Life is largely framed by how we define ourselves. Regardless of how we fundamentally may be the same people, the masks we wear are these definitions. It’s good to think and define ourselves in a broad context of interests and emotions. Sometimes I feel that things happen that really distract us from this kind of a definition. We narrow our outlook about who we are to simple minded truths afflicted by singular incidents. Are our lives truly larger than this? Does the breadth of what we see and experience in life trivialize the magnitude of our feelings at this very instant? The person we are lies somewhere, ever morphing, between the fantasy of our feelings and the reality of our experiences. Our commitment to make something of ourselves and our lives is truly overwhelming. Life takes no joy in destroying or recreating.
I woke up one morning imagining the death sentence in new light. The philosophy of revenge by a society is one aspect of it. Added to this is another layer of cake.Embedded in the idea of a death sentence is the fact that as a society we can judge people as we please. We do this at a subtle and a more unconscious level on a daily basis but the idea of a death sentence is taking this subtle reaction to a whole new level where rather than just being a reaction it becomes condemnation. Having said that my reimagination of a death sentence was the fact that at some level it parallels a eugenic practise. Eugenics involves cleanising of a human population based upon certain desirable or undesirable traits as the case may be. The basis of the trait is that it can be transmitted genetically lending itself to propagating the trait through an entire race. The idea of eugenics is like throwing trash into the incenerator rather than recycling it. The law in instituting a death sentence decides to eliminate an undesirable member of society based on an act or certain qualities. While the law is neither based on genetics or is scientifically grounded, it is based on a reality which is constructed on the basis of what we as a society can and cannot tolerate. This isn’t to say that I emphasise the idea that individuals who commit grave crimes, as proscribed by the society, should roam free. It is to stress the point that at some level, the idea of ridding a society of such individuals sounds almost like a eugenic practise. If we think of eugenics as a deplorable idea I wish this way of rethinking the death sentence can make us evaluate our lives for whatever it is worth.
Much worse I believe is the idea in all of this that a bunch of law makers decide what is worth and what isn’t worth a death sentence. We have no basis to construct such a system but we draw our lines based on our unimaginative human mind. I think artists should rewrite the law. Perhaps it would have a sense of arbitrarness and a certain random quality about it that the system doesn’t feel like it condemn or judge people. But that is an unfair ideal because consistency or the yearning for it is a very desirable quality for any functioning society or for that matter any relationship between individuals.
My understanding of why we don’t need a death sentence in our society isn’t based on the fact that judgments are reversed in some situations since the victim is found to be innocent or the law was unjust under certain circumstances or for that matter evidence was fabricated in a case. Its based on the simple and rather naive desire for us to be a society that can let humans be humans. We make mistakes- intentionally or unintentionally, but regardless of what that mistake can be, I find it hard to think that it actually costs a life. I’m not talking about fringe cases such as serial killers or the like here. I’m in hazy territory when I get there so I’ll play it safe by talking about life as it bares itself to me everyday. I think most people who end up with a death sentence are worthy of redemption. Not in the eyes of the victims of the act, perhaps they are inconsolable. But it is wrong for us as a society to participate in the act of revenge. I wonder if we are consoled by the idea that justice in the form of a death sentence will be rendered in our favour if it came down to it. The things in which we find a unity as a race is amusing!
I started watching the Wire. The thing about watching a good TV show is that you sort of get into the TV show. For instance today, I noticed I started speaking like some of the characters in the show. Novel words such as ‘yaw’ were making its way into my vocabulary. It sort of makes me feel cool that I can actually identify with the characters of the show. Actually the language didn’t worry me so much. I thought the change would allow me to blend into my surroudings. Coming from a foreign land, its easy to feel out of place as a consequence of your accent. Now, I finally have a chance to fit in. I’m going to start working on my attire. My ‘I just got up now’ look seems promising.
A lilting breeze
The fragrance of the night
The silent presence of a cloudless moon
Cozy flower buds with sheets drawn,
Drenched in twilight dew
The stars twinkle ever so slowly
The night remains forever.
Amidst the gentleness of Sahana
Would I desire the passing moment?
(to listen : click here)
What is the essence of time but the perrenial river that stumbles past every pebble?
What difference would it make which way the river flowed? Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis is a manipulative novel. I mean this in a good way. (Isn’t it sad that some words are forever canonized into having a negative connotation?) The book starts off with a man in a hospital, paralyzed and unable to move. This is the point where most novels would decide to end the story. Man born, grows up, falls in love, makes futile attempts at procreation, and is paralyzed by the humiliation of his inability. However this is where his novel begins in reverse.
A popular movie in recent times has been Memento which uses this concept to create an exceedingly well paced thriller about a man who at no point in time knows more than the viewer does. More so, Irreversible (a French movie) uses this same concept and toys with our sentiments about happy endings.
The book has a protagonist but the narrator isn’t the protagonist. One executes, the other refutes. From paralysis to well being, from love to unlove, and from death to life, this book dramatically questions our ability to understand the world around us as simply a sequence of events dictated by Time’s arrow. Sometimes I guess it doesn’t matter which way the arrow points.
It’s quite surprising for me that I was born into a divided world. We were divided on the basis of geography, class, society, community and in some cases, walls. I try to remember my first days of existence in this world. My memory obviously fails, sadly.
The question is, what do we imagine our world to be like? What happens if the image of the world begins to fall apart? What if it was merely a broken sheet of glass patched up in the fog? Hit the right note, and you can hear it crackle.
Goodbye Lenin isn’t a great movie by any means, but it tells a very beautiful story and provides a very interesting perspective of the events that followed the collapse of the Berlin Wall in1989. Christiane Kerner (Katrin Saβ) a woman grown up on the vitality of a socialist regime in East Germany lies in a coma through the period of the fall of East Germany. She wakes up in a new world- the world on the other side of the glass door- a world where the socialism is only in dictionaries. Her son, Alex Kerner (Daniel Bruhl) constructs an East Germany in her bedroom fearing that the fall of the Berlin wall could possibly be her worst nightmare. He takes care of every possible detail from fabrication of the news on television to using food containers with East German labels.
Love walks into his life in the form a young nurse, Lara (Chulpan Khamatova). His sister, Ariane Kerner (Maria Simon) is pregnant with a West German boyfriend- a weak metaphor that the child born is not child of a divided country. But perhaps such clichéd occurrences and obvious intonations are the strengths of the movie. The narrative is very moving since it talks about how the life of a people changed in a matter of months. On the scale of a century, eight months, the period during which the woman was in coma seems miniscule. Time is fleeing, and eternity is only worth an hour.
Occasionally, a veteran of East Germany always walks past Alex when he rummages through the trash for old bottle labels and says, “Look what they have brought us to. Is this why we struggled for forty years” The movie tries to look at what the reunification of Germany did to its people. To text books, it created a chapter to be read many years later- The end of the cold war. To the people, such wars are pittance. The advent of capitalism swept aside the failing economy of East Germany and its people were hardly able to keep afloat in its waters. The East German mark had depreciated to fifty percent of its original value. It appears to me that the socialist government started the disintegration of East Germany and the capitalist influx merely accelerated this process. Cosmonauts of the former socialist regime were now taxi drivers. Alex’s childhood hero was now counting change.
Art is a reflection of our times. It is the only way to hear of a story that never happened. It is the only way for us to even attempt to answer the question ‘why’. (In my view, this isn’t a scientific question but rather philosophical. Kurt Vonnegut would have said, ‘there is no ‘why’, there only ‘is’ when he alludes to the inanity of the interrogative.) No matter.
The movie ends on a sentimental note, Alex in monologue says, “She’s up there somewhere now. Maybe looking down at us. Maybe she sees us as tiny specks on the Earth’s surface, just like Sigmund Jähn did back then. The country my mother left behind was a country she believed in; a country we kept alive till her last breath; a country that never existed in that form; a country that, in my memory, I will always associate with my mother.” And that’s what the world of East Germany was. A world in the memory of a woman trapped in a room. Perhaps all she needed to do to see the world; was to open the door.
The movie is directed by Wolfgang Becker and features appealing performances by all its actors. Lara, Alex’s girlfriend is very appealing and stands a voice of reason in the imaginary world that Alex so meticulously and tirelessly builds through the movie but that’s simply a bias I happen to have.
The life and times of Michael K is a novel that describes the essentials of human existence. It defines the lack of purpose in life and its creation. To exist means to be free. Freedom turns out to be something raw, something that people can be rather unpassionate about but emotion has little do with this feeling.
Michael K is a beaten up worn out, presumably black male in South Africa, born with a disability- a cleft lip. At no point does Coetzee proclaim the race of K. I have a feeling the reason why the last name is an indefinite K also has to do with guarding the racial identity of Michael. Perhaps the disability is metaphorical in describing the disadvantage that plagues a whole race of people in South Africa.
Michael’s desire for freedom seems almost pathological, his lack of existence- peripheral.
The bond between Michael and the earth is the only things that connects him and perhaps drives his existence forward in a seasonal manner. The background to all this is a civil war that haunts South Africa. The manner in which he tries to completely dissociate himself from the war that surrounds him is rather humorous. It is almost as if war is a black hole that sucks everyone and spits out the bones. Michael is part of the war whether he likes it or not. As far as war is concerned it is numbers that matter- both enemies and heroes.
Sometimes the style of writing in this book seems bland. I’m inclined to think that the purpose is to convey the repetitive (perhaps boring) manner in which K passes his life.
The change of gear in the book where in the narrative voice changes over from being a description of events to the voice of the doctor is also quite interesting. It tries to ask and re- ask the same questions we hold for Michael through the course of the book. There are some answers that await the reader but for most part the ambiguity is maintained.
The life and times of Michael K has little to do with life or his times, but the reader ends up deriving all the pleasure from its perceived lack of content and the undeniably incisive manner of writing which is a very attractive characteristic of Coetzee’s writing.
The affluence of joy
a nostalgia of the fondest memory
a fall where all leaves remain
a winter that isn’t cold
age cannot feel younger
amidst the unchanging spring
with every falling note
and drifting melody
Kalyani, the world has little beauty
Why keep all of it?
As I sip on the sweet nectar of my orange juice for which I have a fetish to drink only at nights, I thought to myself what ‘Freedom at midnight’ might have really sounded like over the declining glass of OJ!
Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pulp, not wholly or in a full glass, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, orange juice will awaken me to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we have to decide between Calafornia oranges and Florida oranges, from the old to the new, when a glass ends, and when the soul of a solitary orange, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the drink the juice regardless of the type.
All additives are purely fictitious and have no relation to whether or not Nehru consumed OJ. Anyway at such troubled times choice between most pulp, pulp, medium pulp, no pulp, calcium with pulp, calcium without pulp, vitamins pulp must have created more communal violence than that caused by partition.