Chimeras of thought

Published: Nov 27, 2011, 09:58 IST | Paromita Vohra |

Leena Mogre, fitness instructor to the stars, must have searched for a strength no gym can build, when she discovered recently that a couple was going around town pretending to be Mrs and Mr Mogre

Leena Mogre, fitness instructor to the stars, must have searched for a strength no gym can build, when she discovered recently that a couple was going around town pretending to be Mrs and Mr Mogre. Their pretence did not seem to serve much purpose -- for example, hobnobbing with any yummy celebrity clients like, say, John Abraham. Nor were they trying to detox her bank account.

Illustration/ Jishu Dev Malakar

Rather, the alias-Mogres had been spreading a rumour that the actual Mogres were shutting down their famous gym in Bandra. We can only imagine what spurred the odd fraud. But this must be the kind of moment many cops wait for just so that they can ask, like their movie counterparts, "Kisi se koi dushmani?"

How else can you feel like a real cop unless you behave like cops do in movies? Like the Mogres, helping people make acceptable bodies, sometimes we have to impersonate ourselves as others imagine us or as we believe they imagine us, lest they have trouble believing we're for real.

These stories of illusion and reality, impersonation and identity are not unique to our times of course. Such whimsical frauds make us laugh, in a way, because they contain elements of the traditional play and satire of tricksters and behrupiyas. They hold up a mocking mirror to our pomposities and certitudes, to our serious ideas about who we are. The comedy of the moment helps dissolve this artificial, sometimes overblown self we've and perhaps recover something more real or at least more human in scale that was once within us.

But imaginations of reality are powerful precisely because of their detail and specificity. So vivid is that imagination, that it feels "real", it becomes the basis on which we feel confident to act. What do we do though, with realities shorn of imagination? Realities, which are only approximate, so sketchy that they seem empty of meaning or desire, and give us no reason to act. We can only watch in a passive haze, as if we were at a pageant of holograms.

I mean the sort of emptied reality we get when Swami Agnivesh comeS on Bigg Boss. He equated the fighting of inmates to the fighting of MPs. I suppose there's a passing likeness. He also cited his work on human rights as proof that he had something to teach them.

Eventually he mostly seems to have taught them to say grace in Hindi and some yoga. It wouldn't matter even if he'd taught them a recipe for vegan Rasogullas. It is an exercise in approximation -- where he went through some approximate motions and we approximately registered it.

It wants to dull us with its own dullness, not sharpen us with details. It gives us nothing it promises, we don't ask anything of it. We are not meant to increase our connection with the world through these insubstantial encounters. It is enough to have fleetingly seen, to feel that because we saw, we believe, and for many, believing is doing enough.

Some Internet activism feels like that too � the chimera of petitions, the overwhelming stories of injustice that waft through our computer screens. You forward the email, you click on Sign Petition, you post a link. You have made your intentions visible, others have seen you do it. These phantom moves create faint impressions of you as a frontlines type. Faint impressions are enough, now, as reading reviews of Hindi films is good enough substitute for seeing them. Are encounters with reality ever going to reveal more than half-truths again?
We'll wait to know when Arvind Kejriwal appears on Sach ka Saamna.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.


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