Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Activism and Casablanca

Generally despondent over the dismal current situation and future prospects of grassroots activism in this country I recently got a psychological boost from an old resource that I rely on from time to time. A friend of mine who is a classical singer went to Morocco to perform in a concert. When I asked her whether she had visited Casablanca, she said that she had. But when I asked her further whether she had seen the Hollywood film Casablanca she replied in the negative. The film Casablanca has been categorised as a romantic drama but yet it has now, almost 70 years after its first release in 1941, assumed the fame of being one of the best films ever made. I do not know why so many people like this film so much and not being a film critic I also do not know why connoisseurs of cinema too regard it to be a masterpiece. However, I have always been moved by the character of Rick Blaine played by Humphrey Bogart in his typical understated style of acting. And I was prompted to see the film again as I have a CD with me for occasional viewing at just such moments of depression.
Rick is outwardly a bored American but small hints in the film reveal that he has fought on the side of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War against General Franco and he has supplied guns to the Ethiopians to fight the imperialist Italians before coming to Casablanca. And he is also a romantic with the bitterness of a deep love for a woman who has spurned him. However, he is not a full blown resistance fighter or activist and instead partakes of the best and worst of both worlds in Casablanca where he is running a casino.
I first saw Casablanca at the age of 43 at a stage in my life when it had become clear that the idealistic goals that I had had as a young man would not be realised and that I would have to make many compromises and tread in both the worlds of activism and moneymaking. I got a very balanced view of life from that first encounter with the film and it has served as a tonic of pragmatism at times of despondency ever since. The film while portraying both the idealism of freedom fighters and the mercenary and corrupt nature of society in general still ends on an idealistic note as both Rick and the Police Chief do something that is noble and liberating in the end.
The importance of the idealism portrayed in Casablanca was driven home to me a day later when I read Aravind Adiga's Booker Prize winning novel "White Tiger". This book valorizes the lumpen criminalisation of the protagonitst Balram and seems to give the message that in today's corrupt milieu the only way the poor and under privileged can rise up from their "darkness" is by emulating the unprincipled ways of the rich. That such books with little to recommend them either in content or style are getting literary awards is an indication of how far the modern world has slipped into materialistic nothingness.

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