?

Champaklalji: The idea was to stay in the middle... We cannot exchange one regime that exploits people by another that has record of similar atrocities.

Arundhati shared the stage with Noam Chomsky when she visited MIT... My lament is that we had such an ignorant and seemingly unstable representative on stage with Chomsky...

Vivek Sharma said...

July 14, 2010
08:58 AM

"My lament is that we had such an ignorant and seemingly unstable representative on stage with Chomsky..."

well, well...there are many who would deploy the same descriptors to describe Chomsky...try Ruvy on DC for starters...

Amitabh Mitra
July 15, 2010
10:02 AM
Everything moved supracortically for me, Vivekbhai
What's wrong with Arundhati supporting a struggle that has turned violent due to reasons known to all of us? The creation of Chhattisgarh was done to contain violence and political aspirations of the tribal people but unfortunately the corporate, politician nexus took over the province.
I have worked in these belts and therefore I disagree with the message in your poem.
July 15, 2010
10:47 AM

"I don't know what Arundhati intended to convey by praising Guns over Gandhiji?"

To that extend I agree with you. Nobody should support violence against innocents and Maoists have killed many people who had no hand in the plight of the tribals. That's where I too disagree with Arundhati and her hyper partisanship.

But aggressive action must also be taken against the zamindars and corporate culprits who have exploited the land and the people. You can't begin to win over hearts and minds of the people unless you address their primary concerns.


Vivek Sharma
July 15, 2010
02:06 PM
Yes RK, the concerns of the masses and tribal people must be addressed as priority. The areas under Maoist areas are also the areas where education and health are not provided for. Also in central India, there are other pockets where farmers are undergoing extreme distress as they cannot get the seed, and they cannot get out of the moneylenders net!

Commonsense: The ideas of Noam have value for they resonate with the ideas of most intellectuals who are either international in outlook or so deeply nationalistic, that they see the harm certain policies brings to their beloved country!

Vivek Sharma
July 17, 2010
07:27 AM
Mitra ji,

I somehow missed out your comment. Arundhati's essay and her speeches are a disservice to the people's movement, and for me personally, Gun over Gandhi / Buddha/ Ahimsa is not acceptable. Also I cannot accept this that the intellectuals of our country begin to treat either Maoists or Policemen as mere pegs, token soldiers of some warfare, who are evil or acceptable by being part of their organization. Any extreme view that condemns a religion, a tradition, a social group without affording it a reasonable hearing is unacceptable to me. So in this whole episode, I have to criticize the same person, who raises many questions and supports many struggles that are same as my questions and struggles.

Yet we cannot budge from certain principles even while seeking justice, and one of the primal ones is the respect for human life. Arundhati's attempt to glamorize the life of a Maoist (calling their camp as a thousand star hotel, etc), to popularize their story of revenge (and treat Indian state as the worst aggressor possible, and only that)... are neither balanced nor well thought out. Her remarks are usually aimed at self-service or so it seems, and help no cause, except her own.

In many ways, the poem is a missive to myself, to remind me of the middle path.


Vivek Sharma said...

July 17, 2010
11:46 AM
Vivek Sharma:

"In many ways, the poem is a missive to myself, to remind me of the middle path."

to this end, the poem serves its purpose. however, speaking of the middle path, one naturally expects a sequel - expressing outrage at the conditions of the tribals and those responsible for it.

Champaklal Bhogilal
July 17, 2010
01:56 PM

"....expressing outrage at the conditions of the tribals and those responsible for it. "

A major cause of the problem being the tribals themselves, at least in the areas I have witnessed, a point usually missed by the insufferable do gooders alike a'hole'roy.

Tribals are to be found in most parts of India, and their problems are not the same.

Amitabh Mitra
July 18, 2010
01:55 AM
Vivekbhai, I still disagree with your point
Your inclination has been caused by an outrage that the media went on to expand
I dont blame you for that
I have many articles posted here on the movement itself
Nobody picks up a gun unless forced to do so
It is the same in Chhattisgarh, it was the same in Chambal valley in Madhya Pradesh
Arundhati had travelled to those areas before speaking, you have not

Vivek Sharma said...

(from desicritics)

Vivek Sharma
July 18, 2010
07:36 AM
I have traveled to US though, I have tried working in slums (however brief that effort was, it left a deep imprint on me) and I have lived my own life as well. So I know blaming every US citizen for what happens in their name is just wrongs, as A Roy's favorite author, whose People's history I adore as well, tells us how the same policy-makers that oppress people elsewhere, oppress them at home.

Also I know that in slums and poor villages, daily harm is done to each others cause by people themselves too, and I agree with a view often expressed by the stories of Toni Morrison or Chekov where such things are presented with a knowledge that the to stop oppressed people from being nasty to each other, we need to eradicate the oppression. If I read Tolstoy, all peasants are eulogized, and just being poor just not, and this is critical, does not make anyone any more honest or trustworthy than being a man in priestly robes or bearer of wealth does. I have lived in small towns, and spend time in small villages, where we were forced to walk through several miles as there were no buses in many areas (in Himachal). I know it is easy to romanticize that life, but daily life is far tougher than that.

I grew up in Himachal, and my classmates included Kashmiri Sikhs and Pandits, Panjabi Hindus, Tibetians, kids whose fathers died in Kargil or Sri Lanka or grandfathers during partition, and so on. A very peaceful state full of refugees from everywhere! I disagree with many of the policies of our nation too, and yet, I believe that destruction of despair cannot come by eradicating corrupt politicians or powerful businessmen; for we create them, the fault-lines are within us.

Mitraji, problems persist in India not because we lack Arundhati Roys, but because we refuse to recognize and treat the actual malaise. I try writing with full empathy and honesty about everything, and through education, and creation of both classes and masses, we might get somewhere. By gunning down each other, the problems of the people are not disappearing, are they?