“What if the world’s corruption nears,
The consequence they dare not name?
We shall but realize our fears
And having tasted them go on.”
-‘The Ultimate Act’ by Adrienne Rich, from ‘A Change of World (1951)’
With the rise of fascism in the world and policing of free speech literature gives us an abode, a parallel universe, a desire, a will, and sometimes a voice. Time and again artists, musicians, writers, poets, creators resorted to their creations in a more intensified form whenever the cloud of turmoil arose. The fictitious world of Rushdie, cynical world of Kundera, nihilistic world of Bernhard, hopeful world of Ambedkar, and dirgeful lines of poets from all over the world transcending boundaries and rigidities of space and language shows how humankind can begin to form a different world from that of the violence encountered first hand. Arundhati Roy in her latest work ‘AZADI: freedom, fascism, fiction’ demystifies the much talked about aspect of the cry Azadi, which travelled from Persian language and formed unions with the far cry from Kashmir to the Iranian revolution, and then to the streets, nooks, and corners of the whole country of India.
The aspect of being terrified takes shape when our basic rights are stolen from us in the garb of the ‘development’ model. This has been the case in a lot of countries; we are now entering the Orwellian world so to speak of. Why then literature becomes important now, when we are at the brink of impermanence? Simply to formulate and rebuilt our roots bit by bit, inch by inch, brick by brick.
We need to go back in order to move forward, in order to understand where we are heading to. The idea of interpretation in itself has been debated throughout the centuries spreading its wings like a rainbow in a clear sky! But what do we understand by interpretation? From the sufis to the bauls, we have an imaginary creation of an amalgamation of secularism as a form of lifestyle. Can we make a syrupy drink of a bunch of words that constitute the world we would like to live in and drink it all at once? No, rather we can try to understand what would be the world we are willing to create.
There is a pandemic brewing, and we are constantly trying to hold onto something be it self-help books, stoicism, or random circulation of content creation thrown at us. The cyclic patterns on both news and social media can be overwhelming but we do have a choice of opening windows to something else. Far away from a carefully constructed blog, this is just a plea to hold on, believe in the world that nourished and nurtured us throughout. At the same time we need to be self-addressed about the exclusions; of people, places, news, literature, art, everything! We need to rebuild a new imagination, away from the constructs shoved down under our throats.
People are dying, places are burning, GDP is extremely dissatisfactory and we are expected to behave a certain way. A lot of people are experiencing similar emotions but are again segregated on the lines of their locations and ‘public status’. This is a time to understand how things are getting shaped and how they have been shaped throughout. Distanced from each other, cramped up under tin shades, we can reach out to each other through the common world of literature.
- Varavara Rao
(Translation: D. Venkat Rao)
Words, smothered in the folds of the self,
Must be stirred awake,
Made to amble and watch
See if wings can bear aloft
The crippled limbs
And soar into the sky.
Like the first showers after the drought
To my parched ears, my own worlds,
Not any other’s, remain strange.
Like the marvel of the sky
Discovering its lost monsoon
I long to sprout on a soil
In the vibrations of a sonorous world.
Once again I yearn to learn the utterance
At school and on the commune,
From pupils and plebeians
I dream of seizing syllables
From each of history’s furrows.
Without this voicing peal
How will this silence,
Loaded for so long in the self,
Without this booming resonance
How will this scene,
Cryptic for so long in the eyes,
Once again I must learn to utter
In communing with and listening to
I must be tethered to the word and abide by it
What’s man’s legacy after betraying the word?
Nothing debases the word:
In the blazing furnaces of time
Under the plummeting hammer clangs,
This, as the fittest moment,
I go on forging expressions.
In spite of the ashes scattered around us, we share the common sky, and we share the hope to believe in the collective spirit and dissent of our times.
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