Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Of going and reading

I want to go There. I have got to go. To the grassroots, to see with my own eyes. I want to have had a first-hand experience, I want to go and see for myself what it's like to be there, in the middle of it. Till you go, you know nothing. I want to feel the misery that they feel, the life and times that they breathe in and breathe out daily. I want to experience the anguish and the savagery, the pain and the dim ray of hope, which, like the glow of an incandescent bulb on a faraway hill, is lonesome in its existence. Only, they may not have electricity there. 

I want to observe and I want to capture it in my words. I want to understand what's happening, not from a far corner while travelling in swanky metro or sitting in the comfort of my home. That's why I took up journalism and am into law, isnt' it? To give a meaning to my love for the written word..to do what I like best; to do and to conjoin it with a 'purpose'. Now is the time to go, to see, to observe, to be. I know it in my blood.


Would liberty, justice, democracy and rights seem incoherent There? And do the arms of bureaucracy and law and the mumbo-jumbo of sovereign socialist democratic republic mean anything to Them? Where people fight and die for what is legally their own. Where what is their fundamental right is taken away from Them and a banal statute is thrown at their faces when questions are raised. I talk of not one place, I just talk of a place called 'There'. I talk of not a particular group, I talk of 'Them'. I talk not of a region, I talk of its living, breathing, seething, sighing, crying yet muted people.

Over the years, we have seen situations change. We know how inimitable series of action and reaction leaves behind the core issues as debates are politicized, governments are elected and ousted, scams are carried on and busted and news gets broken. Changes take place but nothing really changes. I want to go to that zone where it has ceased to matter. And there's no dearth of 'Theres' here, is there?

When Jeremy Bentham talked of Utilitarianism - he perforated the idea succinctly into "the greatest good for the greatest number of people'..classic Utilitarianism has been rejected by many, but the idea stands and sounds good to the ears -- till you find yourself standing among the smaller number of people standing for your legitimate right. Whether it be land acquisition, positive discrimination, regionalism or plain simple class hierarchy.

I wish I could just go..no philanthropy there, I want to go for me. To the places of unrest, to the ravines and the villages where nothing reaches, to perhaps help teach a class in some remote settlement, to the valley of unrest and unemployment. I don't know what my mission is, but I won't be without a cause.


Today I read a chapter out of Amartya Sen's excellent book "Development as Freedom". The essay, titled "Culture and Human Rights" talks of three different yet interspersed critiques of the prevalent concept of human rights, freedom, duties and justice. Towards the end  he defends what is so-called "Asian values" in a bid to quash the popular and accepted notion that liberty, rights, freedom, democracy, atheism, skepticism and other such ideas are predominantly Western by origin. He takes us through Asian history, through the times of Ashoka and Kautilya and does a comparative analysis of Asian writings with that of Western thought. He argues that though Indian culture did not emphatically strive for egalitarian form of society and that 'duties' instead of 'rights' were the guiding principles, but the concepts which are now termed Western were very much there, yet blended in a dissimilar cultural tone. He talks of tolerance and popular perceptions about Hinduism and Islam as historically being 'authoritative' till the liberal Western thought came along. He differs from the popular perception and gives interesting proofs about cross-cultural influences in the past which make sure today that no modern concept is completely Western or completely Eastern. That there has to be a sophisticated, more complex view about what is loosely, wrongfully, and 'over-simply' termed 'Asian values', 'African culture' and so on. Not only are these thoughts shallow but also add to the divisiveness among Nation States, when the need is to recognize 'diversity' within different cultures.

Not only was the read interesting, but I also got an idea how theories are formed and presented. How assumptions and presuppositions made and how random observations ought to be sewn.