Friday, November 08, 2019

Book Review - In Search of Heer by Manjul Bajaj

Photo Credit HERE
In a modern re-telling of an ancient story, first told by Damodar Gulati in the 16th century, author Manjul Bajaj, joins the many versions of the same story told over the years, by many authors and poets. However, this time, the distinctive pen which is the author’s mark, is written in the 21st century with an engaging, often, addictive method of narration. Having done this, Manjul Bajaj joins an illustrious group of writers and poets, filmmakers who have written on the same theme, Heer and Ranjha. 

In Search of Heer is a simple tale, starting with the love story of Heer, the beautiful daughter of Mihir Chuchak, a rich landlord of Jhang Syal , and Ranjha, the spoilt and handsome son of an affluent landlord in village Takht Hazara, who are destined to meet and fall in love and marry with the support of Heer’s father, in somewhat of a concealed manner, unlike a big, fat Punjabi wedding, with relatives, from far and near thrown in. The secret is found out by Heer’s paternal uncle, Kaidu Langra, and all hell breaks out as he connives with Heer’s mother, and weds her off to Saida, of the Khera clan, equally, wealthy. But the reader must find out what happens to Heer in this marriage. 

In the meantime, Ranjha has realized that he has lost Heer, and must now find the balm to his broken heart by embracing the spiritual path. A flutist, whose music has a soul, Ranjha is well nigh liberation but is again pulled back by the appearance of a crow, which reveals to him, that Heer is waiting for him and so he must waste no time but proceed immediately to where Heer is. Ranjha leaves with his flute totally naked of any other desire but to find his Heer.

In a strange twist of events, Heer finds a friend in her marital home, who is her sister in law, with no less a hidden love story in her heart and the reader is allowed a peep into what might happen next. Breathe easy. You are about to commence into another rough ride with many twists and turns.  

This said, In Search of Heer, is much more than just a story re-told. There are many lessons to learn from the many voices that narrate the story – crows, pigeons, goat and each is has a unique voice, I most loved to engage with. A humungous amount of research has gone into telling the reader more about each of these animals and birds so that the reader is enriched in many other ways, understanding the nature of these creatures. Research has also gone into the life of an ascetic and someone in search of a spiritual life, which gives solace.  

However, for me, the most endearing parts were the role of Heer as a feminist icon. She exudes courage, valour, willfulness, and is stubborn and outspoken, uncompromising. Yet, vulnerable and receptive to love and longing. Her questions are relevant to our times, and many of us can hear our own voice in her words.

No less enchanting was the spiritual side of the book, without being religious. It calls the reader to conclude that there are no short cuts from sex to super-consciousness, except by actually living it. And the way out is through. The symbolic crow is the id in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis as it were. Love lived in totality may well be the eternal transcendence we seek as humans.

The book is a living testimony of a skillful hand at work and an astute intellect that can gather the story from many quarters and reproduce a new version which appeals to the modern, 21st century reader and their understanding and engagement with love in its many facets.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Politics of Laugh Jihad

Hardly had we recovered from the shock of HRD Minister, India, Sri Ramesh Pokhriyal, stating that premier institutes in India, like NIT and IIT, must focus their research much more on our ancient Indian science because, after all, it was not Sir Isaac Newton who discovered gravity, but our science already knew all about it much before the western world became aware of it even. But even before we had time to cogitate over it, his colleague, Minister of Railways Sri Piyush Goyal had proved Sri Ramesh Pokhriyal wrong by stating that it is indeed, Einstein who discovered gravity. Many trolls followed on Twitter

In the face of two very ‘scholarly’, RSS cadre members of the ruling party in India, naturally, recent news that in fact there was no Aryan invasion in India, because in Rakhigari, Hariyana, the lead researchers of this soon-to-be-published study — Vasant Shinde and Neeraj Rai, said that DNA tests on the Rakhigari human skeleton established the knowledge ecosystem in the Vedic era was guided by “fully indigenous” people with limited “external contact”. This has seriously dislodged the Aryan invasion theory which holds forth that a set of migrants came from Central Asia armed with superior knowledge and arms and invaded the existing settlements to establish a more sophisticated civilization in India and pushed the original inhabitants down south. (Read ET article here)

Having said that, we now are faced with a very big question, as to who then are our brothers and sisters of another religious background? 

Please to note, we have quoted so-called ‘scholars’ in the above article and hence, we must now visit the Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister’s Blog.

My growing fascination with the writings of author, activist, Jaya Sharma, has raised my eyebrows which refuse to return to place, after she has quoted the sannyasi Chief Minister of UP, Sri Adityanath Yogi, to say in his blog, “We have decided that if they take one Hindu girl, we’ll take a hundred of theirs. If they kill one Hindu, then we’ll kill a hundred of them.”

Let us pause here, to think who the CM is referring to. If the Rakhigari human DNA has proved that there has not been any invasion from the Central Asian countries, then, who are the ‘they’ in Sri Adityanath Yagi’s blog? If they are indigenous, as the researchers seem to prove, then, the CM’s statement seems null and void – “We have decided that if they take one Hindu girl, we’ll take a hundred of theirs. If they kill one Hindu, then we’ll kill a hundred of them.” All they, theirs, them, are, unfortunately, indigenous only, and there does not seem to be anyone else. So, Sri Yogi, must research his article and make necessary changes, having connected with Vasant Shinde and Neeraj Rai, of the aforesaid discussion published in Economic Times

The honourable CM, is further quoted to state in his blog, and I quote – 

“A system where a girl surrounded with fragrance is enticed into a stinking world; where the girl leaves her civilised parents for parents who might have been siblings in the past; where purity is replaced with ugliness; where relationships have no meaning; where a woman is supposed to give birth every nine months; where the girl is not free to practice her religion; and if the girl realises her mistakes and wants to be freed, she is sold off”. 

The concept of ‘dirty’, ‘stinking’, ‘ugliness’, are all part of Manusmriti which as scholar and researcher, Sreyashi Ghosh, writes in her article here “MANUSMRITI HAS BEEN SINGLE-HANDEDLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEROGATORY POSITION ACCORDED TO WOMEN IN THE POST-VEDIC PERIOD.”

Thus, we can assure that the CM of UP, who must be a hard-cast, post-Manusmriti, patriarchal sannyasi, who has preferred the natural sexual energy to be restrained and controlled in order to not 'pollute' himself, by ejaculation in intercourse, and divert the same energy ‘upwards’ towards God-realization, but, may fall short of final liberation, due to extreme hate for women. 

What you can’t get, you never forget and since longing may not be reciprocated, bitterness is the extreme one tends to feel, thus, writing, speaking, emoting bitterness. Just like Manu in fact, who is noted to be a woman-hater. 

Coming back to the article by Jaya Sharma, What the fantasy about Kashmiri “girls” reveals about men of Hindutva published in CounterCurrents(dot)Org, we must dispel all notions that Sri CM, UP, who is a sannyasi, has any experiential proof of what is sexual, leave alone, sexual fantasy. Hence, his expressions on his blog, maybe pure quotations from Manusmriti and we must as educated, sexually active women, no matter where in India we live, or the world for that matter, take it with a pinch of salt. As the author herself, points out, there is no dearth of virile Kashmiri men, that their women, need to look at ‘other men, of Hindu origin. Having said this, I must again reiterate the scientific report, about the Rakhigari human, that there are only indigenous men and women in India, hence, they, theirs, them that Sri CM, UP, India, refers to are perhaps all one single community.

Sri Piyush Goyal and  Sri Ramesh Pokhriyal, are an encyclopedia of knowledge, of ancient science, as they themselves have proved, to resounding hilarity on all social platforms, like facebook, twitter, etc, which Sri CM, UP, must learn from and change the content of his blog, so that he does not appear to be like his colleagues, very poorly intellectual. Before Ms. Mahua Moitra takes this matter up on the floor of the Parliament, causing more hilarity across the world, it is best to rectify, than to regret.

NOTE: And before I am arrested for writing this post, I wish to say that, the opinion expressed here are personal and the author has tried to maintain what the researcher Sheyashi Ghosh has quoted from Manusmriti by Patrick Olivelle, translation of a “good woman” and is bursting at the seams with loud laughter, rocking her already voluptuous, hungry and angry for sex body.