Listening to Grasshoppers – Field Notes on Democracy

Statutory Warning: Arundhati Roy is a wordsmith. An auteur par excellence who can wield the pen as effectively as anyone. Her ideas are radical. It is a potent mix. Read with extreme maturity, an ever critical eye both accepting of fallacies and appreciative of exaggerations as she takes her spade-pen to the molehill of Indian Democracy.

Listening to Grasshoppers is a collection of essays by Arundhati Roy demanding answers to unanswerable questions, theories and loopholes about the governance of almost a fifth of humanity. They deal with specific incidents. She draws historic parallels e.g german persecution of the Herero and Namaqua people. Roy asks if hidden amongst the vast and teeming India there is a Nazi population that believes in asserting violently their supremacy. She asks if we are part of that population, or if we elect and legitimize them through our government. She asks if all of us are fused, inevitably morphing into a gigantic amoebic mass.

The State and the Judiciary

Indian politicians and electorate have long lost their credibility. So much so that anyone who overtly or implicitly still trusts either loses their own credibility. The judiciary is seen by many as one of the last fortresses holding out against institutional corruption. At its gates are hordes of politicians, powerful businessmen and millions of petty minded citizens, chipping away at its impartiality. So it is that when Roy trains her sights to undermining the credibility of the Judicial systems everyone panics. The good, the bad and the Indians. Everyone’s last bastion of sanity is under attack. And Roy lays her case out well. The question is, in as big a country as India, is it admissible and preferable to be pliant in some cases to uphold law and order of the larger populace, or risk being dismantled by inflexible idealism within the courts?

The second question is rhetorical because inflexible idealism (atleast with respect to corruption) in India is moot. But in losing the judicial chastity, India would lose a powerful symbol of impartiality and order, whatever the true nature of the entity is.

Kashmir

Roy has written more new narratives on the Kashmir issue than all the mainstream media houses in India. She treads boldly (if only anecdotally) into questions around self governance, pakistanization and irregularities (a very generous euphemism) of the Special Task Force. She is not sure what the answer is, and to be fair, neither does anyone. But nations do not want the luxury of nuances. National leaders want to be busy. They do not want to theorize. It is a “waste of time”. They want to be seen as men of action. They offer dynamic status quo. A status of interminable oppression and intimidation that is perversely viewed by every party involved as a better alternative than otherwise. Not unlike an existential immortal Sisyphus lamenting his fate, but also thankful about his lack of need to exercise free will to make meaning of his life.

Democracy

Read the comments section in any liberal and conservative economic publication.

Cautions and Congratulation

Where Roy has to be applauded is in her persistence ( to a point of paranoia and hysteria) to arrive at credible answers to the Gujarat genocide. It is an incendiary topic for many. It is a political hotbed. A gunpowder keg of communal bestiality. It is a maze. A maze of bureaucratic dead ends with mangled torn remains of humans. Of vacuous smiles and preening parasites absolved of sin by the purgatory of legislative halls. Of dark chambers with ceilings so high that screaming confessionals and war victories die down ineffectually before encountering walls. Where light fails. Where smells are indefinable. A cavern housing more unknown species of humans than imaginable. An imaginarium of avarices. A brothel of morbid fascinations. Where you are unsure if the eyes that peer at you from the darkness is attached to a face or prised out with no eyelids.

And into this desolation wanders Roy with a torch and walkie-talkie.

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