The Dawn is No Longer an Illusion

A third-rater driven by nothing but market fundamentalism is always full of himself. And doesn’t even notice it. Despite all his fatty acid megalomania and methodical mediocrity even alleged ‘youth icon’ Chetan Bhagat might not be a jaded, jarring, heartless “heartthrob” of much of ‘young box office urban India’ in contemporary times. It’s just that we are often victims of morbid clichés, stereotypes and misunderstandings, and even while the tyranny of both method and mediocrity rules our market-driven ‘life seductions’, life is not all that boring, or status-quoist, or in perpetual motion of stasis and stagnation, or wallowing eternally in the pigsty of self-glorified conformism.

Most often, compulsively artificial ‘Modi-fied’ cheerleaders like Bhagat— a crass opportunist, covert and overt— all products of the shallow vacuity of the buy-one- get-two-free era, do not even deserve the non-biodegradable garbage bin of history, so meaningless are their daily utterances, stated opinion or absence of opinion, their sacred spaces of their unilateral success. But, if an addicted and uncritical market decides to be obsessive with a sucked up brand, even a sucked up lollypop stick appears juicy. That was the sordid saga till yesterday. Manufactured consent as instant nirvana. Not so, anymore.

Something has finally snapped, and no synthetic juices can fill the emptiness of the void, the anger of the angst. It simmers like an invisible road show across the Indian landscape, across big cities, small towns, villages and moffusils, even as the wings of desire and fire spread from across borders and distant borderlines, from Tunisia to Tahrir to Shahbag Square. Or, from internal conflict zones like Niyamgiri to Posco to Abhujhmad to Kudankulam, if these indicators at all make sense, to all those with eyes wide shut in a society where genocides have become so commonplace, bloody or bloodless, as in Gujarat or in Vidharba.

Hence, perhaps, we should stop dreaming about JNU as the first choice of young resistance and radical students politics in the multiple rainbow coalitions of dissent and dream in this fragmented LoC landscape of prime time jingoism, war and peace. As second choice, we must ask the students of IIT Chennai, or Loyola College in the same metro, for instance, so why are they so deeply disturbed about the genocide in Sri Lanka; or what does it mean, mixing the rising graph of cushioned careers and censored, monitored, sanitised ambitions with something so ghastly and grotesque and right on our faces?

How do they strike a meaningful chord with thousands murdered in cold blood in some other country, or patients bombed inside hospitals, or children shot in cold blood after the offer of a snack, or surrendered innocents with white flags killed as a public spectacle, or women tortured and gangraped inside unknown interrogation chambers, or journalists, citizens, dissidents just vanishing from full public view even while ‘certain’ notorious white vans speed past in the uncanny whiteness, like angels of death. So, which are the truest of true, the Silicon dreams, the Silicon implants inside uncomplicated minds, or these Silicon murders, as if the colour of both blood and fear is white, icy white, clotted white?

Even the various ossified ruling regimes and dynasties in Tamil Nadu have been taken by surprise; students across the state (and in Delhi and elsewhere) are demanding justice for the dead and the living, and fundamental human rights, and freedom of self determination and self identity for the Tamils in Sri Lanka, many of them, literally, trapped in modern concentration camps. They are also demanding that those who organized and executed the carnage and rapes, led by the murderous Big Brothers of Colombo, they too should face the doctrine of injustice and justice. So why are they doing this, and not reading a box office best seller of non-biodegradable pulp?

This is like a sudden dark theatre which has spread, without any help of TRP ratings, or the corporate media, or the subsidized fat cat market with insatiable greed, this is an anti-didactic street play which is fast becoming a chartbuster, in the subaltern twilight zones of young protest, across the zigzag which marks the unwritten chapters of the eternally shifting autobiography of what market fundamentalists call the “New India, the Aspirational India, the India of the Upwardly Mobile,” all beneficiaries of the neo-liberal perks and privileges, even while most of India is trapped in a malnourished rat trap, eternally suffering in silence.

Ah, what a transparent tunnel vision, what a mechanical mindset, what a failure of both, quick thought or imagination. Truly, this is a classic case of bloated megalomania turned upside down. As Nietzsche said, if you gaze at the abyss for too long, the abyss too will gaze at you.

Surely, a new enlightenment is knocking at our doors: Knock knock! Can we hear it? Something has snapped so suddenly that it becomes as clear as daylight. And while they forever look at camera friendly crowds or banal TV coverage or the mindless hysteria on prime time, we miss out the quiet margins, the abyss on the threshold, the slow turning of the tide, the little game-changers, the insomnia of eternal anger and restlessness, the sleepless days and the wakeful nights, the music of the soul, the soul of the music.

We miss the ghettos of our minds and our social fabric. We miss the little and big dots against the Cartesian, third rate, unoriginal ad jingles of the dreamless monotony of lit-shit fests and the consumer society, where the ‘author’ and the ‘seller’ is forever blabbering about a clinically constructed world that does not exist. No, it’s not a fair and lovely world. It stinks. And we don’t like it one bit anymore. No one does.

On the International Women’s Day, it was the huge big banner demanding justice for Soni Sori which fluttered on the streets and in the heart of Delhi, where all the women’s groups, together, wrote the graffiti of a radically different, feminist, life affirming, egalitarian social order. One girl student, yes, from JNU, shouted slogans, while another, held a make-shift loud speaker on her shoulder: Hume chaahiye Azaadi…. Soni Sori ko chaahiye Azaadi…Irom Sharmila ko Azaadi… Shopian girls ko Azaadi… Bekhauf Azaadi! (We want freedom, Soni Sori wants freedom, Irom Sharmila wants Freedom, Fearless Freedom.)

There is no escape from freedom in this continuous rebellious chant as students from across the spectrum moved in hundreds and thousands, day after day since the Delhi gang-rape, hitting the streets with their banners and posters and paintings and slogans, singing the songs of liberation, staring straight at both the male gaze and the absolute abyss. Always on the edge. But resolute and resilient. Untouched by the State’s and the market’s cold blooded inhumanity.

No, they are not fudging, even when they are eclectic and refreshingly without dogmatic, one-dimensional sectarianism or arrogance. They are both consistent and spontaneous, authentic and meaningful, brilliant and radical, and they are moving into many cycles of class paradigms, from the poorest to the upper classes, re-shifting both the gaze and the abyss, turning the dialectic upside down once again, redesigning a social fabric which has become fossilized, moronic and oppressive across the bodies and fingers and lips and eyes of identities in this so unlucky country.

They are documenting and protesting against every little injustice which stalks this landscape; they are blogging, making films, writing graffiti, jotting notes on facebook, writing poetry and songs, defying cops, defying institutions of conformity and oppression, joining grassroots struggles, entering new terrains, creating new scaffolding for struggles inside and outside of campuses, building new relationships of politics and love, staking their careers and academic life – because what use is a book if knowledge does not liberate?

If this is a new aspiration, it is breaking all the indicators of false consciousness and the abcd and xyz of success. This stream of consciousness is authentic. It has snapped from the market lullabies of the neo-liberal order designed by the corporates, the feudals and the patriarchs. It has shifted the paradigm.

And this is happening, this has happened, across the little dots on the map across India: from Ballia to Siliguri to Udaipur to Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai. It has been relentless in silence or in expressed anger, as now in Tamil Nadu, even as JNU students and AISA marched once again to the external affairs ministry in Delhi demanding justice against the genocide in Sri Lanka. These are waves which we will miss at our own peril even as the margins merge with the mainstream in sublime synthesis.

Check out the youth protest against Narendra Modi in Delhi University. It still reverberates with ferocity in its non-violent militancy, shaking the foundations of the university’s eternally Right-wing students’ politics, bringing teachers and students across the barricades, despite the police beatings, the water cannons, the false police cases. Or, the reverberations across the students and faculty at Wharton, it moves across locations and demography and it tells a simple truth: Once a mass murderer, always a mass murderer.

That is why, even as a top English paper so ruthlessly and with such crassness called Hugo Chavez a top US-baiter, in its lead headline on the front page one day after his death, the social network was full of Chavez, Chavez, Chavez. The Guardian showcased his extraordinary work in the reduction of poverty and the ushering in of equality despite the US-backed mafia doing every bit to oust him. Others counted the friendships he forged across Latin America to break the imperialist rat trap of banana republics, so poignantly documented in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Others walked with 10 million people, with his dead, young body, across the streets of Caracas, and on the byways of grief, including in India, in both homage, and with the promise, that this world must change.

Yes, this world must change. It’s time to write a different novel and short story. Make a different movie. Forge new unities across barricades. Pen new Haikus of hope and resistance and love and sexuality. Whistle a new tune in the darkness.

As the old slogan in El Salvador said, much much before Chavez arrived: The Dawn is No Longer an Illusion.

Amit Sengupta started journalism when he was 19, even while he was working in the relief camps as a student of JNU after the State sponsored genocide of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984. Since then, he has been an independent president of the JNU Students' Union, writer, activist and editor, closely involved with multiple people's movements and conflict zones in contemporary India. He was Executive Editor, Hardnews magazine, South Asian partner of Le Monde Diplomatique, Paris. He has earlier worked as a senior editor and journalist with Tehelka, Outlook, The Hindustan Times, Asian Age, The Pioneer, The Economic Times and Financial Chronicle. Till recently he has been a professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.

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