I was born in a land where the idea of freedom, the notion of right, the habit of human kindness were things coldly despised and brutally outlawed….Every man in the land was a slave, if he was not a bully….A dark country, a hellish place, gentlemen, and if there is anything of which I am certain in life it is that I shall never exchange the liberty of my exile for the vile parody of home.
– Vladimir Nabokov in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, p.19
Was the great master Nabokov writing about Russia in his brilliant first English novel.
Or should we read in the short excerpt an apposite portrayal of India, a land that would turn out no better once the yoke of the foreign oppressor gave way to native faces.
Nowhere is the saying Man is Wolf to Man more vividly embodied than in India.
Every day the shrill shrieks of Indian TV journalists bring forth revelations of new atrocities, more heinous than any that Raghunandan Yandamuri, Caligula, Ivan the Terrible or Atilla the Hun could together conjure up in their heydays.
For three days, bored Indians waste millions of liters of oil and ghee lighting millions of lamps in a hundred cities and towns in a collective spasm of feigned outrage.
And on the fourth day, all the talk is of the beastly murderer’s Dabangg 2 and the Fevicol item number.
Worse yet, 300 million Indians delude themselves, and, Mein Gott, take pride, in that hideous shibboleth, Mera Bharat Mahaan.
But is India any different from the rest of the “civilized” world once you strip the bark and see through the veneer? No.