REVOLT OF THE MONKEYS – TARDIS
New Galerie, Paris invites Clark House Initiative, Bombay
NADINE EL KHOURY
AMOL K PATIL
MARC MICHEL ZEBO
Curated by Sumesh Sharma Artistic Director : Rozenn Prat
June 11 – July 13, 2016 Opening Reception : June 11, 6 – 9pm
What is Human becomes Animal ? - Amol K Patil
An aesthetic contextualising conceptualism outside the framework of the occidental iteration of art history, one that has been linear and narrow , based on the exclusionary idea of taste , is proposed through Clark House’s showing at New Galerie, Paris . Tardis a BBC series was conceptualised in the same decade when the tenets of conceptual aesthetics were being written expanded and experienced. Conceptual Aesthetics was not derived by the efforts of art historians or philosophers, but rather by the rejection of an old order of aesthetics by Joseph Beuys, George Macuinhas of the Fluxus Group, the composer John Cage and Dadaists such as Marcel Duchamp. Arte Povera , Anarchitectica , La Nouvelle Vague and others had their origins in the disbelief in the world order and identity , in its traditions and its values, for the world had been inhuman during the World Wars, the subsequent division of people around borders of ideology , the genocides against the Jews, Armenians and Roma, the death of more than a million South Asians during the partition of British India and nationalism. At the same time many nations emerged from enslavement of the colonial project. They were non-aligned to occidental intrigues with ideology and demanded equality in perception and voice.
But Sadaat Hasan Manto , it is difficult to describe him as an Indian or a Paksitani author, he was entirely nihilistic to the idea of the nation. The nation was obscure and absurdist reminder to our memories of colonial inquisitions onto the native mind. The never ever travelled Picasso living in exile in France made a genuine move away from uncreative processes of painting taught in Western Classical Academies by creating an assemblage of wooden heads that were inspired from masks that came from Western Africa. The sophistication of African sculpture requires a great deal of conceptual aptitude unlike the literal illustrations of anatomy and landscape, aesthetics has always been concerned with for most of Western Art History. But Equivocality has been denied much until the reaffirmation of identity in Europe. Ignoring the space created for artists from colonial origins by the Black Arts Movement, aping the rise of the Young British Artists, adequate quotas of representation were assigned to countries in the sphere of culture where countries such as the United Kingdom had neo-liberal transnational interests. Here the found object would be sculpted in fibre glass by a battery of art-labour, technicians and craftsmen. This lead to the rise of the International Artist from the third world, one who was fluent in art history and held a visual language that clearly aped an internationalism devoid of the constraints of production budgets, logistics and materiality. Art became more precious with the materials that came into use, everything had to be German cotton rag archival paper.
Therefore it was of no surprise that after 33 years since Tardis came into existence when the BBC applied for a patent to register the concept the British Metropolitan Police oppose the move and took BBC to court over the right to the design, the concept itself had become material, it could now be counted in millions of digitised money. Years later in 2014 Abdoulaye Wade the ex-president of Senegal asked 25 % of tourist revenues from the exchequer of the country for his concept behind the monument for the African Renaissance, an eyesore that disturbs the skyline of Dakar built by North Korean slave labour. A monument that is expected to exist for 1200 years according to technical estimates. Such chicanery and inhumanism defines our attitudes in this exhibition.
When one encounters the dust laden hands that vibrate and form graphite circles on them , or looks above at the ventilators covered in dest as it moves at a pace of drudgery , towering over drawings of broken hands, legs, horses and wheels left over from discarded drawings. Dr. BR Ambedkar declared that the scavenger who collected human excreta and night soil held the key to the health of the society, for it is from human excreta do we understand constitution of one’s health. Amol K Patil comes from a family of Dalit folk singers who changed their vocation and became sanitation workers for the municipal corporation of Bombay, a role reserved of India’s Dalits, its erstwhile untouchables. Though by drafting one of the most well reasoned constitutions that insured equality and affirmative action for the Dalits, Dr. BR Ambedkar’s movement of social change was never really accepted by a society ingrained in the racism of colour. Thus untouchability has existed into the contemporary. The pig is often seen in bogs and open sewers in India, often anti Dalit xenophobia includes references to pigs and their rearing of pigs. Amol K Patil takes upon himself liberate the pig from such discrimination and gives form to this attitude that buy cleaning sewers rescuing objects and turning them into artworks that intrude into the whitecube of the gallery.
On a wall not far away Poonam Jain translates a page in statistics on wikipedia into numbers. Each word changes itself into a number releasing any legibility or understanding, even though each number is understood and recognizable. Translating the need to attain the infinity is a canon in Jain philosophy which is proposition for a spirituality that is atheist. But one that uses numbers and constellations to create improbabilities of architecture, the human bodies relation to the planets and our materiality to skin , and her using of onion skins that hold word shaped paste that spell out bikh and bhikhsha that translate into alms and religious charity. Rejecting the exoticism but implying the alternate taste and forms one imagines and perceives cannot be erased by academic study of taste , like she draws into small sachets used by her jeweller brother to store precious stones.
Right aside a delicately cut out 1940’s map of Beirut that is as blank as the wall behind, sites a red inked late 17th century map of the Mediterranean and the Levantine, one begins to question the squares and rectangles that constitute it. Does one’s memory define their practice as an artist ? Yes it does and so does one’s geographical identity, but those elements can comment on how one perceives contemporaneity, we swim each summer in a sea that now has the carcasses of the many thousands that drown each month crossing over from wars affected by interests that dont concern them and are victims of outsourced wars between powers that play the charade of friendship on our televisions. Monetary systems and the crusades are strangely similar, in Lebanon the dollar has replaced its monetary currency - the Lira and the lebanese pound, in West Africa , France would depose you from power if you wish to leave the CFR that is regulated by them. Also the International Monetary Fund is a membership that leave many in penury exacting its adherence without any questions onto a world that may not value values similarly.
Yogesh Barve proposes the idea of invisibility and equality , from a set of laminate cards that are stacked in a pile , where hidden shadows constitute the work and not the laminate to when he removes the colour spectrum from a LCD screen which obliges one to see the video with polarised glasses. The video is a video he bought from a festival which he edits to the part where a shaman dances while drinking blood from chickens that he has slaughtered by biting off their heads. It is a community festival by a community from India’s south called the Tulus from around the city of Mangalore. They work as restaurant hands in Bombay and have maintained certain affiliations , one is transcendental communication to the other life through shamans. Yogesh critiques the idea of the idea, which was given to him years ago at art school where he was expected to illustrate the idea. He instead stuck residue of an eraser onto a pencil. In the middle of the room hangs a large steel bearing over a lamp shade that is places to look like an astrological apparatus, on that he strings differently shaded and dyed leather from a dismantled wallet. As many young Indians after school he was expected to be an engineer but when he reached the engineering school of admission he didnt have the required marks or the entrance test results. They suggested he should apply instead for leather technology. Here he learned how to clean and treat raw hide and began working as a tanner when one day he realised he rather be an artist. Calling the work ’ This is Art, that is art , What is Art ? Chiding the obsession over technical abilities at art rather than ideas, here he displays his abilities to make art that need very specific training and knowledge.
Aurelien Mole proposes four photographs that he asked the artists Naresh Kumar, Poonam Jain , Yogesh Barve and Amol K Patil to choose the frame for or add objects too while they visited the island of Elephanta off the coast of Bombay. Formed as sculptures it uses our gaze to negate our relationship to orientalism or the exotic that often moves away and creates greater distance than actual geographical distances. Aside the photos as photographs of Somnath Mukherjee and his dance troupe Bharat Pehchan , a group of Senegalese dancers taken during the Dak’art 2016. Somnath Mukherjee represents a history of conceptualism outside its exalted white temple of the museum or the gallery one that has been devoid of any state or private funding. Mukherjee has lived in Pikine , in the suburbs of Dakar through the contributions of lodging and food provided by his students of Indian dance and music. Through his efforts a Hindiphone community has developed in Senegal and a penchant for Indian films and music. He arrived in Senegal after riding a bicycle around Africa from Calcutta having spent 5 years on the road. These photographs are taken by the French conceptualist Aurelien Froment who creates distance of comprehension but captures the gaze of Somnath as he negotiates a life in Senegal having never returned to India.
In the last room are drawings by Naresh Kumar, that are residues of performances he has done in Paris and India. Having lived in the city for a year as a fellow at the Ecole des Beaux Arts of Paris , he witnessed the surge of the arrival of immigrants post the conflicts of Syria and Libya. Here they took on itinerant trades as fruit sellers, merchants, performers of music and etcetera alongside immigrants from Bangladesh India and Pakistan. Their body language imitated their memories from back home , informed by their identity and language, the process of displacement was cook and immediate as it was urgent. They suddenly continued their lives in a cosmopolis having survived a perilous journey. These drawings are painted on fragile paper from typed out notes from the Ecole de Sorbonne that discuss the social challenges of France from 1930s, so many years later at the Place de la Republique those challenges only seem to have catapulted into a total disillusionment with the state.
Krishna Reddy collaborates with Marc Michel Zebo to recreate four sculptures that were made in plaster of paris for the ’Salon de la Sculpture’ 1950 in Paris where Reddy had shown as a young graduate from the school of arts. Once your writer was questioned at the improbability of Giacometti having ever met or interacted with Reddy because why would Giacommetti want to meet an Indian artist ? The question posed by an American posed the first question of accessibility to the arts and the question of prejudice that often distorts art history. Art History is still written in distortion, only those who are victorious at the art market get mentioned their collaborations are either not mentioned or deliberately forgotten. To inhabit in a radical present we need to inherit a radical past , the archaeology into these interdependent histories is essential to propose an aesthetic that stands outside the box of the canons of conceptualism , but rather celebrates the idea. Marc Michel Zebo each Tuesday and Thursday outside the Brancussi museums sculpts blocks of concrete into bodies that are compelling and performative. He agreed to collaborate with Reddy to demonstrate that like before interactions and dialogue can be possible with great efficiency due to the pace of the internet as long as we leave our prejudices behind.
A library of Tamil Books , that includes much like Tardis, information ripped of the internet about ISI, RAW , CIA, Mossad and then translated into cheap paperbacks that sold at various Tamil libraries of Gard du Nord. They stand aside books on prayer, religion, Dravidian linguistics, etc along side, etchings that depict the skyline of Paris from World War II and xerox copies of xerox copy centre emblems, of book covers of publications from the Dalit Panther Movement where the poems of Namdeo Dhasal are published and share the same typography as those of scientific journals on amoeba. They sit aside the Gazette of India, France’s national catalogue for the World Exposition in Seville, A Book on the history of the map of America, and the official hanbook on Britain from the 1950s. They form the library of the competing libraries between Gard du Nord and La Chappelle who fashion themselves on the destroyed library of Jaffna, Sri Lanka during the years of the civil war. When one tells us that the Indian quarter is based between these two Paris metro stations, our understanding is different. Far from the stalls that sell a concoction called Chicken Tikka, and even thought he people look Indian, it rather serves as the cultural repository for the Sri Lankan Tamils displaced by war. When you walk through the streets of this district, there is a strong flavour of the genocide the Sri Lankan Army effected upon the Tamils during the last siege of Killinochi, a genocide that still goes unrecognized. For these people their memories have no really edifices back home. In temples that have been reconstructed in corner shops and disused factories based on those that were demolished in Northern Sri Lanka, to commemorate the genocide there are celebrations rather than laments and cries ; Women and men take turns to sing Tamils couplets about the beauty of the reigning goddess, these are sung in Tamil the only existing still in use classical language, poems that were scripted by poets more than a thousand years ago. This is the memory of a resistance but also a mark of a different perspective. Thus we propose in the form of an exhibition an equivocality as proposition for an aesthetic based on conceptualism.
PERFORMANCE - Wedding Revelry / Rivalry
This Saturday June 4, starting 4pm, come and see two performances by Amol K. Patil and Naresh Kumar, two artists shown in the exhibition Groupe Mobile.
These performances will be recorded and exhibited in the exhibition "Revolt of the monkeys - Tardis" of the collectif Clark House Initiative (Bombay) at New Galerie (Paris) from June 11 to July 13.
• "Lathi-Khati", Amol K. Patil, 15 min
Amol K. Patil performs Lathi-Kathi, a form of martial dance popular in weddings in the Western State of Maharashtra, where a man performs with a twig. Before British colonial rule, the Lathi-Kathi was martial form used in wars, yet alongside the expansion of sophisticated forms of war and colonial restriction, the dance soon was converted into a cultural form of dance employed for entertainment at religious events. Amol K. Patil and his family travelled across the state of Maharashtra to perform these dances at weddings where they were invited to entertain the guests.
His community in India, the Dalits or better knows as Mahars, became the backbone of the British Army and contributed to the city’s public services such as sanitation and municipal works. Nonetheless, they kept elements of their cultural engagements in their social housing projects and slums, which by the 1960s and 70s became a place for the avant-garde movement of theatre, poetry and music against exclusion from society, due to the apartheid of their background. They embedded the republican understanding of the citizen—based on the movement begun by Dr BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, which is an amalgamation of the French constitution, British Laws, American Charter for Freedoms and the ideas of Equality, Fraternity and Liberty.
Amol K. Patil’s grandfather animated these ideas through his nomadic poet existence, travelling to villages spreading to the unlettered and illiterate the ideals of the constitution, which had been written to abolish those of his caste. His father was an avant-garde playwright who wrote complex plays on the notion of immigration and urban life in Bombay. Amol K. Patil as a visual artist who continues a practice that reflects on this particularity that arises out of identity often animated in archives, letters and his mother’s memories about his father and grandfather into performances and objects that rather reflect on the present. Art and his practice allow him to travel the world be part of exhibitions and contest the discrimination of visas and accessibility. By re-enacting Lathi-Kathi, he makes a performance contextualising his ability to travel, referencing the folkloric perception of his family’s movement around Maharashtra.
• "Appetency", Naresh Kumar, 38 min
Transgender issues and social class have had and continue to have resonances across the globe. Identity has been better defined in the postmodern world and was left ambiguous in the pre-colonial society and until recently in the villages of India.
For weddings in eastern India, specifically in the state of Bihar, a transgender or a man would dress as the bride and then dance to music with erotic overtones. The dance was a form of education to the newly wed to inform the role of sex in quotidian life. Launda, is literally translated as Young Boy or Young & Gay, was a dance performed by men who came from the lower socio-economic backgrounds. The aristocracy and the bourgeoisie frowned upon artistic practices, such as music and dance, as the society embedded Catholic prudish behaviour into its fold. With changing times and a penchant for aspirational modernism the Launda dance was done away with, replaced by a more misogynist and objectifying alternative in Bollywood. Transgender and non-defined sexuality that lay in the grey were outside the definitions of a modern nuclear family.
Bihar was one of the longest colonised states under British rule. Here, the British forced cultivators to grow Indigo and opium, cash crops that led to terrible famines. This lead to a great migration to South Africa, Trinidad Tobago, Suriname, Guyana, Fiji and Jamaica, creating the largest colonial diaspora after those displaced by the slave trade. In remembering the act, Joseph Beuys allowed the idea of the shaman performer to take on the role of the artist.
Here, Naresh Kumar references this shaman performer and employs Marcel Duchamp and John Cage’s experimental music in combination with traditional Bihari music from the Caribbean, where the practice of the Launda dance has persisted as nostalgic act to perform, in ode to conceptual performance and its role in democratizing art. Naresh Kumar is interested in examining how travel and immigration find hybrid centres of authenticity and how we experience them in the contemporaneity through referencing modernity, pre-colonial and colonial trajectories.
"I bear in mind that for most of the period since the police call box was taken out of service, the only sight the public at large would have had of this item of street furniture has been in the TV programme Dr Who, provided by the BBC where it is a Tardis, a fictional time travelling machine with the external appearance of a police box," ruled Mr Knight.
The BBC has won a battle to keep control of Dr Who’s Tardis after the Metropolitan Police unsuccessfully argued it should own the trade mark of the distinctive image.
The time travelling vessel became the subject of a legal wrangle as the Metropolitan Police fought to gain control of the blue box, which was a familiar sight on the streets of London up until the 1960s.
Wednesday, 23 October, 2002
A TARDIS is a product of the advanced technology of the Time Lords, an extraterrestrial civilisation to which the programme’s central character, the Doctor, belongs. A properly maintained and piloted TARDIS can transport its occupants to any point in time and space. The interior of a TARDIS is much larger than its exterior. It can blend in with its surroundings using the ship’s "chameleon circuit". TARDISes also possess a degree of sapience (which has been expressed in a variety of ways ranging from implied machine personality and free will through to the use of a conversant avatar) and provide their users with additional tools and abilities including a universal translation system based on telepathy.
When Doctor Who was being developed in 1963, the production staff discussed what the Doctor’s time machine would look like. To keep the design within budget, it was decided to make it resemble a police telephone box. This was explained in the context of the series as a disguise created by the ship’s "chameleon circuit", a mechanism which is responsible for changing the outside appearance of the ship the millisecond it lands in order to fit in with its environment. The Ninth Doctorexplains that if, for example, a TARDIS (with a working chameleon circuit) were to materialise in ancient Rome it might disguise itself as a statue on a plinth. The First Doctor explains that if it were to land in the middle of the Indian Mutiny, it might take on the appearance of a howdah (the carrier on the back of an elephant). A further premise was that the circuit was broken, explaining why it was "stuck" in that form. The reason for his not repairing this, revealed by the Ninth Doctor, is because "I like it."
In 1996, the BBC applied to the UK Patent Office to register the TARDIS as a trademark. This was challenged by the Metropolitan Police, who felt that they owned the rights to the police box image. However, the Patent Office found that there was no evidence that the Metropolitan Police – or any other police force – had ever registered the image as a trademark. In addition, the BBC had been selling merchandise based on the image for over three decades without complaint by the police. The Patent Office issued a ruling in favour of the BBC in 2002.
A TARDIS usually travels by dematerialising in one spot, traversing the time vortex, and then rematerialising at its destination, without physically travelling through the intervening space. However, the Doctor’s TARDIS has been seen to be able to fly through physical space. Apart from the ability to travel in space and time (and, on occasion, to other dimensions), the most remarkable characteristic of a TARDIS is that its interior is much larger than it appears from the outside. The explanation is that a TARDIS is "dimensionally transcendental", meaning that its exterior and interior exist in separate dimensions.
- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Revolt of the Monkeys
Saadat Hasan Manto
The alarming news that “monkey-ism” was on the rise was trickling in from all parts of the country. The government turned a blind eye to it at first but when it noticed the matter threatening to become serious it imme-diately sprang into action.
It is appropriate that the reader should be told up front what “monkey-ism” or “apishness” stood for. Of course we can’t go into much detail here because it’s a fairly long story, but briefly, the apish movement was set in motion by none other than the monkeys themselves and was squarely directed against humans.
Their gripe was : “Now, when it’s an unassailable fact that humans are our descendants, why do they treat us so coldly, and not just coldly but entirely contrary to the manner of apes. They tie ropes around our necks and have us dance to the tune of their dugdugies [kettle -drums] in every lane and by-lane while they stick out their hands to beg for money … as though we’re humans … Furthermore, while it is indisputable that we’re their ancestors and that our blood flows in their veins, it is pretty dubious to say that they have climbed up the evolutionary ladder to become hu-mans. If there is such a thing as evolutionary stages, then why didn’t we billions of monkeys (you may call us a minority if you like, but if a census were ever taken, we would outnumber humans by far) go through them ?”
The monkeys maintained : “Why should these evolutionary stages re-main the exclusive prerogative of only certain monkeys ? Evolution, huh, it’s pure hogwash. Hell, they haven’t evolved at all ; if anything, they’ve regressed. They failed to hold on to the status that was bestowed on them ; they tumbled so far down from apishness that they became humans.
“Their evolution thus spells their downfall. We want these fallen mon-keys to revert to their original apishness all over again. We’ve started this movement to do just that, bring them back to the fold. We bear them no ill will or enmity ; in fact, we consider them our siblings. The purpose of our movement is that these monkeys who strut around as humans nowa-days, and who’ve grabbed power and influence because of our laxity, should recognize their true primary nature and return to our social habitat.” Speeches were given publicly, out in the open, and in the privacy of homes, sometimes even in clandestine meetings. In essence, they under-scored the point that vigorous protests should be made against the tyranny and violence the monkey had unleashed in the guise of man and that dem-onstrations should be staged in every part of the city raising the cry Down with humanity ! Long live apishness !
At first humans thought this was some kind of comedy show and had a hilarious time of it. Gradually, though, the monkeys’ speeches, their irrefutable arguments, and their point of view began to find a place in the hearts of some humans. As a result, the powers discovered from the reports of the secret police that several humans had become the monkeys’ disciples, and, as trustworthy sources verified, scores had renounced their humanity and returned to being apes, that is, they had sprouted long tails and started walking on all fours.
High officials in the government took this to be pure nonsense. That a monkey can become human is an established fact, but how can a human become a monkey ? Such a reverse progression has never been seen or heard. So, after consulting their higher-ups, they countered the monkeys’ claims by unleashing an equally relentless propaganda campaign of their own : a human can never morph into a monkey.
There was no dearth of able and resourceful personalities among the monkeys. To squash the government propaganda their savants came up with the ingenious argument that if in this time man can be transformed into woman and woman into man, why not man into monkey, which is his true form.
Still man’s arguments didn’t fail to have an effect on the monkeys. Those humans who hadn’t yet completely transformed found themselves hesitating about whether to complete the process of transformation or revert to being humans. But the monkeys’ powerful rejoinder sustained them in their wavering mental and physical state.
The monkeys’ propaganda secretary promptly mounted an especially vehement campaign. The one incontrovertible truth was that “humans have come forth from us, and only because of some regrettable devia-tionist streak. Can they deny that they are a distorted form of us ?”
In truth, humans had no answer to this crushing argument. But they kept babbling : “Well, no, we don’t deny that we were once monkeys. But we had to toil hard and go through difficult stages to achieve our status as humans. It was our granite willpower, our protracted effort, our spiritual awakening, our thought and action, our evolutionary struggle that has brought us to this sublime and lofty state … a race that we won and others lost. The losers are still wallowing in their simian state. When these lower primates see us in our lofty state, they burn with jealousy. So let them stew. We’ll march ahead on our evolutionary path until one day, who knows, we might even become gods.”
Quick and fast would come the answer from the apes’ camp : “Breth-ren, what lofty state have you reached ? As we see it, you’re plunging ever deeper into the depths of degradation. Evolution is something we don’t deny, but just tell us, where do you stand today after climbing so many steps of the evolutionary ladder and after centuries of setting up one society after another ? Your entire history is filled with warfare and carnage, murder and bloodshed, with rape and the defilement of women’s honor, with ruling others and being subjugated by them.
“On the other hand, look at our-your ancestors’-history. Can you cite one such dark episode throughout our history ? Yes, we frisk about from branch to branch, but have we ever fought over it as our property ? You, you humans, have been writing story after story about us in your books-including the well-known story of how we grabbed on to one another’s tails to build a bridge over the river. You also build bridges, so massive that your human brains are knocked out in astonishment. And then you blow them up. But who can blow up the bridge we devised ? Not a single monkey’s tail has behaved treacherously to this day, nor has a single monkey’s wife gotten into bed with another monkey. Our wives pick lice from our bodies and comb our hair daily, but they don’t forfeit their rights thereby, these continue to be the same as ours. You’re not unaware of the way your wives idle away their time, nor are your wives unaware of how you mess around. What you imply by calling us monkeys applies more appropriately to you. Conversely, “human” is an apt descrip-tion of us in the meaning you give it in describing yourselves. The plain fact is that you belong to our race. The same blood runs in our veins. No wonder if at times some resemblance should crop up and, equally, no wonder that it should result in the kind of row that has erupted between us now. We invite you to return to our fold. Come back to us, raise the cry
Down with humanity ! Long live apishness ! You’ll be the better for it.”
The retort from the humans’ side came loud and clear : “These monkeys, they’re shouting nonsense. They’re green with envy that we’ve reached such glorious heights. A single story we wrote about them under God knows what perverse influence, and that too only for our children, cannot be taken as the definitive word about them. Otherwise who isn’t aware of the kind of justice this monkey doled out to two cats regarding their quarrel over a piece of cheese ? He weighed the piece on his scale and, little by little, gobbled it up himself.”
The monkeys rejoined : “Scales and weights are human inventions ; we don’t use them at all, we don’t even know how to use them. Now, if you want the truth, it was no monkey who swindled the cats out of their cheese, it was flat out a human. There’s no wonder that he would dupe the poor cats. We can show thousands of such cats that these humans, once our brothers, are feeding on lentils and cauliflower instead of their natural diet of sinews and membranes and thus, having already screwed up their own nature, are hell-bent on destroying that of others. Instead of ridiculing our justice, have a look at the institutions of justice you’ve created. Don’t your courts ride roughshod over any notion of justice every day sending hundreds, indeed, thousands of people who have committed no crime to the gallows. We say again, they are our brothers who have somehow gone astray. Our arms are forever open to take them back, our prayers forever for them. We wish to take no revenge.”
Gradually this amicable call changed and, instead, this cry rose from the monkeys’ camp : “We want to take revenge … for this evolution … for this so -called progress these monkeys have foisted on themselves and turned into humans.”
The humans took severe measures of their own. Thousands of apes were taken into custody. Hundreds were dragged to the courts and sub-sequently hanged. But the movement in support of apishness continued unabated, until, finally, the human government declared it illegal. As a result, out of the total population of apes, some were arrested, but the rest melted away into the trees, frustrating every attempt to apprehend them. Who had the mind or the foolhardiness to chase after them in their jungle hideouts ? Some monkeys, rumor had it, settled in the trees around the bungalows of some high officials, where they were well looked after and provided every comfort. This because those officials were themselves secret partisans of apishness, but loathed embracing it openly for fear of losing their high positions.
This went on for quite some time. Arrests continued, gallows were erected in the middle of chowks, the culprits were whipped, skinned, and made to crawl on their stomachs. Numerous acts and ordinances were put into effect. Nothing worked. The monkeys were not about to call it quits. They stubbornly stuck to their position.
Now and then they organized agitations, got together and stormed humans, chewed through electric cables, snatched bread from people’s hands, smashed the little dugdugies which their monkey -masters made them dance to the beat of, chewed through their ropes and fled.
They secretly converted several humans over to apishness, detonated homemade bombs, spread terror and, as often, risked their lives. Though the powers had broken up their organization, still they were as relent-lessly united and as well organized in their dispersal as ever. When man is faced with this sort of situation, he nearly goes mad. I say this because I too am one of the humans. But the strange truth is that the monkeys appeared smugly impervious to any change. They remained what they had been all along-monkeys. Their antics lost none of the playfulness. They would swoop down and snatch from the hands of humans whatever caught their fancy. Grab a gun from someone and march on like an army cadet. Batons, tear-gas grenades, nothing stopped them. They were, one might say, as restless as mercury. You draw a gun on them, take aim, and fire, but they take a leap and, before you know it, are sitting comfortably on your shoulder laughing their monkey heads off. You throw a tear-gas shell at them, they jump and quickly turn it toward you.
The government was thoroughly fed up with their antics. A secret intelligence service report had it that this monkey movement, or conspiracy, or whatever, could never have been launched by the monkeys themselves. A group of influential humans, supporting apishness just for kicks, must be working behind the scenes and, on further investigation, this fact has been established beyond the shadow of a doubt. This disclosure was even more upsetting for the government ; some officials panicked lest they should fall into the trap of apishness and, after reaching the top of the evolutionary ladder, lapse back into being apes, a state their forefathers had fought long and hard to escape.
In spite of the government’s countless strategies, the rising tide of the monkey movement couldn’t be stemmed. Some monkey or other would appear on a rooftop or a steeple somewhere in the city several times during the day or night and shout through his megaphone : Down with humanity ! Down with dugdugies ! Long live apism !
One day the matter got out of hand. An audacious monkey stole into the living room of none other than the country’s highest authority, opened the cigar box, picked one up and started puffing away leisurely. His Honor became furious, the monkey screeched at him. His Honor scolded and threatened. The monkey couldn’t care less and leapt, landing on the sofa. The next moment he took another leap and alighted on one of the chairs, leaving His Honor with the distinct feeling that the monkey’s movements were mimicking his own image in the mirror. He felt so riled up and in-censed, writhing inside with anger and utter helplessness, that he finally broke down in tears.
We heard about this episode from our special sources, otherwise the next day’s papers had a different story to tell : An audacious monkey made an attempt to break into the government palace but the sentries gunned him down on the spot. After the incident, all pertinent government depart-ments have been issued strict orders to take whatever steps necessary to quell the uprising of the monkeys.
The chief of the secret police wasn’t worried so much about the mon-keys. He called together his subordinates and told them, “These antics of the monkeys don’t scare me. What I’m afraid of are the humans who have already reverted to being monkeys. I’m a man of keen intelligence. I think that if we can, as the descendants of monkeys, kick up so much trouble in the world and wreak such utter chaos, what might we do if we ever went back to being monkeys. Evolution, even in reverse, cannot but spell dan-ger, no matter how one looks at it. So my instruction to you is this : go and ferret out the humans who have embraced apism. If you can round them up, that will kill apism.”
Now the secret, as well as the ordinary, police zeroed in their entire effort on apprehending the neo-monkeys who were wreaking havoc every night with one mischief after another. Several monkeys were caught and were given the “third degree” inside the fort to make them squeal the whereabouts of the neo-monkeys. But they didn’t let a word slip out of their mouths and put up with the harshest torture with fortitude. They didn’t relent even when their females were raped before their eyes. Exas-perated, the police mowed them down and their corpses were doused with kerosene and set afire.
The next morning cyclostyled copies of a poster appeared everywhere in the city. In moving language it revealed the atrocities humans had com-mitted and appealed to those who felt compassion to abandon their humanity and return to the fold of the monkeys, which was their original place.
Within minutes the posters were pulled down, but by then thousands of humans had already seen them. As a result hundreds of them joined apism. None of the countermeasures of the government worked. All the zoos, now converted into prisons, were filled with monkeys. One count put the figure of 30,000 behind bars, but the incarcerated monkeys couldn’t be happier.
The authorities were caught in a strange predicament : if they turned a blind eye to the monkeys, it was feared they would unleash a veritable revolution ; if the authorities tightened their control and resorted to torture and atrocities, more and more humans would feel disgusted and turn against the government-after all, the same blood flowed in their and their ancestors’ veins.
At long last, the authorities felt pressed to collectively think the matter over and devise some way that the ban on the monkey organization could be lifted ; and further, the monkey leaders were to be invited to a confer-ence and asked to explain their point of view so that some step toward reconciliation might be taken.
Sadat Hasan Manto
Originally published in Urdu Studies -Translated by Muhammad Umar Memon