Franz Kafka, Kafkaesque and The Metamorphosis

Kafkaesque-of, relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings; especially : having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality, ex.  Kafkaesque bureaucratic delays

-Merriam Webster Dictionary

Franz Kafka was a German novelist. His stories are full of bureaucracy, bizarre or surrealistic experiences. He died due to tuberculosis at young age of 40 years. Few of his novels got published during his life time, his work gained popularity after his death.

His novels talk about surrealistic experiences ex. a person becoming insect (The Metamorphosis), a person punished for crime about which he himself is not aware (The Trial) or land surveyor struggling with bureaucracy (The Castle).

Work of Kafka resulted in word- Kafkaesque- which is now part of English vocabulary.

“You don’t give up, you don’t lie down and die. What you do is struggle against this with all of your equipment, with whatever you have. But of course, you don’t stand a chance. That’s Kafkaesque.”

-Frederick R. Karl, biographer of Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis is story of travelling salesman called Gregor Samsa, who one day suddenly gets converted to a insect. His family depends on his earnings. His metamorphosis now deprives family of earnings. His father hates Gregor, while his sister Grete is initially sympathetic to him. His mother wants to meet him, but passes out when she sees him in insect form. Gregor tries his best to live life inspite of handicap.

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

One day his father throws apples at him and he is wounded by one of the apples. Gradually his sister also gets tried of looking after him and plans with her father to get rid of Gregor. Disappointed with attitude of his family members , Gregor dies. After his death everyone is relieved and now they start looking for a boy to marry Grete.

“He had always believed that his father had not been able to save a penny from the business, at least his father had never told him anything to the contrary, and Gregor, for his part, had never asked him any questions. In those days Gregor’s sole concern had been to do everything in his power to make the family forget as quickly as possible the business disaster which had plunged everyone into a state of total despair”

― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Numerous films were made on this novel.

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Yin Mo Su, Khulan Davaadorj and Sustainability

“I told my father when we went into this business that I couldn’t operate it as a manager who answers for 99.9 percent – it had to be 100 percent my management.”

-Yin Mo Su

Yin Mo Su loves Inle Lake of Myanmar. She wants to conserve the beauty and biodiversity of Inle Lake. With Myanmar opening up there is lot of scope of tourism, but at the same time she does not want Inle Lake to get polluted due to increase in tourism.

To provide jobs to locals and to protect ecology she has started Inle Princess Resort. Yin Mo Su is affectionately called Missu.

Missu’s father is supporter of democracy in Myanmar, he was imprisoned for his activities. Missu decided to pursue career in hospitality, after attending Ecole Hotelier in 1991, she returned to Myanmar and stared her resort. Her business was impacted by cyclone Nargis, but she managed to restart her business.

 “In tourism, the private sector is benefitting but we have to ask ourselves, are we doing everything to share our benefits? And that includes for our heritage and environment. It’s everyone’s job to spread the wealth, this is all of our htamin ohe (rice pot),”

-Yin Mo Su

When Khulan Davaadorj come back to Mongolia after spending may years studying abroad, her skin suffered due to pollution and harsh climate of Mongolia. She stared looking for products that will help her to protect her skin, but no such products were available in Mongolia.

For Khulan this was an opportunity. She decided to make organic skin care products. Her products are   innovative, handmade and made in Mongolia. They are sold under brand name Lhamour.

“Even though we didn’t make any profit yet, our attention is on sustainability, on the environment and on giving back to society,”

-Khulan Davaadorj

She decided to use local products to make her soaps and creams more effective. In Mongolia people have been using fat in Sheep’s tail for cooking and to treat skin related problem. The problem with Sheep tail oil was its smell, Khulan used it in soap manufacturing, thus while retaining benefits of sheep tail oil, it smells good. The paper in which the soap is wrapped is also recyclable.

Another interesting product is soap made from Horse’s oil. In Far East meat of horse is consumed, the fat is used to make oil. Horse’s oil is used in Far East to treat skin related diseases.

“We produce zero waste. Every raw material becomes an end product,”

-Khulan Davaadorj

 

 

Romani, Racism and Vladimir Michalcik

“Gitano means gypsy. And the gypsies have always been famous for their unrestrained, free life and mystery. That’s exactly what our perfumes are! Thanks to its high quality and very pleasant smell, our products have become very popular.”

-Website of Gitano perfumes

Some Indians migrated to Europe 700 years ago. They were called as Romani or gypsies in Europe. They were mostly associated with magicians, dancers or entertainers. In European social hierarchy they rank lowest. Many stay in ghettos in various countries of Europe in deplorable conditions (not very different from slums of India).

During Nazi era along with Jews, thousands of Romani people died in concentration camp. They were made to work till death or horrible medical experiments were done on them.

In one such ghetto in Bilina in Czech Republic, Vladimir Michalcik was born to Roma couple. Vladimir’s father was bus driver and mother labourer in glass factory.

Vladimir always wanted to improve his living conditions. He faced many ups and downs in life, including imprisonment. Yet, he managed to start company of his own, along with his brother Roman.

Vladimir’s company makes coffee called Maguama. Vladimir has brought innovation in coffee by mixing guarana root and maca root from Peru with Arabica coffee. It is sold as health drink.

Romani people are called “Gitano” in Spanish. So Vladimir started Gitano range of perfumes for men and women.

Vladimir is good example of how an optimistic person can succeed in life despite economic conditions and racism.

Chinese Indians, Deoli Camp and Monica Liu

“I’ve felt that the Indian government should apologize openly …Unfortunately the whole thing’s been swept under the rug.”

– Harry Shaw, Chinese Indian

In 1962, China invaded India and defeated Indian Army. This humiliating defeat exposed poor strategy of Nehru. Nehru could never recover from this blow.

India had Chinese Indian population which lived in Bengal and North East. The humiliating defeat resulted in Chinese Indians being treated as enemies of India. They were loaded in trains and send to a camp in Deoli in Rajasthan. Many were born in India, but their rights were ignored, for that matter Indian government ignored human rights of all Chinese Indians.

“We stopped thinking about our future…one year went by, two years, three years and when it was four years, I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’m 21 now. What will we do with our lives now? Will we ever get out?’ The anxiety really hurt you.”

– Andy Hsieh, Chinese Indian

The conditions in camp were horrible and Chinese Indians were not used to heat of Rajasthan, many died due to heat and sunstroke. They rotted in Deoli camp. Some were set free on condition that they would be deported to China. Many did not want to go to China, country they had never seen, so they continued to languish in camp. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri visited camp once, but nothing changed.

Finally they were released after 3-4 years as there was no evidence to show that they were not loyal to India. When they went back to their homes, they found that their neighbors had either looted all their belongings or were illegally occupying their property. Many migrated to other countries while some decided to start their life again in India.

All these events have been captured in film “Legend of Fat Mama” by Rafeeq Ellias.

One such detainee was Monica Liu, after getting released from camp, she borrowed money and started eatery. With hard work and persistence she managed to start a restaurant. Today she owns 5 restaurants in Tangra locality of Kolkatta.

“My parents hurriedly stuffed the clothes in the trunks and sat inside the police van along with their five children. I had become a refugee in my own country in a span of few hours,”

-Monica Liu

Tangra is dominated by Chinese Indians. Monica is also called Don of Tangra, because she the faced goons in the locality and beat them up.

“Some goons of the locality began to harass us when my restaurant opened…They wanted free food but I was in no mood to oblige. I fought with them and even beat them up! They ran away and never came back.”

-Monica Liu

Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock and Rebecca Effect

“The moment of crisis had come, and I must face it. My old fears, my diffidence, my shyness, my hopeless sense of inferiority, must be conquered now and thrust aside. If I failed now I should fail forever.”

― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

I loved reading crime stories. In childhood my favourite magazine was “Dakshata” published by Maharashtra Police Department. I also liked Manohar, a weekly magazine which used to publish stories of Alfred Hitchcock.

I started reading “Three Investigators series” believing that they were written by Alfred Hitchcock (they were actually written by Robert Arthur Jr.), but stories were better than Enid Blyton’s (Secret Seven and Famous Five) and Edward Stratemeyer’s Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

Daphne du Maurier was a British author who wrote famous novels like Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel and Jamaica Inn. Rebecca is story of middle age British gentleman called Maximillian de Winter, his young new wife and his housekeeper Mrs. Danvers. Mrs. Danvers keeps comparing new wife to Maximillian’s earlier wife Rebecca, who according to Mrs. Danvers was epitome of virtue, grace and intelligence and whom Maximillian deeply loved. Mrs. Danvers makes life of new wife miserable and almost succeeds in forcing her to commit suicide.

“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”

― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

Alfred Hitchcock liked the novel and decided to make film on this story. The film Rebecca was a big success and won two Academy Awards.

Management Expert Manfred Kets de Vries in his study of leadership observed that when a new person joins an organisation, he/she is always compared with his/her predecessor. The predecessor is always projected as some one who ran department efficiently, brought lot of new ideas etc. and successor has big shoes to fill. While in reality the predecessor may have been a mediocre performer and many achievements attributed to him may have been due to efforts of someone else. If successor is not smart he/she may succumb to such false stories and start losing confidence in self.

Manfred calls this as “Rebecca Effect”.

“When people remember an absent person, any fantasy becomes the truth”

-Manfred Kets de Vries

In novel, while Mrs. Danvers projected Rebecca as epitome of virtue and grace, in reality Maximillian hated Rebecca and Rebecca was mean and characterless woman. This myth was simply created to get rid of new wife. Unfortunately, the new wife believed such false stories and stared hating self to such extent that she was ready to commit suicide.

 

 

 

 

Madhva Brahmin, Purnaiah and Samskara

Purnaiah was a Madhav Brahmin from Coimbatore, he started working with a grocer as accountant. Later he came in touch with Hyder Ali of Mysore. Hyder was impressed with accounting skills of Purnaiah.

Through hard work and his accounting skills Purnaiah became Diwan of Mysore. Purnaiah later served Hyder’s son Tipu Sultan and after death of Tipu Sultan he worked with Wodeyars of Mysore who succeeded Tipu Sultan.

While Purnaiah impressed royal family of Mysore, not everyone was impressed with Madhav Brahmins.

U. Ananthamurthy was critical of Madhav Brahmins, in his novel “Samskara” he has attacked the orthodoxy of Brahmins. Story is about two brahmins Praneshacharya and Narayanappa, former a devout brahmin and vedic scholar and later a rebel  who eats meat, lives with a dalit woman Chandri, who happens to be prostitute. The story revolves around what happens after Narayanappa dies and village does not know how to deal with it.

Later it was made into a film, which was produced and directed by Pattabhirama Reddy, his wife Snehlata played role of Chandri in the film. The film won National Film Award in 1970.

The Reddy family was close to socialist leaders esp. with George Fernandes. In 1977, during emergency, when George went underground, police arrested Snehlata Reddy. She was tortured in jail, being a asthma patient she could not survive the torture and her health failed. She was released from prison, but died within 5 days.

 

Lokmanya Tilak, Age of Consent and Dr.Rukhma Raut

“We would not like that the government should have anything to do with regulating our social customs or ways of living, even supposing that the act of government will be a very beneficial and suitable measure”

-Lokmanya Tilak on Age of Consent Bill

Lokmanya Tilak had his own views on political and social reforms. He believed that Indians should first go for self-rule (Swarajya), which he believed was their birth right, once self-rule is achieved then social reforms will follow.

He wanted social reforms to be initiated by Indians and not Britishers. This philosophy of his resulted in rivalry with reformers like Agarkar. Reformers like Agarkar wanted social reforms first and in this they did not mind getting help of British.

When British decided to raise age of marriage of girls from 10 years to 12 years. Tilak opposed it on the grounds that it was interference in religious matters of Indians. Tilak’s opposition was strange considering the fact that he himself never believed in child marriage and married his girls at the age of sixteen.

Elsewhere in Maharashtra, a 11-year-old girl Rukhma was married to 19-year-old boy called Bhikaji. But Rukhma refused to live with her husband. Her decision was supported by her step father. Matter went for litigation. Tilak criticised her decision while other reformers supported her. Finally, Rukhma won and in year 1888 marriage was dissolved. In her letter to Queen Victoria she asked Queen to raise age of marriage of girl to 15 years.

“This 50th year of our Queen’s accession to the most renowned throne is the jubilee year in which every town and every village in her dominions is to show their loyalty in the best way it can, and wish the mother Queen a long happy life, to rule over us for many years with peace and prosperity. At such an unusual occasion will the mother listen to an earnest appeal from her millions of Indian daughters and grant them a few simple words of change into the book on Hindu law- that ‘marriages performed before the respective ages of 20 in boys and 15 in girls shall not be considered legal in the eyes of the law if brought before the Court.’ This mere sentence will be sufficient for the present to have enough check on child marriages, without creating a great vexation among the ignorant masses.”

-Dr. Rukhmabai Raut

Later in 1891 British passed Age of Consent Act which raised age of marriage for girls from 10 years to 12 years.

While Bhikaji remarried, Rukhma remained unmarried and decided to become doctor. She got her medical degree from London.

Before her only two Indian women had become doctors- Anandi Joshi got her degree from USA and Kadambini Ganguly from Calcutta. Anandi did not get chance to practice, as she died young due to poor health. Rukhma worked in women hospitals in Surat and Rajkot.