The lack of love* among people doesn’t bother me for some reason**. The lack of empathy***, however, does. A lot.
*Especially not of selfless and/or unconditional love. I’m not sure if either of those exists. (Love is rarely, if ever, completely selfless. There is usually or always something in it for you. And I don’t consider that to be a bad thing per se.) Even if they do, I’m not convinced they are whatsoever constructive or beneficial. (What’s the point of loving someone and/or expecting to be loved regardless of what you do? Seems entitled and [self-]destructive to me.)
**Maybe because I’m incapable of love myself?
**Needless to say, I’m talking about the empathy that informs your interactions with others in a positive way. I have no high opinion of ppl who primarily use their empathy to manipulate others for their self-serving and destructive-for-others ends.
Sometimes Estha walked past Lucky Press —old Comrade K. N. M. Pillai’s printing press, once the Ayemenem office of the Communist Party, where midnight study meetings were held, and pamphlets with rousing lyrics of Marxist Party songs were printed and distributed. The flag that fluttered on the roof had grown limp and old. The red had bled away.
Comrade Pillai himself came out in the mornings in a graying Aertex vest, his balls silhouetted against his soft white mundu. He oiled himself with warm, peppered coconut oil, kneading his old, loose flesh that stretched willingly off his bones like chewing gum. He lived alone now. His wife, Kalyani, had died of ovarian cancer. His son, Lenin, had moved to Delhi, where he worked as a services contractor for foreign embassies.
Comrade Pillai would slap himself all over to get his circulation going. He couldn’t tell whether Estha recognized him after all those years or not. Not that he particularly cared. Though his part in the whole thing had by no means been a small one, Comrade Pillai didn’t hold himself in any way personally responsible for what had happened. He dismissed the whole business as the Inevitable Consequence of Necessary Politics. The old omelette-and-eggs thing. But then, Comrade K. N. M. Pillai was essentially a political man. A professional omeletteer. He walked through the world like a chameleon. Never revealing himself, never appearing not to. Emerging through chaos unscathed."
But there was someone who thought otherwise. In the evenings, after the factory shift was over, Comrade K. N. M. Pillai waylaid the workers of Paradise Pickles and shepherded them into his printing press. In his reedy, piping voice he urged them on to revolution. In his speeches he managed a clever mix of pertinent local issues and grand Maoist rhetoric, which sounded even grander in Malayalam.
“People of the World,” he would chirrup, “be courageous, dare to fight, defy difficulties and advance wave upon wave. Then the whole world will belong to the People. Monsters of all kinds shall be destroyed. You must demand what is rightfully yours. Yearly bonus. Provident fund. Accident insurance.”
Since these speeches were in part rehearsal for when, as the local Member of the Legislative Assembly, Comrade Pillai would address thronging millions, there was something odd about their pitch and cadence. His voice was full of green rice fields and red banners that arced across blue skies instead of a small hot room and the smell of printer’s ink."
Arundhati Roy. The God of Small Things.
Chacko’s room was stacked from floor to ceiling with books. He had read them all and quoted long passages from them for no apparent reason. Or at least none that anyone else could fathom. For instance, that morning, as they drove out through the gate, shouting their good-byes to Mammachi in the verandah, Chacko suddenly said: “Gatsby turned out all right at the end. It is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.”
Everyone was so used to it that they didn’t bother to nudge each other or exchange glances. Chacko had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and was permitted excesses and eccentricities nobody else was."
For herself—she knew that there would be no more chances. There was only Ayemenem now. A front verandah and a back verandah. A hot river and a pickle factory.
And in the background, the constant, high, whining mewl of local disapproval.
Within the first few months of her return to her parents’ home, Ammu quickly learned to recognize and despise the ugly face of sympathy. Old female relations with incipient beards and several wobbling chins made overnight trips to Ayemenem to commiserate with her about her divorce. They squeezed her knee and gloated. She fought off the urge to slap them. Or twiddle their nipples. With a spanner. Like Chaplin in Modern Times.
When she looked at herself in her wedding photographs, Ammu felt the woman that looked back at her was someone else. A foolish jeweled bride. Her silk sunset-colored sari shot with gold. Rings on every finger. White dots of sandalwood paste over her arched eyebrows. Looking at herself like this, Ammu’s soft mouth would twist into a small, bitter smile at the memory-not of the wedding itself so much as the fact that she had permitted herself to be so painstakingly decorated before being led to the gallows. It seemed so absurd. So futile.
Like polishing firewood.
She went to the village goldsmith and had her heavy wedding ring melted down and made into a thin bangle with snake heads that she put away for Rahel.
Ammu knew that weddings were not something that could be avoided altogether. At least not practically speaking. But for the rest of her life she advocated small weddings in ordinary clothes. It made them less ghoulish, she thought.
Occasionally, when Ammu listened to songs that she loved on the radio, something stirred inside her. A liquid ache spread under her skin, and she walked out of the world like a witch, to a better, happier place. On days like this there was something restless and untamed about her. As though she had temporarily set aside the morality of motherhood and divorcehood. Even her walk changed from a safe mother-walk to another wilder sort of walk. She wore flowers in her hair and carried magic secrets in her eyes. She spoke to no one. She spent hours on the riverbank with her little plastic transistor shaped like a tangerine. She smoked cigarettes and had midnight swims.
What was it that gave Ammu this Unsafe Edge? This air of unpredictability? It was what she had battling inside her. An unmixable mix. The infinite tenderness of motherhood and the reckless rage of a suicide bomber. It was this that grew inside her, and eventually led her to love by night the man her children loved by day. To use by night the boat that her children used by day. The boat that Estha sat on, and Rahel found.
On the days that the radio played Ammu’s songs, everyone was a little wary of her. They sensed somehow that she lived in the penumbral shadows between two worlds, just beyond the grasp of their power. That a woman that they had already damned, now had little left to lose, and could therefore be dangerous. So on the days that the radio played Ammu’s songs, people avoided her, made little loops around her, because everybody agreed that it was best to just Let Her Be.
On other days she had deep dimples when she smiled.
She had a delicate, chiseled face, black eyebrows angled like a soaring seagull’s wings, a small straight nose and luminous, nutbrown skin. On that skyblue December day, her wild, curly hair had escaped in wisps in the car wind. Her shoulders in her sleeveless sari blouse shone as though they had been polished with a high-wax shoulder polish. Sometimes she was the most beautiful woman that Estha and Rahel had ever seen. And sometimes she wasn’t."
Estha’s full name was Esthappen Yako. Rahel’s was Rahel. For the Time Being they had no surname because Ammu was considering reverting to her maiden name, though she said that choosing between her husband’s name and her father’s name didn’t give a woman much of a choice.
Though Ammu did as much work in the factory as Chacko, whenever he was dealing with food inspectors or sanitary engineers, he always referred to it as my Factory, my pineapples, my pickles. Legally this was the case, because Ammu, as a daughter, had no claim to the property. Chacko told Rahel and Estha that Ammu had no Locusts Stand I. “Thanks to our wonderful male chauvinist society,” Ammu said.
Chacko was a self-proclaimed Marxist. He would call pretty women who worked in the factory to his room, and on the pretext of lecturing them on labor rights and trade union law, flirt with them outrageously. He would call them Comrade, and insist that they call him Comrade back (which made them giggle). Much to their embarrassment and Mammachi’s dismay, he forced them to sit at table with him and drink tea.
Once he even took a group of them to attend Trade Union classes that were held in Alleppey. They went by bus and returned by boat. They came back happy, with glass bangles and flowers in their hair.
Ammu said it was all hogwash. Just a case of a spoiled princeling playing Comrade. Comrade! An Oxford avatar of the old zamindar mentality—a landlord forcing his attentions on women who depended on him for their livelihood.
“She’s the cook,” Chacko said. “That’s her way of kissing you.”
“Kissing?” Sophie Mol was unconvinced, but interested. “How marvelous!” Margaret Kochamma said. “It’s a sort of sniffing! Do the Men and Women do it to each other too?”
She hadn’t meant it to sound quite like that, and she blushed. An embarrassed schoolteacher-shaped Hole in the Universe.
“Oh, all the time!” Ammu said, and it came out a little louder than the sarcastic mumble that she had intended. “That’s how we make babies.”
Chacko didn’t slap her.
So she didn’t slap him back.
But the Waiting Air grew Angry.
“I think you owe my wife an apology, Ammu,” Chacko said, with a protective, proprietal air (hoping that Margaret Kochamma wouldn’t say “Ex-wife Chacko!” and wag a rose at him).
“Oh no!” Margaret Kochamma said. “It was my fault! I never meant it to sound quite like that… what I meant was—I mean it is fascinating to think that—”
“It was a perfectly legitimate question,” Chacko said. “And I think Ammu ought to apologize.”
“Must we behave like some damn godforsaken tribe that’s just been discovered?” Ammu asked.
As a child, she had learned very quickly to disregard the Father Bear Mother Bear stories she was given to read. In her version, Father Bear beat Mother Bear with brass vases. Mother Bear suffered those beatings with mute resignation.
As she grew older, Ammu learned to live with this cold, calculating cruelty. She developed a lofty sense of injustice and the mulish, reckless streak that develops in Someone Small who has been bullied all their lives by Someone Big. She did exactly nothing to avoid quarrels and confrontations. In fact, it could be argued that she sought them out, perhaps even enjoyed them."
The concept of pan-European Whiteness is more or less an American ideology that developed after World War II.
I’m not saying that White privilege was non existent in America prior to the Second World War, but Southern & Eastern Europeans were viewed as less White in comparison to their Western European counterparts within America.
There is still an ethnic divide within Europe & it is very evident in politics, border policies, economic policies and the like.
This also does not excuse how Eastern & Southern Europeans treat non-White citizens of their countries, whether they are Jewish, Rromani, Armenians, Tatars, Turks or Arabs.
Americans seem to forget that it was only 60 years ago when tens of millions of Slavs & Greeks were massacred along with the Jewish & Rromani Holocaust victims.
Americans also like to forget that not even 20 years ago, Western European “peace-keepers” idly sat by and participated in the massacre of tens of thousands of Bosnians & Rromani during a war that America had a hand in creating.
Let’s stop acting like there is one factor that puts a single group of people on top & another group of people on the bottom because that is simply not the case. Being an American PoC doesn’t excuse you from perpetuating damaging & false information or engaging in erasure; it is not some free pass to be a bigot & shit on other ethnic groups.
I cannot get over the fact that on this site, I have seen more American PoC than any other PoC shit on Natives, Rromani, Jewish People, Armenians & anyone whose racial make-up doesn’t fit neatly into your Western ideas of race.. and I’m American; Rromani American.
Americans act like because something doesn’t concern them, that they simply shouldn’t give a shit. There is no excuse for not looking into something if you’re to make such broad generalizations in a post. Even though this is the internet, most people don’t fact check what they’re reading & sorry to say this, but America isn’t the only country in the world.
Talk about American racism in the context of America, but stop projecting American racial politics onto the rest of the world because it simply doesn’t work that way.
Believe me, it takes every fiber of my being not to just throw all Europeans into the same giant racist fuck-bucket that is Whiteness, but I actually value historical accuracy & despise erasure regardless of to whom it applies.