The Myth of Russian Roulette
This portion is going to be a sustained contemplation on the Indian chance of facing death. A philosophy for the Form-for-death was expected to furnish the plural paths for growth of talents but with the death of Mahatma Gandhi, this opportunity was systematically obliterated from the mainstream political thinking. A kind of state-building mania took precedence over the needs of holistic habitat thinking. The national goals drafted by the constituent assembly and parliamentary sessions were more of meta goals and showed less and less of coherence with individual, vernacular and subaltern visions. These meta-goals were built on elitist stances depriving non-modern voices any space in it. The minds of ‘free’ Indians were filled with the dreams of ‘anglicized’ prosperity through the modes of planned growth. The ever-present element of death was never allowed to work its magic into the scheme of things.
The understanding of dying was subverted away from the possibility of a creative praxis and replaced with a gambling mindset associated with Russian roulette. Here, for Indians, the only presented path of nation-building was just one form of development in tune with urban, westernized, semi-socialist-cum-semi-liberal agenda. No other form of development was allowed in a political, economic or cultural sense. The other forms were doomed, became extinct or were cleansed.
What is being tried to explain is that even the dying was constructed in public mind as a game of gambling the way two gamblers play in Russian Roulette’s version of death. It was reduced into an ‘either-or’ game. It was not a construction rather a constriction. There was no functional space for an old person, a differently- abled person, a non-literate folklorist or a tribal on their own conditions. Death was built into a sudden explosive which eliminates the individual instantly from the slate of existence but the reality is that the process of dying is like engaging live with the death.
The strength behind death is not about its power to eliminate rather it is about the fear of elimination. Actually, we don’t live life; we live the fear of death. The compulsive construction of this fear in the course of political socialization today is a questionable element. That is why it is needed to replace the imagined fear of death with the imagined performance with death. That also makes dying more questful than living. It happens breath by breath; it does not lie in the future rather it is always in the present. The process of dying is, in a way, also the process of living.
What Paulo Coelho says is not just a literary performance but this is a classic choice which can be exercised by any individual whoever, whatever or wherever he/she is. The common mass of Indians was made to believe that a modern, prosperous and globalized India would be a deathless wonder. Even time was redefined nationally. The entire India was made to look towards a future which was not synchronous in any way with the local times i.e. the conception of time nurtured by the locals spread over different parts of India. This was a kind of a very subtle and constructed balkanization of cultural spaces through uniformizing time. There emerged a solidification of mainstream time in contrast to peripheral time thusby making the notion of choice a politically essential and hence a volatile issue.
This kind of public culture was quite paradoxical. Death of the self was projected to be a non-possibility but the death of the other was being made into an option more and more available as an alternative morality. A clear disjunction between the ends and the means for different strata of people started emerging. The construction of debates like ‘rural vs. urban’, ‘english vs. vernacular’, ‘modern vs. traditional’ was made by those on the favorable side of development to present a liberal face but the basic division of centre and periphery in the modelling of independent India was always dominant at all levels. This kind of working created and strengthened the alienation both at the top and at the bottom which delinked people from their fellows, environment and cultural heritage. Thus, narcisstic structures and identities built around Indian state transformed death of the other into the indirect elimination of the other and later on, killing of the other as a viable political method.Such a formation of Indian public culture was happening at a pace much hidden and faster than we could ever imagine. The rapid urbanization of living styles, the spread of a centrally controlled educational curriculum in learning minds and shifting of symbols from cultural to political happened in a vastly under-studied manner. From a much autonomous life to highly market and state-dependent living styles, India did not change only rather it underwent recasting in whole somewhere and in parts somewhere else.