Monday, June 18, 2007

Real, image and the imaginary

When US billionaire Samuel Zell, in a recent remark, said, “India's greatest asset today is everyone's imagination,” he was, perhaps, laughing at the state of affairs in this once-mysterious sub continent. That Zell's chief intention was to downplay the recent 'India Poised' media hype is evident to anyone in the first reading itself. But what about the pun in his word 'imagination', which he himself might have failed to capture at that moment?

Ever since, we know that 'imagination' has been a key element for any ailing artist anywhere in this country who wants to hit the media headlines and who won't mind a bit of pampering from cultural celebrities. All that the artist needs to do is to simply draw from his 'imagination' a few female nude pictures and say that the figures hidden under his strokes are goddesses and that representing them in this way is his freedom of expression. Religious fanatics, considering this a real or imaginative threat to their religion, will immediately take necessary measures so as to make sure that the nation's spiritual tradition is secure. On the same note, 'imagination' is also a key element for the leader of a less known religious sect who has to dress himself up like another religious Guru for reasons known for the former alone. Consequently, this 'imaginative' threat to one's religion can be quashed only through protests on the streets in which all the believers have to brandish their swords.

Similarly, a high level of 'imagination,' which flies in the face of media ethics, is required for a newspaper organization to conduct a public survey in which the audience have to answer, 'who will be the political heir (legitimate or otherwise) of the influential artist-legislator, Mr. X?' If the legislator's son 'A' tops the list, then son 'B' will vandalize the newspaper office along with his goons, while nothing less harmful could be expected if the survey had it the opposite.

But Zell's sarcasm failed to notice the assertive mandate of a substantial number of people in a politically vibrant region of the country. 'Imagination' had played a great role in their politics when they thwarted, in the name of caste and partisan politics, every developmental initiative in their State for years. Of late, they have realized that Manuwadis and Mlechas are 'imagined' concepts and the problem of underdevelopment is what is more real and relevant to their day-to-day life. And, as readers, we know that this is true, when newspapers report with glee that the elected members of this State have recently allowed the Governor of the State to complete his speech, without being interrupted, in the assembly for the first time in last 19 years. It is, perhaps, in this context that Zell's fellow country man Bob Dylan once crooned, “How many times must a booth be captured/ Before the EC says, 'friend, this is no jungle raj anymore.'” Which means, many more sectarian clashes are in store for the country, till the time its citizens are mature enough to differentiate between the real and the imaginary.

Postscript: Non-inclusion of keywords within the text is deliberate.

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