|Lord Macaulay(L) may have been ‘wicked’ , but academics would be lost without him to blame whereas SRK’s behaviour on a cricket ground was termed a ‘colonial hangover’
Some remarks made by a friend the other day led me to recall a poem called Waiting for the Barbrians, by the Greek poet Cavafy. He writes of a place where nothing gets done.“What are we waiting for, gathered in the market place?/The barbarians are to arrive today./Why so little activity in the senate?/Why do the senators sit there without legislating?/Because the barbarians will arrive today./What laws should the senators make now?/The barbarians, when they come, will do the legislating…”
This state of affairs continues till there is a sudden unease in the air, and the market square begins to empty rapidly. “And why is everyone going back home so lost in thought?/Because it is night and the barbarians have not come./And some men have arrived from the frontiers/and they say that barbarians don’t exist any longer./And now, what will become of us without barbarians?/They were a kind of solution.”
Cavafy’s poem can be used to interpret all kinds of situations. The friend’s remarks that led me back to the poem concerned colonialism. Isn’t it lucky, he said,that we were colonized. Wecan blame the colonialists for everything. Exactly. But we should perhaps extend the meaning of the term to include, not just foreign powers but ourselves as colonialists.
We have been colonial since time began: persecuting, humiliating, killing people of “lower castes,” women, and any other vulnerable category: rifts caused by the desire to remain “pure,” exclude others, maintain hierarchies, to divide and subdivide until we have lost track of the number of subdivisions we have in caste/power/ money terms.
Yet SRK’s behavior at a cricket match has been referred to as a “colonial hangover.” And the writer meant “them” not us. My friend was referring to the fact that we call any puritanical behavior “Victorian.”
Our police are planning to hound young people who attend alleged rave parties “till they learn good from bad.” It sounds more like a totalitarian nightmare than a colonial hangover. So what, he wonders, do we say about certain “ Brahminical” codes that are suspicious of anything that can be enjoyed?
Isometimes wonder if our attempts to combine the sensual and the sacred in so many of our artistic forms comes from a desire (unconscious, perhaps) of seeking validity for one in terms of the other. Think of our dance forms, temple sculpture, some traditions of poetry, all related to places of worship. There are some traditions of poetry extreme enough to depict deities as customers of a courtesan.
A male poet addresses deities in a female voice, or expresses states of sexual yearning in a female voice. I’ve been looking through such material for the last few years and am interested to find the ambiguity of these patterns fairly persistent. Of course the attitudes of foreign colonialists came as a shock, especially because we think so well of ourselves. So we respond by saying we are more spiritual than others, have a more ancient culture than others, that Macaulay was wicked. It’s entirely possible that he was as wicked as wicked can be.
But so many academics would be lost without him to blame. English was shoved down our throats.(Not even remotely true). Ideology was shoved down our throats with the Eng Lit syllabus. But English writers didn’t have one ideology. Milton was anti-monarchist, other writers were pro monarchy, some kept changing sides, some were atheists.
In a manner of speaking, I’ve been colonized twice: once by the Portugese in Goa from where my ancestors came, andinIndiabytheBritish.(Threetimes if you count my dogs: They sleep on my bed. I sleep on the floor). I don’t have the time/energy/inclination to mull over any of it. I’m too busy thinking of the price of vegetables!
The evaluation of a work of art is a subjective matter, and Tu g hla qis no exception. However Tu g hla qis a play which shows how history was made rather than sublimating the past. Karnad (who has a background in math and philosophy) would certainly have read Bharatmunee and Aristotle.
Both these masters seem to hold the same view that a historical play should tell what might have happened rather than what has happened. That is exactly what Karnad has done in Tughaaq.
The plot comprises well-known historical events woven with imaginary ones. With regards to whether life happens indoors or outdoors (the issue raised by Karnad), or one lives in Sirsi or Oxford (the issue raised by de Souza), the locations in a play is the author’s choice.
Karnad is one playwright who has always suggested the use of non-realistic style of performance which allows things to happen on stage whether it is a jungle, the North Pole or Buckingham Palace.
- Dr Vishvas Sahasrabuddhe