The Reluctant Fundamentalist

reluctant

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Mohsin Hamid
Penguin Random House, 2007
Style: Dramatic Monologue
Pages: 184

Just finished reading a reluctant fundamentalist and I assure you I will not sleep peacefully for a long time. Firstly, the rush of completing a book in one sitting has been entirely absent from my life and feeling it again today makes me feel more alive than I have in quite some time.
 
Secondly, I cannot decide what I feel about the book. There might be spoilers ahead so I insist you stop reading this post. I do not understand how to feel about it. The way India-Pakistan relationship has been described from Pakistan’s perspective is slightly moving. I do have friends in the country but I must admit all of us are too shy to directly broach this topic. We take our solace in promising each other our friendship and inviting each other over for kheer and biryani is one of the thing we bond over. Surprisingly even our discussion about cricket are muted. This book gave me a look into their heads and the proposition is scary. The book just brushes over the topic but it is too poignant for me to ignore. Does America win, and we both lose?
 
Thirdly I wonder about the title. Fundamentalism has formed part of multiple contexts in the book. Beginning with his job where Changez is asked to concentrate on finances and not worry about the layoffs and the lives that are attached to his cold analysis. About how the corporation expects that one distance themselves from everything else. I like how the street violence against Muslim’s after 9/11 has been downplayed in the book, how September has been related to new beginnings. How his entire story, so breezy at first develops into a character one would not quite like. A character one would begin to distrust. From obsessing over his brains, mannerisms and appearance to doubting his motives behind everything. To being convinced that he is politically motivated and a fundamentalist of the highest order, blinded and brainwashed.
 
The most interesting concept is that of his comparison with Janissaries – Christians who were raised by the Ottomans to destroy the own civilisation and thus develop a loyalty out of not having any alternative. Isn’t this the same image we get when we think of the ISIS? We imagine kids being raised for war and suicide. We see us, Asians, being so intimately linked with the Americans that we justify their dominance and their need in our homes. Our homes of history and grandeur that they are far from comprehending. That we might begin to forget if we fall prey into the the alternate kind of fundamentalism.
 
The ending of the book does not tell us who won. It gives us a choice. Which world order so we wish to subscribe to? The answer will split us, will make us angry. It will make us the reluctant fundamentalist.
 
PS: I checked out the image results for the movie and it does zero justice to how beautifully I had pictured everything.
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RESPONSIBILITY, LITERATURE AND SWING MUSIC

I read poems and all of them are melancholy. That’s what poets appreciate, a dark side, some depth. Anything happy is dismissed as amateur. This makes sense to me now. I understand why a dark sense of humour, sarcasm, irony are more polished than slapstick comedy. It all makes sense today as I am stuck in the middle of a book, unable to go further because  my head is spinning with questions and I have an urgent need to listen to swing music. Not the kind you dance to, the Louis Armstrong kind, which facilitates brooding. And I am brooding, feeling extremely smart and learned as I write this. Gracious, and sophisticated.

The more you read and the more you find out, the more questions you have. It is rightly said ignorance is bliss, because the other end of the spectrum is sleepless nights because you are holding on to a thought that does not even directly affect you. ‘Not me perhaps, but I am part of something greater than myself, something beyond myself. Do I have some duty to it? Of course I do.’

You wake up, sure of yourself and your responsibility. But the next day no one else has changed. There is no revolution taking place. There are people with notes in their hands and placements on their minds. I talk in the context of my life now, but don’t get me wrong. This can be extended to people just wanting to casually hang out, continue with their lives, work nine to five. There is nothing wrong with that, it is their immediate responsibility, something they are acutely aware of – the consequences of which affect them here and now, in a visible way. Things far away can wait.

I get pulled down because I cannot afford to be left behind. If I cannot look after myself, how can I possibly think of looking beyond? So what if there was a missile fired and a big meeting of the heads of states or a major development in science. It just depresses me how everyone is a cog in the wheel, even the biggest of people in the world. How the wheel cannot go in the desired direction no matter how much everybody understands it is for the good. In a war between good an immediate the immediate always wins.

How can one be cheerful in the midst of this? And once you escalate your concerns to this level, you will never be cheerful again. Is that bad? No, it is necessary.

AAJ JAANE KI ZIDD NA KARO – Arijit Singh

​https://youtu.be/pBACq2cSx9A

It is a long time after which I do indeed agree that Arijit Singh is someone you should absolutely be vary of, unless you’re not ashamed of breaking into tears for no reason. 

This particular song has so much feeling in it that it inadvertently triggers memories you don’t even imagine affected you so much in the past. It’s a weird phenomenon. 

I am particularly reminded of the day I left from Mumbai, on the last day of my internship. It was so difficult ttoget my head around the fact that I wouldn’t be waking up in that city the next day. That yes, I would have my own bed and comfort at home – not to mention good food, but I would not be able to travel to Marine Drive on whim. It was like someone was taking a very important part of my life away from me. I know one should move on, be ready to experience new things and always explore, and I want to do all of those. 

I was just not ready this time. 

NO MORE HEROES

“Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won’t be. But there is grace in their failings” – Hiral Arora opines about killer robots, wars and humanity, reporting from the United Nations Security Council, SRM MUN 2016.

nedd

Imagine one pet peeve you have and all the dark dead-baby jokes you have heard all your life. Now set your feet in the shoes of a veteran. See from his eyes, how casual causalities are. They are used to blood and pain. They are used to rotting bodies and scavengers.

‘Few beers down and I am ready to work again.’ This routine, this cold heartedness makes a human impervious to brutality. But then you see a dying friend, a dying lover, a dying child, under a pile of debris and you are to live with that image forever. You blame yourself for living through the massacre. You, who thought PTSD is pretentious and you are above it all, you cannot sleep.

You are also the guy who saw a 15 year old child about to shoot you, but was too nervous and kept closing his eyes, his hand shaking and sweaty over the trigger.

You say, ‘Do what you have to goddammit!’

The child trembles and drops the gun and follows it to the floor. You ask him how old he is. You hear out his story, of how we was forced into this war, how his family is being held captive or one of those stories from the pool of background stories of why people are forced into warfare. No one really likes war.

You set him free. You promise to help him. You get him out of danger and make sure he survives, atleast for now.

Second chances. Mercy. Sparing a life.

These are not possible when this decision is made in nano-seconds by a machine which has no option but to follow a set of instructions you feed into it. You feed the entire Humanitarian Law literature into the machine, and still it wouldn’t know.

How heartless.

The lines and lines of code we put, to create a robot in the image of mankind, thinking of ourselves as pseudo gods. Atheism is the reason, one could say, and science is the new religion. Everyone wants to be more powerful than the rest, god resides in all of us, giving us a sense of what is right and what is wrong.

But transferring that sense in the form of laws? The humanity of humans is intangible. We do not understand it perfectly ourselves, look at all our romances, look at all our contradictions.

There needs to be a way to stop wars. Making robots fight instead is not one of them. Call it my pet peeve.