Friday, June 24, 2011

Anil Menon's The Beast with Nine Million Feet: In a World of Bonsai People -- Believe in the Technology of Foolishness

"What are you angry about, dear one? That Soda-kaka wants my help, or that he wants my time?"

"Our time," she mumbled. "I wish you weren't so involved with politics."

"Yes, life would've been a lot simpler if I'd remained a scientist, if I hadn't started Free Life or become a voice for the voiceless."

"Sivan-bau!" A fisher-woman had gotten to her feet and was gesturing to others around her. "That's Sivan-bhau."

"So why did you?" asked Tara, tugging at her father's hand. "Why did you ever leave science? Why did you start Free Life? Why didn't you call at least once? Not even once. We didn't even know if you were dead or alive. I was so afraid I'd find out through the news. I got so tired of waiting. You care about everyone but us."

Tara felt tears trying to make a break for it. She blinked hard to put down the rebellion. "These look nice." She pointed to some green chillies.

"If I'd stayed in touch, it would have got all of you in even more trouble. I was trying not to make a bad situation worse. As to why I stopped being just a scientist, the answer is very simple. I realized millions of people were being thrown away. You've seen bonsai trees, no? The same acorn that can produce a hundred-foot oak tree can be made into a tree that fits a saucer."

Tara nodded. There was something so creepy about bonsai.

"In a way, that's what we do with millions of humans. If humans are given decent nutrition, a good education, some love, pushy parents and high expectations, they generally bloom, flourish, and reach their full potential. But take away resources, take away a person's freedoms, keep them in ignorance, bind them with superstition and fear, convince them of their inferiority, then you've created a bonsai person. Incomplete, stunted, denied even the capacity to hope. When I realized I was living in a world of bonsai people, and that I escaped only because I'd won the genetic lottery [editor's note: Sivan-bhau is talking about his scientific discovery that led to wealth, not that he has superior genetics], it was impossible to close my eyes and pretend all was well. So I'm doing my bit. Would you have preferred a father who didn't?"

"Sometimes... I wish I could see things the way you do."

"You do just fine." He squeezed her shoulder. "Sita has raised a wonderful daughter."

"But you think the best of everyone. Even when they aren't. And you have no idea who I am. Not really. I'm not noble at all. I'm so ordinary."

To her horror, Tara felt tears plotting another revolt.


"Don't be sorry, Tara. I admire nobility, but I don't want nobles. If my cause needed heroes and knights, I wouldn't do it. I believe we can create a world where poverty, violence, inequity and despair will only be a bad memory. Yes, it's foolish, but take my hand, dear one, and believe with me in the technology of foolishness. And I don't care if you're ordinary, underordinary or superordinary. I don't need reasons to love you. It's one the unexpected side-effects of beaing a father. Clear?" (Young-Zubaan, 2009: 124-126)

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