Friday, February 19, 2010

Ah, that doppelganger…

Narrated in first person and, as is usually the case with such narration, holding a seemingly singular point of view, which, in fact, is only deceptively singular here--- there can be multiple entry points for Murder of Marx. Tussle with one's alter ego; fumbling-grappling with and finally dropping the ideology; and a frenzied network of human relations that is punctuated and accentuated by a jarred and jerky but remarkably lucid plot, confirming the writer's command over his form.

The writer? No. One must avoid using this nomenclature here, as Giriraj Kiradoo requests in the beginning that we treat him as a fictional character. Aapki badi kripa hogi agar aap is kahani ke lekhak aur uske naam Giriraj Kiradoo ko bhi kalpnik maan len.
Now, one can put it aside as mere rhetoric but it also raises an ontological problem. For, if he is a fictional being, denouncing all his rights over the text, who then wrote Murder of Marx? Who created the blog, where I read this fable? (It's not a short story, at least that's what Kiradoo would like to make us believe. It's a modern parable, he'd say.)
Or should I also call myself a fictional being and claim that this text I write now and post on my blog was written and posted by a fictional Ashutosh Bhardwaj, and let the two fictional beings --- Ashutosh Bhardwaj and Giriraj Kiradoo--- and their texts coexist or collide against each other in this virtual space?
Who writes and who reads, the eternal question can easily be resolved by asserting no one wrote, no one read, or better still, everyone wrote and everyone read.

After resolving the ontological concern though, arises the epistemological issue--- what is the epistemic legitimacy of a text which was written and read by none or everyone?

Before that, what's in the text of Murder of Marx?

First the frenzied relations, which, in their inconsequential namelessness become the victim of great adjectives--- Akhmatova, Muktibodh, Shergill.
Hum mahan naamon ko wese hi pehan lete the jese hamari naamhinta humen.
Ironically here, Kiradoo, who earlier denounces his and others' names (Hegel, Marx, Muktibodh et al) as fictional, is now concerned about the righteousness of the exercise of carrying certain names. What accounts for this sudden reverence towards these adjectives? Shouldn't he have considered that in a realm where he claims every proper noun is fictional, it makes absolute no sense in lamenting at using such names as adjectives?
Precisely here, the author, Kiradoo, who is trying hard to obliterate his traces from the text, sneaks in from the backdoor. One cannot take his request (Aapki badi kripa hogi agar aap is kahani ke lekhak aur uske naam Giriraj Kiradoo ko bhi kalpnik maan len) at face value. The text bears his genetic helix and it can be deciphered only in that light.
A slight inconsistency in the text reduces what could otherwise have been an epistemic problem to a mere rambling rhetoric. Not that the inconsistency constitutes a flaw in the text or snatches its legitimacy, it remains valid as ever but loses the right to make us accept its request.
And it will also later emerge that despite Kiradoo's attempts it remains a story, though aspiring to be a parable.

Cut to the frenzied relations now.
As the narrator discovers an innate gadyaatmak formation in the figure and face of his 'innocent-face' cousin Anshu Akhmatova when she is engaged in what has usually been termed an essentially poetic act --- invoking many to devise and contrive metaphors, mostly silly though --- with his alter ego painter Dhiraj Benjamin, Kiradoo unearths a fresh bionomics, in which tissues of fiction are not weighed down by remorse and remembrances, and instead, go ahead to embrace the moment--- an anecdotic moment.

Not that his characters are free of encumbrances; a distinct melancholy hovers over the entire narrative as the narrator first spots Anshu with Benjamin and then finds him christening another girl as Shabnam Shergill. If he could never forgive Benjamin for naming his cousin Akhmatova in a lumpen affair, conscious he is that he also named someone Manisha Tsvetaeva.
This melancholy, however, never comes on the surface and Kiradoo carefully hides it among several layers of his jerky plot, he seems to have devised to give the reader a slip. Not that he deliberately wants to complicate the structure and gain a few brownie points over the reader. Kiradoo, indeed, is a mischievous writer, who creates a labyrinthine narrative to hoodwink the reader. With an almost childlike mischief of playing hide-and-seek with the reader (a technique he uses in his other fictions too), he never develops his themes or characters and merely drops a few hints, so subtle that you almost miss these in first instance, and which never surface in the narration.

'Delayed development' is a usual technique a writer employs to establish his motifs and keep suspense alive in the story. The idea of eternal return and the tale of Tomas, which Kundera sets out in the opening pages of The Unbearable Lightness of Being find recurring echoes throughout the novel. In Kiradoo, contrarily, there is almost no development. His narration zooms in for awhile, bringing the reader on the edge in hope of some clues in the narrative, and then with a suddenly-developed reluctance moves elsewhere.
All he offers a few anecdotes through which a reader has to plough her way across the 20 paragraph-length chapters, many of those can be read as separates tales.

But. Though Murder of Marx moves and develops in small episodic anecdotes, reminding of early Godard, Kiradoo is not an episodic narrator. Like Tarantino, he only fragments the arrangement of his episodes. A cryptic jigsaw puzzle waiting for its reader to be explored. Arrange them to achieve a fairly linear plot containing an utterly realistic story of a youth located in the Bhujia town of the desert state.
Within the realm of plot, story and realism, Kiradoo creates a near-surreal impact by breaking the sequence and using cinematic technique of jump cuts.

Interesting it can be to decipher, how being a native of the desert state has shaped Kiradoo's 'uni-verse', which he so beautifully terms as 'di-verse'. Does the mirage-like melancholy in his fiction and poems, where grief comes in glimpses, reflect the constantly forming-disappearing dunes in vast dry sand? Remember Manorama Six Feet Under --- subtle, cryptic and located in sand dunes of Rajasthan.

Had Murder of Marx been a mere formal achievement, Kiradoo wouldn't have merited this space. In this puzzled narrative, he manages to portray the narrator's confrontation with his ideological leanings and adventures of his alter ego, before whom he feels repeatedly belittled.

And this is remarkable.

For, form can be a great entrapment. An obsession. Especially when the writer is young, he is susceptible to derive a formidable excitement from his form.
Highly possible it was for Kiradoo to be ambushed by his formal trap, consumed by his own cryptic character. Godard's later works, after all, became the victim of his episodic narrative he had once invented to narrate his tales but eventually lacked the earlier vivacity. One can also find Nirmal Verma, in some of his weakest moments, being trapped in the form of his silently creeping narrative.
Kiradoo transcends his temptations, though how long can he resist is yet to be seen, and ends up writing a poignant tribute to Marxism, and possibly to the ideology itself.
Oscillating between Marx and Derrida and later repudiating both, the narrator gets attracted to the German thinker after being suggested by his alter ego and shuns it after knowing that Benjamin has suddenly realised that first and foremost 'he is a Dalit'.

That a young writer chooses the theme of doppelganger to portray his confrontations with world and ideology suggests his maturity. Without understanding the paintings of Benjamin, the narrator writes brochures of his exhibitions, possibly in an effort to hold ground before him. One can hear echoes of contemporary art world in this subtle observation about the relation between an artist and a brochure writer (read, art critic!).

Mere gopan uttar-adhuniktavaad ke dino men ek shaam vo vodka ki ek gifted bottle lekar aya aur mujhe latadne laga... mujhe pata tha main apne Marx aur apne Derida ko khone wala hu. Dhiraj un dono se jyada powerful hai.
(In the want of space ( long online posts can be clumsy reading), this text is forced to zoom out from the doppelganger theme now.)

In between, the narration is interspersed by meandering reflections of the narrator on Marx, modernity and post-modernity. He is disturbed by the absence of adjective 'Marxist' for Muktibodh in the preface written by Shamsher Bahadur Singh, who is also not termed a Marxist by Muktibodh.

These chapters provide ample space for the narration to deviate and delve in dull details, as we have seen in many of the recent fictions of Uday Prakash. But Kiradoo reflects a near-perfect sense of timing and brevity as his narrative never loses focus. He knows exactly when and for how long he can let his narrator meander, and tighten the rope when required. Does this eye on timing come from his being a poet?

The narrator, incidentally, is also a poet, called Muktibodh by Shergill. He accuses the German thinker, though with reverence, of patricide, of killing his ideological father Hegel, but, ironically, ends up committing the same offence, suggesting the bloodied hands of an artist, who is condemned to kill his own ideals to move ahead.

Note the last scene. The narrator is at the Delhi railway station. Ready to leave for Kolkata to become the editor of the mouthpiece of a political party, owened by a relative of Akhmatova (Some irony here? Seems so, but again in want of space, cannot deliberate further). He has an English newspaper having photographs of a 'converted' and tonsured Benjamin and his latest painting Murder of Marx, which like his other paintings he couldn't comprehend a bit. As he spreads out the newspaper to eat puri and sabji on it and bursts into an unpremeditated laughter (maine us par pudi sabji failayi aur kuch utne jor se hansne laga), he writes a poignant obituary to the ideology. As if in the final moment, his soul finds a release, possibly false and deceptive, from the clutches of his alter ego and begins a new journey of self-exploration.

Precisely therefore, this murder and the accompanying tribute merit recognition as they come not from a cynic or a quarterback critic, but articulated by a vulnerable narrator, who, with all his failures refuses to reveal chinks in his veneer.

To think of it, Kiradoo accomplished all this in mere 4,301 words, which were not, according to him, written by him.

(Doppelganger aur alter ego, in dono pratyayon men kuch samantaayen aur kuch barik bhinnatayen hain, lekin sthanabhav ki vajah se in par apekshit charcha na ho saki aur inhen samanarthi maan barat liya gaya hai. Ye bhi yahan kehna upyukta rahega ki is theme ko apne charam par udghatit hote dekhna ho to Krishna Baldev Vaid ki aur jana hoga, jahan is space ki agaami posts pahunchna chah rahi hain.)


  1. Hey, since by not commenting friends have given us the opportunity of a direct exchange, lets grab it with both hands.

    1. I do not see it as a TRIBUTE to Marxism/Ideology in the sense we pay tributes to dead things because I simply don't accept this propaganda that ideology is dead or 'we live in a post-ideological world' etc. On the contrary its everywhere. Its there in shopping malls, in Hollywood blockbusters, in Shahrukh Khan sizzlers,in contraceptive promotionals,in love-poems,in IPL tamasha, in RTI campaign, jal mein, thal mein, tan mein, man mein, its everywhere.
    The story, perhaps, should be read as a tribute to Pankaj Bisht's Lekin Darwaja.

  2. Hi,
    Neither I intended it to be a tribute to something 'dead forever'. Just like we have transient lives, there can be ephemeral deaths also.

    Over the entire text, the narrator is grappling with the ideology, and the penultimate para of this text (on this blog) also suggests that the 'release (from the ideology) is possibly false and deceptive'. But still it was a release as the narrator embarked on a new journey, possibly away from his existing ideology.
    The title, after all, is very clear--- Murder of Marx. So though Marx and Marxism need not have been murdered and consequently dead forever, there can well be a tribute to someone that has been 'murdered' in this story.
    More, Since this tribute essentially emerges from a piece of art, comes from a vulnerable narrator, its Fukuyamasque reading should be avoided.

  3. Now, we are warm :-)

    Perhaps its not a release from 'ideology' its more a release from his alter ego. As we see in the course of the story, the underdog does radical changes in his life (=sincerely tries to 'declass'himself, even decides to avoid the extravagance of art - jahan bahut kala hoti hai, parivartan nahin hota -). I had in mind that in future he'd be more genuinely radical but since I didn't indulge in future in this one (as I do in other stories)I also can only guess. You are right : the text is ambivalent about it(since the narrative is open to the impression that for Mohit Agrawal, Dheeraj Benjamin=Ideology) and one could also read it as a release, though possibly false and deceptive, from ideology.