Friday 11 November 2011

Naipaul misbehaving again

‘Madam, what to do? Naipaul misbehaving again.”

Mrs. Sulochana Pundit, Deputy Director, Virtual Reality Division, Ministry of Cultural Reconstruction, pushed her glasses up her nose.

She saw Kishen- one of the peons- except they didn’t like being called peons- Administrative Assistant (Grade III) was the title they insisted on- standing sheepishly in the shadows.

“Don’t tell me! The time-lines have got muddled and Sir V.S. Naipaul is getting up Victoria Ocampo’s nose …”
“Madam, not nose only. It is too horrible. Back-side, front-side, don’t ask what all and where all that little shaitan is not getting up.”

Mrs. Pundit sighed. If only she had crammed a bit more, to get higher marks in the Government’s competitive exams, she would now be a glamorous Police officer, saving the country from jihadi terrorists, rather than having supinely to sit, pushing a pen, in this godforsaken hole of a department.

“All right, Kishen” she said tiredly, “shut it down and re-boot.”
“Madam, it is not shutting down. “
“What? How can that be?”
“Madam, I am thinking, Time coil is responsible. What I can tell you? Greedy Contractors thinking profit only. Safety- not caring. That is why, just to save on disk-space, they went and put in a self-organizing heuristic to compress database. Madam, we were complaining it is unsafe. Such type of heuristic should only be used where data is random in nature. Historical information isn’t random. But protests of our Cadre Association went unheard. Contractor has too much pull. Ministry is saying- ‘because of George Soros principle of reflexivity, History has inbuilt noise generator”. Madam, who is this billionaire George Soros to be talking? Is he doing dangerous work like us? Also we were consulting independent experts- including great scientists like Vandana Shiva and theorists like Pappu Yadav- I can repeat to you, word for word, what their report said- ‘though the principle of reflexivity, in its generalized form, ensures that no humanly cognizable algorithm can make historical information almost infinitely compressible, the same can not be assumed for a machine intelligence... Historical processes may be decomposable in manners it would be destructive of human consciousness to contemplate… But, if so, there is nothing to stop the complexity of the Time Coil’s heuristic from growing faster than any computable function… What if, as a result, the whole system’s entropic arrow of Time goes into reverse? In that case, the Virtual Reality Operator might start running independently as the heat sink of the Time Coil. Which raises the further question, what if the combined complexity of the two systems grows exponentially faster than that of which all Physical Reality is the heat sink? Might not, by Landauer's principle, the one usurp the other?’”

Sulochana was a kind hearted woman. She let the hysterical peon babble on for a bit. ‘What to do?’ she thought to herself, ‘these peons- sorry! Admin Assistants (Grade III)- are so superstitious and
backward. They think the machines they tend are alive or animated by some God. Poor fellows! it is not their fault. They are given just enough education to be able to read an operating manual- or Political Party manifesto- and then are pushed out into the job-market. It is the failure of the Government that they are not properly indoctrinated into our Secular, Socialist, Gandhi-Nehru-Yadav, National ideology. Though, of course, in one sense, it’s just as well. It keeps the riff raff element out of the higher cadres of the Bureaucracy.’

Uff ooh, Kishen!” she said- once the little peon had run out of steam - “what nonsense you are talking! Too much Sci Fi on T.V nowadays, I say! And as for those pulp magazines- don’t even ask! I tell you, it has become major problem.”
Kishen looked set to burst into tears. “But, Madam…” he spluttered.
Sulochana cut him short. One must be cruel to be kind. “Don’t be misled by the professional agitators. They are just heating your mind for no reason. Your cadre was worried jobs would be lost if the information was compressed. Okay, that was a legitimate concern. But, see, Minister Sahib has given undertaking- no retrenchment. Your jobs are safe. That was all your people wanted. Just forget all the nonsense the Info-Environmentalists spouted about Database Ecology and the terrible things that would happen if whole species of algorithms, whole genera of heuristic paradigms, were allowed to go extinct.
 It was all just alarmist propaganda- nothing more. Even a child could not be fooled. After all, Govt. of India has an inbuilt Reservation policy to ensure against such things. But, the Info-Environmentalists didn’t stop there. Remember their scare-mongering about … what was it?.. oh yes, some nonsense about the fifth dimension- the diagonal direction of Time- being destroyed if the Time Coil overheats? Sheer sensationalism! As if the malfunction of some little machine could destroy the imagination of the entire Universe! Look, just be clear on one point. Here, in Govt. of India, Information is Information. Energy is Energy. They are two separate things. Here is Ministry of Information on this side of Rajpath and there is Ministry of Energy over on that side. Those with information lack energy and those with energy lack information. Granted, in the Private Sector, Power and Knowledge may be interchangeable, but what has that to do with us? We have our own traditions to maintain. So, you may just very kindly go and pull the plug, that’s all, and the Virtual Reality Operator will switch off by itself.”

“Madam, I already pulled the plug. Still it is running. Must be, it is getting power from the Time Coil just like the Info -Environmentalists warned. That only I was explaining.”

“So, okay, some software glitch, or spatchcocked rewiring, is causing it to take electricity from the Time Coil. Tell Tech Support to come and fix. Meanwhile, why not switch off the Time coil?”

“Madam, we can switch off, but how we can recover all emergent properties of the system on re-booting? That is why it is a Director level decision. And you know Director Sahib has gone for Hajj. So, what to do?”

“Is Naipaul really misbehaving so very badly? Or if he is, why not just turn your eyes away? ”

“Madam, you may be remembering, previous administration, due to its Hindutva obsession, insisted the Virtual Reality Operator satisfy Ved Vyasa’s stipulation that karma and dharma be conserved. Thus each eigenstate of the system is constrained to display 2 additional symmetries. However, since both karma and dharma are observer dependent, the Zeno time of the system is macroscopic. But, Madamji, it is well known- by George Sudarshan Sir’s theorem- that observations at intervals greater than the Zeno time would have the effect of accelerating its run away evolution. Thus, for Soteriological Health and Safety reasons, we have to schedule observations at lesser intervals to retard the process.”

“Kishenji, all that may be very well and good, but, just consider, was it very correct for you to come to me with a problem like this just now? Due to upcoming Pooja holidays, my mother-in-law has come to stay which means all the herbs and vegetables have to be bought fresh and the spices ground by hand. Couldn’t you have waited till after the week-end?”

Kishen fidgeted and hung his head. “Madamji, I am sorry. I made mistake. Please forgive me.”

‘No,” said Sulochana feeling guilty for having tried to shirk her responsibility, “You were right to tell me. The whole purpose of our Ministry is to reconstruct our Culture on a proper basis. Indeed, this current project is not just of National importance but also International significance. You see, when, Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore went to Buenos Aires, ninety years ago, a great historical opportunity was missed because Tagore’s secretary- a wealthy English squire- quite gratuitously went and put his hand up Victoria Ocampo’s skirt. This vulgar action incensed that great Argentine Muse and Maecenas. It put her on her guard. It colored her subsequent dealings with the venerable Indian sage. It prevented the proper unfolding of what could have been a wonderful Cultural cross-pollination and Spiritual efflorescence whose impact- on the young Jorge Luis Borges, to mention just one instance- was bound to have had world shaking implications.”

“Yes, Madam. But, please, one thing I am not understanding. Why this Naipaul fellow getting involved? Due to why he is doing such unspeakable things to Ocampo Memsahib? What doomsday is this?”

“History,” said Sulochana, “has its own System Repair utility. It mends its own broken threads after its own fashion. Thus, Norman Thomas di Giovanni- blind Borges’s amanuensis- became also the facilitator of an affair between Naipaul- previously unlettered in sexual intimacy’s Braille- and a cultured lady of the Argentine upper class. This had a re-invigorating effect on Naipaul’s own work- his stigmatic sphota or inward Gorgon glance- and he went on to win the Nobel prize- but that wasn’t what History had intended. On the contrary, the purely spiritual marriage- like the relationship between Mahatma Gandhi and, Tagore’s niece, Sarla Devi- which History had arranged for Tagore and Ocampo – but which Tagore’s lustful secretary frustrated- was meant to benefit Borges- not Naipaul, who read in Borges’s bibliolatric Universalism nothing but a sterile and corrosive fantasy of cosmopolitanism spun out by a schizophrenically self-mythologizing mind whose manic protestation against its own Provincialism but sealed it to that doom. 

"But such a reading had the effect of creating something new in Universal Culture- the notion of the ressentiment of the margin towards the centre- the beginning of an imputed insurrection- or, let us say, an epistemic fracture already apparent in such abortions of the Weltgeist as the notion of a malign and objectifying ‘Orientalism’, an unreasoning and implacable ‘Alterity’, a more sinister for speechless ‘Subaltern’, and a now galloping Globalization underpinned by the escalating export of indiscriminate Terror and all pervasive Fraud.

“This is a mistake we must correct. We too- humble pen-pushers though we be, in the Ministry of Cultural Reconstruction- are front-line soldiers in the battle to save Universalism. You too, Kishenji, if you could but see it, are playing an important role. The connection between Indian and Argentine modernism must be re-established on a high Spiritual level free from the taint of lechery or illicit sex. History must be remade on a proper basis so as to permit the, Democratically mandated, Cultural reconstruction of the country- in line with the Nehru-Gandhi-Pappu Yadav ideology of Secular Scientific Spiritualized Socialism sans Sexy Shenanigans. That is why Naipaul’s naughtiness with Victoria Ocampo must not be allowed to stand. Action must be taken. Tell you what- can’t Borges do something? Couldn’t you get the young Borges into that time-line to…you know, throw cold water on Naipaul?”

“Madam, I am not very expert on Borges. But, perhaps, if we consulted Vivek Iyer- not only he is General Secretary of the Admin Assistants (Grade III) Borges Appreciation Association but also- due to a couple of typos on the ballot paper’s small print- ex officio, Sexretary Genital of the Admin Assistants (Grade III) Benevolent Association. Surely, he is the proper man…”

“Kishenji, I appreciate your suggestion but… the fact is… Mr. Iyer may not be the best person to involve. To be blunt… how should I say this?… you see, the sight of Naipaul’s lusty actions can have a titillating effect on certain sorts of depraved people. In any case, Iyer is infamous, throughout the Secretariat, for his fanatical campaign to prove that Naipaul only sustained himself financially, during his lean years in the late 60’s and 70’s, by appearances as the masked wrestler, El Bandido Anal, on Venezuelan Television- not to mention cunnilingual cameos in Malyalee porn. Indeed, Mr. Iyer is running a roaring business supplying videos that purport to substantiate his claims. Frankly, I think it is better if we keep Mr. Iyer out of the picture.”

“Madam, I was not knowing. Please forgive me. What you suggest is best. However, still one doubt is in my mind. Don’t mind it if I speak frankly. I am only Eighth Standard Pass. Sorry, to ask such a basic question. But, Madam, what of the Parmenides Principle? It was the basis of Lalluji’s defense in the fodder scam case back in the Nineties. And now he is Minister of Railway Timetables, Ontology is under his portfolio. As Rabriji mentioned in her letter of support to our Action Committee- ‘ in a block universe- whatever can be thought of or spoken about must be- and that includes Virtual Reality representations.’ Madamji, reason I’m mentioning is because of a great danger. An eventuality unthinkable we may think, for unspeakable it surely is- Madamji, what if Naipaul prefers Borges to Ocampo? “

“So? Why only women should suffer? Anyway, what else we can do- tell me that?”

“But…but, Madamji! Question is- is this all only a simulation? Can we be sure there will be no real-world effects? I mean, sorry to be blunt, but you know sometimes even Departments of the Government India end up actually achieving something they were set up to do…Can we be sure the Past won’t be changed?”

“Ah!” said Sulochana- wishing she’d kept awake at Tech Support briefings- “Well… we know that, as Sir Karl Popper said, the Past is affected by experiments made in the Future... Indeed, the whole purpose of our Department is to change the Past. But, whether it is just Government of India’s version of the Past or the actual universally inter-subjective Past… I confess, these are difficult questions to resolve on a Friday afternoon.”

“Madam, are you saying we should wait a little…?”

“What? No! Virtual Reality or not, Naipaul is breaking Indian law. He must be stopped. Actually, Borges might be the right man to stop him, because his was the strongest voice warning Mankind of the dangers of Reality being contaminated by the Dream or usurped by the Simulation. Come to think of it, that’s also Naipaul’s point- but arrived at from the perspective of restless travel journalism rather than a tuirgen of restive hermeneutics… Perhaps, the two will complement each other. Even find a workaround for the… urm... Parmenides Principle and fulminate this whole distasteful episode of the riotously rutting Naipaul from the Universe’s memory…But, Kishenji, it’s almost five o’clock. Without waste of further words you may kindly return to your terminal and write a neat little macro which interposes Borges between Naipaul’s chthonic lust and its long suffering, yet still Olympian, object. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?”

And that’s how I, Vivek Iyer, formerly a lowly Grade III peon, gained international acclaim as the author of ‘The approach to Al-Mutasim”- the most authentic, the most original, Indian novel ever envisaged by a native of this great land. Or, at least, that’s what would have happened  if Commissioning Editors hadn’t turned up their noses at the myriad song and dance sequences-I not, I confess, strategically but syntagmatically- interpolated to give Borges’s story a bit of oomph.

At any rate, this is the story Kishen keeps telling me. His boss, Mrs. Pundit, is the wife of a top literary agent- which is the only reason I cultivated the Backward Caste little bugger in the first place- but not even that high and mighty agent can get the publishers to see sense.

You see, as Kishenji has just now tearfully texted me, Naipaul misbehaving again & so something truly catastrophic has happened. Its arrow reversed, the Time Coil is now busy uncoiling Imagination’s compacted dimensions, precipitating us all into this irremediably, for of Empathy, orphaned world where books befriend no books and turning their leaves but fans an arid simoom.

What was it Ghalib said?
Not your blanking me when we pass on the street
But that beggars too, now, alike me treat…
Great Wealth, thus, has our manners refined
Strangers, alone, to the Poor are kind!


Anonymous said...

Which couplet of Ghalib is that?

Anonymous said...

pleased to have found yr lively prose today (at proj synd) which is yr non-fiction book please?

windwheel said...

Hi Matt, thanks for the compliment. 'Ghalib, Gandhi & the Gita' 9 is non-fiction but a bit esoteric in parts and cobbled together frm this blog.