Friday, October 29, 2010

Itihasa of an Integral Part

“The word for “history” in Sanskrit, itihasa, could be translated as “That’s what happened,” giving the impression of an only slightly more modest equivalent of von Ranke’s phrase for positivist history: “Wie es [eigentlich] gewesen ist” (“The way it [really] happened”). But the iti in the word is most often used as the Sanskrit equivalent of “end quote,” as in “Let’s go [iti],” he said. Itihasa thus implies not so much what happened as what people said happened (“That’s what he said happened”) – narratives, inevitably subjective narratives.”

Wendy Doniger, in The Hindus, An Alternative History

Location: “If you take the ship departing at 17:00 from Kochi to Trivandrum, you will stop at this island for dinner.”

Background: “We were annexed by a kingdom a few centuries before they were occupied by Travancore (one of the three princely states that formed Kerala). We were never an integral part of Travancore. We are an integral part of India. But, actually, nobody wants us as an integral part except the non-existent kingdom of Travancore.”

Disputes: “83% of this island is disputed territory. Some big guy did some big thing out here long back. The majority wants to recreate those times hoping that the big guy will return.”

Population: “We are followers of the bard M. Jackson. We are black hoping to turn white.”

Language: “Each locality has its own version of the mother tongue. We do not need language to communicate, we need liquor. When we speak English, we sound like the Irish. Have you heard the Irish speak? I have not.”

Food: “A famous person during a visit exclaimed, ‘Holy Cow!’ He heard the echo, ‘Chilly Beef!’ That famous person married for the third time leaving many men and women of this island heartbroken.”

Famous People: “Most famous people here are called Shree/Shreemati 420.The other famous people do not want to be associated with us. They are offended when we are not offended with whatever they say. Also, they cannot find a group to say, ‘A million people here say…’ Five or more people here never say the same thing. The rest of the country tried to copy that calling it section 144.”

Freedom: “We even allow people to say, ‘We will hound them out of India, like what we did to M.F. Hussain.’ I know, it sounds like sedition, right? But, still…”

Judiciary: “This is our strongest department. On entry, ‘Young man, we will take a few years of your productive life.’ On exit, ‘Old man, we deal with faith not facts.’ They alone can show contempt.”

Politics: “We never ask, ‘Who is standing for election?’ We ask, ‘Who was in office till now?’ We try to learn from the mistakes of the past. Every dog has its day, we strongly believe.”

Faith: “We used to be a Buddhist state, sedentary peace-loving egalitarian folk. Then, a group came with karma and division of labour. After relocating people to their respective ghettos, they philosophized that in theory and spirit, but not in practice, people could migrate from one ghetto to the next. Other groups and faiths too arrived on these shores. Some kissed the right ass and progressed. In the 20th century, they even kissed the left ass and tried not to regress. Right through the ages, people in small groups and of the same social class, irrespective of faith still managed to be egalitarian. Altruism is humbug, we all agree.”

Literature: “Nearly 99% of the population read the stories before watching it as a TV soap opera. 99% of the rest copy world literature or pretend to read it.”

Cinema: “We used to make great art movies. People outside without understanding used to call it ‘porn-dy’. The current films can be appreciated only in multiplexes – you have to view 30 minutes of 4 movies to have 2 hours of time-pass.”

Sports: “We used to be athletic. Now, we are thinking of playing cricket at the IPL.”

Social Dynamics: “This society is like a sand-pile at its angle of repose, a critical system. Add one small grain of sand and you can start avalanches of varying sizes.”

Social Fabric: “A mature interacting group behaves like an elastic system. Bend it a little and it will spring back. Bend it too vigorously, you will cross a threshold, defects will stream in to stay forever. We are always in that new plastic state with immature inelastic ideas.”

Relationships: “In the good old days, women wanted men to look at them.”

Industry: “We allow only labour-friendly industries such as tourism and IT-enabled services. We promote migration to countries without any idea about human rights.”

Export & Import: “We import nearly everything.We export everything that we do not import.”

USP: “Best place to simply sit back and enjoy. Most tourists and citizens do that. Most paedophiles and goons also do that here.”

Law & Order: “Excellent…just don’t be at the wrong place at the wrong time…”

Other Important Details: “You should note the following really important points about this integral part of India: (a) …”

Author’s note:

  • This is history.

  • Everything is fiction.

  • This is a commissioned piece, part of a project to record the voices of this integral part before it is silenced forever. There was a strict brief: exactly 897 words [including the title, the quotation and this note (151 words)].

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