Thursday, December 17, 2015

A LIBERAL TERRORIST

The only memories i have of Asim are of his narcissism. Before i deepen the complexity of his personality i find myself switching off the terrorist in me that leaps to judgement, takes implicit moral positions and wreaks emotional violence. The word terrorist may seem an exaggeration with regard to Asim because he is not going around with a gun or dropping bombs. His terrorism is essentially the tortuous catacomb of his distorted mind. And in his own way he has pushed quite a few to the edge. I was one of them and i count myself fortunate in having survived and fashioned a life for myself, though it is a far cry from the life i most intensely craved at one point of time.

Asim taught me at school . He taught english . Though a government school english syllabus in delhi in  2002-2004 was rudimentary and unimaginative he stood out. His dense vocabulary, air of aloofness marked him out. His arrogance , his implicit assumption of intellectual superiority was irksome yet not entirely apocryphal. He had a breath of erudition and an articulation that was dazzling. He never talked down to us at school, keeping up a dense linguistic register , insisting on the value of  learning with depth than meretricious opportunism. Because i was one of the few students who understood his classroom teaching he marked me out as special. His method of inveigling and ensnaring intelligent students was through shared complicity. Though indubitably lonely and choosing to maintain a prim distance from his colleagues he never admitted to his solitariness. He presented his predilection as a gift, a talisman, something he hoped his chosen acolytes would value and cherish , mindful of the privilege of his esoteric munificence.

I always had misgivings about Asim, could never assume a comfortable spontaneity with him. His aloofness, tinged with contempt, made his attentiveness seem patronizing. I did not desire the status of a neophyte though i found his manic gregariousness enlivening. In fact i undoubtedly enjoyed being in his charmed circle, despite my scepticism and my not infrequent self loathing at collusion was deflected , pushed aside. His approval mattered to me even though the beam of his regard would always be penumbral.

I kept in touch with him in my young adulthood. It was after he wrote an angry, rebarbative mail to me accusing me of  lubricious intent towards him that i allowed the ambivalence to become palpable. Hitherto my energies were consumed in concealing my occasional exasperation and being solicitous. In that abusive letter he imputed my effervescence to obsequiousness and it was true that i wrote fulsomely . However i believed i had divined the core of his existential loneliness. His distorted self perception was ignored by me in my empathy for him as a fellow solitary. But now the choices he had made in justifying and rationalizing his grandiose self conception seemed evil.

And this is where his terrorism became palpable. He evinced an expansiveness of mind, could discourse on anything with full knowledge of nuance. So well informed did he seem, as he invigorated his observations with theories and ideas , that he conveyed an impression of profound intelligence. He also believed in the absoluteness of his projections because he had the requisite psychological jargon to corroborate his views. I have seen him thoughtlessly, injudiciously discard people from his charmed circle once he became tired of them. His strategy was to diminish and undermine the other by demonstrating his sense of being betrayed. He was continually slapping pathological labels . And many of us who admired him, drawn to his ebullience and vitality because of our own inadequacies, took his unmerited accusations at face value. I spent years submerged in unendurable melancholia that seemed unremitting.

His belief in inclusiveness, tolerance, broad mindedness, liberalism was a mask for solipsism. The unbridgeable gulf between his putative liberalism and megalomania grew more irreconcilable. He constantly victimized himself through extrojecting his self hatred on his hapless interlocutors. His dissimulation and self deception was so adroit that he could both relish his unimpeachability and demolish other people, break them down. And that's how the dichotomy of mind and consciousness became discernible to me. For all his philosophizing and abstruse deliberations, for all his recondite unraveling of nuance he was singularly lacking self awareness. It seemed as though the force of liberal ideas , articulated with such impassioned fervour became, when his own acts of manipulation were challenged, tools to eviscerate other people. His mind was a reservoir of information from myriad sources that could cohere and transmute into whorls of ratiocination and casuistry but would equally become validations of  emotional depredations, chiefly his.

I did go grovelling back to me and he perfunctorily discarded me when he feared that i had penetrated his heart of darkness. Retrospectively i would like to irradiate my picture of his with polychromatic brushstrokes , intensifying the ineffable enigma that is a fundamental human reality. But all that surfaces are his brutal excoriations and ineffectual defense mechanisms. Ultimately it boils down to choice and he has chosen a convoluted psychological mind game that has led to an emotional deadlock. And his actions speak louder than words. His bouts of vituperation seem now to be overcompensations for an inexpungible inner disquiet. At this distance the carapace of his moral emptiness has become sharper , while his clever machinations seem insipid. There is something bereft there in him and i pity him , with the substratum of reverence for his fine mind, remnants of which persist despite all that has supervened. 

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