Friday, November 18, 2016

Men like my father cannot die


Men like my father cannot die. They are with us still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever. - How Green Was My Valley, 1941




On the evening of November 14th, my dad's first death anniversary, I got a formal English language text message from a 'blood relation' acquaintance, dutifully reminding me of the momentous day in a matter of fact tone that seemed like a carefully rehearsed Brechtian estrangement. I was also duly updated in the same message, on the publisher's behalf, about the online release of my dad's 'searing' anti autobiography, released 'exactly a year after' my dad's demise (how thoughtful!) and available in print 'at a price' (how resourceful!)

It's always hilarious to learn of things you know better. A few days before his exit, my dad had proactively briefed us on his thoughts on the revised edition of his anti-autobiography, how he chose to subtly hint at the idiosyncrasies of certain characters rather than explicitly expose them, how he inserted a few episodes that he had omitted in the previous version owing to strong inhibitions, and, above all, how he finally came to terms with the fact that journalists won't ever allow journalism to raise the bar, they will instead raise a toast to relish and cherish the Great Indian Mutual Admiration club that binds editors, reporters and publishers of all makes.

More on my dad's book in the posts to follow ...

Coming back to the staged Facebook book launch of 14th November, it was nauseating to watch the fun even from a (safe) distance. Both the publisher and copyright owner would do well to delve deep into the book's text rather than package their rehashed sermons for the target audience. That my father's words resonate even after his exit is no surprise, why they fail to activate the living-dead towards positive thought and action indeed is.

The publisher, in his highly patronizing note, does strike a chord in a few paras, but he could have gainfully resisted the temptation to certify the work, had he restricted his purview to the book's genre and place of pride in literature. There was absolutely no need for sweeping observations on the author's talent and temperament, for which better resources are thankfully available. My dad in his melancholic outbursts had this habit of sharing too much with the wrong set of people, giving them ample scope to package and market their convenient, half-baked conclusions. Besides, father-son ideological differences always come handy for staking first-mover claims of 'knowing him better than the family'

It would have been great had the publisher been more sensitive to an earlier book's cause during the fag end of its making when my dad chased him day and night for corrections and our friend was very selective in picking up his cell phone in response. Notwithstanding my dad's single-minded obsession with text revisions and a discernibly finicky nature, he deserved quality editorial attention in what was one of his last works, if not life work.

Mr. Publisher, don't get us wrong, we are truly happy that you have earned the tag of an intellectual, radical, non-conformist publisher, thanks to this work that belongs to a unique genre that Terry Eagleton aptly refers to as the attempt to write about your personal history 'in such a way as to outwit the prurience and immodesty of the genre by frustrating your own desire for self-display and the reader's desire to enter your inner life'.

About the copyright owner, less said the better. There's so much that my dad shared in his parting thoughts - both spoken and mute - but we don't see any reason to underline them to settle scores, the way the copyright owner did all along. We would only like to humbly request the first owner to secretly recall the ghastly moments of the nerve-wrecking span - from the night of 11th November to the noon of 14th November - of the year gone by. The painful memories of your sickening escapism, promulgated grief and ill-timed tantrums will always be fresh in our minds. No book release can ever wipe them out, and shouldn't. For your kind information and broadcasting, we don't need the crutches of a book release to revive dad's memories and thoughts. He guides us day in and day out, for men like my father never die. They cannot die.

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