In all likelihood, unless I am too wasted to step out of a Gurgaon apartment, come Saturday, December 28, I hope to find myself immersed in the crowd gathered at the Ram Lila grounds to witness Arvind Kejriwal take the oath of the office of the Chief Minister of Delhi.
Ever since AAP won the elections in Delhi (to me they won the minute they crossed the 20-seat mark) I found myself feeling happy against my own better judgment. Quite often these days I allow myself the audacity of dreaming about a future that looks less and less like a past I am so familiar with. For once I do not blame my mental apparatus for the circumstances I find myself in. The expectation of the moment when Kejriwal will say ‘I do’ has something of a revolutionary ring to it.
No one in their right mind expects Kejriwal to ‘rule’ which is why what will take place on Saturday cannot be seen as the closure to a mass movement but the harbinger of a people’s revolution of sorts.
The appeal of Kejriwal lies in revolution and he knows it better than anyone. Never before has the entire nation waited with so much anxiety for one man to fail.
I am convinced we live in severely cynical times. We are not simply oppressed; we ‘know’ we are oppressed and somehow, we believe, a belief perhaps stolen from psychoanalysis, that the knowledge of this oppression and the discourse we create around it will actually lead to liberation. This is the reason we celebrate movie reviews that deconstruct popular cinema as nothing more than a machine that churns out products of mass entertainment sold en masse for hundreds of crores. The tragedy of our times isn’t that we are forced to encounter films like Dhoom 3 or Krrish 3; the real tragedy is that some of our most intelligent people actually go and watch these films, knowing well how stupid they are going to be, and come out and write 1,000-word notes on Facebook explaining in great detail (and with exemplary humour) how they were proved right. This is the cult of cynicism. It gives us enough distance from the situation at hand to react authentically, yet at the same time the emotional distance helps us create a discourse that somehow makes us feel smarter than the situation at hand. So, while we believe Dhoom 3 assumes the audience is imbecilic, we watch it simply to prove to ourselves that we are not imbeciles and are, in fact, smarter than the makers of the film since we can expose all its chinks.
To me what the country is witnessing vis a vis Kejriwal is similar to the expansive tension we feel when we hear a joke that is reaching its climax. To his credit, Kejriwal is stretching the joke to its limits, heightening our anxiety just when we expect some relief. This not only elevates our experience of the joke, which is seldom anything more than a realistic take on our lives, but it also exponentially raises our expectation about the climax.
The trouble with all of this is that once we have had our punchline and once we are done laughing at Kejriwal when he finally bites the dust, we shall discover a hollowness within us and finally accept what we knew all along: what we really thought funny was actually quite tragic, which leaves us with no option but to view our tragic existence in a comic light. The joke is that Kejriwal thought he was too clever but the tragedy is that we believed him. So while we may laugh at him, the joke really will be on us.