PM Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi | File photo: PTI
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Indians who voted, twice, for Acche Din have got Absurd Din instead. A high court judge has a problem with the books an accused reads.

Be it Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Biswajit Roy’s War and Peace in Junglemahal: People, State and Maoists – we live in an era where they have already judged the reader by the title of the book. And of course, their focus is on ‘war’ and not ‘peace’.

This is happening not just in India. If we look at the world with a kind of philosophical detachment, it seems the Theatre of the Absurd is playing out everywhere, in full force. Not only politics, our social life too seems to have been engulfed by hilarious absurdity.

Ironically, the Theatre of the Absurd movement was born as a form of protest against the smug, orthodox and authoritarian governments. But what if the government and its institutions themselves become theatres of the absurd?

Be it US President Donald Trump demanding Russia’s re-inclusion at a G7 dinner in France, or Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cloud-cover comment after Balakot airstrike, or a high court judge questioning activist Vernon Gonsalves’ reading habits, a strange tragicomedy is upon us. The predicament is tragic, but the manifestation is comic. As Nell in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame says cynically, “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness… it is the most comical thing in the world”.

We do not miss George Orwell or Bertolt Brecht because their roles have been usurped by the authorities themselves who run the theatres of the absurd — be it in media, judiciary, police, government or even Bollywood.

Also read: Junglemahal is a book on peace process with Maoists. But it frightens the Indian state

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Science and the absurd

Then, there is HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal who has conclusively argued that research on atoms and molecules was first conducted in India by Charaka Rishi.

Last year, then-Minister of State for HRD Satyapal Singh said that Darwin’s theory of evolution was “scientifically wrong”. Our ancestors, he said, never saw “an ape turning into a man”.

Some BJP leaders have publicly declared Narendra Modi as an incarnation of Lord Ram. And Modi himself has gone on record to state that ancient India had the knowledge of genetic engineering and plastic surgery.

The term ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ was formally coined by well-known European critic Martin Esslin. He defined it as “an attack on the comfortable certainties of religious or political orthodoxies. It aims to shock the audience out of complacency, to bring it face to face with the harsh facts of the human situation… It is a challenge to accept the human condition as it is, in all its mystery and absurdity and to bear it all with dignity… the Theatre of the Absurd does not provide tears of despair but the laughter of liberation”.

If the beef-related lynching incidents and the communication lockdown in Kashmir bring tears of despair, then the high court judge’s observations and the CBI officers scaling the walls of Chidambaram’s house generate laughter of liberation.

Also read: Once the Amit Shah of UPA govt, tables have turned for Chidambaram

Media playing its part

The electronic media (read tamasha TV) and the social media have reached a point where it is difficult to distinguish between absurd and real news. The credibility of both the platforms has reached the nadir.

Prime Minister’s appearance on Discovery Channel’s ‘Man vs Wild’ or the sensational bonhomie between Narendra Modi and Donald Trump at G7 is dished out as primetime news. The ‘line of control’ between the real and absurd is violated on every newshour.

While the media has been quick to celebrate Modi-Trump bromance, we are yet to see any tangible outcome. The US in general, and Trump in particular are keeping both India and Pakistan at an arm’s length.

But Arnab Goswamis, Rahul Shivshankars and Navika Kumars of the media world do not want to wait before announcing victory.

This is how the Theatre of the Absurd is playing out now. It is no longer a protest against the powerful, but a submission to the powerful

Also read: Crocodile-lover, fakir, now a man of wild for Bear Grylls – Modi and the power of makeovers

The author is a former editor and Congress member of Rajya Sabha. Views are personal.

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15 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Why NDMC,DDA, L&DO & SPECIAL TASK FORCE CONSTITUTED BY Hon’ble Supreme Court of India are not REMOVING GLARING Encroachments , Rampant Misuse ,ILLEGAL and UNAUTHORIZED CONSTRUCTION ON PUBLIC & GOVT LAND BY INFLUENTIAL & politically well connected persons like NDMC DOCTORS MRS MANISHA SHARMA & Surinder Sharma since retd w/ 2 brothers & EX IAS M.RAVI KANTH NOW CMD,HUDCO W/MOTHER IN LAW ATTACHED TO FLAT NO’S J1-4 & J11-13, B.K.Dutt Clony, near JOR BAGH ROAD, N.Delhi-3 despite my several emails Complaints to all concerned Authorities & 632 Tweets?

  2. The banias and other business oriented castes what are the original founders of modern BJP, they will be the first to leave it after Modi II turns into Indira Gandhi II circa 1971-75.

  3. I stopped reading after the first lie. The judge didn’t have a problem with what the accused read – he said so – in the courtroom. He asked a question to better understand the intentions if the accused.

  4. Kumar Ketkar, Can you please write few lines on 2007 to 2009, during the time everything went down including global banks went down and unemployment reached high. Also when Indian banks artificially suppressed bank NPAs and govt kept giving rozghar yojnas, taking away from tax payers money. And the Finance Ministers of those years merrily increasing service tax and our famous economist PM saying money doesn’t grow on trees. In my company all the emplyees have to to forego increment for 3 continues years and we just want to hold on to employment to pay our home loans. And inflation of commodities playing havoc on our daily life. Were you there those days, just about a decade back? Modi’s Gujarat was the only prosperous state during those days, but it will be itching for you to say so.

    • Gujarat is a prosperous state not due to Modi, But due to their diamond business which is being run from their ancestors. And you are comparing Modi’s era with Manmohan singh, very poor knowledge, Manmohan had brought lots and lots of Employment to the young ones. But in Modi’s time, people are being thrown out of the offices, before asking them to curtail their salary…In Manmohan time, People raised from their lower posts to higher posts having 25-30% increase in salary..Really a golden ERA for people
      Another thing, Don’t Say bad words for Arnab, Navika and Rahul… They are being paid heavily to propagate for Modi, and always appreciates him, whereas Modi is always wrong….Whatever he has done till now, all are wrong..or wrongly done, like a dictator..

  5. Shri Ketkar probably has realised that given the fortunes of Congress, his chances of being in the news is to make absurd statements, more the merrier. And The Print is a willing ally. Since he has never stood in an election, he is unaware that running down the choice of voters will not get votes for his sponsors.

  6. Kumar now finds that the world around him has got ‘Modi’fied!! He blamed Modi, then BJP and now all people around are not behaving as expected by Kumar. Very pathetic to say the least from a man who was once editor of a leading newspaper in Marathi and who was much composed though servile to Congress, before Modi came on scene.

  7. Absurd din is better than Congress din. Even after seventy years of Congress socialist rule,
    India has-

    Not become developed industrialised country.

    Doesn’t have strong armed forces with sufficient and advanced weaponry.

    Not eliminated Maoism

    Not resolved Kashmir

    No world class public infrastructure

    No world class judiciary

    No world class police

    Not abolished reservation

    Not abolished caste discrimination

    Not implemented uniform civil code

    Not treated all as equals

    Not educated masses in basic free market economics

    Not educated the masses that freebies
    subsidies reservation loan waivers are unethical and unforgivable grave sins
    Not eradicated corruption

    Not educated the masses to be law abiding citizens

    I fear to imagine corruption, policy paralysis, high inflation, terrorism, poor economy, banana republic, Mai baap Sarkar, reckless socialism of UPA. No respectable country would have kept quiet without retaliating after Mumbai terror attack unlike the shameless Congress. I wish death to Congress party

  8. THis writer’s writing has changed after the “reward” he got from the Congress party!. “Congress member of Rajya Sabha”, no need to say any more!

  9. Some specific promises, like fifteen lacs to be deposited in each Indian’s bank account, from the illegal funds retrieved from the Alps, could be regarded as an excess of emotion on the election trail. However, two crore jobs a year or the doubling of farmers’ incomes in five years, go to the heart of the well being of Indians. The latter is still on the agenda. The former has unfergone some semantic changes, like self employment, etc. however, Acche Din is what citizens all over the world look forward to, with the government playing an important role in a poor country. It was extraordinarily cruel for a senior minister to say, Acche Din kabhi nahin aste; this has become an albatross around our necks. Governments must improve the lives, or Ship out. They have no other rationale.

    • Anybody who believes in the promises of politicians needs to have his/her head examined. There was this insightful person who had observed that even politicians are amazed that their promises are taken seriously by voters. If all our politicians had kept their promises, this benighted country would have been a different place.


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