Literature

Aligarh (2016)

 

I’m tad late down the line, when I successfully punch down the words that, this movie has moved me.

It has moved many and that is something to say, especially from where I come from. While being late in an opinion article on a movie released in early 2016 is indeed a shortcoming– but on the brighter-side, it does offers you a kind of long-drawn perspective into what people actually think about homosexuality in India.

‘Oh this is the movie about homosexuals’, straight people who have no objection regarding homosexual orientation whatsoever, will remark and turn away, busying themselves into other ‘important stuff of their lives’. Also, it is because love outside paper, is never really important. But hey, some would say, ‘isn’t it better than open condemnation of homosexuality? Fair bargain!’ But I’m sorry to say, for me this bargain is as fair as having to choose between Trump and Clinton for Presidential Elections 2016. (Somewhere in their graves, Plato and Machiavelli sigh together).

But I’m not here to complain about heterosexuals as to why they are so selfish and wouldn’t bother to care about others because that’s just real capitalist world and I am no naive. Here is my perspective though, when you see gay prides, movies, campaigns, there is a constant ‘othering’ going on. In doing so, you’re again out-casting these people but let’s say, in a more tolerant manner under which you don’t come with your burning sticks on their doorsteps but you contain it to a level where just thinking bad thoughts about them on a deep personal level is okay enough for ‘faggot’ jokes here and there. (Concupiscence much?)

I write to these people (because honestly, with time I’ve guessed, talking to the straightout-condemners is like talking to a cow) because they co-operate but do not fully understand. Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh for one, makes a lot of things clearer on this front. To give you a brief synopsis of the film: it is a true story of a Linguistics Professor in a University which can be best characterized with the word, Past. The university which stirs and scowls when the nostalgia is stripped away, naked into the savage of definition and configurations. Though the political parties that stand like fences to the University, ensure and are often successful in an agenda to drag in all fantastic escapist beings of past, if only to send them off into one final spree from life.

Two reporters break into the house of a reputed professor, find him indecently dressed in bed with an another man. Next, the professor’s colleague barge into the room as if they had been just listening outside the door in order to look at them with faces prepared with shame, pulling off the role of an over-protective father who had just caught his adolescent daughter in the act of sex. Further, the professor is suspended next day and guess, who is not the Department Chairperson anymore. The case moves up to court. Spoiler alert: someone dies.

The professor was an introverted man. He liked listening to Lata Mangeshkar songs and was used to dunk the whole world down, with one glass of gin. Fun Fact: Lata Mangeshkar is one of the most prestigious singers in Indian music industry (if I am allowed to make such a broad categorization) and she is known to refuse songs with indiscreet lyrics; if that helps you peek into the psyche of the man. Now to us modern people-that’s a code for conservationism. ‘Conservative’: I have fought this word the moment I stepped in higher-education. I do understand that this word tends to exist for the greater good but I find it rather blind. Here, you are shy–you are conservative. I mean for the goodness’s sake, it can be the bland old ecstasy of the tough revolutionary bloods who just want to demolish structures and wouldn’t have them lingering. Reminds me of Shelley’s Ode to the west wind. Another Fun fact: I found this brilliant article which interprets Shelley’s west wind as an alternative preserver of older structures rather being the regular sweep-away tide of change. Everything that is old should not die and that includes the men who never understood the freedom of sexuality as we did. And if a man wants privacy, wouldn’t talk about sex, isn’t your regular LGBT activist–he should be left alone to live rather than die. I’m on my own path of being a professor and anyone can tell you that it is often a solitary road that lets you survive as long as it is not stripped off the dignity which defines the path. You are not a teacher if your students don’t see you as one.

I think the man died the moment they  invaded their homes with cameras. If I am to return to my psychoanalytic ways, I’ll say it is a massive attack on the ID.

Have you ever wondered why straight people in Hollywood movies, when walked in on intercourse by outsiders, startle like crazy? If I begin to ask these questions, I’ll end with questions like why are we afraid of each other’s naked bodies and why can’t we walk unclothed? These questions aren’t crazy though, the society decrees you to think that they are crazy questions. For a naked-men society, the clothed men are taboos. The answer is fear. The drive that controls your sexual appetite is the same that control your fear. And now you see the connection. It could have been any heterosexual man who was threatened with a leak of a sex tape in a society which does not tolerate sex outside the confines of marriage, let alone heterosexuality.

But that doesn’t mean we should forget the homosexuality angle completely. Homosexuality magnifies sex, which heterosexuality has been accustomed to see in a stereotypical old way. When you are raised in a society which teaches you that your very root is a crime, you tend to start believing that you are wrong and not the rule-monster society because how can you fight your own nourishment? So there you have a man, who would not have this rule-monger-er society. He would simply remove himself from the very ‘sign’ and slip into this pre-mirror stage of no signs and no father to speak in true Lacanian terms.

Drag him back into the mirror and the result is always death. Both by society and self.

The last words of the man as in conversation with a colleague, described his plans about shifting to America, where he could ultimately enjoy a life of dignity. This is extremely eerie for someone like me, whose favorite is Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.Arkady Svidrigailov calls Raskolnikov before shooting himself dead, says he is shifting to America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Her body without an armour

                        Kali and her cosmic egg

Body without armour is an armour itself.

I have been thinking about it from a long time. Across time and space, in different languages of various literatures, folklore and legends—when a female sheds her armour, the society takes a bow. You might assume, I’ve been writing it all inspired by the Game of thrones episode. You’re right. Emilia Clarke did a great job in being a naked burning, Khaleesi. But Kannagi from Tamil Literature and Kali from Hindu folklore are already her predecessors.

It is also interesting to note that this naked woman, when she is accepted by the society, instantly transforms into a mother figure. The male gaze ceases. It cannot objectify its own mother. It cannot sexualize it. And yet, it is her sexuality that rages when she stands naked as if ‘She eats up men like thin air’ (Plath). Her body naked, hair open, her eyes wide open, and her legs strong. But why must she become so powerful?

I have had the privilege to study a lot of feminist literature this last semester. I wouldn’t say it doesn’t come back to me now. I can make several connections and perhaps draw conclusions from these examples as to understand why female nudity, a taboo and perversion of patriarchal society, can suddenly become a power symbol. I will dissect the very heterosexual intercourse, if I have to, for understanding this.

When a women sheds, she is horrible to some, goddess for others. She is usually angry when she steps out like that and are later tried to be contained by narratives within the patriarchal discourse, in order to make sense of the event. In Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi, Dopdi—a negated word for ‘Draupadi’, the wife of Pandavas from the Hindu epic Mahabharata—belongs to a lower caste and becomes associated with insurgency in North eastern India. However, she is caught by the Indian military and is in the process, repetitively raped by several men. In the morning, she is told to dress up and show up at the Chief’s tent. In a brave decision, she chooses to walk naked, ‘her blood matted upon her pubic hair’, becoming an unspeakable terror for the men around her. Laughing and slapping her thighs, she asks, ‘are you a man?’ for they could only unclothe her but not the other way around. Kali was Sati before she was Kali. For her husband, she mutilates her father’s party—if you like your mythology in simple happy terms—and literally danced the dance of death (Tandav) until her husband stopped her from destroying the whole wide earth because in Tandav, with each step, you bring forth apocalypse in the world. If you ignore bringing back the Kali into the patriarchal narrative, you’ll see, that her power is the most terrible of all the naked ladies. Her armour (if not clothes) is the collective set of mutilated body parts. Severed hands become her skirt and chopped off heads as her necklace. Yet we exclaim in awe, she is terribly beautiful. Her dance, her tongue, her hair black as the ravenous cloudy night, are also markers of sexuality that does not design itself upon the platform of male desire.

Kannagi comes from ancient Tamil literature and folklore. Like Kali, she is a goddess too, although she was born a human. As a human, Kannagi had a good share of injustice being done to her. Her husband cheats on her and has a kid with another women. Yet she has to leave with him, hoping for his loyalty when he finally decides to switch back to her. But most importantly when things finally start looking up, her husband gets executed on a false conspiracy. Bam—women have limits you know? So she rips off her breast and fire burns the city. Kings die, the empire collapses.

Danny from Game of Thrones, had two naked-power-lady scenes. The first is birth of dragons and the second is burning of several Dothraki men when they threatened to rape her or simply, decide upon her life. Immune to fire, she burns them down and emerges naked, the figure of awe. Her narrative as well is confirmed to the figure of mother.

To move away from mythology, Mario Vargos llosa’s Who killed Palomino Molero, the restaurant keeper’s wife challenges a harassing police officer into ‘raping’ her by undressing and making lewd gestures at him at the end of the novel, in an epic break from submissive-timid persona.

All these women place themselves outside normal structure when they do so. You might as well call them Unconscious personified. I’m not referring to Freud’s sharp division of rational and non-rational, rather, I would like you to read it as categorical (Super-ego) and non-categorical (Unconscious). When she steps out of society’s categories, she can manifest her sexuality beyond male gaze. Now as to why must men be afraid of it? The answer lies in heterosexual intercourse.

Heterosexual intercourse in a patriarchal society is phallocentric. ‘Penetration’, ‘Key’ ‘Digging’, such is the imagery implied in this line under which women are bound to be the object. However, this is inversed when she steps out of this structure. She is a horror show, a freak. Yet people bow to her in fear. This is because of her capability to invert society’s patriarchal taboos (Luce Irigaray actually argues that women do not have a properly developed Superegos in comparison to men who go through castration complexes) and instead of ‘penetrating space’, she becomes the ‘devourer’. Not to put it too poetically, but she is able to suck back men right from the space from where she put them out. Should it then, not turn men into infants, reminded by the astounding power of womb?

Ace.

 

The Faith Question

                                           Sergei Kirillov’s A monk at prayer

I remember arguing with a teacher upon the topic of defense of religion and how one should not be so much against it. It is actually like blaming your parents for everything wrong within your life. But then I also remember being looked down upon as an atheist (which I am not) at home and how I felt alienated from all those people who foolishly sat in front of stone idols, mumbling this and that.

Never was I, a fan of categories but nonetheless, as a project of self-awareness, I am really curious about the set of ideology that I will finally bank upon in the face of calamity. A survey claims, if you cannot challenge God with certain quantity of blasphemous words, you are certainly not an atheist. I say, why does deviation from traditional religious path has to be so violent? Not in my world anyway.

Russian paper for one thing has helped me solved this problem of identity that has started to pinch me lately.

Yesterday I finished Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Those who are familiar with the text will know that this is a story about a man (Raskolnikov) and his conception of the idea of murder which, based on sound logical arguments, excuses him from the guilt or responsibility of committing a murder of an old pawn-breaker woman. The argument of this gentleman, apart from his impoverished condition, is that, certain people are above law for they are going to be future law-makers and are hence, allowed to break penal codes as they like, be it in fact a murder. Therefore, the act is done and the blood is let. An innocent is also killed as an accident although not contemplated at all and almost forgotten by the murderer.

Crime is indeed a constructed category by people in the power. But this is not the only message that the novel is trying to impart. In fact, the question is: how is one able to live with crimes and if not, why not?

The answer is as simple as is the difference between theories and practical. Now, you know killing is okay logically (say you firmly believe in Darwinism), yet you can’t live with it at all. One thing this tells us about ourselves is that the mind is not a coherent entity at all. One part wants you to read this essay and the other part wants you to—I don’t know—play video games all day?

So again, you can’t murder someone and live with it. 

 

Blame your parents.

 

I am not even joking. If you are familiar with my old articles or if you are simply familiar with Freud’s ego, superego, and Id, you’ll get my point. When you were busy enjoying your childhood, your parents and other considerable elders, packed their boxes and came to live inside your head. When you grew up, you thought you can move away from them, so you left for a big city (sorry to make it sound so theatrical but it sure is fun to write) so that you can forget all about them and their nasty prejudices. But when self-reflexivity attacks, first to speak inside your head, is your parents. In a war between you and them, it is very seldom that they lose. You say murder is alright but they’ll only cry for Jesus Christ. But you can no longer separate yourself from them and thus your history fails your logic. 

 

And this is why being an atheist is the hardest job in the world. It is a constant inner torment of defying people and betraying people all around you (unless you grew up in a happy circle of atheist people which is rather rare, at least in my country). Then to paraphrase something from Dostoyevsky’s book, you can’t even wait for them to get smarter because religion is anything but intelligent or for the lack of better words, scientific. 

 

But is that all? What if we were to end religion at once and for all. Dostoyevsky very skilfully imagines this very world without any faith and without any  gods to worship & model after. This is done through Raskolnikov’s (the murderer guy) ‘nightmare’ (and man Dostoyevsky is some Stephen King when it comes to writing nightmares). The dream goes as:

Earth is invaded by very intelligent micro-organisms (By the way, this reminds me so much of Stephanie Meyer’s The Host, at least at first glance. Inspiration much?). These micro-organisms then go onto possess all the human beings on the planet and as this ‘infection’ flares up, everyone go on to become intelligent and insane at the same time. Also, every human being develops a personal sense of good and evil which is in disagreement with the sense of good and evil of the other. In other terms, the very gene of ideology ends and anarchy is followed through. (Read up Althusser, this book has so much of lit-theory analysis written all over it). Now that’s not very nice. 

 

Actually, the whole book is a very simple lesson in ethics (my favorite sentence to say in almost all blog posts). The question as I read it is: what if crime was not illegal as logically it should be not. The answer then is: society will not be able to exist. Because then everyone can kill everyone. Therefore, in order to preserve itself, society creates certain rules. These rules are fundamentally attached to ‘religion’, ‘conscience’ and ‘fear’ and her hence embedded in your superego. You cannot escape them even if you’ve got the brains. These concepts also preserve us from existential crisis and are helpful in maintaining the harmony of inner self. But it is also true that this is a very temporary harmony and that there is no logical way that you can prove that the reality of after-death or even entities like God exists (never absolutely). This also implies a factual reality that they do not after all exist.

 

Then comes the difficult choice. Can we live with this factual reality? For one thing, believing in this factual reality comes with a consequence of anarchy. I read this quote somewhere, ‘if there is no god, nothing any one does really matters’. I know…I know… good post-structuralism figured it out before me, but I’m just gonna say that I did prove that the machinery of religion is important or at least a structure which is similar to religion and requires blind devotion of the people. 

Leo Tolstoy had similar opinions. Simple faith, however stupid it is, can help both personal and public peace. Walking blindly is sometimes easier. But how long will this last?

 

I dreamt a strange dream during my afternoon slumber (I take my dreams very seriously). A man placed two cut-outs of landscape in front of each other so they looked like a single landscape dowsed in sunset (I think this is inspired by a certain music video of Rihanna and Calvin Harris that I happened to chance upon). An ominous voice preaching a deceased relative of mine in a comical Indian manner loomed inside my head. But the voice said what I myself had predicted, ‘the marriage is no longer the same tied-up knot’. Before judging me for an orthodox, please do go on to read my hypothesis i.e. marriage is the smallest unit of the society. It is disintegrating. This larger message here is that the society itself is disintegrating (and not as a result of the marriage chaos which is but, only a symbol of the whole). So I do wonder where exactly we are heading towards.

My answer is: Nothing is absolute in a time period. There always ought to be odds to cancel out the conception of absolute reality. You will always disagree with your parents.

 

The origin of the OMG

Disclaimer: Opinions and proven theories are two different things.

Well, it is. Ahem. So you see the muse ministry does some important muses too other than suggesting you too cheer up (Do look up that post) and here- below I have mentioned all the answers to your Whats, Whys and Nos.

This thought has been sustaining in my mind since an year now, it sure have lost its sparks inside my head over my amazement how amazingly undiscovered it might be but then thanks to WordPress I will write it out in a justifiable manner while smashing out your OMGS.

Months back, I was reading a Plautine drama, Aulularia and its certain analysis-essays regarding religion and diversity of ancient Rome when suddenly *TINK* I saw all the significance of this reoccurring language obviously spoken in a humorous context. And mind you, this idea was not present in the essays. (You might now also have realized how tinker bell must have been named; Tink of the bulb? The sound that electric appliances made in the old days when the CFCs were not there? Did it tinked up there? No? Never mind.)

“Apollo, come to my aid; help me, I implore you; slay with your arrows these treasury-robbers.”

The extract conveys the helplessness of the situation of the character as he falsely believes that he has been robbed of his ancestral wealth. Now, this is a very humorous scene dealing with all sorts of double-meaning arguments. But our focus is not on the arguments but on the language. Now this man, Euclio, is summoning Apollo and though their is a presence of Guardian god in the play, it would be absolutely foolish to expect Apollo to appear in a play especially revolving around Comedy caused by Human errors. So what is the point of summoning Apollo?

Now some might say, Duh, its DRAMA. I agree, it is Drama and in many parts of the play it uses simple terms such as “By god” instead of summoning Apollo himself but then we must not forget that Apollo was a Greek and not Roman creation and so was Aulularia (The pot of gold). Aulularia is a Roman adaption of a play written by a Greek called Menander. (You might want to Google that.) And as per my believe, nobody can be a bigger believer in gods but the Greeks.

Now look at their practices. Building these huge temples in their honors. The hard-core belief in oracles to such an extent that their wars depended upon them. And that’s a FACT.

Now Odyssey, the great epic of Greek literature is not DRAMA, neither it is treated as some sort of fantasy fiction. Remember, people used to memorize this very thing by heart. Greek people were very serious about their religion. Therefore, they might well actually have used the dialogues as mentioned above in an effort to actually summon the gods. Now if I wanted to go more deep, I might have went into the Ancient Alien theories, Sumerian histories and their connection with appearance of so called gods on earth. But as you can see, that is not my focus right now.

What I am trying to say that is that, by these terms, your ancestors actually tried to summon the gods, they even performed  sacrifices, appointed Oracles and thus offered sacrifices for their “Darshan” (Sanskrit word for Witnessing; more appropriate when used as Witnessing a God.) But nonetheless, these gods never did appeared as these tried to summon them and as loyal as they were, these summons were included in every day vocabulary. The god became rare, only presenting themselves in front of demi-god like figures such as Odysseus and finally became confined and cropped by language evolution by generations such as that of Ancient Rome.

So I might have a funny evolution chart for OMG.

“Apollo, come to my aid; help me, I implore you; slay with your arrows these treasury-robbers.”

By the beard of Odin”/ “Jupiter may bless you”

By God”

God” “Jesus” “Ya Allah” “Hee Bhagwan” 

Jeez” “Lawd” (Probably from Bible; Dear lord in heaven)   AND —–“OMG!” 

Remember all of these are spoken in situations of shock and anger.

And now with the creation of Grumpy cat, “God damnit” has become “Good Damnit”.

Well, Well.