Sociological Imagination: Can Biography be saved from History?

24th January 2014

A former Indian beauty queen, Rai Rai states very categorically in an advertisement that magic does not lie in one’s eyes but rather in the brand of one’s favoured Kohl. A little confusing considering how her light eyes have been caught the fancy of her many fans. And although I am not among them, I do feel sad that there has been an attempt to strip our eyes of the power that they possess. Marx in his infinite wisdom was correct then- matter over mind/soul. Today’s day and age is all about ‘yeh dil maange more’ and ‘laal Mercedes chaida mainu’.

‘Free’ market economy has ironically created a scenario where one’s choices are no longer free. Cards and letters too are outmoded. You want to show someone you love them? Give them diamonds, because diamonds are forever (hardest substance on earth, isn’t it?). If you are not like a homogenized commodity which the economy/society/ education system are all hell bent on turning you into then you are just not acceptable. You don’t fit in. You’re shy? You need psychiatric treatment. You’re not chirpy? You’re not even a “proper” girl! I belong to the Times Nowhere era where formulating and sticking to my own opinion is under serious threat  due to news anchors like  Ynab Ygoswami who change their (rather forceful) views faster than the blink of an eye. While agreeing that the recent actions of a political leader were perhaps irresponsible, I refuse to question his credibility. News then is just like fast food. Consumed quickly possessing very little nutrition and oodles of cheap flavor. Alarmingly this trend is making its presence felt in politics as well. The choice then is an easy one to make. Your state had communal violence and my state had communal violence; but my agricultural sectors growth rate is 10% vs. your 4%. I am exonerated and you are not. Simple.

I still don’t understand why such a hue and cry is made about board exams. What difference would it have made to my life had I scored a 45 instead of an 85 in junior school? Relatives who I meet only during someone’s death or marriage made it a point to call both after my class ten and class twelve results were announced. Why? Because my cousin (whose face I have forgotten) and I were in the same year. He beat me in class ten but two years later the empire struck back. Such an extraordinary achievement! I am trying to recall his name and failing miserably. Is this not a more lamentable fact than any “poor” exam performance? It’s not, Apoorva, my rational mind is quick to respond. No examination paper will test you on how well you know your relatives. Or your friends. Or your parents. Because they (thankfully) are not facts; not of national importance anyway.

Do animals become aware of status? Is that the reason why my humble Maruti is left alone by the colony’s alpha dog, who accompanied by his minions, perches on top of the neighbors’ Mercedes, a master of all that he surveys?  Maybe it’s just the larger size of the car. Or maybe it’s the fact that animals in their own simple way can sense what people feel. All those glances of admiration, those craning necks. Alpha sees them all.



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