Review of 'The End of Imagination'


“The end of imagination” is Arundhati Roy’s take on India’s nuclear tests. It is a rather fierce, passionate and heartfelt piece that takes its toll on one’s mind. People may or may not agree with the views expressed in this article, as is the case with most articles. But then, what makes this article worthwhile is that it makes one ask questions. It makes one aware of the matters one often takes for granted. It makes one think.

This article condemns the nuclear tests and all the theories, trying to prove it, to be in the interest of the nation and for the greater good.

Arundhati Roy speaks about the nuclear tests in a manner that is real and not, in any sense, sugar-coated. She explains the difference in the impact of a ‘normal war’ which, in itself is a gruesome concept, and that of a ‘nuclear war’. She writes about the aftermaths of a nuclear war in lucid terms and in all openness that cannot be questioned.

She discusses the much hyped concept of ‘deterrence’. She talks about the suicide bombers’ psyche. Can one really not question this particular risk? Is it not a possible outcome? How does one apply the theory of deterrence in such a case? What happens once one of the parties crosses the line? Do we have the resources or strength to come back if a wrong step is taken? These are all unanswered questions that severely backstab the concept of “deterrence”. One really cannot afford loose ends like these in case of nuclear weapons. For in this case, the stakes are too high. One toe out of line from any of the sides and we could be facing annihilation of entire species at a time, leaving the rest of them burnt, wounded and diseased.

Another major flaw that she addresses is the prevailing ignorance in the matter. She has rightly stressed in the importance of the innumerable protests denouncing the tests and thus, in the process, spreading awareness about the issue through diverse media and at various levels.

Although one may not be very sure whether something of the magnitude of individuals having private arsenal can happen, one can surely not rule it out if the race for the nuclear arms progresses unchecked at its present pace. She explains in bold words the ruthless and indiscriminate obliteration of species upon species that can take place in the conditions persisting during a nuclear war. She makes it very clear how personal the war turns out to be. She appeals the people to stand up to themselves and speak out. For, even the smallest attempt makes a difference to the movement as a whole.

In the paragraphs that follow the author gives her views and parameters determining success and failure, and life and death.
She eventually points out to the most horrendous of the flaws in the whole scheme of things as she explains the underhand politics that happens in association with the issue. She talks about the way the politicians play with words and change targets in agreement with their convenience. According to her, she would rather have her say and face the music, than accepting whatever is dished out to her with her head bowed. She jibes that a year from then we might as well celebrate the anniversary of our Nuclear bondage.

The author then comes around to discuss the three main reasons given by the government in support of the nuclear tests. The three Official Reasons given were: China, Pakistan and Exposing Western Hypocrisy. She logically and methodically condemns all the three aforementioned reasons. She rightly proves the justification given by the government to be going back on its own policy and hence proves it to be the real hypocrites. She sneers at the easily manipulated, “hooting young men”, who accept the worst means of destruction with open arms, and admit it to being a part of the Indian scriptures, but can’t digest the mere existence of dance, music or food that is, as they call it, “western”.

She then proceeds to explain calmly how it is not only stupid, but outright ridiculous to attempt to have an “authorized version of what India is or should be”. India, from the time unknown, has always been known to have attracted foreigners and to have wholeheartedly accepted them. The various cultures coming together and merging gave rise to a new culture every time. It is this merging and intermingling that has given rise to the homogenous mix that we call our culture today. So, why stop now? Why put an obstacle to growth? By the way, is there any relation between the clothes we wear and the nuclear bomb? Not exactly, one might think. But then, don’t you understand this is how the politicians spin stories in a well delivered speech, this is how they spin gold. Is there any relation in anything they associate with the issues? It is the old art of ‘plan, plot and Scheme to manipulate people in your favour’.

Railing against the past will not heal us. History has happened. It's over and done with. All we can do is to change its course by encouraging what we love instead of destroying what we don't. There is beauty yet in this brutal, damaged world of ours. Hidden, fierce, immense. Beauty that is uniquely ours and beauty that we have received with grace from others, enhanced, re-invented and made our own. We have to seek it out, nurture it, love it. Making bombs will only destroy us. It doesn't matter whether we use them or not. They will destroy us either way.
The aforementioned paragraph is the crux of the entire article.

Then there are, of course, opinion polls. How reliable are these? Whose opinion do they represent? The author genuinely questions their validity as millions of people in our country are illiterate and millions others live in conditions lacking the most basic of necessities in their life. Do these opinion polls consider their opinion? Before conducting these opinion polls, were the people even explained what it was all about, or are opinion polls, regarding issues having a nationwide impact, a luxury for the elite few?

Arundhati Roy concludes the article with two lines that give you gooseflesh.

The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democratic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that man has ever made. If you are religious, then remember that this bomb is Man's challenge to God. It's worded quite simply: We have the power to destroy everything that You have created.

If you're not religious, then look at it this way. This world of ours is four thousand, six hundred million years old. It could end in an afternoon.

Related Essays Humanities