The Holy Man’s Chemical Lab

I am at a complete loss as to what a holy man has to do with a chemical lab I am also at a loss as to how a deep a well should be if its divine purpose is something other than the provision of water to the beings in its immediate vicinity.Forgive my ignorance, for I am also at a loss as to why most of the beautiful girls are bird brained.And my loss at our heading, our direction and our road.

But despite theses shortcomings, as an individual (enlightened to say the most) forced upon by certain social parameters to enjoy the atmosphere and “liberties” rained upon the student community, I can most definitely say, without the slightest hesitation, that I am NOT at a loss at our disgusting impotence with regards to human issues and the repulsive decay that blinds us and will eventually bind us.

Before you tread, please further know this – these are MY views. As you tread further if shame engulfs you, if realization overpowers you, they are due to the glimpses you catch from the mirror as I run around in search of a firm footing to state my cause. The cause of and for humanity. A vicious circle ensues here. The search for a firm footing to state the cause and eventually the cause becoming the search for the footing and its creation.

In the month of April in the year 1985, several hundred students of Columbia University sat down in front of the chained doors of the main Columbia College classroom and administrative building in protest. They put up placards all over the campus, pasted posters, distributed leaflets, and went on a hunger strike. This went on for three weeks. Their cause : to end Apartheid in South Africa. Students of MIT, Harvard and other Ivy League Institutes too protested until their demands, that their respective institutes divests itself of millions of dollars of stock in companies which deal with South Africa, was met. The brightest and the most elite of the educated in the United States disrupted academics and protested in all possible ways in April 1985. This was for a nation and a cause thousands of miles away; continents and languages away; races and cultures away.

On February 3, 2004 Students at Georgetown University erected a 20-foot-high “apartheid” wall to draw attention to the 400-mile wall Israel currently is building in Palestinian towns and villages.

For the past one year, the walls and trees of campuses all over India are adorned by posters and placards that requests you to vote for a “Mr/Mrs X” participating in an “XYZ” reality show being aired on any of the numerous channels. “Send an SMS to 565656, the format is BS AMMY”.

I give you facts, figures and events. Draw any picture you like.

On one canvas, we have the student community fighting for and standing for Human Issues. Apartheid, Civil Liberties, Palestine, Anti War movements. In this canvas we have the student community toiling to a create a new world, a better world. Here nerds, geeks and all sorts of intellectual weirdos, though they might be the elite in all respects, have their hearts tuned to beat with the hearts of the entire human race. The realization that the human fate is intertwined infinitely and injustice committed in any part of the world will surely trickle down upon every single individual, fuels their zeal to shout out against atrocities anywhere in the world.

In the Indian canvas, the campuses are all colourful and vibrant with music, dance immature politics, gimmicks and “Reality Shows”. We are ignorant of the slums around our campuses but fully aware to the last detail the schedule in the movie theatres and the boot size of Pashmita Shetty. Impotent fools that we have become, many do not even realize that the “Reality Shows” do not depict even the reality of the studio in which it was shot, let alone REALITY. For so long our hands are used to applaud the dying Bollywood, corrupt cricket and holding cokes, that we no longer turn our hands into a fist to protest or hold it out wide and firm to help in distress.

With a sigh as we prepare to burn this canvas, its proponents plead in the name of arts, literature, peace and development.

I wouldn’t complain much of a thorn, if by its side you could show me a rose.

Art cannot be judged. It cannot be measured, weighed and rated. Art is related to taste and taste varies from individual to individual. Four people sitting behind a desk, no matter how wonderfully skilled they might be, cannot tell me if a song I heard is good or bad. This is the very concept of art which is related to the higher faculties of man. It comes into existence with the failure of all scientific methodologies applicable to cage it and when it transcends all boundaries and constraints that threaten to bind it. The very moment you set out to measure it and rate it by its notes, its decibels, its costumes or its movements the constraints placed upon it make it but another commodity that one sells and buys in the market. And what campuses stage in the so called festivals is nothing short of mere satisfaction of the basest feelings.

There is no clear line where arts and literature merge or get demarcated. But the power it wields is clear from the age old notion of the pen being mightier than the sword. Literature has conceived and laid to rest the hundreds of revolutions that have shaped today’s world. It has brought down empires crumbling to dust and it has set the mindsets of generations and influenced their morality, beliefs and practices. Like Marquez’s Pietro Crespi ghost, it ignites, it fuels, it kills and it revives. And when literature is “produced” and “created” (ironically) merely to fit in the description of “BEST SELLER” or fill in the pages of a magazine and serves only to nourish the lower human organs, it results in a society like now, ignorant of the decay it breathes in.

Noam Chomsky talks of the choice of the world as “stark and dreadful and inescapable: shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?” in “Failed States”. Notice the word inescapable. The inspiration is Bertrand Russell. The choice becomes inescapable as this is the nature of man. Basically, peace is boring. This is why our history is replete with battles, battlefields, war leaders, war dates, war proclamations and so on. Even Chris Harman’s People’s History couldn’t leave out wars.

Every time peace is shattered to pieces, there are a group of people who profits. To disguise their profits (in the form of wealth, fame, power or just basic fulfillment of the wicked sadist nature) these group of people turn to isms, ideologies and other things abstract that don’t actually mean anything. “This war is about free will”, “God came to my dreams and told me to liberate Iraq”, “The honour of our race is at stake”…….and so on. To know the actual reasons behind the wars that took place in the last century one need only to look into the economics involved in those wars.

Similar is the case of peace in our campuses. Every time it is disrupted, it serves only to benefit a few. We have a generation that seeks to mould its leaders out of sheer senseless violence. A shortcut to campus fame it seems. Mere pawns in the hands of political parties and its leaders, these ignorant few spur unrest and violence throughout. Once things starts going their way, once they feel they are established, they tend to create an atmosphere where only the most impotent and non-reacting individuals survive. And the rising culture of MTV, coke, liquor, item Bollywoods, Ipods and skin fashion helps these leaders and groups to create a community that knows NOT its place.

Like the dead leaves and rotten fishes, from the fresh water to the salt waters, with the flow they flow. And equate impotence with peace.

A little about development…or its lack. Let me quote Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Questions from a worker who reads’.

“Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished

Did the masons go?…..

Had Byzantium, much praised in song

Only palaces for its inhabitants?….

Caesar beat the Gauls.

Did he not have even a cook with him?…

Every page a victory.

Who cooked the feast for the victors?

Every ten years a great man.

Who paid the bill?”

Answer these questions and you will see that development is not symbolized by the Taipei Towers, the Taj Mahal, or an Express Way. As Paul Krugman says, at least a trickle for the common man and then we can talk about further development.


The chemical lab is not a very nice place for a Holy Man. Its not serene or calm. Yet amidst all those explosions, light, smell and acid, there lie ingredients that will ultimately lead to the truth. As I pull down the curtains in this unfinished play know about the strands that define the human in humanity. Know about Palestine, Darfur, Afghanisatn, Iraq, Kashmir. Know about the Middle East wind blown by a million mothers watching their children being slaughtered. Know about the idea whose time has come. Know about the eulogies being prepared for the fake revolutions. And know that all silence is not consent. Some signify the deep breath before the ultimate race

Raji Raouf


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