The first ebook I ever bought was ‘Cuckold’ by Kiran Nagarkar. It had come highly recommended by the man seated next to me at a literature festival. A stranger, the two of us bonding in those sudden intimacies that are the magic of city life (if you don’t try to make them into something more).
I was surprised & amused by the book as I was by my own delight in the device I’d opposed for years, even arguing against in a televised debate. I lost that argument then & again as I enjoyed the shrewd, calm critique of mytho-politics on a plastic device.
Years later, I performed at another lit fest, reveling in & shuddering at my pirouettes for people who’d played chess with patriarchy years before I began to scratch & claw at it. Waiting in the wings, I soaked up the scholarly poise of the authors in conversation -one a friend, the other Kiran Nagarkar. Nagarkar in his work & public presence epitomised dignity. I felt it; it’s tangible even today.
#MeToo broke out next year, Nagarkar named among the others. He refuted the allegations citing his powerful fictional characters. Is that dignified – perfectly in integrity for a storyteller or unaccountably sad? Can we measure dignity from the outside?
Shortly after, Nagarkar died, leaving behind a story that terminated with even more questions than before. Like his writings.
Dignity is merely comfort in one’s body & mind, with the decisions one takes & situations one finds oneself in. It could include confidence though this is easily faked. It doesn’t have to fit external ideas of right & wrong. Dignity is also being able to make peace with ambiguity, with frailty & folly.
My mediations & actions are motivated by my wish to personify dignity. But even as it stems from within, it feels shallow. Skin-deep. What lies beneath dignity, which may just be an agile mind able to speak to itself masterfully? Who am I beneath that? Who are you & who was Nagarkar? Who is any one of us under our pretensions of impressiveness, modesty or indeed, dignity?
Is there a person under the conversations we have with ourselves & the stories that grow about these?