An Idiot's Tale

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An Idiot's Tale

Cacography of a madcap story teller, JAYEETA GHORAI

(Written in March 2013)

Sloth, they say, is a sin.

Just struck her – have you wondered how religions prescribe a frightfully long list of sins and a consequential list of elaborate absolutions? Where would Religion be if it couldn’t drive the fear of God into humans?

Love, for the love of God, seems an afterthought, almost like a wise guy discovered in the last minute of homo-evolution, that affection was a greater motivator than afflictions. Certainly affection can draw a person with twice the speed of light into the halo, while affliction would take circuitous paths of avoidance and perchance disappear into aimlessness.

The deliberation on sloth is to settle the debate if she had been wholly inactive. Can a brain navigating the universe like buzzing flies or supra-speedy electrons be labeled slothful because the body had parked itself on her favourite side of the bed and hadn’t moved ever since?

(The choice of favouritism was won simply by the fact that it was the edge of the mattress, furthest from the door and human traffic through the room, her tailbone was in longest daily contact with. Often, the rest of her spine followed the excellent example of the tail end.)

When the brain they say is the superior organ, why should bodily equilibrium define sloth? Would the mendicants of Indic lore, those inhabitants of mountain caves who reduced corporal necessities of sleeping, eating, talking to bare minimum to concentrate their mental forces in meditative pursuits – why were they lauded sages and not despicable sloths?

On to her fat lazy lizard’s diary, then.

To the unsolved mystery, what had she been doing?

Reading some, for starters.


A modern allegory by Susan Hill, a memoir by Anthony Bourdain, a travelogue by Michael Palin, two childhood classics by Mark Twain and Kenneth Grahame, a fiction-cum- mythology hotchpotch by Amish Tripathi (as usual to find out what everyone was gawking about.)

She’d been studying for an exam, or supposed to have been. She’d been working out for her forthcoming trek, or supposed to have been.

She listened to a poignant new song from a forthcoming Bangla film, Hawa Bodol, been ensnared by its theatrical trailer on youtube and waited eagerly to catch a show. She stepped out of the house today and saw it has hit the theatres, this being Friday morning. She also watched the wonderful The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, twice. She watched every Feluda film directed by Sandip Roy she could lay hands on on youtube.

She argued her eyes brain tongue fingertip lung liver gut out on Facebook, on two different forum on two different agendas. One on a photography group, arguing the merits of candid street photography versus the need to grant privacy in public space. The development of digital cameras seem to have made a photographer of every creativity starved individual. The cheap thrills of prying made up ideas of brilliant composition, for those who couldn't afford the more expensive setup of studio, wildlife or landscape as specialisations.

She couldn't accept voyerism as art. Everyone tried valiantly to be Cartier Bresson-s, with not a shred his talent. Putting herself in the subjects' shoes, she vociferously opposed the idea of intrusions into another's absentminded thoughts. She had seen a photo once, entered in a competition, of a woman standing in waist-deep river during an annual remembrance ceremony, holding to her breast images of her parents, deceased one presumes, crying in pain. It was vulgar, she shuddered, to walk in uninvited in the woman's grief, and claim gleeful artistry over a snatch of it.

This, to her, was pornography. Obscene.

The other arguement, an usual jingoism, was her defence of Imperial contribution - however schematic, superficially altruistic and rudimentary - and the English language. It soon turned into a fervent support from the original debater, of Sanskrit, Hindutva and an all inclusive imminent Indian supremacy over the world.

She couldn't understand how educated men allowed themselves to become so laughably regionalistic. Education was supposed to free oneself from biases. Patriotism and national pride are excellent virtues, but to try and erase history was surely toppling over the edge of reason - she did not expect of educated men the same ploy abused by ineffectual politicians. Indians in governance, long sighed over as quasi-literate bufoons and exploiters of mass hysteria are known to indulge in practices of distraction. Surely, well-read and tolerably intelligent 'progressive' individuals shouldn't be swayed by this new found nationalist frenzy. History, however deplorable, can still not be wished away; and in condemning particular players, some modicum of their positive benefits can't be ignored completely.

Perhaps, as an Indian woman, the particular scrutiny of cultural supremacy by the colonials rested on her ancestors. She had not imagination enough to interpret a different fallout, but only knew, schools for women were started by imperial colonists which in turn, helped her immensely. Maybe men, however contemporary and enlighted, couldn't grasp the significance of that blessing, however much they tried to showcase their empathy for her genderhood.

She was only thankful for this equal opportunity at education and couldn't agree with a carpet-sweep condemnation of Imperial (lack of positive) contributions. As for whether a chance to learn the English language was at all a positive contribution, why, a survey of unemployed Indian youth could suffice to say if the missionary educationists have given more to Indian society than misguided communists who banned its study and crippled a generation of communication-handicapped students.

For those who had had the privilege to learn it, who earn their bread by it and use it generously to communicate their message across, to condemn the British teaching it to us is downright hypocrisy.

Also, holier-than-thou attitudes embarrassed her. There is something immodest and exhibitionist in loudly proclaiming one's superiority. One may be proud of his language, culture, local geography, but the moment he advertises it as 'the best' it's undoing all the good this heritage has done.

She was hopelessly old world. Loud mouthed proclamations of selfhood, and by extension, partisanism, did not go down well with her. So she fought back, post after Facebook post, knowing it a waste of her energy but tempted notwithstanding, to take a stand in favour of open mindedness. That in essence was Indianism for her, unafraid to embrace diversity, comfortable in its collectiveness.

As anyone can see, she had plenty of time in hand, to indulge her indolence. Sloth is a delightful animal.




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