Shah Jahan’s daughters – reminded me that violence is not new!

“That one college boy from, perhaps London should be the killer of another college boy from New Hampshire in a conflict over the future of the Middle East illustrates how far normal boundaries of state and class  have been cruelly transcended” This, was something that was floating in e-space in response to the senseless killing of James Foley. And since then there have been other equally gruesome and senseless executions, and every other kind of brutality carried out by the latest villains on the world stage.
I watched this play,  performed outdoors, in the central circular open-to-sky space of the National Museum. It is  the first in series the Museum is planning, in an area that  they have not touched on much – history and performing arts. It was a laudable attempt by a young, fresh group (Darwesh) – a sutradhar provided a commentary of the times and this was interspersed with 5 short dialogues between Jahanara and Roshnara, the daughters of Shah Jahan, famous as the builder of the Taj Mahal.  I am not dwelling on the performance itself, but the dialogue that struck me in the above context!  Jahanara, who was a favorite of her father and had supported  the cultured and non-military brother Dara Shikoh, is rebuking Roshnara who supported the militarily inclined Aurangzeb, after Aurangzeb had killed and presented the head of Dara Shikoh on a platter to their father. Does it have to come to this she says? Can you imagine a father receiving his son’s head? But, this was par for the course in those times.

And I thought, individual and collective violence has been part of the history of mankind since time immemorial.  Whether it was Ashoka or Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun or Pol Pot, barbarity was always an essential part of enhancing personal ambitions and expanding territories.  It was practiced by the armies of Greece and Rome while expanding their empires. The most reprehensible forms of human exploitation was practiced by the European States to establish their colonies in Africa, Americas and Asia.

Today, there are some sections of humanity looking on in horror at what other sections are capable of – assuming that everyone has moved forward and acquired the same value systems. It is clear that’s not the case – and using  forms of collective violence (what else is bombing, which kills non-combatants?) to eliminate the source of this horror, will probably not lead to any lasting solutions. Who decides what the world order should be? Is it those with the money? or is the world hurtling towards some new order?

The horrific events seem far away, and come to us as images in the media. But, nearer home disturbing polarizations are taking place. These are dificultf times to say the least and makes me wonder, is there an innate goodness in man? If we do not  believe that there is,  how do we face the future? What do we teach our children?


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