Monday, November 15, 2010

Ardh Satya

The following poem, by the Marathi poet Dilip Chitre, is a bit abstruse to start with. I say abstruse because different people may interpret it differently. Someone might take it to be a commentary on the existential crisis that stems out of failure to act justly. While someone else might find it to be a fitting description of a romantic’s predicament on coming face to face with the ‘real’ world. You, on the other hand, might come up with a totally different interpretation.

Ardha Satya, a film by Govind Nihalani, has Om Puri reciting it in one of its scenes and gradually becoming aware, during the course of the same recital, the stark similarities between his own moral dilemma and the one the poet is talking about. As the meaning sinks in, he continues reading, but in a much more subdued and sombre tone. He knows the ‘Chakravyuh’ has caught up with him as well and either he must find a way through or subject himself to the moral backlash that will result if he chooses to become a part of it. There is no changing the maze itself. In a way, the poem encompasses the gist of the movie - moral impotency and the loss of self-respect as a person finds himself slowly, and involuntarily, becoming a part of a system he could never relate to in the first place. The loss seems to have amplified when he meets a woman who has much more courage than him.

The part I like best about the poem is its acceptance of the fact that there may not be any Absolute Truth. Just Ardh Satya or the Half-Truth. So, when the moment of reckoning comes, what do we choose? I guess, then, the ‘What’ is not as important as the courage to be held accountable for it. To have the strength to live with your choices and ideals. After all, in the light, the light of choices, will everything be equal? The 'right' choice - it might offer you a way out of guilt. But will it be any less painful or difficult? On the other hand, you might be able to tread the seemingly easier path. But will the guilty conscience be able to subsist on self pity and ignorance? There is no easy way out or in. When faced with an existential choice of such magnitude, in life, love, or beyond, Man is essentially alone, and there is nothing that ‘The Other’ can do alleviate his anguish or lessen his burden. His actions warrant responsibility and the strength to stand by them.

The movie concludes suggesting that Om Puri finally decides to break out of his situation, and regain his manliness and self-efficacy. But at what cost and in what manner? Ardh Satya indeed. Here’s a rough English translation of the poem I found online. However, I would recommend watching the movie you need to feel the real intensity of the poem.

Ardh Satya by Dilip Chitre

Chakravyuh mein ghusne se pehle,
kaun tha mein aur kaisa tha,
yeh mujhe yaad hi na rahega.

Chakravyuh mein ghusne ke baad,
mere aur chakravyuh ke beech,
sirf ek jaanleva nikat’ta thi,
iska mujhe pata hi na chalega.

Chakravyuh se nikalne ke baad,
main mukt ho jaoon bhale hi,
phir bhi chakravyuh ki rachna mein
farq hi na padega.

Marun ya maarun,
maara jaoon ya jaan se maardun.
iska faisla kabhi na ho paayega.

Soya hua aadmi jab
neend se uthkar chalna shuru karta hai,
tab sapnon ka sansar use,
dobara dikh hi na paayega.

Us roshni mein jo nirnay ki roshni hai
sab kuchh samaan hoga kya?

Ek palde mein napunsakta,
ek palde mein paurush,
aur theek taraazu ke kaante par
Ardh Satya.
Who was I, before I entered this maze,
Is not something that I will remember.

As I entered the war-maze,
There was only the life-threatening
Closeness between the enemy and me.
Even this, I will not realize.

After getting out of the maze
Even if I earn my freedom,
The maze by itself, will not change. Unaltered.

To die or to kill,
To be killed, or to take someone’s life,
Even this will not be decided.

As a man wakes from his sleep,
And starts to walk, he can never
Again, see the world of his dreams.

In this light, the light of choices,
Will all be equal?

Impotence on one side,
Manhood on the other,
And in the centre,
(tipping the scale) is the