Kafkaesque

October 27, 2015 at 9:15 AMOct (Literature, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Franz Kafka by Carl Kohler

Franz Kafka by Carl Kohler

It was around the same time seven years ago. October end 2008. I was already on anti-depressants and one evening when my parents were out I decided to swallow several pills at once and kill myself. But to my bad-luck on returning home my father figured out what I had done and immediately I was rushed to the hospital and immediate actions were taken to clear my system.

Since it was a long weekend because of Deepaavali holidays my the then psychiatrist was out of town. The PG students were to take my responsibility till she returned from her home town on the other coast. I was given sedatives and made to sleep on that night.

Next evening I was called for counselling and it was a PG student who was to conduct the personal counselling session. I was in no mood to speak partially because I was still angry about what had prompted me to take the step, partially angry at my bad-luck since I couldn’t succeed in my attempt to kill myself and majorly because I was witnessing how my suicide attempt had impacted my parents and was feeling quite guilty about it. But the PG student had to do her job. She began the conversation and I, being the stubborn me, refused to speak for a long time. But finally at one point gave in. After having spoken for three-four minutes at a stretch I said something like, “You will not understand. It is all so Kafkaesque.”

Having uttered this I was feeling suffocated and was searching, desperately, from my limited vocabulary, for words to express what I was feeling deeply inside me. And the PG student asked, “What did you say? What is that word you just used?” I, who was desperately looking for language, least expected this clarification being asked.

“Kafakaesque?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah Kafkaesque. Meaning like the world of Kafka’s writings.”

“Franz Kafka, is it?”

metamorphosis__franz_kafka_by_mikeangel1-d5iisnd“Yeah,” I confirmed and went back, in my mind, to search for language to continue what I was saying earlier but was soon interrupted.

“Can you please say more about this Kafka?”

I was baffled. “What?”

“You must have read him so I am asking you to explain to me. Our HoD keeps mentioning his name quite often in class. We are too scared to ask him why he keeps mentioning Kafka again and again. We are too busy reading our medical books to go read Kafka. So when you mentioned Kafka I just thought of asking you to help me.”

I had my jaws dropped.

For the next ten-fifteen minutes I tried explaining Kafka to this PG student within my limits. As I was explaining I was laughing in my head seeing myself take a crash course on Kafka when I was there to be counselled.

It has been seven years since this happened. Late October 2008. Now I read that the first work of Franz Kafka which I read i.e. ‘The Metamorphosis,’ completes 100 years this October.

Thanks Kafka for the book which changed life for many, which gave tongue to the unspeakable suffering of many.

Happy birthday Gregor Samsa, happy birthday ‘The Metamorphosis’ 🙂

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The Hurt Male Ego

October 24, 2015 at 9:15 PMOct (Activism, Cinema, Literature, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life)

The remark made by K.S. Bhagwan at the Periyar Birth Anniversary function in Bangalore has triggered a major controversy. What fanned the fire is the State Sahitya Akademi Award being conferred on him on the very same day. Speaking at the function Mr. Bhagwan said, “Rama was not born of his father.”

Angered citizens not only raised objection but also started getting a petition signed by people requesting the Akademi to withdraw the award conferred on K.S. Bhagwaan.

In the last few months K.S. Bhagwaan has been in news for quite a few controversies. But never before has he managed to anger people to this extent. What has angered people so much this time? Why are people so angry this particular time?

Looking at the statement made by K.S. Bhagwaan factually there is absolutely nothing to be outraged about. His statement did not twist facts or misinterpret them in any which way. He has just said what is said in the text of Ramayana including the Ramayana written by Valmiki which many consider to be the authentic Ramayana.

Dasharata calls Sumantra and tells him that he needs to perform a yaga to have children. Listening to this Sumantra tells Dasharata that long ago a sage named Saantakumara had told him that Dasharata to have children will need to take the assistance of Rushyashrunga and his wife Shaanta. Dasharata on listening to this goes to his friend Romapada and requests him to send his daughter Shaanta and son-in-law Rushyashrunga along with him to Ayodhya. Romapaada agrees. Back in Ayodhya all arrangements are made for the yaga to be performed by Vasishta, Vaamadeva, Jabaali and Kaashyap in the presence of Rushyashrunga. From the fire of the yaaga a representative of Prajaapati comes and hands over a jug of paayasa to Dasharata and asks him to distribute it to his wives and assures that after consuming the paayasa they would bear children. Dasharata obliges and thus Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana, Shatrughna are born.

So it is Valmiki who is hinting that Dasharata is not the father of Rama (and also Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna) and not K.S. Bhagwaan. But why did this anger people so badly? The anger of people is not because the statement of K.S. Bhagwaan has hurt their religious sentiments, as I look at it. The anger is triggered because their male ego has been hurt by the statement made by K.S. Bhagwaan. Let me try explaining this.

In a patriarchal society the male ego is high and masculinity is celebrated in different ways like conquer, martyrdom, bravery etc. At the same time what is prevalent in a patriarchal society fear about impotency and infertility. They are also a matter of shame. These factors are quite closely associated with the idea of manhood and if any question is raised about the potency of a man then the male ego gets terribly hurt and angered.

The reason the statement of K.S. Bhagwaan irked so many people is because his statement kind of mocked Dasharata’s impotency and infertility and also reminded the mass about the collective unconscious fear hidden deep within them regarding impotency and infertility. This is the reason why people are reacting so aggressively. There is a masculine aggression in the reaction of the people and that is because the male ego has been hurt and not ‘religious sentiments’ as many are saying and want to believe.

If it was actually the ‘religious sentiment’ which was hurt then the anger should have been more towards Kalai Selvi, who on the same day and in the same occasion, sharing the stage with K.S. Bhagwaan, made a much more ridiculous statement saying reading of Mahabharata has caused increase in child abuse.

But no. The statement of K.S. Bhagwaan has hurt the people more. And nobody has a word to say against the illogical unscientific statement made by Kalai Selvi. That is exactly why, to me, it appears like its not the religious sentiments which has been hurt but the male ego.

While writing about the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi writer and social thinker Ashis Nandy examines not just the political and social background of Nathuram Godse but also explores his mindspace. One of the major complaints Godse had against Gandhi is saying Gandhi turned Indian politics feminine and thus made it “impotent.” His anger is also against the Mughals and the British invaded India and made it sterile. Nandy recollects the observation made by L. Collins and D. Lapierre which makes note of the sexual metaphors in the speech and writings of Godse which expressed fear and shame regarding impotency and infertility.

In such a society which is high on sperm when someone reminds people of impotency and infertility which is a nightmarish fear hidden deep in the male ego, the ego is certainly going to get hurt and invoke aggressive reaction.

After having watched the Polish film ‘Jan’ at the International Film Festival of India, Goa in the year 2012 I was not able to make my mind about the film. To my luck I met the veteran M.S. Sathyu while walking out of the hall. When asked how he liked the film M.S. Sathyu instead of remarking about the film said something related to the storyline of the film. He said, “Every woman has the right to conceive or not conceive. When she wants to conceive and conceives nobody, not even the husband, has the right to ask where she got the seed from. Anybody questioning it actually holds the desire within him to control her right and that is quite patriarchal.”

So when K.S. Bhagwaan states that Rama is not the son of Dasharata in a mocking way he too is representing patriarchal mindset and those who are trying to prove that Rama’s mother conceived from her husband and in no other way are also representing patriarchal mindset where there is a desire to control the female sexuality and her right to conceive. There is nothing revolutionary in remarking that Rama is not the son of Dasharata nor is there any religious sentiment attached to the defense of Rama as being the son of Dasharata.

[written for my column ‘baaLkaTTey’ in the daily newspaper Kannada Prabha and published on 5 Oct 2015]

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