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Monday, January 25, 2010

The Adventure by Jayant Narlikar

The Adventure-Simplified for you
Santhosh Kumar Kana, KV, Donimalai.

Unconventional narrative style- mixture of history and science.

Professor Gaitonde, a historian, is going to give a lecture on the implications of Catastrophe Theory in the Third Battle of Panipat. On the way his car collides with a truck and he goes into coma. But he experiences another world where history is different from how we know in the real world- in the Third Battle of Panipat, in reality, Afghans defeated Marathas killing their leader Viswas Rao. But in the parallel world, Marathas win the war as Viswas Rao escapes narrowly from the bullet. The victory of Marathas brings about diverse changes and reforms in the country. He gains consciousness and his friend Rajendra Deshpande rationalizes his strange experience on the basis of two scientific therories, viz. Catastrophe Theory and the lack of determinism in Quantum Theory.

The Parallel world

Professor Gaitonde is on his way to Bombay from Pune. It is the pre-independent Bombay where he finds Anglo-indians and Union Jack. He goes to a library and reads four volumes of history starting from the period of Asoka upto the Third Battle of Panipat. The fifth volume of the Book (Bhausahebanchi Bakhar) tells a different story where Marathas win the war against Afghans in the Third Battle of Panipat. After their victory India moved towards democracy. Absent mindedly, he tucks into his pocket a copy of the book. He reaches Azad Maidan where a lecture is going on. The absence of the chairman for the meeting makes it strange but the crowd doesn’t want one though the Professor protests. He gets on to the stage, snatches the mike and starts speaking. The crowd showers eggs and tomatoes on him and finally throws him out. He is lost in the crowd.

This is where the Professor’s strange experience ends. Next we find him talking to his friend Rajendra in the real world.

Rajendra’s explanation

Rajendra explains the bizarre experience of the Professor on the basis of two scientific theories, viz. Catastrophe Theory and the lack of determinism in Quantum theory.

Catastrophe theory states that a small change in circumstance can bring sudden shift in behaviour. If we apply this theory to the battle of Panipat, we can find that there was a crucial moment when the Marathas lost both their leaders-Viswas Rao and Bhausaheb. So, the Marathas lost their morale and lost the battle. But in the parallel world Prof. Gaitonde saw the bullet missing Viswas Rao and Marathas winning the battle. A crucial event gone other way can change the course of history(the bullet missing/hitting the leader). The Professor produces a torn page of Bhausahebanchi bakhar from his pocket. This is nothing but the notes he had prepared for his lecture where he had imagined the fate of the battle to be otherwise. The bullet hitting Viswas rao was the catastrophic incident in the battle. The present state of affairs has been reached because of such catastrophic incidents in history. We can apply this theory to any other battle or historical incident and see how history takes a different course.

Lack of determinism in Quantum theory

The behaviour of electrons orbiting the nucleus in an atom cannot be predicted. There are different states of energy-higher and lower. It can make a jump from high to low energy level and send out a pulse of radiation or a pulse of radiation can knock it out of state no.2 to state no.1. These states can apply to the world too. The transitions are common in microscopic systems. If it happened on a macroscopic level, it could be an interesting food for thought.

Professor Gaitonde made a transition from the world we live in to a parallel world. One world has the history we know, the other a different history. He neither traveled to the past nor to the future. He was in the present but experiencing a different world. At the time of the collision with the truck, he was thinking about the catastrophe theory and its implications in war. He was probably wondering about the battle of Panipat. Perhaps the neurons in his brain acted as a trigger.

Like the electron jumping from one state to another, he made a jump from this world to the parallel world. Any catastrophic situation will provide various alternatives for us to proceed. But only one can be accepted by us at one time as we live in a unique world with a unique history. But why did he make such a transition? An interaction is must for any such transition. The collision and the thoughts at that moment brought it about.

The incident at Azad maidan is just to show how meetings can be arranged without chairman unlike in the real world.

Keep reading…………….all the best.


Friday, January 15, 2010


Vijayan’s view of history is not different from that of the present age where history is not accepted as a mere pedestrian account of incidents in their proper order. It aims at a scientific estimation of historical events and the exploration of human values. The writers of the present age are not ready to accept the common notion that history deals with the past and it is futile to rummage in those details. Instead they bring into light the sufferings of individuals and other ideals which were thrown into oblivion in the hands of those writers who did it for catering to the tastes of power and also for protection. The present day writers scrutinize the dangers hailed at the existence of the individuals and their inner struggle in the search of their “self” and substantiate their arguments on the basis of this observation that these are not of the past only but of the present and is sure and more dangerous to be of the future. Thus the division of time or place vanishes and everything takes place in a stagnant time. In Malayalam literature, O.V.Vijayan and Anand are the notable writers who have dealt with this exhaustively along with other serious matters of concern.

As in his previous novel, “The Saga of Dharmapuri”, this novel also tells us something about his view of history. The present novel deals with the predicament of human beings caught in the whirlpool of “karma” and the realization that comes to them from different incidents and persons. Thus the whole world is replete with the presence of grace. Vijayan juxtaposes many historical incidents to prove this and also points to the pitiable state of man who repeats his deeds ignorantly. He criticizes the ways of history and says that it is nothing but a tale of murder and rape:

“Olga was upset.
‘Muder and rape’, she said, ‘will men never be sated with these dark rites?’
‘look at these ruins; they are the insatiety of history’

History is an ensemble of various battles fought by men and their ignorance. ‘The hollow realization’ comes only to a few while the rest are indulging in more sinful actions.

Beliram says,
“All this war, just to impart a child’s lesson to us!”
This is the knowledge that the Editor also shares:
“The editor had seen the revolutions he had been part of in his youth become govts. and his comrades become men of power”
“He had seen multitudes rise up to overthrow empires, and become new empires themselves; he had seen other multitudes rise and traverse the sterile wastes of history”

Vijayan’s criticism of the vulgarity that history deposits on the sands of time becomes sharp and pungent when he points to its continuation in the present. For instance, Allah Bux says that he has decided to have no cabaret in his hotel. He is a symbol of tradition. The cabaret that he finds around him reminds him of the molestation that the women of his country face.

He says,
“In my Dacca, Pakistani soldiers strip the girls naked, and parade them in the streets. The only difference between that and cabaret is one of location and circumstance”

Kunhunni also says the same,
“We have not grown enough to stop the violent dance which signifies the birth of nations”

In their blind and unscrupulous advancement, men have drifted away from the spirit of their nation and what it has gained.

“They pulled down the ivory mansions and in their place built dismal apartment blocks like catacombs. The chaste spirits of Ram Mohan Roy, the Brahmo Samajis, and Tagore stripped bare and whirled in a dance of submission before the immigrant trader. The invasion.”

The agonies of men are thrown into dark corners and pass onto the next generation unhealed.
“Man, in his fleeting existence, takes upon himself millennial agonies”.
Vijayan satirises the age old notion regarding history that it tells about what is gone and has nothing to do with the preent.

Kunhunni says,
“You may not have heard, comrade. It is the story of 1948. Prehistory. Forget about it.”

His flak is also directed against the way the historians report incidents twisting facts and without proper analysis.

“As I write this, all around me the machine-guns chatter…….or wait, make it the bazookas boom”.

It is only a child’s game for them and they pay little attention to the fact that it is upon this that the coming generation has to base its existence.

Vijayan is dissatisfied with the balance sheet of the historical incidents which are nothing but the stripping of women and murder. He looks for a realization which is abiding and would clear the future ways. Kunhunni tells about the Mahabharata war but emphasizes the greatest document it brought about:

“I was wrong Alla Bux. After this Mahabharata, it was not only the memory of the stripping of Draupadi which survived. Something else remained’.
‘What was that?’ asked Allah Bux.
‘The Bhagavad Gita’
‘May this war also leave us a Gita’. Allah Bux smiled”
Santhosh Kumar Kana

Thursday, January 14, 2010


                                          TITANIC AND THE UNSEEN ICEBERG

The reassertion of the fact that man is nothing before Nature irrespective of the magnitude of scientific discoveries and inventions.

The sinking of the Titanic has many things to tell us. Just as the ship is nothing before the vast ocean, the relationships in the ship are nothing before death. It is not the conflict between whether to die or live but how to die that is dominant in the tragedy.
All the attempts of man that defied Nature faced setbacks. Titanic, though the name implies unequalled power, also fails pathetically before Nature where human beings clamour for last breath. Problems like the preference demanded for the first class passengers and the consequent protest by other passengers etc. show us the helpless condition of humanity.

What happens inside Titanic is life, what comes in the form of iceberg is death. Death is a clown that has no stage manners.
“We think of life not when we live, but when someone dies”.

What is Titanic? An example for all of us to think about life and its impermanence. The merry ship quite unexpectedly turns out to be a tale of sorrow, sorrow in every nook and corner of it. The meaninglessness or money, prayer etc. before death is shown clearly in the film.

No doubt that the philosophy like existentialism flourished in Europe. Prayer, music etc. are some sort of consolation to humanity without which it would go mad. A mind without stability or anchor should either prefer death or madness. That is the nature of the mind. How religion, god etc. came into existence is clear from this. We all are in search of psychological anchors lest the ship of our mind should be lost or wrecked in the rough waves of life.

Thinking about the tragedy of Titanic makes every one unstable for a moment. It is like thinking about life after death or reducing the number of days of hope. But soon we harbour our ship.

Sea or the thought of it brings a sort of uncertainty or unstability. And if it is during night, it is more. Now imagine what must have gone through the minds of the passengers of Titanic on that doomed night?

Many immoral things would have happened at that time. Man is instinctual and the suppressed desires would have bursted out when death was certain.

If the ship remained on water, their minds wouldn’t have undergone a trauma. But the ship disappeared; everything was wiped out, leaving no footprint even on water but on history and in the minds of generations.

Santhosh Kumar Kana



The Poem ‘Mending Wall’ by Robert Frost is centered around all the possible attempts made by the speaker in the poem to convince his neighbor about the futility and the insignificance of building a wall or mending the gaps in the wall where according to him, Nature itself doesn’t prefer one. The wall can be said to symbolize religious, caste, racial, political differences or discriminations, social prohibitions, division of private property, border issues etc. But the focal point of the chief argument in the poem seems to be referring to diverse attempts of the speaker who by way of his arguments reveals or constructs himself to be more scientific, rational, broad and humane like his neighbor who is a closed individual. The contrast gets magnified when the speaker fails to convince his neighbor who sticks firmly to/within his built-in prejudices and notions.

The neighbor’s persona constructed thus by the speaker is of an uncompromising orthodox. The poem shows how one constructs the other-racial, linguistic and cultural constructions. The neighbor is constantly trying to resist cultural intrusions or conquests. The speaker’s attempt is not to transform his neighbor or to transfer him to his side or views but to make him rationalize his convictions. He seeks a justification for his deeds or beliefs. The neighbor is urged throughout to do a self-analysis. The speaker lays before him facts to facilitate this:

1. My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under your pine
2. There are no cows here to trespass into each one’s land
3. Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out and to whom I was like to give offence.

These arguments fail and the neighbor repeats, “Good fences make good neighbors”. The speaker wants the neighbor to say if nothing but “elves” typical to his beliefs and unscientific outlook. The speaker implies it when he says “I’d rather he said it for himself”. The neighbor is all notions built on irrationality. The speaker even says overtly that if only he could put at least his views like a “notion” in the neighbor’s head implying notions could facilitate a change in his views. The neighbor is referred to in the rudest terms as an ignorant, irrational, uncivilized Stone Age man. The speaker tries to avoid rhetoric throughout the poem. It is clear when he says, “Not of woods only and the shade of trees” (line No.41). He wants to put the notion in his head without a garb of pretence, jargons or rhetoric. The contrast is clear in the impervious neighbor’s repetition which is pure rhetoric “Good fences make good neighbors”.

The poem thus speaks less about the wall but more about forming a conviction, an attitude or ideology. The speaker intends to convey that ignorance persists in spite of his repeated attempts and down-to-earth logic. Like in Edward Albee’s ‘The Zoo Story’, the ‘you’ and ‘I’ divide gets stronger here.

The wall can be a symbol of Ego. It is ego which creates divisions; divisions are for possession and possession satisfies the ego and keeps it strong. Ego is born out of narrow conclusions and ignorance like the unwanted wall built in which one loses one’s true perception of self or reality. The wall of ego gets broken by the reality of life and the ignorant keep mending it. Rabindranath Tagore writes in the Gitanjali

“He whom I enclose with my name is weeping in this dungeon. I am ever busy building this wall all around; and as this wall goes up into the sky day by day I lose sight of my true being in its dark shadow. I take pride in this great wall, and I plaster it with dust and sand lest a least hole should be left in this name; and for all the care I take I lose sight of my true being”.
(Passage No.29)

The poem can also be read as a poetic version of Reader-Response criticism. A text is no finished product and it is the reader who breaks the built-in conclusions about it and gives it new meaning. The conventional reader keeps mending the gaps and resists any new reading. The basis of deconstructive reading is expanding the gaps in a text.


Religion vs Politics