Featured

Though I have explored philosophy

as well as medicine and law,

applied my efforts to theology,

yet I stand, a foolish bore,

no wiser than I was before

with neither property nor fame.

I am a man without a name.

A dog would not accept this role,

so to magic I will devote my soul.

The blueprint for separation

The blueprint for separation

Translated from the original article in Bengali written by Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay

After 2019, we arrived at Covid-19. We didn’t see famine, we didn’t see riots, but we did see Corona. We heard the metallic footsteps of death. I can’t talk about the larger world, because that’s my indirect experience. I get to know about the world affairs by reading. I can’t even talk about poor farmers or laborers because there is no elegance in the statistics where the footsteps of human existence cannot be heard. As a result, it is not easy for me to talk to them from my acquired experiences. But the consequences of what we have seen in our middle class really makes me think that there is no need for man to move towards immortality or invincibility. If he could really go through the path of an exodus, where would he find this contemporary clown? When this vir al infection is coming to India, like winter at the end of mild autumn, we see that middle class people like us, who are suddenly a generation of rich, leave seven hundred and eighty square feet and live in fourteen hundred square feet flat and give EMI, they suddenly start saying, they are not getting wheat for their consumption. No? Then they should eat Cake – As Marie Antoinette said in her childhood history book. In the same way, today’s new rich people are saying – why do these poor people stay on the train tracks? The train must go through the tracks laid down for it. Just after this we saw – after a lavish dinner party on the occasion of Poila Boishakh (Bengali New Year)/ 25th of Boishakh (Rabindra Jayanti or Tagore’s Birthday) celebration on the terraces of Air-conditioned Elite Skyscrapers the various dance performances, dramas and recitations by women possessing big rounded breasts and buttocks, raunchy moves and body posture which could have stunned Chitrangada, Arjuna and Rabindranath – a performance that could be used as an advertisement for casting TMT bars by any steel manufacturing company.

And this middle class, who are constantly engaging in dialogue digitally, a dialogue that no Introduction. They are sitting like flies on the molasses net. As I was reading recently, psychologist Umberto Eco said long ago that – before there were limits to what people could say. At most they would say something like Devdas’s persuaded Chunilal, and then they could be stopped. But today they are not going to stop. Everyone is super-wise to an extreme extent. There are so many stupid words being uttered all around and so much excitement that I just think that a thousand eyes or a vagina are on Indra’s body in Calcutta today after so long.

I have said before in the pages of this magazine that we have somehow become separated from each other Earlier we knew that collective strength is needed to prevent a danger. This is the first time we witness that it is important to be separate in the face of danger, to be alone. Even a similar mistake in a wrong English phrase was mistranslated in Bengali and put to use. What should have been physical distancing is propagated as social distancing or social distance. What could be a better example for the ideal ideological fall from grace? This is similar to opening the gates to hell. The term alienation that Karl Marx coined in 1844 in his draft of “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts”, which we have not understood so well, in the philosophical sense we used to think that man has become numb, man has become detached from his shadow. This is what we saw in Antonioni’s films. I used to read the words of Franz Kafka. And today we are at the crossroads of a history – a history that is true, at least for the metropolitan cities of India, that today we are truly separated from ourselves. We don’t understand that there is blood on the railway tracks. We are trying to write songs about it. We wonder why our songs are not sold? We wonder, why aren’t we being creative in this prolonged debilitating vacation? Everyone is writing songs, writing poems, so that this defeat can be stopped by writing songs! As if we have nothing to gift except the song at the funeral of a companion.

These four months have proved to the world that the endless procession of corpses on which we are standing upon in the name of knowledge is a failure. We have been thinking since the Renaissance, and rationalism has given us the idea that through knowledge, through reason, we may one day know the truth! But we have not thought about what this argument really is, on what basis it stands. We have only seen the improvement of instruments and thought that human science is also improving. If we only think about medicine, these failures of medical doctors all over the world show that proper attention has not been paid to medicine. They gave medicine, but did not look at the source. We just used technology to make some reports, some mechanical results. What we used to know by pressing the pulse was more likely to be wrong, today we know it through instruments. In the case of science, we gave less importance to mathematics or theoretical physics, because it does not accumulate profit, we have only put emphasis on technology and weapons research. Similarly, how many MBBS doctors have we seen in the city of Calcutta towards move towards immunology or virology? A good boy means he will go to cardiology, learn nephrology, where money is at plenty. Why would he go for those basic theories or pure practice? Why would he find out how the mind and body are connected, what is the actual behavior of the nervous system? But one day while sitting in this city, a doctor discovered the malaria virus. But today we have no way of knowing, just why we, sitting in Toronto or New York, Amsterdam or Dar es Salaam today, have no way of knowing what we will do or where we will go in the future? Despite the prediction of such a virus from eight to ten years ago, why the world’s leading biologists and physicians could not take any action? Because at the moment, the direction of our science is also wrong, it is just earning.

Today we are trying to be different and separate, whenever in this situation we say that ‘An individual dares to individuate himself’. We valued this separation, this individuality so much, especially in Europe-America, and in the light of its importance, we were so delighted to sit in India or Taiwan that we did not realize a unitary power that could not be a state, but one that holds people together – today there is no such place to uphold. We are vertical, airborne. If we look at Europe, we can see how the state system is failing. Today, in the United Kingdom, or in the United States, where the health system is almost broken, where in comparison there is no such thing as a health system in our country. On the contrary, when we open the news paper, we understand that all the discussions about health in our country are actually reserved only for those who have the power to place big advertisements in the paper. Treatment to save from covid has been introduced in the online service nowadays. As I said in a previous post, how many people in India have the ability to use a computer? What is the average per capita income that he will use a smartphone? What is the state of the network across the country? What does the word ‘online’ mean in a country with such a low literacy rate? Online Payment, Video Calling, Skype: What do the poor people of our country think after hearing all this? Do they understand what these are? I’ve seen Alain Resnais’s ‘Night and Fog’ many times. The day Auschwitz was freed, the prisoners were sitting on the other side of the barbed wire, wondering if they were really being released. Do they have a language to speak? This language bond is never going to go away. Society’s inequality was there before. But we have not noticed for so long that this inequality has widened and that we have begun to take pride in this inequality. The bird has gone with our last piece of clothing like the anecdotal tube of the Mahabharata. We no longer have the feeling that we are walking naked on the streets alone.

That being said, the medical system of our country, reserved for the affluent people of ten or fifteen big cities of the country, for me-you, those of us who speak English, those of us who know keyboards and those of us who can make online payments. How many Indians can do that? In fact, the Government of India or the State of India is denying its constitutional responsibility today. Not all Indians are entitled to such treatment today. They have been told that only those who are rich, at least with a certain amount of wealth, will get this benefit. No previous government has declared it so nakedly. We had at least a little eye skin. At least where there was a fear, whether it was the fear of God, or the persecution of humanity, something was left. Today all its quotient matches. In this “New Normal” every aspect of our existence is abnormal.

Even though we know everything, we are spending time behind the mask and talking shamelessly. There is a constant celebration of terror on social media, telling the story of a detective. We don’t understand that we are actually drinking the blood of our fellow citizens while rejoicing. It must be acknowledged that our doctors, our health workers, continue to serve despite their limited knowledge of corona. The treatment that no one in the world has any solution yet, the knowledge that we can expect from them! Nevertheless, they are doing their best. They are not always responsible for negligence or inefficiency, they are just a small nut or bolt of the system in which they work for the omnipresent and failed medical industry or health industry. A nursing home is not run by doctors, but by businessmen. The return of such doctors and health workers, house rent, everything is being viewed with suspicion. We will take medicine and advice from the doctor, but we will not let him enter his house. I remember the famous joke of Saratchandra, ‘Our racial pride will not diminish when we sleep, but it will when we eat with one hand.’ Today, health workers are in danger every day. The term ‘corona patient caught’ is being used. What does ‘catch’ mean? Is the patient infected with corona analogous to a tiger or a thief, that needs to be caught? A man has had a disease, that’s it. Two hundred years after Vidyasagar, this city took a new lesson of ‘untouchability’. Today, a group of residents of the housing complex can show their bravery by keeping the ambulance of the sick people stuck. We used to sing Rabindranath’s song, ‘Let there be darkness, let the sky be blinded, let your heart be full’. Where is that touch of the heart?

The media is entirely responsible for the perception that people have created about this corona. The way in which the media continues to utter unspoken sentences with panic seems to be the last moment of the Kurukshetra war. We are just standing on the beach of death. Instead of reassurance, instead of reasoning, the kind of fear that is being aroused, the kind of fiction that is being written, has never happened before. There was a plague in subjugated India. In the novel ‘Gora’ or ‘Srikanta’ we see, young people took to the streets to try to prevent disease during a cholera epidemic. But today we seem to accept it without hesitation. ‘Nandalal once did a great deed / he will keep his life for his country no matter what.’ We see that the philosophy of separation from each other is glorified in such a way that it seems as if the Fourth World War is a nomenclature. Anything has a real perspective and a philosophical perspective. The two are getting confused in today’s world. One class of people thought that if they could sit at home and buy some things over the phone and bring them home, they would have no more worries, so the disease could be blown away. And with the exception of a handful of government workers like us, who receive salaries or pensions at home, the whole of India is in a state of turmoil. Some of us are shouting like crazy, increase the lockdown. He has no idea what will happen if the lockdown increases, what will happen if it decreases. An insane stream kept flowing in.

Rousseau once said, ‘Everything is absurd, but nothing is shocking. Everyone is accustomed to everything ’. I never understood the meaning of this line before. Sitting in today’s Kolkata, I can feel nothing is unexpected. Nothing seems surprising to us anymore. Everything can happen to us, and that is what we think is an extended part of normalcy Because we didn’t want anything else out of it. We just wanted to be a little richer. As a result of being rich, we have become separate, we are a separate category. Corona came and opened the wound for us. On the one hand poor India, or poor world On the other hand, we have us, who still believe that by floating on a raft of money, we can reach the pinnacle of success like Noah. I have never seen people become so cruel, so heartless before. Jibanananda Das, seeing the death of the forties, said, ‘Still in fear of Him / maybe a second death’. The death of the middle class that we see today surpasses the second death long ago. That is our third or fourth death. Everyone is talking theoretically, but there is no thought behind it, no research, no love. There is no knowledge without love. ‘Sannyasi Upagupta / Under the wall of Mathurapuri / Once upon a time was dormant’ — this is the last line of the poem‘ Abhishar ’that we read,‘ Today is the night, the time has come to settle down ’. Today such a night has dawned upon us for which one will come for our rescue. We will just die in silence, in seclusion, in comfort and in fear. Because even though we are alive, in fact we are dead. I do not know when we will rise from this deathly existence.

I am over sixty years old. I see a gradual exhaustion becoming my companion and a fear ruling over me. That fear is actually a gift given by the state to the citizen. One thing to note at the moment is that every major state today has begun to rule unconstitutionally. Today we have no court, no parliament, but any decision can be taken at any time. I doubt whether Maharaja Vikramaditya could have made such an independent decision even in the Gupta period. As a result, the question of who is responsible for this lockdown and what problems are being addressed is a multi-level one. To find out the meaning of it – my knowledge is inadequate. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to speak so much. But I have never felt so utterly exhausted before. At least before that we could say, ‘Don’t harbor fear in the dark anymore / keep your face in my hand’. Now all our hands are dirty. This hand contains either sanitizer or soap. I don’t really know who will cover his face in any hand today. I apologize to the reader.

The Door

Too little
has been said
of the door, its one
face turned to the night’s
downpour and its other
to the shift and glisten of firelight.

Air, clasped
by this cover
into the room’s book,
is filled by the turning
pages of dark and fire
as the wind shoulders the panels, or unsteadies that burning.

Not only
the storm’s
breakwater, but the sudden
frontier to our concurrences, appearances,
and as full of the offer of space
as the view through a cromlech is.

For doors
are both frame and monument
to our spent time,
and too little
has been said
of our coming through and leaving by them.

from Selected Poems 1955-97 (OUP, 1997), Charles Tomlinson

Alienation is a concept describing both the process and the results of converting, in definite historical conditions, of the products of human and social activity (products of labour, money, social relations, etc.) and also man”s properties and capabilities into something independent of them and dominating over them; also the transformation of some phenomena and relations into something different from what they are in themselves, the distortion in people”s minds of their actual relations in life. Alienation of the subject is the creation of the world by the abstract Ego. The objective world appears as the “alienated spirit”. The purpose of development is to overcome this Alienation in the process of cognition. At the same time the understanding of Alienation contains rational surmises about some distinctive features of labour in an antagonistic society.

Juan Ramon Jimenez once said of his work:
“Inner poetry eludes words. When one wishes to express something profound, one does not express it in jingles. In my first period I used adjectives, later the adjectives became substantives. Literary artistry is constant suffering for the poet; one doubts the exactness of words, their ability to express what we feel within us. We strive to find that spirited asset, the inner essence.”

Yes, the missing link, the age old Wittgensteinian problem in our day-to-day life, when we try to search for an idea, even an obscure ounce of it if maneuvered (un)consciously makes oneself so gleefully over joyous, the aftermath comes during the futile attempt of representing the original idea that it becomes so bleak by the broad daylight, it wanders and toddles even amongst the wildest of clapping. This overwhelming self-deprecation seems to occur because of a selfish attempt to huge amount of unattended work that was needed to flourish an alchemical idea which was unforeseen by the author due to its immediate materialistic potpourri.

“Pain is strange. A cat killing a bird, a car accident, a fire…. Pain arrives, BANG, and there it is, it sits on you. It’s real. And to anybody watching, you look foolish. Like you’ve suddenly become an idiot. There’s no cure for it unless you know somebody who understands how you feel, and knows how to help.”

― Charles Bukowski