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21-Jan-12 St. Joseph’s College of Commerce Rinse John
Where the Mind is Without Fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high Where knowledge is free Where the world has not been broken up into fragments By narrow domestic walls Where words come out from the depth of truth Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit Where the mind is led forward by thee Into ever-widening thought and action Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
This poem in this selection has been taken from his English ‘Gitanjali’. Tagore had a very deep religious caste of mind and profound humanism. He was both a patriot and an internationalist. In the poem, ‘Where The Mind Is Without Fear’, Tagore sketches a moving picture of the nation he would like India to be. Where everyone within the fold of the brotherhood is free to hold up one’s head high and one’s voice to be heard without having any tension of fear of oppression or forced compulsion. Where the knowledge is not restricted by narrow ideas and loyalties. The British rule had robbed India of its pride and dignity by reducing it to a subject nation. The India of Tagore’s dream is a country where her people hold their heads high with their pride in knowledge and strength born of that knowledge. Where all countrymen must come out the aged-old world of people who have lost the vision of one humanity by the narrow loyalties of caste creed and religion. Prejudice and superstitious which narrow the mind and divide people would be a thing of the past. Where the words of truth come out from the depths of the heart and are spoken out courageously in the open for the world to hear. People would work for perfections in the clear light of reason leaving aside all superstitious ritual.
This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
Where everyone is free to toil and work hard for anything they desire either for their own or for the good of the nation. Everyone is encouraged to strive tirelessly till they attain full satisfaction in reaching their goals and perfection. Where blind superstitious habits of thought and action have not put out the light of reason. Where people’s mind should not dwell in the mistakes of the past nor be possessed by it. On the other hand they should be led by the power of reasoning to be focused on the future by applying scientific thought and action. Tagore’s only prayer to the Supreme Ultimate is leading the nation to such an ideal state of heaven. It is only by the universality of outlook and an abiding passion for the realization of great human ideals that India will achieve her true freedom. This way alone she will realize her destiny.
Version 2 :
Included in the volume called Naibedya, the original poem bears the title ' Prarthana' i.e. prayer. The poem is a prayer to a universal father-figure, presumably, God. The poet wishes to be awakened to a heaven where the mind can work fearlessly and the spirit can hold its head high, where one can acquire knowledge in all freedom of choice, where the big world of man is not fragmented or restricted to small mutually exclusive compartments, where everybody speaks his/her heart clear, where actions flow in the form of various streams moving from success to success, where petty conventions do not stagnate the course of judgments, where manhood is not pieced, where God himself leads us in all acts, all thoughts, and all sources of delight. We need a strong motivating slap by God to be elevated to that heaven.
This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
A few years ago I wrote a book which dealt in part with the difficulties of the English in India. Feeling that they would have had no difficulties in India themselves, the Americans read the book freely. The more they read it the better it made them feel, and a cheque to the author was the result. I bought a wood with the cheque. It is not a large wood – it contains scarcely any trees, and it is intersected, blast it, by a public footpath. Still, it is the first property that I have owned, so it is right that other people should participate in my shame, and should ask themselves, in accents that will vary in horror, this very important question: What is the effect of property upon the character? Don’t let’s touch economics; the effect of private ownership upon the community as a whole is another question – a more important question, perhaps, but another one. Let’s keep to psychology. If you own things, what’s their effect on you? What’s the effect on me of my wood? In the first place, it makes me feel heavy. Property does have this effect. Property produces men of weight, and it was a man of weight who failed to get into the Kingdom ofHeaven. He was not wicked, that unfortunate millionaire in the parable, he was only stout; he stuck out in front, not to mention behind, and as he wedged himself this way and that in the crystalline entrance and bruised his well-fed flanks, he saw beneath him a comparatively slim camel passing through the eye of a needle and being woven into the robe of God. The Gospels all through couple stoutness and slowness. They point out what is perfectly obvious, yet seldom realized: that if you have a lot of things you cannot move about a lot, that furniture requires dusting, dusters require servants, servants require insurance stamps, and the whole tangle of them makes you think twice before you accept an invitation to dinner or go for a bathe in the Jordan. Sometimes the Gospels proceed further and say with Tolstoy that property is sinful; they approach the difficult ground of asceticism here, where I cannot follow them. But as to the immediate effects of property on people, they just show straightforward logic. It produces men of weight. Men of weight cannot, by definition, move like the lightning from the East unto the West, and the ascent of a fourteen-stone bishop into a pulpit is thus the exact antithesis of the coming of the Son of Man. My wood makes me feel heavy.
This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
In the second place, it makes me feel it ought to be larger. The other day I heard a twig snap in it. I was annoyed at first, for I thought that someone was blackberrying, and depreciating the value of the undergrowth. On coming nearer, I saw it was not a man who had trodden on the twig and snapped it, but a bird, and I felt pleased. My bird. The bird was not equally pleased. Ignoring the relation between us, it took fright as soon as it saw the shape of my face, and flew straight over the boundary hedge into a field, the property of Mrs. Henessy, where it sat down with a loud squawk. It had become Mrs. Henessy’s bird. Something seemed grossly amiss here, something that would not have occurred had the wood been larger. I could not afford to buy Mrs. Henessy out, I dared not murder her, and limitations of this sort beset me on every side. Ahab did not want that vineyard – he only needed it to round off his property, preparatory to plotting a new curve – and all the land around my wood has become necessary to me in order to round off the wood. A boundary protects. But – poor little thing – the boundary ought in its turn to be protected. Noises on the edge of it. Children throw stones. A little more, and then a little more, until we reach the sea. Happy Canute! Happier Alexander! And after all, why should even the world be the limit of possession? A rocket containing a Union Jack, will, it is hoped, be shortly fired at the moon. Mars. Sirius. Beyond which . . . but these immensities ended by saddening me. I could not suppose that my wood was the destined nucleus of universal dominion – it is so very small and contains no mineral wealth beyond the blackberries. Nor was I comforted when Mrs. Henessy’s bird took alarm for the second time and flew clean away from us all, under the belief that it belonged to itself. In the third place, property makes its owner feel that he ought to do something to it. Yet he isn’t sure what. A restlessness comes over him, a vague sense that he has a personality to express – the same sense which, without any vagueness, leads the artist to an act of creation. Sometimes I think I will cut down such trees as remain in the wood, at other times I want to fill up the gaps between them with new trees. Both impulses are pretentious and empty. They are not honest movements towards money-making or beauty. They spring from a foolish desire to express myself and from an inability to enjoy what I have got. Creation, property, enjoyment form a sinister trinity in the human mind. Creation and enjoyment are both very, very good, yet they are often unattainable without a material basis, and at such moments property pushes itself in as a substitute, saying, “Accept me instead – I’m good enough for all three.”
This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
It is not enough. It is, as Shakespeare said of lust, “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame”; it is “Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.” Yet we don’t know how to shun it. It is forced on us by our economic system as the alternative to starvation. It is also forced on us by an internal defect in the soul, by the feeling that in property may lie the germs of self-development and of exquisite or heroic deeds. Our life on earth is, and ought to be, material and carnal. But we have not yet learned to manage our materialism and carnality properly; they are still entangled with the desire for ownership, where (in the words of Dante) “Possession is one with loss.” And this brings us to our fourth and final point: the blackberries. Blackberries are not plentiful in this meagre grove, but they are easily seen from the public footpath which traverses it, and all too easily gathered. Foxgloves, too – people will pull up the foxgloves, and ladies of an educational tendency even grub for toadstools to show them on the Monday in class. Other ladies, less educated, roll down the bracken in the arms of their gentlemen friends. There is paper, there are tins. Pray, does my wood belong to me or doesn’t it? And, if it does, should I not own it best by allowing no one else to walk there? There is a wood near Lyme Regis, also cursed by a public footpath, where the owner has not hesitated on this point. He has built high stone walls each side of the path, and has spanned it by bridges, so that the public circulate like termites while he gorges on the blackberries unseen. He really does own his wood, this able chap. Dives in Hell did pretty well, but the gulf dividing him from Lazarus could be traversed by vision, and nothing traverses it here. And perhaps I shall come to this in time. I shall wall in and fence out until I really taste the sweets of property. Enormously stout, endlessly avaricious, pseudocreative, intensely selfish, I shall weave upon my forehead the quadruple crown of possession until those nasty Bolshies come and take it off again and thrust me aside into the outer darkness.
This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
The End of Imagination
May 1998. It'll go down in history books, provided of course we have history books to go down in. Provided, of course, we have a future.There's nothing new or original left to be said about nuclear weapons. There can be nothing more humiliating for a writer of fiction to have to do than restate a case that has, over the years, already been made by other people in other parts of the world, and made passionately, eloquently and knowledgeably. I am prepared to grovel. To humiliate myself abjectly, because, in the circumstances, silence would be indefensible. So those of you who are willing: let's pick our parts, put on these discarded costumes and speak our second-hand lines in this sad second-hand play. But let's not forget that the stakes we're playing for are huge. Our fatigue and our shame could mean the end of us. The end of our children and our children's children. Of everything we love. We have to reach within ourselves and find the strength to think. To fight. Once again we are pitifully behind the times -- not just scientifically and technologically (ignore the hollow claims) but more pertinently in our ability to grasp the true nature of nuclear weapons. Our Comprehension of the Horror Department is hopelessly obsolete. Here we are, all of us in India and in Pakistan, discussing the finer points of politics and foreign policy, behaving for all the world as though our governments have just devised a newer, bigger bomb, a sort of immense hand grenade with which they will annihilate the enemy (each other) and protect us from all harm. How desperately we want to believe that. What wonderful, willing, well-behaved, gullible subjects we have turned out to be. The rest of humanity may not forgive us, but then the rest of the rest of humanity, depending on who fashions its views, may not know what a tired, dejected, heart-broken people we are. Perhaps it doesn't realise how urgently we need a miracle. How deeply we yearn for magic. If only, if only nuclear war was just another kind of war. If only it was about the usual things -- nations and territories, gods and histories. If only those of us who dread it are worthless moral cowards who are not prepared to die in defence of our beliefs. If only nuclear war was the kind of war in which countries battle countries, and men battle men. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
But it isn't. If there is a nuclear war, our foes will not be China or America or even each other. Our foe will be the earth herself. Our cities and forests, our fields and villages will burn for days. Rivers will turn to poison. The air will become fire. The wind will spread the flames. When everything there is to burn has burned and the fires die, smoke will rise and shut out the sun. The earth will be enveloped in darkness. There will be no day -- only interminable night. What shall we do then, those of us who are still alive? Burned and blind and bald and ill, carrying the cancerous carcasses of our children in our arms, where shall we go? What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we breathe? The Head of the Health, Environment and Safety Group of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Bombay has a plan. He declared that India could survive nuclear war. His advice is that in the event of nuclear war we take the same safety measures as the ones that scientists have recommended in the event of accidents at nuclear plants. Take iodine pills, he suggests. And other steps such as remaining indoors, consuming only stored water and food and avoiding milk. Infants should be given powdered milk. "People in the danger zone should immediately go to the ground floor and if possible to the basement." What do you do with these levels of lunacy? What do you do if you're trapped in an asylum and the doctors are all dangerously deranged? Ignore it, it's just a novelist's naiveté, they'll tell you, Doomsday Prophet hyperbole. It'll never come to that. There will be no war. Nuclear weapons are about peace, not war. "Deterrence" is the buzz word of the people who like to think of themselves as hawks. (Nice birds, those. Cool. Stylish. Predatory. Pity there won't be many of them around after the war. Extinction is a word we must try to get used to.) Deterrence is an old thesis that has been resurrected and is being recycled with added local flavour. The Theory of Deterrence cornered the credit for having prevented the cold war from turning into a third world war. The only immutable fact about the third world war is that, if there's going to be one, it will be fought after the second world war. In other words, there's no fixed schedule. The Theory of Deterrence has some fundamental flaws. Flaw Number One is that it presumes a complete, sophisticated understanding of the psychology of your enemy. It assumes that what deters you (the fear of annihilation) will deter them. What about those who are not deterred by that? The suicide bomber psyche -- the "We'll take you with us" school -- is that an outlandish thought? How did Rajiv Gandhi die? In any case who's the "you" and who's the "enemy"? Both are only governments. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
Governments change. They wear masks within masks. They moult and re-invent themselves all the time. The one we have at the moment, for instance, does not even have enough seats to last a full term in office, but demands that we trust it to do pirouettes and party tricks with nuclear bombs even as it scrabbles around for a foothold to maintain a simple majority in Parliament. Flaw Number Two is that deterrence is premised on fear. But fear is premised on knowledge. On an understanding of the true extent and scale of the devastation that nuclear war will wreak. It is not some inherent, mystical attribute of nuclear bombs that they automatically inspire thoughts of peace. On the contrary, it is the endless, tireless, confrontational work of people who have had the courage to openly denounce them, the marches, the demonstrations, the films, the outrage -- that is what has averted, or perhaps only postponed, nuclear war. Deterrence will not and cannot work given the levels of ignorance and illiteracy that hang over our two countries like dense, impenetrable veils. India and Pakistan have nuclear bombs now and feel entirely justified in having them. Soon others will too. Israel, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Nepal (I'm trying to be eclectic here), Denmark, Germany, Bhutan, Mexico, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Burma, Bosnia, Singapore, North Korea, Sweden, South Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan… and why not? Every country in the world has a special case to make. Everybody has borders and beliefs. And when all our larders are bursting with shiny bombs and our bellies are empty (deterrence is an exorbitant beast), we can trade bombs for food. And when nuclear technology goes on the market, when it gets truly competitive and prices fall, not just governments but anybody who can afford it can have their own private arsenal -- businessmen, terrorists, perhaps even the occasional rich writer (like me). Our planet will bristle with beautiful missiles. There will be a new world order. The dictatorship of the pro-nuke elite. But let us pause to give credit where it's due. Who must we thank for all this? The men who made it happen. The Masters of the Universe. Ladies and gentlemen, the United States of America! Come on up here folks, stand up and take a bow. Thank you for doing this to the world. Thank you for making a difference. Thank you for showing us the way. Thank you for altering the very meaning of life.From now on it is not dying we must fear, but living. All I can say to every man, woman and sentient child in India, and over there, just a little way away in Pakistan, is: take it personally. Whoever you are -- Hindu, Muslim, urban, agrarian -- it doesn't matter. The only good thing about nuclear war is that it is the single most egalitarian idea that man has ever had. On the day of reckoning, you will not be asked to present your credentials. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
The devastation will be indiscriminate. The bomb isn't in your backyard. It's in your body. And mine. Nobody, no nation, no government, no man, no god has the right to put it there. We're radioactive already, and the war hasn't even begun. So stand up and say something. Never mind if it's been said before. Speak up on your own behalf. Take it very personally. In early May (before the bomb), I left home for three weeks. I thought I would return. I had every intention of returning. Of course things haven't worked out quite the way I had planned. While I was away, I met a friend whom I have always loved for, among other things, her ability to combine deep affection with a frankness that borders on savagery. "I've been thinking about you," she said, "about The God of Small Things - what's in it, what's over it, under it, around it, above it…" She fell silent for a while. I was uneasy and not at all sure that I wanted to hear the rest of what she had to say. She, however, was sure that she was going to say it. "In this last year - less than a year actually -- you've had too much of everything - fame, money, prizes, adulation, criticism, condemnation, ridicule, love, hate, anger, envy, generosity -- everything. In some ways it's a perfect story. Perfectly baroque in its excess. The trouble is that it has, or can have, only one perfect ending." Her eyes were on me, bright with a slanting, probing brilliance. She knew that I knew what she was going to say. She was insane. She was going to say that nothing that happened to me in the future could ever match the buzz of this. That the whole of the rest of my life was going to be vaguely unsatisfying. And, therefore, the only perfect ending to the story would be death. My death. The thought had occurred to me too. Of course it had. The fact that all this, this global dazzle -- these lights in my eyes, the applause, the flowers, the photographers, the journalists feigning a deep interest in my life (yet struggling to get a single fact straight), the men in suits fawning over me, the shiny hotel bathrooms with endless towels -- none of it was likely to happen again. Would I miss it? Had I grown to need it? Was I a fame-junkie? Would I have withdrawal symptoms? The more I thought about it, the clearer it became to me that if fame was going to be my permanent condition it would kill me. Club me to death with its good manners and hygiene. I'll admit that I've enjoyed my own five minutes of it immensely, but primarily because it was just five minutes. Because I knew (or thought I knew) that I could go home when I was bored and giggle about it. Grow old and irresponsible. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
Eat mangoes in the moonlight. Maybe write a couple of failed books -- worstsellers -- to see what it felt like. For a whole year I've cartwheeled across the world, anchored always to thoughts of home and the life I would go back to. Contrary to all the enquiries and predictions about my impending emigration, that was the well I dipped into. That was my sustenance. My strength. I told my friend there was no such thing as a perfect story. I said that in any case hers was an external view of things, this assumption that the trajectory of a person's happiness, or let's say fulfilment, had peaked (and now must trough) because she had accidentally stumbled upon "success". It was premised on the unimaginative belief that wealth and fame were the mandatory stuff of everybody's dreams. You've lived too long in New York, I told her. There are other worlds. Other kinds of dreams. Dreams in which failure is feasible, honourable, sometimes even worth striving for. Worlds in which recognition is not the only barometer of brilliance or human worth. There are plenty of warriors I know and love, people far more valuable than myself, who go to war each day, knowing in advance that they will fail. True, they are less "successful" in the most vulgar sense of the word, but by no means less fulfilled. The only dream worth having, I told her, is to dream that you will live while you're alive and die only when you're dead. (Prescience? Perhaps.) "Which means exactly what?" (Arched eyebrows, a little annoyed.) I tried to explain, but didn't do a very good job of it. Sometimes I need to write to think. So I wrote it down for her on a paper napkin. This is what I wrote: To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget. I've known her for many years, this friend of mine. She's an architect too. She looked dubious, somewhat unconvinced by my paper napkin speech. I could tell that structurally, just in terms of the sleek, narrative symmetry of things, and because she loves me, her thrill at my "success" was so keen, so generous, that it weighed in evenly with her (anticipated) horror at the idea of my death. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
I understood that it was nothing personal… Just a design thing. Anyhow, two weeks after that conversation, I returned to India. To what I think/thought of as home. Something had died but it wasn't me. It was infinitely more precious. It was a world that has been ailing for a while, and has finally breathed its last. It's been cremated now. The air is thick with ugliness and there's the unmistakable stench of fascism on the breeze.Day after day, in newspaper editorials, on the radio, on TV chat shows, on MTV for heaven's sake, people whose instincts one thought one could trust -- writers, painters, journalists -- make the crossing. The chill seeps into my bones as it becomes painfully apparent from the lessons of everyday life that what you read in history books is true. That fascism is indeed as much about people as about governments. That it begins at home. In drawing rooms. In bedrooms. In beds. "Explosion of self-esteem", "Road to Resurgence", "A Moment of Pride", these were headlines in the papers in the days following the nuclear tests. "We have proved that we are not eunuchs any more," said Mr Thackeray of the Shiv Sena (Whoever said we were? True, a good number of us are women, but that, as far as I know, isn't the same thing.) Reading the papers, it was often hard to tell when people were referring to Viagra (which was competing for second place on the front pages) and when they were talking about the bomb -- "We have superior strength and potency." (This was our Minister for Defence after Pakistan completed its tests.) "These are not just nuclear tests, they are nationalism tests," we were repeatedly told. This has been hammered home, over and over again. The bomb is India. India is the bomb. Not just India, Hindu India. Therefore, be warned, any criticism of it is not just ant-national but anti-Hindu. (Of course in Pakistan the bomb is Islamic. Other than that, politically, the same physics applies.) This is one of the unexpected perks of having a nuclear bomb. Not only can the government use it to threaten the Enemy, they can use it to declare war on their own people. Us. When I told my friends that I was writing this piece, they cautioned me. "Go ahead," they said, "but first make sure you're not vulnerable. Make sure your papers are in order. Make sure your taxes are paid." My papers are in order. My taxes are paid. But how can one not be vulnerable in a climate like this? Everyone is vulnerable. Accidents happen. There's safety only in acquiescence. As I write, I am filled with foreboding. In this country, I have truly known what it means for a writer to feel loved (and, to some degree, hated too). Last year I was one of the items being paraded in the media's end-of-theyear National Pride Parade. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
Among the others, much to my mortification, were a bomb-maker and an international beauty queen. Each time a beaming person stopped me on the street and said "You have made India proud" (referring to the prize I won, not the book I wrote), I felt a little uneasy. It frightened me then and it terrifies me now, because I know how easily that swell, that tide of emotion, can turn against me. Perhaps the time for that has come. I'm going to step out from under the fairy lights and say what's on my mind. It's this: If protesting against having a nuclear bomb implanted in my brain is anti-Hindu and antinational, then I secede. I hereby declare myself an independent, mobile republic. I am a citizen of the earth. I own no territory. I have no flag. I'm female, but have nothing against eunuchs. My policies are simple. I'm willing to sign any nuclear non-proliferation treaty or nuclear test ban treaty that's going. Immigrants are welcome. You can help me design our flag. My world has died. And I write to mourn its passing. India's nuclear tests, the manner in which they were conducted, the euphoria with which they have been greeted (by us) is indefensible. To me, it signifies dreadful things. The end of imagination.On the 15th of August last year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of India's independence. Next May we can mark our first anniversary in nuclear bondage.Why did they do it? Political expediency is the obvious, cynical answer, except that it only raises another, more basic question: Why should it have been politically expedient? The three Official Reasons given are: China, Pakistan and Exposing Western Hypocrisy. Taken at face value, and examined individually, they're somewhat baffling. I'm not for a moment suggesting that these are not real issues. Merely that they aren't new. The only new thing on the old horizon is the Indian government. In his appallingly cavalier letter to the US president our prime minister says India's decision to go ahead with the nuclear tests was due to a "deteriorating security environment". He goes on to mention the war with China in 1962 and the "three aggressions we have suffered in the last 50 years [from Pakistan]. And for the last 10 years we have been the victim of unremitting terrorism and militancy sponsored by it . . . especially in Jammu and Kashmir." The war with China is 35 years old. Unless there's some vital state secret that we don't know about, it certainly seemed as though matters had improved slightly between us. The most recent war with Pakistan was fought 27 years ago. Admittedly Kashmir continues to be a deeply troubled region and no doubt Pakistan is gleefully fanning the flames. But surely there must be flames to fan in the first place?As for the third Official Reason: Exposing Western Hypocrisy -- how much more exposed can they be? Which decent human being on earth harbours any illusions about it? This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
These are people whose histories are spongy with the blood of others. Colonialism, apartheid, slavery, ethnic cleansing, germ warfare, chemical weapons, they virtually invented it all. They have plundered nations, snuffed out civilisations, exterminated entire populations. They stand on the world's stage stark naked but entirely unembarrassed, because they know that they have more money, more food and bigger bombs than anybody else. They know they can wipe us out in the course of an ordinary working day. Personally, I'd say it is arrogance more than hypocrisy. We have less money, less food and smaller bombs. However, we have, or had, all kinds of other wealth. Delightful, unquantifiable. What we've done with it is the opposite of what we think we've done. We've pawned it all. We've traded it in. For what? In order to enter into a contract with the very people we claim to despise.All in all, I think it is fair to say that we're the hypocrites. We're the ones who've abandoned what was arguably a moral position - ie. We have the technology, we can make bombs if we want to, but we won't. We don't believe in them. We're the ones who have now set up this craven clamouring to be admitted into the club of superpowers. For India to demand the status of a superpower is as ridiculous as demanding to play in the World Cup finals simply because we have a ball. Never mind that we haven't qualified, or that we don't play much soccer and haven't got a team. We are a nation of nearly a billion people. In development terms we rank No 138 out of the 175 countries listed in the UNDP's Human Development Index (even Ghana and Sri Lanka rank above us). More than 400 million of our people are illiterate and live in absolute poverty, more than 600 million lack even basic sanitation and more than 200 million have no safe drinking water.The nuclear bomb and the demolition of the Barbi Masjid in Ayodhya are both part of the same political process. They are hideous byproducts for a nation's search for herself. Of India's efforts to forge a national identity. The poorer the nation, the larger the numbers of illiterate people and the more morally bankrupt her leaders, the cruder and more dangerous the notion of what that identity is or should be. The jeering, hooting young men who battered down the Babri Masjid are the same ones whose pictures appeared in the papers in the days that followed the nuclear tests. They were on the streets, celebrating India's nuclear bomb and simultaneously "condemning Western Culture" by emptying crates of Coke and Pepsi into public drains. I'm a little baffled by their logic: Coke is Western Culture, but the nuclear bomb is an old Indian tradition?Yes, I've heard -- the bomb is in the Vedas [ancient Hindu scriptures]. It might be, but if you look hard enough you'll find Coke in the Vedas too. That's the great thing about all religious texts. You can find anything you want in them -- as long as you know what you're looking for. But returning to the subject of the non-vedic 1990s: we storm the heart of whiteness, we embrace the most diabolical creation of western science and call it our own. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
But we protest against their music, their food, their clothes, their cinema and their literature. That's not hypocrisy. That's humour. It's funny enough to make a skull smile. We're back on the old ship. The SS Authenticity & Indianness. If there is going to be a pro-authenticity/anti-national drive, perhaps the government ought to get its history straight and its facts right. If they're going to do it, they may as well do it properly. First of all, the original inhabitants of this land were not Hindu. Ancient though it is, there were human beings on earth before there was Hinduism. India's tribal people have a greater claim to being indigenous to this land than anybody else, and how are they treated by the state and its minions? Oppressed, cheated, robbed of their lands, shunted around like surplus goods. Perhaps a good place to start would be to restore to them the dignity that was once theirs. Perhaps the government could make a public undertaking that more dams of this kind will not be built, that more people will not be displaced.But of course that would be inconceivable, wouldn't it? Why? Because it's impractical. Because tribal people don't really matter. Their histories, their customs, their deities are dispensable. They must learn to sacrifice these things for the greater good of the Nation (that has snatched from them everything they ever had). Okay, so that's out. For the rest, I could compile a practical list of things to ban and buildings to break. It'll need some research, but off the top of my head here are a few suggestions. They could begin by banning a number of ingredients from our cuisine: chillies (Mexico), tomatoes (Peru), potatoes (Bolivia), coffee (Morocco), tea, white sugar, cinnamon (China) . . . they could then move into recipes. Tea with milk and sugar, for instance (Britain).Smoking will be out of the question. Tobacco came from North America. Cricket, English and Democracy should be forbidden. Either kabaddi or kho-kho could replace cricket. I don't want to start a riot, so I hesitate to suggest a replacement for English. (Italian? It has found its way to us via a kinder route: marriage, not imperialism.) All hospitals in which western medicine is practised or prescribed should be shut down. All national newspapers discontinued. The railways dismantled. Airports closed. And what about our newest toy -- the mobile phone? Can we live without it, or shall I suggest that they make an exception there? They could put it down in the column marked "Universal"? (Only essential commodities will be included here. No music, art or literature.) Needless to say, sending your children to university in the US, and rushing there yourself to have your prostate operated upon will be a cognisable offence. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
It will be a long, long list. It would take years of work. I could not use a computer because that wouldn't be very authentic of me, would it? I don't mean to be facetious, merely to point out that this is surely the short cut to hell. There's no such thing as an Authentic India or a Real Indian. There is no Divine Committee that has the right to sanction one single, authorised version of what India is or should be. Railing against the past will not heal us. History has happened. It's over and done with. All we can do is to change its course by encouraging what we love instead of destroying what we don't. There is beauty yet in this brutal, damaged world of ours. Hidden, fierce, immense. Beauty that is uniquely ours and beauty that we have received with grace from others, enhanced, re-invented and made our own. We have to seek it out, nurture it, love it. Making bombs will only destroy us. It doesn't matter whether we use them or not. They will destroy us either way. India's nuclear bomb is the final act of betrayal by a ruling class that has failed its people.However many garlands we heap on our scientists, however many medals we pin to their chests, the truth is that it's far easier to make a bomb than to educate four hundred million people.According to opinion polls, we're expected to believe that there's a national consensus on the issue. It's official now. Everybody loves the bomb. (Therefore the bomb is good.)Is it possible for a man who cannot write his own name to even the basic, elementary facts about the nature of nuclear weapons? Has anybody told him that nuclear war has nothing at all to do with his received notions of war? Nothing to do with honour, nothing to do with pride. Has anybody bothered to explain to him about thermal blasts, radioactive fallout and the nuclear winter? Are there even words in his language to describe the concepts of enriched uranium, fissile material and critical mass? Or has his language itself become obsolete? Is he trapped in a time capsule, watching the world pass him by, unable to understand or communicate with it because his language never took into account the horrors that the human race would dream up? Does he not matter at all, this man? I'm not talking about one man, of course, I'm talking about millions and millions of people who live in this country. This is their land too, you know. They have the right to make an informed decision about its fate and, as far as I can tell, nobody has informed them about anything. The tragedy is that nobody could, even if they wanted to. Truly, literally, there's no language to do it in. This is the real horror of India. The orbits of the powerful and the powerless spinning further and further apart from each other, never intersecting, sharing nothing. Not a language. Not even a country. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
Who the hell conducted those opinion polls? Who the hell is the prime minister to decide whose finger will be on the nuclear button that could turn everything we love -- our earth, our skies, our mountains, our plains, our rivers, our cities and villages -- to ash in an instant? Who the hell is he to reassure us that there will be no accidents? How does he know? Why should we trust him? What has he ever done to make us trust him? What have any of them ever done to make us trust them? The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democratic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that man has ever made. If you are religious, then remember that this bomb is Man's challenge to God. It's worded quite simply: We have the power to destroy everything that You have created. If you're not religious, then look at it this way. This world of ours is four thousand, six hundred million years old. It could end in an afternoon.
This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
SUMMARY FOR “THE END OF IMAGINATION”
“The end of imagination” is Arundhati Roy’s take on India’s nuclear tests. It is a rather fierce,
passionate and heartfelt piece that takes its toll on one’s mind. People may or may not agree with the views expressed in this article, as is the case with most articles. But then, what makes this article worthwhile is that it makes one ask questions. It makes one aware of the matters one often takes for granted. It makes one think. This article condemns the nuclear tests and all the theories, trying to prove it, to be in the interest of the nation and for the greater good. Arundhati Roy speaks about the nuclear tests in a manner that is real and not, in any sense, sugarcoated. She explains the difference in the impact of a ‘normal war’ which, in itself is a gruesome concept, and that of a ‘nuclear war’. She writes about the aftermaths of a nuclear war in lucid terms and in all openness that cannot be questioned. She discusses the much hyped concept of ‘deterrence’. She talks about the suicide bombers’ psyche. Can one really not question this particular risk? Is it not a possible outcome? How does one apply the theory of deterrence in such a case? What happens once one of the parties crosses the line? Do we have the resources or strength to come back if a wrong step is taken? These are all unanswered questions that severely backstab the concept of “deterrence”. One really cannot afford loose ends like these in case of nuclear weapons. For in this case, the stakes are too high. One toe out of line from any of the sides and we could be facing annihilation of entire species at a time, leaving the rest of them burnt, wounded and diseased. Another major flaw that she addresses is the prevailing ignorance in the matter. She has rightly stressed in the importance of the innumerable protests denouncing the tests and thus, in the process, spreading awareness about the issue through diverse media and at various levels. Although one may not be very sure whether something of the magnitude of individuals having private arsenal can happen, one can surely not rule it out if the race for the nuclear arms progresses unchecked at its present pace. She explains in bold words the ruthless and indiscriminate obliteration of species upon species that can take place in the conditions persisting during a nuclear war. She makes it very clear how personal the war turns out to be. She appeals the people to stand up to themselves and speak out. For, even the smallest attempt makes a difference to the movement as a whole. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
In the paragraphs that follow the author gives her views and parameters determining success and failure, and life and death. She eventually points out to the most horrendous of the flaws in the whole scheme of things as she explains the underhand politics that happens in association with the issue. She talks about the way the politicians play with words and change targets in agreement with their convenience. According to her, she would rather have her say and face the music, than accepting whatever is dished out to her with her head bowed. She jibes that a year from then we might as well celebrate the anniversary of our Nuclear bondage. The author then comes around to discuss the three main reasons given by the government in support of the nuclear tests. The three Official Reasons given were: China, Pakistan and Exposing Western Hypocrisy. She logically and methodically condemns all the three aforementioned reasons. She rightly proves the justification given by the government to be going back on its own policy and hence proves it to be the real hypocrites. She sneers at the easily manipulated, “hooting young men”, who accept the worst means of destruction with open arms, and admit it to being a part of the Indian scriptures, but can’t digest the mere existence of dance, music or food that is, as they call it, “western”. She then proceeds to explain calmly how it is not only stupid, but outright ridiculous to attempt to have an “authorized version of what India is or should be”. India, from the time unknown, has always been known to have attracted foreigners and to have wholeheartedly accepted them. The various cultures coming together and merging gave rise to a new culture every time. It is this merging and intermingling that has given rise to the homogenous mix that we call our culture today. So, why stop now? Why put an obstacle to growth? By the way, is there any relation between the clothes we wear and the nuclear bomb? Not exactly, one might think. But then, don’t you understand this is how the politicians spin stories in a well delivered speech, this is how they spin gold. Is there any relation in anything they associate with the issues? It is the old art of ‘plan, plot and Scheme to manipulate people in your favour’. Railing against the past will not heal us. History has happened. It's over and done with. All we can do is to change its course by encouraging what we love instead of destroying what we don't. There is beauty yet in this brutal, damaged world of ours. Hidden, fierce, immense.
This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
Beauty that is uniquely ours and beauty that we have received with grace from others, enhanced, reinvented and made our own. We have to seek it out, nurture it, love it. Making bombs will only destroy us. It doesn't matter whether we use them or not. They will destroy us either way. The aforementioned paragraph is the crux of the entire article. Then there are, of course, opinion polls. How reliable are these? Whose opinion do they represent? The author genuinely questions their validity as millions of people in our country are illiterate and millions others live in conditions lacking the most basic of necessities in their life. Do these opinion polls consider their opinion? Before conducting these opinion polls, were the people even explained what it was all about, or are opinion polls, regarding issues having a nationwide impact, a luxury for the elite few? Arundhati Roy concludes the article with two lines that give you gooseflesh. The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democratic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that man has ever made. If you are religious, then remember that this bomb is Man's challenge to God. It's worded quite simply: We have the power to destroy everything that You have created. If you're not religious, then look at it this way. This world of ours is four thousand, six hundred million years old. It could end in an afternoon.
This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
The one-act play that you are going to read is written by Fritz Karinthy (pronounced Korinte). Let us, therefore, try to learn a little more about the playwright. Fritz Karinthy (1887-1938) was a Hungarian writer. He excelled as a novelist, short story writer, poet, essayist and playwright. Deeply interested in natural sciences, he studied to be a teacher, but became a journalist and joined the literary periodical Nyugat. Strongly philosophical and humanistic in his outlook, he raised his powerful voice against the barbarism and horrors of World War I. The play Refund is a light and rollicking play. So, let us read and enjoy this hilarious one-act play. The Principal is seated at his flat-tapped desk in his office in a high school. Enter a servant. THE PRINICIPAL: Well, what is it? THE SERVANT: A man, sir. Outside. He wants to see you. THE PRINCIPAL [leaning back and stretching]: I receive parents only during office hours. The particular office hours are posted in the notice-board. Tell him that. THE SERVANT: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. But it isn’t a parent, sir. THE PRINCIPAL: A pupil? THE SERVANT: I don’t think so. He has a beard. THE PRINICPAL [disquieted]: Not a parent and not a pupil. Then what is he? THE SERVANT: He told me I should just say ‘Wasserkopf.’ THE PRINICIPAL [much disquieted]: What does he look like? Stupid? Intelligent? THE SERVANT: Fairly intelligent, I’d say, sir. THE PRINICPAL [reassured]: Good! Then he’s not a school inspector. Show him in.
THE SERVANT: Yes, sir. [He goes off. An instant later the door reopens to admit a bearded man, carelessly dressed, somewhat under forty. He is energetic and decided] WASSERKOPF: How do you do? [He remains standing] THE PRINICPAL [rising]: What can I do for you? WASSERKOPF: I’m Wasserkopf. [He pauses] Don’t you remember me? THE PRINCIPAL [shaking his head]: No. WASSERKOPF: It’s possible I’ve changed. What the hell…! Your class records will show I’ve got a right to come here. THE PRINICPAL: The class records? How so? WASSERKOPF: Mr. Principal, if you please, I’m Wasserkopf. THE PRINCIPAL: Doubtless, doubtless – but what has that to do with it? WASSERKOPF: You mean to say you don’t even remember my name? [He thinks it over] No, I imagine you wouldn’t. You were probably glad to forget me. Well, Mr. Principal, I was a student in this school eighteen years ago. THE PRINICPAL [without enthusiasm]: Oh, were you? Well, what do you want now? A certificate? WASSERKOPF [doubtfully]: Since I’m bringing back the leaving certificate you gave me I suppose I can get along without another one. No, that isn’t why I came here. THE PRINCIPAL: Well? WASSERKOPF: [clearing his throat firmly]: As a former pupil of this school I want you to refund the tuition fees, which were paid you for my education eighteen years ago. THE PRINICPAL [incredulously]: You want me to refund your tuition fees? WASSERKOPF: Exactly; the tuition fees. If I were a rich man I’d tell you to keep them, so far as I’m concerned. What the hell…! But I’m not a rich man, and I need the money.
THE PRINCIPAL: I’m not sure I understand. WASSERKOPF: Dammit, I want my tuition fees back! Is that plain enough? THE PRINICPAL: Why do you want it back? WASSERKOPF: Because I didn’t get my money’s worth, that’s why! This certificate here says I got an education. Well, I didn’t. I didn’t learn anything and I want my money back. THE PRINCIPAL: But, look here, look here! I don’t understand it at all! I’ve never heard of anything like it. What an absurd idea! WASSERKOPF: Absurd, is it? It’s a good idea. It’s such a good idea that I didn’t get it out of my own head, thanks to the education I got here, which made nothing but an incompetent ass out of me. My old classmate Leaderer gave me the idea not half an hour ago. THE PRINICPAL: Gave it to you? WASSERKOPF [nodding violently]: Like that. Here I was walking along the street, fired from my last job, and wondering how I could get hold of some cash, because I was quite broke. I met Leaderer. I said, ‘How goes it, Leaderer?’ ‘Fine!’ he says. ‘I’ve got to hurry to the broker’s to collect the money I made speculating in foreign exchange.’ ‘What’s foreign exchange?’ I said. He says ‘I haven’t got the time to tell you now, but, according to the paper, Hungarian money is down seventy points, and I’ve made the difference. Don’t you understand?’ Well, I didn’t understand. I said, ‘How do you make money if money goes down?’ and he says, ‘Wasserkopf, if you don’t know that, you don’t know a damn thing. Go to the school and get your tuition fees back.’ Then he hurried away and left me standing there, and I said to myself, ‘Why shouldn’t I do that?’ He’s right, now that I’ve thought it over. So I came here as fast as I could, and I’ll be much obliged if you give me back my tuition fees, because they amount to a lot of money, and I didn’t get anything for them. THE PRINCIPAL [at a loss for words]: Really… But now… See here, we’ve never had a request like yours before. Leaderer told you – WASSERKOPF: He’s a good friend, Leaderer. He told me, and when I get my money back I’m going to buy him a present. THE PRINICPAL [rising]: You – you are not really serious, are you?
WASSERKOPF: I was never more serious in my life. Treat me wrong here and I’ll go straight to the Ministry of Education and complain about you! You took my money and you taught me nothing. Now I’m no good for anything, and I can’t do the things that I should have learned in school. THE PRINCIPAL: You’re mad! [He breaks off, to continue in a more conciliatory tone] My dear sir, Herr – er – Wasserkopf, please go away quietly. I’ll think the matter over after you’ve gone. WASSERKOPF: [sitting]: No, no! You don’t get rid of me so easy. I’ll go when everything’s been settled. I was given the instruction here in exchange for money, so that I might be able to do something; but I can’t do anything because I was taught so badly, and any body can see I ought to have my money back. THE PRINICIPAL [trying to gain time]: What makes you think you can’t do anything? WASSERKOPF: Everybody thinks so. If I get a job I can’t keep it. Give me an examination and tell me what I ought to do. Call in the masters and let them say. THE PRINICIPAL: What a distressing business! How unfortunate! You really want to take another examination? WASSERKOPF: Yes. I’ve a right to take one. THE PRINICIPAL: What an unusual case! [He scratches his head] I’ve never heard of anything like it before. Er – I shall have to consult the staff. I shall have to call a conference… Er – will you wait in the waiting room and give me a few minutes? WASSERKOPF [rising]: Yes, be quick. I’ve got no time to waste [he saunters out in a leisurely fashion]. THE PRINICIPAL [rings; the servant enters]: Ask the staff to come here at once. A most extraordinary conference! THE SERVANT: Yes, sir. [He goes out] THE PRINCIPAL [trying out his speech]: Gentlemen, I have asked you to come here on account of a most unusual state of affairs. It is unprecedented. In the thirty years that I have been a schoolmaster I have never heard of anything like it. Never, so long as I live, shall I expect to hear of anything like it again. Never! God forbid! [The masters enter; they are characteristic figures whose eccentricities are
exaggerated] Gentlemen, I have asked you to come here on account of a most unusual state of affairs. Sit down, gentlemen. I shall open the conference. It is unprecedented, incredible and fantastic. A former pupil has come to see me – er – an individual named Wasserkopf. He brought up a question, which I’ve never encountered in my many years of experience. [He explodes] I have never heard of anything like it. THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: Tell us about it. THE PRINICIPAL: He wants – he wants his tuition fees back. THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: Why? THE PRINCIPAL: Because he’s lost his job. Because he’s broke. Because he’s an ass. I should be glad to have you express your views on this unparalleled case. THE PHYSICS MASTER: The case is natural. The law of conservation of energy proves that any given pupil will lose, in any given period, as much knowledge as a teacher can drill into his head in another period of like duration. THE HISTORY MASTER: There is nothing like it in the history of civilization. It is said that the Bourbons learned nothing and forgot nothing. If that is true. THE PHYSICS MASTER: The law of conservation of energy – [The two argue] THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: The question is, does he want the amount with simple or compound interest, because in the latter event – THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER: Where is the fellow, anyhow? THE PRINCIPAL: He’s waiting outside. He wants to be re-examined. He says he learned nothing. He says a re-examination will prove it. I’d like to know what you gentlemen think about it. THE MATHEMATICS MASTER [chuckling]: A re-examination? Gentlemen, it is my conviction that we will lose nothing by re-examining Wasserkopf. If he fails he will place us in an awkward position; therefore he must not fail. He has – shall I say? – pursued advanced studies in the school of life. We will not make our questions too difficult – agreed, gentlemen? We are dealing with a sly, crafty individual, who will try to get the better of us – and his money back – by hook or crook. We must checkmate him.
THE PHYSICS MASTER: How? THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: By sticking together. The object is to prevent him from failing, because if he fails he succeeds. That we must stop. If he fails, tomorrow there will be two more former pupils, and the next day a dozen. We must back each other up, gentlemen, so that this painful affair does not become a pedagogical scandal. We will ask him questions. Whatever his answers, we agree beforehand that they are correct. THE PHYSICS MASTER: Who will decide? THE MATHEMATICS TEACHER: I, if you will permit me. Mr. Principal, let us proceed with the examination. We will show the former pupil that we too can be shrewd! THE PRINCIPAL [ringing; uneasily]: Isn’t there a chance of something going wrong? Suppose it gets into the newspapers – THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: Leave it to us. THE PRINCIPAL [to the servant who has reappeared]: Show in Herr Wasserkopf. [He enters, without waiting to be shown in. He is most truculent. His hat is over one ear; he keeps his hands thrust into his pockets and stares insolently] THE STAFF [bowing, heartily]: How do you do? WASSERKOPF: Who the hell are you? Sit down, you loafers! [He grins, waiting to be thrown out] THE PRINCIPAL: How dare you – THE MATHEMATICS MASTER [interrupting]: Please! [He turns to the others.] Sit down, you loafers! [They sit, greatly astonished. He turns to Wasserkopf.] My dear sir, the greeting you have just given us shows that you understand the patriarchal manners, which we impress upon everybody in this institution. Exactly as in the days of the medieval humanists, teachers and pupils here are on a footing of perfect equality. You have shown us, in a most tactful way, that you approve of our customs. That is good of you, and I am sure my colleagues will agree that the pupil Wasserkopf, who appears before us for re-examination, need not be examined in what appertains to gentlemanliness. Instead we waive the examination in that subject, and mark him ‘Excellent.’
THE PRINCIPAL [understanding at once]: Quite right! Quite right! [He writes] ‘Manners: Excellent.’ THE STAFF: Agreed! Agreed! WASSERKOPF [puzzled, then shrugging his shoulders]: All right, if you say so. What the hell…! I don’t give a damn for the lot of you. My being gentlemanly isn’t going to pass the examination. Let me fail as quickly as possible, and give me my money. Everything else is just nonsense. THE PRINCIPAL [flattering]: Speaking for the staff, we agree with you. Your exquisite courtesy will not affect us one way or the other. We will examine you, and be guided entirely by your replies to our questions. Take notice of that. WASSERKOPF: All right, carry on! Let’s hear the questions. I need money. [He takes off his coat and hitches up his sleevebands.] Go to it! Ask me questions, professors – I mean, long-eared asses! I’d like to see you get a single correct answer out of me. THE PRINCIPAL: The examination will begin. History. Herr Schwefler? THE HISTORY MASTER [moving to the centre of the table and indicates a chair facing of it]: Herr Wasserkopf, won’t you be seated? WASSERKOPF [staring at him insolently, arms akimbo]: To hell with a seat! I’ll stand. [The History Master is disconcerted, and shows it, but the Mathematics Master leaps into the breach] THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: Bravo! Excellent! Herr Wasserkopf wishes us to understand two things. He will dispense with a formal written examination and will answer orally. Good! He will not be seated; he will stand. Also good. It follows that his physical condition is splendid, and I take it upon myself to award him an ‘Excellent’ in physical culture. I ask the Principal, who teaches that subject, to concur. THE PRINCIPAL: Quite Right. [He writes] ‘Physical Culture: Excellent’ THE STAFF: Agreed! Agreed! WASSERKOPF [energetically]: No! [He sits; he grins.] You caught me once, didn’t you? Well, you won’t do it again. From now I’ll have my ears open. THE PRINCIPAL: ‘Alertness: Very Good’
THE HISTORY MASTER: ‘Perseverance: Unusual.’ THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: ‘Logic: Excellent.’ WASSERKOPF: Get on with your questions! THE MATHEMATICS MASTER [to the Principal]: ‘Ambition: Boundless.’ [The Principal nods and writes] THE HISTORY MASTER [scratching his head]: Yes, yes, just a minute. [The other masters look at him with concern.] WASSERKOPF: What’s the matter, Schwefler? Aren’t you prepared? THE HISTORY MASTER: A moment! WASSERKOPF: Oh, you can’t think of a question that’s easy enough? You were always a numskull. THE HISTORY MASTER [the idea arrives; triumphantly]: Candidate, answer this question: How long did the Thirty Years’ War last? WASSERKOPF: Thirt – [He interrupts himself.] I mean to say, I don’t know. THE HISTORY MASTER: Please answer my questions! I am sure you know! Give me the answer! [Wasserkopf thinks with his eyebrows drawn together. The Physics Master tiptoes to him and whispers loudly, ‘Thirty years.’ The Geography Master winks at him and holds up ten fingers three times.] Well, well? WASSERKOPF: Mr. Principal, this is no way to run an examination. [He indicates the Physics Master] That fellow is trying to make me cheat. THE PRINCIPAL: I shall deal with this decisively. [To the Physics Master] Go away! [The Physics Master slinks back to his place] WASSERKOPF [after much thought]: How long did the Thirty Years’ War last? Was that the question? THE HISTORY MASTER: Yes, yes!
WASSERKOPF [grinning]: I know! Exactly seven meters! [They are paralyzed. He looks about in triumph.] Ha, ha! Seven meters! I know it lasted that long. It’s possible I’m wrong, and if I am I fail. Seven meters! Ha, ha! Seven meters long! Seven meters! Please give me back my tuition fees. [The Masters look at each other; at their wits’ ends] THE HISTORY MASTER [decisively]: Seven meters? Right! Your answer is excellent. WASSERKOPF [incredulously]: What. What did you say? THE HISTORY MASTER [swallowing manfully and watching the Principal out of the corner of his eye]: The answer is correct, as a matter of fact. The candidate has shown us that his thought processes are not merely superficial, and that he has investigated the subject in accordance with moderns researches based on – based on – based on – THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: Relativity, of course. The quantum theory. Planck. Einstein. It’s all very simple. [To the History Master] Don’t say another word. We understand perfectly. Einstein has taught us that time is as real as space and matter. It consists of atoms, and may be synthesized into a unified whole, and may be measured like anything else. Reduce the mass-system to a unit and a year may be represented by a meter, or seven years by seven meters. We may even assert that the Thirty Years’ War lasted seven years only because – because – because – THE HISTORY MASTER: Because the actual warfare took place only during half of each day – that is to say, twelve hours out of twenty-four – and the thirty years at once become fifteen. But not even fifteen years were given up to incessant fighting, for the combatants had to eat – three hours a day, reducing our fifteen years to twelve. And if we deduct from this the hours given up to noon-day siestas, to peaceful diversions, to non-warlike activities – [He wipes his brow] THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: To social distractions, we are left only with time which the candidate has represented by the Einsteinian equivalent of seven meters. Correct! I take it upon myself, gentlemen, to propose a grading of ‘Very Good’ in History. Oof! THE STAFF: Bravo! Excellent! He has passed! [They congratulate Wasserkopf] WASSERKOPF [objecting]: But I don’t see – THE PRINCIPAL: That ends the examination in History. [Writing] ‘History: Very Good.’ [The staff surround the History Master and congratulate him.] Now the examination in physics.
WASSERKOPF: Now we’ll see something, you tricksters! THE PHYSICS MASTER [energetically]: Come, come! WASSERKOPF [defiantly]: Well, what’s going to happen? Ask your questions, or don’t. I haven’t got any more time to waste. [He stares at the Physics Master] Oh, now I remember you. Do you know what we used to call you behind your back? [The Physics Master smiles in agony] We called you cannibal, because you were always chewing your thumbs, just as you’re doing now! [The master removes his thumb hastily. The rest of the staff smile.] That’s what we called you! Oh, by the way, do you remember the day you tripped and fell flat in the aisle? Do you know who tied a string across from desk to desk, so you’d do that? I did it! THE PHYSICS MASTER [furiously]: You? WASSERKOPF: Don’t get excited, little man. Ask me a hard question instead. Plough me. THE PHYSICS MASTER: [controls himself, well aware that Wasserkopf is trying to irritate him. Very sweetly]: Kind of you – very kind of you. And now, tell me, Herr Wasserkopf, do clocks in church steeples really become smaller as you walk away from them, or do they merely appear to become smaller because of an optical illusion? WASSERKOPF: What an absolute rot? How should I know? Whenever I walk away from clocks they get larger! Invariably! If I want them to get smaller I turn round and walk straight up to them, and they’re not small at all. THE PHYSICS MASTER: In a word, therefore, in a word – WASSERKOPF: In a word, therefore, you give me a pain in the neck. You’re an ass! That’s my answer. THE PHYSICS MASTER [furiously]: Is that your answer? [He controls himself] Good! It is correct. [Turning to the staff] A difficult answer but a most brilliant one. I’ll explain – that is to say, I’ll explain. [With a sigh, he gets on with it] When we talk of an ass we always notice – we always notice – THE STAFF [anxiously]: Yes? Yes? THE PHYSICS MASTER:- that his look is sad. Therefore – [He thinks. Suddenly triumphant] I’ve got it!
WASSERKOPF [worried]: What have you got, you whiskered baboon? THE PHYSICS MASTER: I’ve got it, and the answer is right. Why is the look of the ass so sad? Because we are all the victims of illusion. But what illusions can affect the extremely primitive apperceptive powers of an ass? Obviously, the illusions of the senses, for the ass lacks imagination; and these must be none other than optical illusions, since the ass, like us, observes that objects appear to become smaller as he moves away from them. The candidate has given us a most excellent answer in calling our attention to an animal whose whole expressions is melancholy because its senses are deceptive; or, to put it in another way, because the apparent decrease in size of an object, in this case a clock, is to be ascribed to optical illusion. The answer was correct. I certify, therefore, that the candidate may be given ‘Very Good’ in Physics. THE PRINCIPAL [writing]: ‘Physics: Very Good’ THE STAFF: Bravo! [They surround the Physics Master, slapping him on the back and shaking his hands, while he sinks into his chair, completely exhausted] WASSERKOPF: I protest! THE PRINCIPAL [silencing him with a gesture]: The examination in Geography. [The Geography Master takes the place facing Wasserkopf] WASSERKOPF: Just look at him! The old hypocrite! How are you, anyhow, nitwit? THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER: I beg your pardon? WASSERKOPF: My name used to be in our class-book, didn’t it? You old reprobate! You just wait! I’ll fix you all right! THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER: Tell me, candidate – WASSERKOPF: I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you! Oh, how I used to hate you eighteen years ago! THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER: [imperturbably]: Please tell me what city of the same name is the capital of the German province of Brunswick?
WASSERKOPF: What a dumb question! The answer’s part of the question. THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER [pleased]: Isn’t it? And the answer – what is it? WASSERKOPF: ‘Same’ of course. That’s the answer. If the name of the city is same, then the name of the city is ‘Same.’ Right? If it isn’t I fail, and you refund my tuition fees. THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER: The answer is correct. The name of the city is ‘Same.’ Gentlemen, the candidate shows exceptional knowledge of the history of the city Brunswick. There is a legend that once, as the Emperor Barbarossa was riding in to the city, he met a young peasant girl who was munching a bun, and whose mouth was full. He called out to her, ‘God bless you. What’s the name of this city?’ and the peasant girl answered ‘Same to you, sir.’ Then she stopped because her mouth was full, and the Emperor laughed and said, ‘Ho, ho! So the name of the city is “Same.”?’ And for many years, thereafter, he never referred to Brunswick, except by that title. [He turns, winks solemnly at his colleagues.] The answer is excellent. The candidate is entitled to a grade of ‘Excellent’ in Geography. [He returns to his place to be showered with congratulations] THE PRINCIPAL [writing]: ‘Geography: Excellent.’ Thus far the candidate has come through with flying colours. Only the examination in mathematics is left. Should he pass that he will have passed the entire examination. WASSERKOPF [nervously]: I’m going to be more careful now. [The Mathematics Master takes his place facing Wasserkopf. The Other Masters are worried but the Mathematics Master assures them with a gesture that they may depend on him.] So here you are, old-stick-in-the-mud! Do you know we used to call you ‘old-stick-in-the-mud’ behind your back? You’d better brush up your wits if you think you’re going to put one over me. I’ll start off by telling you a few things about mathematics: two times two is five, and I make up my own multiplication tables as I go along. And if you add eight apples and two pears the answer is twenty-seven apricots. That’s my system, and you’ll see me use it. To hell with mathematics! ‘Answer excellent’? ‘Answer very good’ ‘Answer correct’? Not this time. It will be simpler if you say you aren’t prepared, and let me fail. THE MATHEMATICS MASTER [forcibly]: You must not joke about a serious examination. I’m going to ask you two questions. One of them is easy; the other is hard. WASSERKOPF [imitating him]: One of them is easy; the other is hard. The same old-stick-in-themud that you always were! I remember the pictures of you we used to draw on the board –
THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: [interrupting]: If this were an examination in art you would be marked excellent. [He pauses, and Wasserkopf is suddenly silent.] But we are dealing with mathematics. The easy question: If we represent the speed of light by x, and the distance of the star Sirius from the sun by y, what is the circumference of a one-hundred-and-nine-sided regular polyhedron whose surface coincides with that of the hip-pocket of a State railway employee whose wife has been deceiving him for two years and eleven months with a regimental sergeant-major of hussars? THE STAFF [much upset]: But look here, Professor! Professor! THE PRINICPAL: Professor! WASSERKOPF: Don’t interfere with him! [To the Mathematics Master] Will you repeat the question? THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: No. Either you paid attention or you did not. Either you know the answer, or you don’t. Tell me the answer, because if you don’t know it – WASSERKOPF: Of course I know it! Naturally I know it! I’ll tell you: two thousand six hundred and twenty nine litres. Exact. No fractions. And did I give you the correct answer? [He chuckles] I’ve given you an answer which is too good! THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: No. The answer is wrong. The correct answer is two thousand six hundred and twenty-eight litres, and not twenty nine. [He turns to The Principal] I refuse to pass the candidate. Mark him ‘Failure.’ WASSERKOPF [bounding]: I told you so! I told you so! THE PRINCIPAL [thunderstruck]: Professor! Professor! THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: I’m sorry. It is true that his error amounted to less than a tenth of a per cent, in the total, but it was an error. He fails. WASSERKOPF: My tuition fees! My tuition fees! THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: In my opinion the candidate’s request is reasonable. Now that I have satisfied myself he cannot pass our examination it is his right to recover the monies which were paid us.
WASSERKOPF: That’s so! That’s right! Give me the money. [The staff stare as if the heaven had fallen] THE PRINCIPAL [furiously, to the Mathematics Master]: Is that what you think? THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: Absolutely. This is a good school. It is our duty to see that nothing ever injures its reputation. How much do we owe you, Herr Wasserkopf? WASSERKOPF [greedily, forgetting everything else]: I’ll tell you exactly. I attended this school for six years in all. During the first three years the fee was 150 crowns quarterly. Total for three years 1, 800. During the second three years the fee was 400 crowns semi-annually. Total: 2, 400 and 1, 800 is 4, 200. Examination fees, 250 crowns 95 heller. Certificates, documents, books, stamp taxes, 1, 241 crowns 43 heller. Total: 5, 682 crowns 38 heller. Incidentals, stationery, notebooks, 786 crowns 12 heller. Grand total: 6, 450 crowns 50 heller. Knock of the heller and call it crowns. THE MATHEMATIC MASTER [checking with his paper and pencil as Wasserkopf calls out the amount]: Exactly! WASSERKOPF: Exactly! You can rely on it. THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: It’s right. There’s no question of it. It’s right to the smallest detail. [He offers Wasserkopf his hand] I congratulate you! That was my difficult question! WASSERKOPF [not understanding]: What? THE MATHEMATICS MASTER [to the Principal]: I certify that the candidate passes in Mathematics. His answer to the easy question was a very little out of the way; but his answer to the difficult question – how much the refund should be – was exactly correct. Herr Wasserkopf is a mathematical genius. WASSERKOPF [striking his forehead]: So you did put one over me! THE PRINCIPAL [rising]: I present the results of the examination. Herr Wasserkopf has passed with distinction in every subject, and has again shown that he is entitled to the certificate we awarded him on his graduation. Herr Wasserkopf, we offer our congratulations – accepting a large share of them for ourselves for having taught you so excellently. And now that we have verified your knowledge and your abilities – [he makes an eloquent gesture] get out before I have you thrown out!
[He rings for the servant. The following speeches are nearly spoken simultaneously.] THE HISTORY MASTER: So I’m a numskull, am I? Say it again and I’ll show you what is what! THE PHYSICS MASTER: I’m a cannibal? What? And you were the one who tied a string across the aisle – THE GEOGRAPHY MASTER: Hypocrite? Nitwit? Ass? Me? THE MATHEMATICS MASTER: Old stick-in-the-mud? THE SERVANT [entering]: Yes, sir? THE PRINCIPAL [indicating Wasserkopf]: Remove that object! [The servant seizes Wasserkopf by the collar and the seat of his trousers and rushes him off. The Principal turns to the staff and beams.] Thank you, gentlemen, for your magnificent co-operation. In the future it will be our proudest boast that in this school a pupil simply cannot fail! [They shake hands and slap each other’s back]
Self Assessment Questions - 1
1. When does the Principal receive parents in his office? 2. How does the servant know that Wasserkopf is not a student? 3. When was Wasserkopf a student in the school? 4. What does Wasserkopf want from the school? 5. Who gave Wasserkopf the idea of claiming his fees back? 6. What is the Mathematics Master most concerned about? 7. What do the teachers agree on before starting the test?
Self Assessment Questions - 2
1. When does the Principal receive parents in his office? 2. How does the servant know that Wasserkopf is not a student? 3. When was Wasserkopf a student in the school? 4. What does Wasserkopf want from the school? 5. Who gave Wasserkopf the idea of claiming his fees back? 6. What is the Mathematics Master most concerned about? 7. What do the teachers agree on before starting the test?
Synopsis of the play
The play opens with an alumnus (former student) who visits his school with a peculiar motive. He wants the Principal to refund the tuition fees that he paid to the school when he was a student. He claims the refund because according to him he didn’t learn anything at school. He tells that his school certificate is useless as he has not been able to secure a job out of it. This unique idea of claiming a refund of fees was given to him by his classmate, Leaderer. The Principal, who had never encountered such a baffling situation before summons an emergency meeting of the staff. The masters didn’t take long to realize that they were dealing with a crafty and cunning individual. Wasserkopf’s idea was to take a re-examination, fail in the exam and go home with a refund. The masters realized that Wasserkopf’s real intention was to fail in the exam and claim the refund. Therefore, the masters had to devise a counter-ploy by which they could outsmart Wasserkopf. So, the masters decided to outsmart the old student by proving all his answers right, however erroneous they might be. The Mathematics master said that in the implementation of the plan they had to stick together. They had to be united and help each other in implementing their plan. The exam was an oral exam as Wasserkopf’s decision to stand was construed by the Mathematics master as a signal to dispense with the written form of examination. The first question was from the History master. The master asked him how many years the Thirty Years’ War lasted. The answer was in the question itself. But Wasserkopf, keen on giving wrong answers, tells that the Thirty Years’ War lasted seven meters. The history master did not know how to
prove this answer right. Fortunately for him, the mathematics master aided him by proving that the answer was right on the basis of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. The master argued that time and space are relative terms and therefore years can be represented as meters. Then they proved that the actual war took place for only seven years. So seven years is relatively equal to seven meters. Therefore, Wasserkopf’s answer was right. The Physics master’s question was whether objects actually became smaller as people moved away from or if it was an optical illusion. To this question, the answer given by Wasserkopf was ‘Ass.’ It is also proved correct because as the Physics master demonstrates the melancholic look of the ass is also an optical illusion. Therefore, Wasserkopf had given a metaphorical explanation. The geography master did not have much difficulty in proving that the capital of the German province of Brunswick is ‘Same.’ The Mathematics master was the smartest of them all. He laid a clever trap and the student fell into that clever trap. First, the master asked the student an easy (difficult) question, on the circumference of a one-hundred-and-nine-sided regular polyhedron. The question shocked all the other masters and the Principal. Wasserkopf with all his knowledge would have found that question difficult. But he gave an almost correct answer. The Mathematics master said that the student had failed in Mathematics and hence should be given the refund. And he cleverly trapped Wasserkopf and made him calculate the exact amount that should be refunded. Wasserkopf did not realize that this was his difficult question. He calculated the exact amount and said that it was 6,450 crowns and 50 heller. Once the mathematics master got the exact answer he revealed to Wasserkopf that the question was his second and ‘difficult’ question. By giving the right answer to the difficult question Wasserkopf had shown that he was a ‘mathematical genius.’ Thus through the combined efforts of all the masters Wasserkopf was made to pass the re-exam. Finally, he was shown the door without a refund. The masters had finally succeeded in outsmarting a crafty and sly pupil..
One-act plays are recommended in most universities to under-graduate students. There are two reasons for the popularity of one-act plays. First, one-act plays are lively and humorous. Second, one-act plays are shorter than three or five act plays and hence the ideal platform for students to learn about plays/dramas. This unit gave you a firsthand look at one-act plays. The unit dealt with one of the most hilarious one-act plays in the modern times. Refund has been adopted into several languages because of its immense popularity. The highlights of the play are its humor and its fresh look at the master-student relationship. This is only for educational purposes. – RJ
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