I have raided the labyrinthine tomb of the Prince of Darkness and stolen from Him the map of evil. When He thought I was sightless, I could see, and thus as He walked me through the substance of His name I saw every single path that leads to the heart of darkness. So that I might do this, I had to shroud myself and all I loved in lies, turning them into things of ugliness and filth, so that He did not bother to spit upon them as we passed. To Him the lies were a mirror. When the working was completed the mirror was smashed, but each sliver became sharp as a hooked tooth and lodged like shrapnel in my body, except that as each gash opened to the blade it closed up again behind. One by one the hooks failed, tearing through flesh, then flailing in the void. They started as red hot iron, but once their hold was broken they turned into a spume of filthy bubbles, a smear of slime, a thing a dying man might cough up on a gunmetal grey morning. Into the void I threw them all, applying the boot as needed. Just one scarred me as it went down, the reward of a moment’s inattention.
The map says there is only one way forward into the future, and it involves the death of everything we think we know. Those things that now line the gutter will be gods, and the gods will fall to the gutter. If you doubt this, ask yourself what (or who) are the five filthiest words in every language. You can always diagnose a culture by what it regards as dirt. Then ask who gets to clean it up.
The bad news is, the world is ending. The good news is, if we build survivariums in our heads, and maybe around our bodies, the world might begin again. If our children wish it.
Farewell. This blog is now closed. Thank you for reading. Enough talk. Time to get to work.
I submit to you a social experiment. What would be the effect on the state of human civilisation if, today at say 8pm simultaneously all over the world, we could give every boy child a cuddly male doll that was not an action figure, a superhero, a cowboy or an animal yet was indescribably cute? What would be the effect on the development of the next generation of males and thus of the owners of 90 percent of the world’s resources if we could give some plush blue version of such a doll to every son on the planet? And no snatching afterwards; you know the rules.
…that I have to announce that comments will be henceforth closed on this blog. This is after spending the holidays clearing more than 7,000 spam comments from my pending tray. Very sorry if any genuine comments got deleted too. But I’m simply too busy to go through this shit, and it felt like demons were shouting in my head.
Today I want to talk to you about Chittagong. Not the place, though that is dear to my heat, but the film. It has taken me about a week to get my shattered thoughts back into line after seeing it. It is arguably the greatest Hindi movie to be made on a Bengali theme ever. From the first chase sequence to the opening dolly shot it is visual poetry, but the storytelling!!! I do not want to give away the plot or the anything about this movie, because I want you to go and see it. The distributors in their demoniac wisdom have priced it at Rs 230 a ticket, but that’s less than what you spent on your Pujor jama, right? As for what it’s about, i will only tell you through a poem. This is from Antisense, and it’s called Zigsa’s Fall.
It’s all lies, what they say about drowning.
We fell from one water to another
And when we go
For a moment, as the water rushes in
We are as we were, connected
Hanging from the Tree of Life
Downward into the world.
So there is bliss, at the end of all there is bliss
Because Big Sister says Stop it.
I am here.
On Wednesday evening, a rural schoolteacher was shot in the back and chest in front of Gobardanga Station where he had just got off the 4.26 local. Not knowing he was minutes from death, he called his uncle to tell him he’d been shot, described the attacker and stated that the man had sat next to him on the train. Barun Biswas thought he would survive: hadn’t he stood against a gang that had terrorised the village of Sutia for eleven years? He didn’t make it.
From 1992 to 2003, Sutia was the ‘rape village’ where gangs of men 70 strong would burst into people’s homes and rape mothers, daughters, grandmothers, children, all the while beating them with sticks and shouting obscenities. Women were pulled from van rickshaws, robbed and thrown in the mud to be brutalised for hours, abducted from pondsides, or dragged out of their homes. Men stood by helplessly or hid their faces. For some women, this happened countless times. The attackers saw the villagers’ ignorance of their rights, their instinctive distrust of the ‘babus’ and the state apparatus, physical terror and lack of unity as opportunities to be exploited; they saw the rapes as both an enforcement tool and a form of ‘taxation’. Till the one person who knew how the state was supposed to work decided to use his brains against them. Barun Biswas did not arm the villagers, he did not form vigilance committees or counter-attack systems. Instead, he talked. He met with local law enforcers, magistrates, panchayat members and he supported villagers who came forward to register cases. he helped them gather evidence, he collected testimonies and he built a case against five of the worst offenders. They were put away for life.
This was not victory: there were still remnants of the gang around, because the bosses had been generous with the spoils and unemployed local youth had got hooked on the money and the power. Barun Biswas continued to work for the economic uplift of his area, intending to cut the goons’ supply of followers at the source. He wasn’t given the opportunity to finish it. Now his people are leaderless, and they fear the bad times will come back. Had he been allowed to complete his work, they would have been able to go on without him. Hence the urgency that prompted his enemies to send a hired killer from out of town. ‘Kill him where they can see him,’ was the order. It wasn’t a murder, it was an execution.
Barun Biswas died happy because he had lived his dream. He had stood beside what he believed in and shown that anyone with the guts to do that can win. He had set an example for his village and now the ball is in their court, to pick up his legacy and carry on. I am sure he would have liked to do more, but the principle of the thing was proven in the nine years of peace he won for Sutia. If one man can do that, what greater things could a whole village, united in his memory, accomplish?
So let’s have a special kind of silence for Barun Biswas. For a designated period, which could be one minute or one lifetime, you choose, we will not say, ‘She asked for it’, or ‘What was she wearing?’ or ‘Men are pigs’, or ‘What can anyone do?’ or ‘You have brought shame on this house’, or ‘Be more careful next time’. We will not say, ‘Men can’t understand/don’t care what a woman goes through’, or ‘That doesn’t happen in our neighbourhood’, or ‘You have to understand the frustration of today’s youth exposed to television’, or ‘Ban pornography’, or ‘Get them married off, it will solve everything’. Because all this stuff is predator-talk. It’s the gabble of the prey lining up to be preyed on, and the snarling of the predators getting ready to feed. Let’s not be either. Let’s shame the criminals, not the victims, let’s say ‘Rapists are thieves of happiness and freedom’, or ‘We will not be cowed by violence’ or ‘We won’t forget you or betray you’. Let’s say, ‘I’m glad you survived’, or ‘Well done, you’re still here,’ or ‘Yes, we will help you file an FIR’, or ‘Yes, we will conduct a post-rape examination and bag the evidence correctly’. Let’s tell the women, ‘Don’t cry, get angry, tell your stories, join together like you did when you picketed the police station and yelled slogans against the killer. Check on each other, stay in touch, keep tabs, be vigilant, don’t be afraid to call for help and report, report, report. If they get you, submit, go limp, scream but don’t plead for mercy. They feed on that shit.
There’ only one solution. We all have to become Barun Biswas.
Rimi B. Chatterjee
In my book Antisense I do not mean to say that only women can rule the world, I mean to say that only women can be beautiful while doing it. Women’s beauty is the most transformative power there is. That is why modern society is making war on it. Our media have made it possible to broadcast the beauty of women over long distances, and that is what they primarily do, but they also contribute to the backlash of our age, which is the worldwide war on women’s beauty. Young girls are being asked to die if their beauty does not conform to some iron-maiden definition. Think of the average fare on our televisions. Think of what you see the most of as you flip through the channels. Whose face adorns every ad, whose legs, whose hands, whose eyes are everywhere? At one and the same time, we are watching images of such beauty they take your breath away being beamed into our households, and at the same time we have the censoring of that beauty, the cutting out (with knives? Hot wax? Torture?) of all loveliness that does not conform to the iron-maiden standards of modern patriarchy, the shaming and ruining of every fat, dark, slouchy, tall, hairy or skinny body. We have the great loves stories and the wonderful dances and films and even great porn to look at (just click a button), and at the same time we have the razor-edged discourse of ugliness, the final despair that is supposed to drive us mad.
Ask whether anyone, male or female, can think of a moment when their mother gave them a cake she baked, or put salve on a wound, or scolded them for being so lazy they’d ruin their lives, that wasn’t softly shining with beauty. Think of all such images we see around us, of which the roses, the satin cushions, the delicate tints are all symbols of that mother beauty. The first beauty we learn is her. Look at men’s obsession with women’s bodies. No religion has ever been able to suppress it. No dictatorship has ever stamped out motherhood. The internet is full of it, it is the single largest database in the world. Utopia is within us, it is where we came from, it is something we will produce again for the next people in line to inhabit the earth. This is why the wisest religions have always worshipped sex. And this is why our civilisation, where the word for sex is a swearword, is doomed unless we change. Rape is the ultimate act against civilisation, it is the turning back of the clock on the species, it is the ultimate unadaptive trait, to make war on the mother. This is why every battered woman should turn around to her man and say, ‘Don’t you dare.’ It is why every raped woman should say those words to her tormentor. How dare he disrespect the thing he came from, because if he does that he might as well lay down and die.
Every dictatorship in the world has always relied on women to suck it all up and get busy producing the next generation. It didn’t matter how much they wasted, how many mother’s sons were cut to pieces, because the women were just a punching match away from giving the men the next batch. It’s time the world’s women said, we will not be battery hens. We will not give you sons to cut down on the highway, kill with drugs or send up in airplanes to crash and burn. We won’t give you daughters to sell into slavery, or cut open in your cold hospitals or beat up in the privacy of your homes. We won’t marry you and vote for you and peck you on the cheek in public. We won’t be accessories to you or to the fact. We’ll fight and we’ll keep the clinics open and we’ll exercise our right to abort every damn one of your babies until you give us the world we want. Go on, beat us up all you want. We’ll find ways. You have to keep us alive if you want kids out of us, that’s why you never kill the women when you win, just shame them. Just cow them down. Woman-terror belongs to half the human race. It is therefore the most widespread cultural practice across the globe. Nothing compares to it. Every single culture you can name oppresses its women, even the socalled matriarchies. Certainly all of the signatories to the UN charter are patriarchies. How many of them are democracies, or dictatorships, or oligarchies? Doesn’t matter. They all of them subscribe to one junta philosophy: keep the women down. This is the true war on terror we should be fighting. This is what the world’s armies should turn their attention to. If they can stop men dominating women, they will save the world.
Our very own No Strings Attached, comprising Sujoy, Diptanshu, Subhayu and assorted bods, will play on Friday 22 June 2012 at Vivekananda Hall, Subarna Jayanti Building (opposite Milonda’s canteen) at Jadavpur University from 6 to 7. This is a benefit concert for the doggies. As we can’t charge a gate, there will be donation boxes going round for anyone who wants to help us sterilise, vaccinate, treat and feed the dogs of JU. Everyone please come and unwind after the drama of BAdmissions 2012 (tomorrow, yikes).
Occupy Kolkata today 4pm to 8pm South City Mall. I will be there from 5.30pm. Bring cameras.
Some time in the early hours tomorrow morning, the planet Venus will cross the disk of the sun. I probably won’t see it as the sun isn’t visible from my home at that hour because of all the buildings. But I know Venus is out there and I know it’s waiting. I am currently outlining Tira’s plan to colonise Venus using the water from a rogue moon that’s about to hit the earth in 2734. Interestingly, planets colliding is a kind of trope these days: Lars von Trier’s Melancholy, being one such tale and Mike Cahill’s Another Earth as well. It’s probably just another symptom of the end times.
In other news, I see that the Dutch company Mars One is is planning to set up a permanent colony on Mars by 2023. Colonists ‘will not be allowed to return home’ presumably because life in a lowgrav environment will make them unfitted for repatriation. This is a major reason why colonising venus ought to be a bigger priority. As Paul Birch and others have outlined, colonising Venus would be safe, cheap and produce a returnable human population, because Venus’s gravity is just a few percentage points less than earth’s. Yes, Venus has a surface pressure of 95 atmospheres and is chock full of sulphuric acid droplets and carbon dioxide, but that’s like trying to establish a colony at the bottom of the sea. Not many people know that Venus has one atmosphere pressure and 25 degrees average temperature at about 50km above the surface. It also has superrotating winds at this altitude, but these paradoxically make up for the lack of rotation of the planet as the colonies can ride them like kites or balloons. If you were to take the room you are sitting in, encase it in a tough, acid-proof membrane and float it at 50km above Venus’s surface, it would float quite nicely, and move at a brisk clip with the prevailing winds. A communications satellite could keep pace with it, and the abundant solar energy from both above and below as well as the CO2 would be ample for making food in hydroponic farms. By contrast, Mars is cold, dusty, carbon-poor, lowgrav and pretty boring.
If we wanted to be modest and unambitious, we could simply live on our floating city, which would be quite safe because even though we would be moving at several hundred kmph, there’s nothing to hit up there. We’d have to monitor our membrane to make sure te speeds didn’t ablate it, but since the canopy is not pressurised a small rip would not cause blowout; it could be sealed at leisure. It would be quite cost effective to just let the colony sit there, but we could also, if we were ambitious, begin terraforming processes that would complete maybe in a century or so and result in another livable world with oceans, archipelagoes etc. That’s what my people in Antisense will eventually end up doing.
My point is, it would cost a lot less and have better longterm outcomes to go to Venus rather than Mars. Mars has become a cultural icon of the military and political aspirations of Western capitalism, a barren man-world, a god of war to be appropriated by warriors in glorified suicide missions. Venus is too fem, to easy, too pretty. So all we get for Venus is small probes with cute names sampling atmosphere and getting little banners on the Nasa website. No heroic rovers chomping rocks on a cold planet.
Stories and fiction have a different take, though. The collaborative fictive world Orion’s Arm has a sub-thread relating to the terraforming of Venus. Occasionally people will envisage floating bordellos and the like (coz this is Venus, remember). In real life, only the Russians have successfully gotten anything to the surface. The Japanese with zero fanfare have launched the world’s first solar sail expedition to Venus (my colonists will use two very large solar sails). It’s called Ikaros and has missed its first docking opportunity but JAXA is hopeful of getting another chance to insert it in the future, maybe 2015 or 2016. It’s still orbiting the sun and is under mission control.
Exclusively for the readers of my blog, I am putting up a taster of my new book Antisense in the form of the rough draft of the first fifteen thousand words. Please read and if you like quote with attribution and without changes except elisions. And people, I want comments! No lurking! You are my team of beta readers, I need your help to get this show on the road. Especially if you’re a publisher.
And here it is in PDF form. Antisense: draft, first fifteen thousand words