Saturday, November 15, 2014

Twilights



The other day I was in Nehru Place, Delhi, one of the largest computer markets in the world.   I wanted to get a printer cartridge refilled.  People jostled against one another in the crowded squares lined on every side with shops selling computers, accessories and other related goods.  The genuine goods competed with the counterfeit in attracting buyers.  Bargains were driven in like heartless hammer blows until the counterfeit items made mostly in China –  before India got a Prime Minister who would popularise a new slogan “Make in India” – found their actual prices. 

Suddenly a mellifluous chanting of Hare Rama, Hare Krishna rose above the hum of bargains and deals.  The chanting was accompanied by some musical instruments too.  While my HP cartridge was being injected with counterfeit ink, my eyes roved in the direction of the Hare Rama, Hare Krishna.  A band of foreigners attired in Indian style was chanting the mantra in apparent spiritual ecstasy.  They had attracted a circle of onlookers.  One of their companions was trying to sell copies of the Gita to people who were listening to him apparently out of curiosity and not with any intention of buying the book.  An Indian woman was going around trying to sell some CDs which no one was buying.

What were Rama and Krishna doing in a computer market? I wondered.  I recollected soon that I was in a market where the genuine and the counterfeit coexisted snugly.  I live in a country which merges contradictions and paradoxes into convenient syntheses of twilights. 

Is it that twilight which enchants these foreigners to India? I wondered.  Most of us Indians would love to live in countries from where these tourists come.  Most of us would love the luxuries they could afford, their science and technology which make life much more comfortable and convenient, reason reigning over superstition, sparsely populated cities, absence of filth on the streets...  Why do these people leave all that?  What do they hanker after? 

Is it that the absolute certainties of their science and rationalism fail to satisfy their souls?  Human souls love uncertainties.  Human souls long to believe than know for certain.  Long to stand in uncertainties.  Long to delve into the darkness of the unconscious. 

India is a country of those twilights.  We merge all contradictions seamlessly into practical approaches.  We can wear the three-piece western suit and lecture about the superiority of the ancient Indian civilisation.  We can import the latest technology from the West while at the same time boast about the plastic surgery carried out by God Ganesha or the space technology of Ravana.  We can let coexist the moral police who are outraged by some youngsters kissing in a restaurant and the mafias that run the sleaziest businesses, both enjoying the support of our political leaders.  We chant Vedic mantras reiterating the sanctity of our godly rivers while raw sewage and industrial waste are all directed into those rivers.    

The twilights are endless and infinite in our country.  They make life strangely enchanting.  There is nothing fascinating about the absolute certainties of science.  A formula like E = mc2 is too vivid a highway to be enchanting.  The dimly lit alleys and subways of myths and cults hold the charms of magic.    

18 comments:

  1. Interesting! Always hard to judge what's genuine and what's not at Nehru Place. I wonder how they all co-exist.

    Parul

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    1. Parul, Nehru would have been amused to see this market named after him. Technology which he loved thrives here. But the way the market is maintained, the filth one finds in spite of all the Swatchh Bharat mantras and the infiltration of religion which he disliked... well... the experts know which is genuine and which is not. That's one reason why the market flourishes. Another is the power of bargain at which Indians are experts. A third reason is that many sellers tell you which is genuine and which counterfeit! It's a nice twilight world indeed.

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  2. These myriad experiences make India an awesome place. Yes there are some not-so-good things happening here, and it is upto us to weed out them. Godo post.

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    1. Awesome and intimidating. Yeah, the latter has to be weeded out.

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  3. E =mc2 I mean , eternity=matter but(compassion)2.our India is the best place to live .

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    1. You have made Einstein also interesting. Thank you.

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  4. Perhaps they are enchanted with the so called unity in diversity...

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    1. A few years back I met an Italian tourist on a train and asked her what attracted her to India. She was on a pilgrimage, she said. She was going through all the centres of a particular Hindu religious cult, a godman's kind of affair. Her answers sounded stupid to me. What I understood is that she was bored with all the luxury in her own country and wanted some different experience.

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    2. Bored with all the luxury - yeah, that sounds more like it.

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  5. I have often asked myself what lures foreigners to India. I have been unable to find a satisfactory answer, and I even wonder if the excitement and enthusiasm shown by the visitors are real. I don't know.

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    1. I would love to talk to some of these foreigners to know what they are doing with all the drums and guitars and loudspeakers too chanting things which we are trying to forget.

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  6. I guess this magic is such an integral part of Indian culture. Just sat down and thought of many such twilight that exist in our very own lives. An unusual post sir but as usual makes you stop and think a lot.

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    1. Some twilights are inevitable in life. But we Indians seem to be specialising in them :)

      Glad you found the post thought-provoking.

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  7. Precisely, India is a land of paradox. Finely delineated blog. Liked the flow of it and the juxtaposing paradoxes that form the horizon and twilight of two different things mixing together.

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    1. Thanks, wings. Glad you are able to find time to read my writing.

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