New Delhi  2010, by Sarup & Sons of Delhi, on behalf of WASLE (World Association for Studies in Literatures in English). Editors:  Sheobhushan Shukla, Christopher Rollason, Anu Shukla.

Ich sage, das Leben verliert an Gehalt und Interesse, wenn der höchste Einsatz, eben das Leben selbst, in seinen Kämpfen ausgeschlossen ist. Es wird so leer und schal wie ein amerikanisher Flirt, bei dem es von vornherein feststeht, daß nichts vorfallen darf, zum Unterschied von einer kontinentalen Liebesbeziehung, bei welcher beide Partner der stets lauernden Gefahr eingedenk bleiben müssen. (S. Freud, 1915)


A long and nostalgic narrative about taking leave of our common father: this is my standpoint on Vikram Chandra's fiction.
As a psychoanalyst and a lover of literature, I have been fascinated reading "Red Earth and Pouring Rain" and "Sacred Games". I will try to explain how Vikram Chandra opens up a path into the third millennium: great novels create avenues of thoughts, charting a possible passage from past to future. What is required is an apposite knowledge of the past and a particular gift for imagining new generations. A writer of Chandra's stature is able to use words to engender a world simultaneously from the male and the female standpoint, ensuring protection while preparing a cradle and a home.
His ability to entwine different kinds of stories is a gift appearing variously in the manifold presence of the tragic, the comic, the romantic and the passionate, with the same dignity being granted to Ganesh Gaitonde and to Sartaj, as to the ape-Sanjay and to Yama on his throne of darkness. Loving every creature in the world and giving all a voice entails recognizing in oneself the multiple presence of different feelings, aims and desires, while accepting at the same time the turmoil they unleash.
It requires a Heimlich/Unheimlich listening to the voices of the unconscious, a skill triggered off by Sigmund Freud, who said poets are the first and best masters of psychology.

Here literature and psychoanalysis hold hands, listening together to voices high and low, the earthy and the heavenly, until they start to reveal the other forms of their unimaginable nature. Shakespeare is the absolute model for Chandra, who, writing after Freud, enters the field of Psyche, where everything is immersed in the unconscious.





1. Sartaj, do you believe in God?





Life is like a story in which Eros does not mean anything if Thanatos is not sufficiently close  to be able to catch up with him. Moreover, the nature of Eros is anarchic and oscillates between opposed states, originating as he does from Penia’s desire to conceive a child with Poros, that is to say from the encounter betwen Poverty and Wealth.

In the first place he is always poor, and anything but tender and fair, as the many imagine him; and he is rough and squalid, and has no shoes, nor a house to dwell in; on the bare earth exposed he lies under the open heaven, in the streets, or at the doors of houses, taking his rest; and like his mother he is always in distress. Like his father too, whom he also partly resembles, he is always plotting against the fair and good; he is bold, enterprising, strong, a mighty hunter, always weaving some intrigue or other, keen in the pursuit of wisdom, fertile in resources; a philosopher at all times, terrible as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist. He is by nature neither mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive by reason of his father's nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth; and, further, he is in a mean between ignorance and knowledge. (Plato, Symposium, 203;

Eros is the desire that life experiences towards itself and he rushes through life like a river down a valley. In comparison with the nature of the great demon who connects earth and sky with unceasing movement, ours is rigid and inert, when he is far away, unless we manage to raise a song to invoke his presence or regret his distance, when we are not too busy to forget that without him life is deprived of meaning.
Eros has vanished from the place where Sacred Games begin, for both protagonists of the story : the police inspector Sartaj Singh, who has suicidal tendencies and the great gangster Ganesh Gaitonde, enclosed in an atomic bunker. His absence may be likened to the missing sun or the missing moon and the work of the imagination in the service of an omnipotent desire has only deferred the encounter with simple truth, in the same way our parents protected us from this encounter when we were too young: light comes and goes independently of us, in our mood as in the sky. We come into the world and we leave the scene independently of our desire.
A new sense of ethics is needed to narrate how this recurrent alienation is the only resource we have to challenge the certainties which have from time immemorial founded the diverse cultures to which we are confronted. We need to tolerate what we discard as unhemlich within ourselves which is the only condition to recognize what our life is founded on, abandoning the edifice of our origin, to turn ourselves towards other cultures, which fascinate us and which terrify us.  We need to imagine a story which neither leads towards black melancholy nor makes us regress by fostering our adherence to religious and ideological movements. The former makes all sense dwindle into insignificance, all beauty into nothingness and the latter course is all the blinder and all the more destructive as the banner of a superior right to exercise one’s dominion over others with the help of weapons or thoughts is raised higher.
The mythical traditions allude to a mystery that eludes words, something which is within reach of everybody, and that we cannot manage to see. The feeling of being alive, the presence of Eros within ourselves, is either a tension towards the infinite, entirely acknowleged and appropriated by desire, or the constant work of mourning derived from the impossibility of appropriating it.
The first person narrating instance of almost half of  Sacred Games,  the great gangster Ganesh Gaitonde, asks himself in the end if it is possible to live without the support of a faith, of a God who legitimates existence and covers with dignity the human being who believes in him, omnipotent and omniscient like the father appears to the child, indicating the limits between the licit and the illicit, maintaining an order which reassures us that the terrifying chaos will not prevail over the order of cosmos. There are stories, or narrations which serve an ideological purpose, which can be defined as religious, and which function like crutches:

 Could it really be that I was randomly tossed about by he surging waves of events? That one day came next to each other just because it had to, because of  nothing. I couldn’t accept this. This buzzling blur of chaos caused me pain, I mean a stomach twisting and flexing, a headache, and again my piles caught at me and left me dizzy and shaking in the bathroom. My body was protesting against this assertion that my life meant nothing. No, my life had shape. I had started poor and alone, I had struggled, I had won, I had moved upward, I had found a home and many who loved me. And even now I was learning, I was progressing, I had a mission for my country, I had a teacher, I was going somewhere. I had a story. (Sacred Games, Faber and Faber, London 2006; p. 550)

 To have a story Ganesh Gaitonde entrusts his liberty to Guru-ji, who calls him My Arjun and who absolves him of all his crimes, lifting him to his level, beyond the scope of good and evil, and awakening him to the meaning of life that, on his own, he would not have managed to see anymore.
But Ganesh Gaitonde discovers, at the end of his itinerary, in the first pages of Sacred Games, that the meaning he had been shown no longer exists, and now he knows that to have a story, it is enough to tell it. He chooses for a listener his natural antagonist, a police officer who will listen to him for a few minutes while looking for a way to open Gaitonde’s bunker:

 ‘Sartaj, you called me yaar. So I’ll tell you something. Build it big or small, there is no house that is safe. To win is to lose everything, and the game always wins.’ (Ib., p. 42)

 A bulldozer starts off, ordered by Sartaj, and the noise almost covers up the gangster’s last words:

‘Sartaj Singh, do you believe in God?’ (Ib.)

Do you have a father who guides you, who reassures you when your own resources are not enough to live on?
The gangster has entrusted himself to Guru-ji, discovering in the end that he was preparing an atomic attack upon Bombay. The police inspector does not trust anybody, he listens, he thinks, he acts, he asks himself questions. The night before the bulldozer and the atomic shelter, Sartaj Singh,  the only Sikh inspector in Mumbay, remembers the city of his childhood, while slowly sipping his second whisky, alone in his house :

Had it really existed, that small empty street, clean for the children’s cricket games and dabba-ispies and tikkar-billa, or had he stolen it from some grainy black-and-white footage? Given it to himself in gift, the memory of a happier place?
Sartaj stood up. Leaning against the side of the window, he finished the whisky, tipping the glass far over to get the last drop. He leaned out, trying to find a breeze. The horizon was hazy and far, with linghts bruning hard underneath. He looked down, and saw a glint in the car park far below, a piece of glass, mica. He thought suddenly how easy it would be to keep leaning over, tipping until the weight carried him. He saw himself falling, the white kurta flapping frantically, the bare chest and stomach underneath, the nada trailing, a blue-and-white bathroom rubber chappal tumbling, the feet rotating, and before a whole circle was complete the crack of the skull, a quick crack and then silence.
Sartaj stepped back from the window. He put the glass down on the coffee table, very carefully. Where did it came from? He said it aloud, ‘Where did that come from?’ (Ib., pp. 22-23)

From the encounter between Ganesh Gaitonde and Sartaj Singh, there develops the possibility of saving Bombay from atomic explosion, a city threatened with annihilation like the kingdoms of so many tales, and, like in a tale, it is necessary that a hero should save it while accomplishing his impossible duty.
Morphologically, Ganesh Gaitonde and Sartaj Singh are the two sides in the dichotomy between the helper and the opponent and they are linked in a true and fragile brotherhood through their reciprocal gaze and the words in which the first one has found himself recognized by the second one and has believed that looks could go beyond appearances.
The negative hero of the tale, the opponent, who belongs in the structure of so many contemporary stories, is disagreeable from the start, or has something that we remember as a clue which might have warned us against him, once we have discovered his evil character.
At the same time, in everyday life, the failure of a relationship is less painful when we can revisit the story, and understand that there were so many elements that we had overlooked, out of excessive trust. So we turn our attention towards those whom we feel are good and we throw back in the category of evil the person we think has betrayed us, deluding ourselves with the feeling that we have learned how to get rid of evil.
In the novel by Chandra, as in reality, it is difficult to distinguish between good and evil, no one is categorized firmly on one side, as if all of Chandra’s characters had the need to understand who they really were.Through his belonging to the world of crime Ganesh Gaitonde is a negative hero, but  nevertheless, in his ruthless accession to power, there is a quiver of weakness, which is desperate and furious and we feel we are next to him when he discovers that he has not changed his destiny, when he calls Sartaj, because he cannot entrust himself and his story to anybody else.
For Sartaj Singh, a police inspector gifted with the spirit of a detective, neither a uniform nor any ideology constitute a reassuring protection eventually destined to ensure the meaning of his existence.
His finest sensibility is a door open to the beauty of the setting sun over Bombay and to the nostalgia for childhood. But if this door keeps open, Sartaj has to receive other movements of his soul, like the suicidal phantasy.
In tales, in fiction, as in the stories that we prefer to narrate about ourselves, the evil one, has more or less a shape which is completely distinct from the good one.  In this way,  we can continue to believe in a superior principle which accompanies us, perhaps to punish us, with a gaze that keeps following us.
In the novels by Chandra, we find the malice, villainy, or treason of those who are supposed to be good intermingling with the malice, villainy, or treason of those who are supposed to be evil; we also find their equally compassionate leaps, their equal capacity to sacrifice themselves for an ideal, in a mode of writing which can only begin after the consciousness of the often indistinguishable mixture of good and evil, of reward and punishment, of beauty and ugliness have sunk in. Chandra’s characters live, they fight, they mix together and they stand out against every page as if the meaning of the book consisted in contemplating them and not imposing upon them a reassuring order.
In Vikram Chandra, as in very few writers of the twentieth century, I recognize the capacity to suspend all judgement, to refuse to yield to the temptation of closing one’s eyes in front of contemporary reality, in front of its tragic uncertainty. This entails allowing the worst thoughts to emerge from within, with the risk of considering oneself deprived of ethical references, of emotions, of family, of house, of country. It is only through a dissolution of certitudes, which Freud called illusions, that one can discover how the passion that life has for itself may surge out from within oneself, who knows from which secret spring, to make one find again what one thought one had lost: ties, utopia, tragedy, love.
Before the twentieth century,  the collective Western imagination was like a civilised land surrounded with lands which were still undiscovered, surrounded with ignorant people to be enlightened. The culture of the past consented to dedicate its own efforts to an increasing amelioration of its own mastery, because becoming always better, it could stand out against those who remained in the shadow.
Human identity can be sustained in a tension of opposites which makes it possible to displace outside ourselves, and to project onto diverse and inferior enemies, the dirt that belongs to us but which we want to know nothing of. The writers who resist the temptation of stifling the fading voice of truth are few:  Chandra  is the most recent one and the one I like best because he sets into motion my own sensibility and he helps me to think about the contradictions of the classical culture on which I have grown up. At the end of his novels, we know about ourselves or the world more than we knew before we began to read but we don’t feel any the heavier for it. We have not accumulated concepts or acquired certitudes but we have made our burden of useless weight lighter. We do not know which way to go in order to find the enemy or the friend, and we don’t feel purified or corrected through auctorial whipping but we have the feeling of being more a creature than a maker. We are less deluded but more disposed to live.
No wisdom, no solution, no god, no atheism.

Sartaj, do you believe in God?

After these words which Sartaj is not sure to have heard, Gaitonde disappears and the sardar Sikh begins to look for the meaning of his death and finds a way to save the city and a new love for himself. In the middle of the book, there begins the first person narrative by Ganesh Gaitonde, but where does the voice come from and whom is it addressed to?
In Red Earth and Pouring Rain there is an old dying monkey in whom the human being she used to be is awakened. This man from the past, Sanjay, needs to tell a story before he dies because only in this way can he liberate himself from animal reincarnation, and revive the human words which had dissappeared in the silence of his suicide.
Sanjay committed suicide and died, and he dies again when he does not have the will to tell stories anymore.Ganesh Gaitonde shoots himself in the head and continues to narrate after his death.. The power of writing is liberated from the narrative system.
Two protagonists in Sacred Games, two in Red Earth and Pouring Rain. One in each causes the death of the other and  simultaneously allows him to narrate. ‘Do you want Ganesh Gaitonde?’  says the  gangster to Sartaj in the moment of dying before starting his narration. Sacred Games is the great narrative that Abhai promises to tell at the end of Red Earth in order to restore to life a young girl in a coma because of a terrorist attack, because the doctors and the parents who lovingly look after her are not enough. Tell her a story, the monkey Sanjay said to Abhai before dying:

I am mad, perhaps I will be arrested. Will I wander barefoot in the streets of Delhi, will you exile me from this city I love? Will you listen to me? Will you stone me, will you imprison me? I cannot care, I must tell a story. I will tell you about wives, and good doctors, soldiers, poets, loafers and goondas, untrustworthy characters, loan-takers, dashing pilots, fast horses, card-players, socialities, actresses, politicians, I eill tell you about underground deals, black money, great loves, cross-country runs, farmers and their crops, fisheries and city councils, religious leaders, and, of course, cavalrymen. I will tell you a story that will grow like a lotus vine, that will twist in on itself and expand ceaselessly, till of you are a part of it, and the gods come to listen, till we are all talking in a musical hubbub that contains the past, every moment of the present, and all the future. And the great music of that primeval sound will reach Saira’s ears, and she will rise from her bed... (Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Faber and Faber, London 1995; Edition published in 2000; p. 617)

 In between the white pages in which the written account is couched, in between the silence or the noise which precedes or follows the voice of the narrator, there grows a climbing lotus, watched over by a gardener’s work who does not follow the rules of the past, he does not identify with an Eastern tradition in order to find a new frontier which separates him from the Western world or vice versa: he works so that the one who finds himself near by may enter. To cultivate the city of our time, we must recognize the fact that we belong there, we must and we can recognize the dissolution of the frontiers which until the twentieth century were the visible signs of a cosmic order, like lines on geographical maps, which run along rivers or mountain chains. These lines run straight according to the colonizers’wish, or they meander, following centuries of wars and treatises. The identity based on the mastery of one culture upon the other is in the process of dissolving, like the mastery over the Ego, armed with  rationality and traditional logic. The most universal articulation of patriarchy, the one between male and female, with a hierarchical disposition which has always divided and united both sexes, is spent, and we perceive its inevitable failure in the attempt to restore order with the obsolete apparatus of reason or with sanguinary proclamations.
Is it licit to look away and back, towards the past, to find a house that cannot be found in today’s world? No one looks at what one cannot bear, as Freud has told us and as psychoanalytical practice shows us every day : we choose to camouflage reality or we indulge in delirium when we are afraid that the vision of ourselves and of the world around us may dissolve.
Only a part of ourselves can tolerate to be immersed in the uncertainty that we indeed  experience and if it is true that a solution or the way towards a happy end cannot always be found, it is also true that this condition does not keep us from being alive, active or from listening and narrating. We discover that what we thought was chaos can be a new form of cosmos, among the one thousand and one that the past has transmitted to us and we behave like those who cannot swim, and out of fear struggle and go down before they discover that when they stop struggling, water sustains and craddles them.
In Red Earth and Pouring Rain Chandra’s words resonate against the words from Aristotle’s Poetics :

 What was unhearthly and frightening about the book was a voice that whispered from its pages, a voice that whispered and yet hushed all the others [...] ‘Katharos dei eynai ho kosmos.’ And even in the evening when the book was shut, or at dinner, Sanjay could hear the repeated syllables drofting through the courtyards and flying over the walls, under the wind and the rubbing of branches; they went on, gentle and reasonable at first but then maniacal in their insistence, morning and night, katharos, katharos, until Sanjay pounded at his ears and pressed his head between his fists, undmindful of the pain. (Red Earth, cit., pp. 332-333)

 Life offers itself to the one who has immersed himself in uncertainty no less than to the one who protects the frontiers of the past, but the sense of exultation is most intense for the one who has feared that nothing could give a meaning to his life. This happens to the monkey Sanjay the night before he begins to narrate :

Later, I lay awake, listening to the crickets and the swish of wind through the plants outside the window; turning my head occasionally to peer at the black throne in the corner, a slab of greater darkness in darkness; faint diamond-points of light flickered deep within; I tried to cast my mind back and bring up memories that could be transmuted into stories, but could think only of the richness of the world, of its verdant profusion - the delightful perfume that issue from queen-of-the-night as its flowers slowly open, the croaking of frogs, the silver light of the moon and the mysterious shadows, the swaying of the treetops and the way voices carry at night, the way a soft hip fills the palm of a hand, solid and comforting. Overpowered, I thought: we are blessed, and how strange it is that we can learn to hate even this, that we forsake these gifts and seek release; the sheet are cool and smooth below me, and this I am grateful for, I can feel the breath slide in and out of me, and this I am grateful for; surely, this I am grateful for; surely, this must be enough, to feel these things and to know that all this exists together, the earth and its seas, the sky and its suns. (Red Earth, cit. ; pp. 19-20)

 But all this, many times, is not enough and the cosmos which invited us to sing its own melody becomes an illusion which dissolves and falls like a veil and all the best that we had thought we received and gave away appears like an accumulation of detritus which has temporarily taken a shape destined to delude us.
The revelation of  vanitas vanitatum is the beginning of the novel, in the suicidal phantasy of Sartaj Singh and in the words that Ganesh Gaitonde tells him before he shoots himself in the head :Build it big or small, there is no house that is safe. To win is to lose everything, and the game always wins.
The vanitas vanitatum, which in the past was the bitter scream of the wise, his inaccessible and undesired wisdom is in  Sacred Games the point of departure fo both protagonists, the scream of the old Ecclesiastes which rises every day inside and outside ourselves.
This scream more than the Aristotelian invitation to purity, rids the table of all its knick-knacks, its souvenirs, its artifice of status. The narration then begins again, old and new, to surprise us while something is revealed that we did not know we knew.


2. You are not a fool, she said


‘Very often,’ Sartaj told Mary, ‘detection is nothing but luck. Mostly it’s like that. You sit around, and something drops into your lap. Then you pretend that you knew what you were doing all along.’ (Sacred Games, p. 592)

 Sherlock Holmes would never have described his ways and processes in this mode and above all he would not have trusted a woman with them because, as Ganesh Gaitonde knows very well:

 Giving a woman any information is a foolishness that I counselled my boys against. Whatever you tell will always be one day used against you. (Ib., p. 634)

 Sartaj, who plays the part of the detective in Sacred Games narrated by Chandra, tells the woman that to receive upon one’s lap something that falls from outside is the decisive event that leads to the resolution of the enigma.
In the conflict that opposes two forms of being, male and female, and in the hierarchical disposition that it entails, the subject finds a way to define himself and the sense of his own life. The male subject is active, he always has a direction which he maintains, providing he manages to project onto the female, the exemplary different being and minus habens, all doubts about the stability of this prerogative that he defends like the veritable axis mundi.
Ganesh Gaitonde pays the women that he uses in order to confirm his sense of his veritable virility, of a veritable axis mundi, until he listens to Dipika’s prayer.  The young girl, a daughter of a gangster who is a friend of his, loves a dalit young man and she knows that her father will never allow her to marry him. Ganesh speaks to her about her duty towards her family and urges her to forget the lover, but without result :

‘I’m not a child,’ she said, and I saw then how far she had gone with this Prashant, her young woman’s splendid pride in the pleasures she had taken and given.
‘What do you want me to do, Dipika?’ I said.
‘Talk to Papa. He will listen to you.’  She took my hand and placed it on top of her head. ‘Since I was a girl you have been kind to me. And I know you do not think in a old-fashioned way’. (Ib.)

Before listening to Dipika, Ganesh Gaitonde used to say :

I knew I was going to die, I was going to be killed. There was no escape for me. I had no future, no life, no retirement, no easy old age. To imagine any of that was cowardice. A bullet would find me first. But I would live like a king. I would fight this life, this bitch that sentences us to death, and I would eat her up, consume her every minute of every day. So I walked my streets like a lord of mankind, flanked by my boys. (Ib., p. 234) 

 It is not death which constitutes a limit for the subject who, on the contrary, lives triumphantly on the side which separates him from it, and is determined to fight against it with his own lack of piety. Ganesh Gaitonde sees in the frail Dipika a courage that is similar to his own and in her gaze a splendid pride that no woman he has paid or possessed has ever demonstrated towards him.
Ganesh promises Dipika to help her but he realizes that the strength of Eros goes beyond his control and he betrays her revealing her secret to her father and allowing an arranged marriage to be forced upon her, after which she dies in a street accident.
To pay women and to try to deceive death, walking on the streets he controls between signs of of benedictions and admiration is not enough for him anymore. He pays the woman more than he had ever done, he seeks to buy her love, doing scientific exercises to enlarge his penis and undergoing surgical operations to rid his face of  the signs of age.  But he can’t stop wondering whether the love demonstrated by the woman is sincere.
The questions that he asks are not meant for the woman but for his soul: is power enough to control the world? The woman supports identity, she does not create it, the axis mundi which sustains us is constituted because we were born from a father as well as from a mother and Ganesh Gaitonde has run away from his parents to leave behind him the destiny of poverty and weakness which bound him to them.
When he sees in Guru-ji the good father, the strong and knowledgeable father whom he misses, he gives his trust to him. He thinks he may obtain the legitimacy which would liberate him from the doubts which threaten his sense of security.  He puts into Guri-ji’s hands the question about the love of women, which gnaws at him like a worm.
The great guru, who keeps the East and the West under his spell, who controls airplanes and immense capitals and dispenses the ancient wisdom of which he thinks he is the keeper, reassures him :

Even the sages can’t look into a woman’s heart. Vatsayana himself wrote, “One never knows how deeply a woman is in love, even when one is her lover.”
[...] Women are fickle, Arjun. They cannot control their emotions, they are changeable as praktiri itself. Would you try to love the weather for its constancy, or a river for staying in one place for all eternity?
[...] As long as she gains from you, you will feel that she might love you. That is the skill of the whore. It is a skill that comes naturally to women. It is not their fault, they must act from what they are made of. They are weak, and the weak have these kinds of weapons: lies, evasions, acting.’ (Ib., p. 706)

Even  Guru-ji, who wants to destroy the city with a small atomic bomb has a wisdom, and we can extract a truth from his answer: we cannot love the weather for its stability and the same applies to running water which cannot be used as reference to reinforce the  axis mundi.
If the aim of life is to stand against life itself which manifests itself in the flowering of the plant as in the flowers which fall and rot on the earth, it is necessary to consider that the mutability of the weather or the river and the uncertainty of passion or of love are less important than the axis mundi itself, whether personal or elevated to the level of a fetish by a particular religion or a particular ideology.
The pleasure or the gratitude we experience towards a sunlit day or the freshness of the air after the storm, the serenity of our mood after days of darkness inside, and the impossibility  of knowing the origin of the former or the latter, all this does not prevent us from acting or thinking but it does remove the delirious pretension that our axis mundi should dominate the flux of life.
The male subject can only adhere to his own certainty, centered on the phallic dominion, by considering women inferior, weak, and evasive, a liar, an actress, a whore, and by  allowing them to remain on the margin of his own sacred game, which has only other male subjects for references. Guru-ji is right when he invites Ganesh to consider the pain of passion as a passage towards wisdom, but this wisdom provokes a rebellion within his body:

 And yet my flesh fought against it, against this decision I knew I must make. My stomach bubbled with hopelessness. Was there to be only this great bleakness, left behind by the vanishing illusion of love? I felt like I was standing on an endless open plain, every dead brown yard of which was lit by some strange, equalizing light. I saw this, and I winced away from its emptiness. (Ib., p. 707)

 According to Guru-ji, the only thing that is necessary is to call upon faith, as a request not to listen to one’s own sensibility, made of flesh and of thoughts, and to put in his own superior hands the search for the veritable sense of life:

 ‘Have faith, Arjun. Don’t falter in your faith. I will be watching over you. Don’t be afraid, beta.’ (Ib.)

 Nothing equals the comfort of a supporting father, nothing brings more consolation than knowing that there is someone who knows and guides us. Vikram Chandra depicts the nostalgia for one such father in all his Sacred Games, but desire is nourished by the impossibility to satisfy it, by the renunciation to the illusion of satisfying it, at the same time as the enjoyment of its unparalleled sweetness:

 I was confident, I was fearless in the gentle cradle of my Guru-ji’s love. (Ib., p. 557)

 The father, as the only solace or comfort, who treats uncertainty as a disease from which one can recover, helps one to stay away from revelation, which happens to be the title of the first novel by Chandra:

 What could my mother be
to yours? What kin is my father
to yours anyway? And how
did you and I meet ever?
But in love
our hearts have mingled
like red earth and pouring rain.
(Red Earth, p. 233)

 Love mixes rain and earth, and after his visit it is impossible to distinguish what is ours and what is not ours, what we have received and what we have given, what we have looked for and what we have found by chance.
Who has chosen the day of his or her birth ? who has chosen that he or she should come into being? Our parents are the bridge that has led us into life, they are not our authors and until we give up  the idea of our parents as authors, our existence is consumed between running away from or regressing towards their imaginary omnipotence.
As soon as Eros appears, we give up the illusion that an axis mundi is sufficient to support us in life, which provides ample evidence that the erotic principle is primarily an anarchic drive. Sartaj swerves widely from tradition when he confides to Mary that he feels like a fool and he recognizes the solace of her response. Ganesh on the contrary adheres to tradition when, despite his power as a ganster, he cannot find a way to help Dipika out of her plight :

Sitting next to Paritoh Shah, abased by his tears and unable to look at him, I knew how helpless I was. I would have beaten all his relatives, thrashed each of them with my shoes, broken all their smug, snug heads open to modern air, if only that would have made any difference. But custom floats between men and women, it hides in the stomach of children and escapes and expands and vanishes in every breath, you cannot kill it, you cannot hold it, you can only suffer it. (Sacred Games, p. 247)

 Gaitonde cannot begin to liberate himself from the axis mundi of patriarcal, phallocentric culture. He does not see any solution to avoid the bloodbath that every Guru-ji is bent on bringing about in order to achieve their own order, letting out human blood, like Dipika’s, to found every city.
The uncertainty that Sartaj Singh experiences when talking to Mary, who will not betray him  until the white page which concludes Sacred Games, looks like the one Ulysses experiences in his last shipwreck or when he wakes up in Ithaca, completely disoriented and covered with snow.  Sherlock Holmes also experiences this feeling of disorientation before being confronted with a case that Scotland Yard believes to be without solution.
But neither Ulysses nor Sherlock Holmes find themselves on equal terms with a woman when they experience this feeling of uncertainty and loss of bearings and their story somehow continues to nourish the illusion that they knew what they were doing all along.
The compulsion towards meaning is the opposite of the search for meaning, which culminates in maximal error when convinced to have captured truth. And violence is woven into submission when we consign our liberty to the hands of the one who presents himself as dispensing definitive solutions. By promising that he will achieve the utopia of a more equitable society, this one deludes his disciple into believing that with him, he will be protected from the risk of losing the meaning of life.

‘You are not a fool,’  says Mary to Sartaj, as she reminds him he had used every single thing he knew in order to find himself where something could drop into his lap. As a woman, she tells him that this position of receptive expectancy is neither passive nor foolish.
Neither Sartaj nor Ganesh Gaitonde are granted legitimity by a paternal authority and their story tells how hard it is for them to give up this illusion.The separation from paternal authority which can legitimate our sense of being is not a choice because no one selects to give up the cradddle in which we feel secure, it is the consequence of  clearsightedness, because in our time we can see that there are many different axis mundi in the world, equally overpowering and illusory. The phallic axis must be unique: it cannot include the others without establishing a hierarchical order which demeans them.
To give up the teachings of Guru-ji whosubordinates women to male authority entails an infinite nostalgia for the father, for the country, for the stability of being. It also entails the discovery that nostalgia endures without the possiblity of ever overcoming it.
Along the way, there might be an unexpected encounter and the words of someone who reassures us, like Mary who tells Sartaj he is not a fool:

It was a declaration, and Sartaj didn’t hesitate now. [...] If he told Kamble about it, Kamble would mock Sartaj for the smallness of his romance... [...] Yes, no ghazal ever declared fervently that the beloved was not a fool, no Majrooh Sultanpuri love song had ever felt it necessary to claim this. [...] But Sartaj was content: to be rescued from one’s foolishness was the greatest tenderness. We all are fools, he thought. I know I am. To find one person who forgives you for this, that is big. That is great. (Ib., p. 593)

 This love is not the lethal rebellion of the lovers, like Dipika and the poor dalit, so similar to Juliet and Romeo or Laylah and Majnun, it is not either the kind of marriage which inserts itself harmoniously in the story of the original family to preserve tradition. This love has soft words which descend like a solace; like the mask of beauty that  Sartaj and Mary make for each other, at the end of the novel.  It may be that today’s true lovers do not sustain each other: one does not lead the other, they do not align themselves with tradition and they do not fight against it either, till death parts them, but they forgive each other for their confusion. They do not find in each other a reason to live or a reason to die but only a company that warms up the soul until they reach the white page which puts an end to their story.




Dhàrma: - And what is the greatest wonder?
Yudhìshtira: - Each day death strikes and we live as though we were immortal. That is the greatest wonder.
(Peter Brook, The Mahabharata, GB 1989)


Human beings experience this wonder and they give it a form through art.
A narration can only exist when both the narrator and the listener tolerate the limits of its beginning and of its ending, the two white pages which frame the book. The people who live in a condition of serious psychic pain often cannot watch a movie or read a book to the end, they say they cannot concentrate or that they are not interested, and this corresponds to an escape from death as well as from life. They escape towards a goal which, if it is reached, is an acting and it necessarily provides evidence of the link between the two : the tragic way out of paranoid psychosis or melancholy is a rebellion against annihilation which is completed by giving death to the other or to oneself. If we think about narration, the paranoid way out takes its full signification in a story that cannot be contained within the limits of the book: it is narrated and interpreted by an omniscient narrator who wants to express what happens before and beyond the limits of the white page.
In the melancholy way out, the story contracts itself progressively and dwindles into insignificance : the omniscient narrator fades into the story until the two pages become one, the subject being swallowed up.

We look for some kind of primacy to make our novel bigger than others’, but the moral or intellectual superiority could not be used if there were no minus habentes close by, be them sinners, disciples, sons and daughters, children, or people suffering from some kind of disease. The hierarchical forms that are thus within reach of everybody are unlimited: they are now more refined and more covert, now rougher and more overt but they are substantially similar in the final analysis.  They are all destined to put up a ladder and its ultimate rung may graze the sky, paradise, well-being, immortality in their infinite forms.
A novel of our times,  Sacred Games shows us without prejudice how in our times we are ready to sacrifice anything to obtain physical beauty, money, visibility in the media. It shows us how we are ready to rebel against the weakening of the subject proceeding from the decline of the great systems of legitimation, be them religious or ideological.
The meeting between Ganesh Gaitonde and Sartaj Singh does not operate a hierarchical positioning: it is a gratuitous encounter. It does not serve any purpose in the sense that it is not in the service of anything or anyone: it is free, it is a grace, it eludes the tricks that we indulge in when we misrecognize the greatest wonder.
Gainesh Gaitonde has built huge tricks and sacred games until he has become  the bhai indù of Bombay,  the Arjun of Guru-ji. Later he has come to realize that the project of the great international guru is to destroy Mumbai with an atomic bomb and to attribute the responsibility for it to the Islamist fundamentalists.
Thus the road to power will be open in India: Guru-ji will be able able to render it wonderfully religious, clean, ordered, legal, like the ashram in the form of a mandala that he has already built:

He wanted to transform and uplift all of India into this green-gardened peace, to move it into perfection. Some parts of Singapore hade the cleanliness that he wanted, but there was no city on earth that had this simmetry, this internal consistency that exactly balanced shops and meditation centres, and let you see the central temple through the precisely aligned arches of the library and the laundry. These buindings and the blue gates looked like the past, like the golden sets on mythological television serials, but they were Guru-ji’s future. This was the tomorrow that he wanted to create.
But the present was resisting. (Sacred Games, p. 773-774)

However, a huge tree has fallen on the gates of an ashram and it has opened the way for a herd of goats to settle in; in another one the offices are invaded by termits and red ants, while in a third ashram the administration is shattered by a sexual scandal.
The old rough life resists the titanesque effort of plastic surgery that Guru-ji with the help of his Arjun is trying to set in motion because the logos of life cannot be constrained. It is not necessary to belong to a religious confession to contemplate the greatest wonder, even if this guarantees that someone invisible, unreachable will do us justice. 
To believe in a god means maintaining in our imagination an ordered and perfect place, thanks to which the uncertanity of the others seems bearable.
Guru-ji is not an accident in culture and he is not supposed to be eliminated through an heroic action for the novel to reach a happy end. He is the inevitable consequence of faith, who keeps recurring each time a subject stands as an absolute interpreter of god’s wish, by legitimating himself and the others to act in his name.
In the nick of time, the city is prevented from dissappearing in an atomic mushroom, in the way the Twin Towers fell, in the way every day people, houses and villages explode.
In the nick of time, a holocaust has been avoided and it has allowed us to feel life as the greatest wonder, set into motion by the gratuitous encounter between the two protagonists.
In the same way in Red Earth, the flow of the narrative was set into motion by the lethal encounter between the young Abhai and Sanjay in his body as a monkey.
Gaitonde has never had a woman, except during the time when he bought her, and the wife that he did not love died with their young son during one of the battles that settles the score of criminal gangs. The only woman who has not sacrificed herself to his power is Jojo, the only one who understands him, the only one he himself understands: hearing a sigh of hers, he knows whether she is bad tempered or absent-minded. Both are aware of the fact that their relationship exists on the condition that they should not meet, thanks to the limitation of the telephone, the means they have chosen to enjoy and circumscribe their exchange.
When  Ganesh Gaitonde realizes that he will not be able to prevent the atomic attempt, he wants to save Jojo, against her wish. His power enables him to transport her by force inside the bunker,where she is forced to stay with him. They are two human beings who have never renounced their omnipotence, each managing to erect inside themselves an axis mundi that they cannot displace, weaken or incline. Neither Ganesh Gaitonde nor Jojo can yield to their destiny or to another human being and when the woman cannot find a way to withdraw from the pressure that her friend exerts upon her, she hits him with her scorn for his virility.
Ganesh’s predictable anger is the complementary opposite of Jojo’s violence and attacking her with his weapon to reduce her to silence is the only way he has to come to terms with her.
Once Jojo is dead, Ganesh Gaitonde is obliged to face himself because nothing and no one separates him now from the discovery that the original weakness he has run away from has grown inside himself to submerge him.
In an old sufi story a young man from Baghdad sees Death who looks at him in the face and he gets on a horse and rides away to Samarkand. Here he meets with Death, who had stared at him because she found that he was too far away from Samarkand, where she knew that she had to catch up with him. In the tragedy of Oedipus, the tragic hero par excellence in Greek Antiquity and the keystone in psychoanalysis, the protagonist runs away from his destiny as incestuous parricide that the oracle of Delphs has revealed to him , abandonning the palace of the sovereigns he beleives to be his parents. On the road to Thebes, he kills his father without knowing who he is and he becomes king of the city, marries his mother without knowing who she is and has children with her.
When he discovers that his escape from his destiny has been a race towards it, Oedipus blinds himself. We find him again, close to Athens, at the time when he has become an old, tired, beggar whose only comfort is in his daughter sister Antigone. The inhabitants of Colonus are seized with horror in front of his misery, aggravated by the burden of disgrace that he carries with him:

 Not to be born at all
Is best, far best that can befall,
Next best, when born, with least delay
To trace the backward way. 
(Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus; vv. 1224-1227; translated by F. Storr

, Heinemann; New York, Macmillan, 1912-13;

 The victory over destiny shown by Oedipus when he ascends to the trone of Thebes has revealed itself a definitive discomfiture. And yet Oedipus says that it will not be recorded as a sacrilege because it was not his choice to kill his father and to engender children with his mother. The chain of generations which has preceded and the destiny that he has met when he was trying to escape from its horror have caused him to become the man of suffering.
In this condition of defeat, he hears a new message from the oracle : the city that will provide a place to die for Oedipus will find victory and the choice of the city is in the hands of Oedipus. Oedipus spurns Creon, the King of Thebes, who wanted to drive him away by force and he curses the son who entreats him to help him claim his right to the throne of Thebes. Oedipus in Colonus rejects all bloodties, except his daughters’love which provides the only confort that he has in his disgrace.
He does not assign victory to his homeland Thebes but to Athens, the city governed by Theseus.  We discover Theseus’ equity through the way he speaks to Oedipus, the man of suffering:

 I know I am only a man; I have no more
To hope for in the end than you have.
(Ib., vv. 567-568).

 They are one in front of the other, they have been alive for a term neither of them has been able to determine the beginning or the end and their understanding of the greatest wonder makes it possible for them to reach a type of recognition which has more value than bloodties or the hierarchical positions in which they find themselves. The equitable king is not superior to the man of suffering.
Understanding the value of the man who has fought against his destiny and who has failed, who has become a king and who is now a beggar in rags, who has found the solution to the enigma of the Sphynx and who is blind for ever, he welcomes him so that he can die in peace : this is the wealth that renders the city invincible. Sophocles’Utopia, who wrote Oedipus in Colonus one year before dying, acquires in our memory a hereditary status that we can welcome in the dawn of the third millenium. 
From the death of the hero who recognizes himself defeated and who liberates himself from all his bloodties and his stock, there comes the utopia of a city which is not founded upon a bloodbath, or upon the rejection of the other. Athens would not be saved if Theseus, recognizing his own humanity had not welcome Oedipus at the time of his death and Mumbai would not be saved from atomic explosion if Ganesh Gaitonde and Sartaj Singh had not recognized each other. This recognition happened when the gangster, incognito, was trying to meet Guru-ji, and Sartaj had told him that his face was familiar. Gaitonde had replied: 

‘People always tell me I look like someone they know. My wife used to laugh about it.’
‘She used to? Not any more?’
He was very attentive, this chikna inspector, and he was not at all the thick-brained sardar of all jokes. You had to be on full alert with him. ‘She’s dead,’ I said, very quietly. ‘She was killed in an accident.’ He nodded, looked away. When he came back to me he was the maderchod inspector again, but I had marked that small blink of sympathy. I could be sharp too. In my life I had learnt to read men also. ‘You also lost someone,’ I said. ‘Who, your wife?’

He gave me back a hard glower. He was a proud man, of course, and in uniform. He wasn‘t going to tell me anything. ‘Everyone loses somebody,’ he said. ‘That’s what happens in life.’ (Sacred Games, p. 569)

 In his defeat alone in his bunker, after his vain defence of his own identity, of his own axis mundi, killing Jojo who opposed him, Gaitonde needs the only thing he cannot give up. It is not the position assigned and conquered in the hierarchical order between human beings. It is not the profound beauty of the earth with its seas, of the sky with its suns, which Sanjay feels before he begins the narration, which should be enough and which is often not enough. It is  the desire to narrate one’s own story, to let it roam the world or fly who knows where, for who knows how long.
For a story to be told, there just needs to be a narrator and a listener, between whom might rise the grace of a truth in unison, whether they are an equitable king and a beggar burdened with all disgraces or a great gangster and a police inspector. Ganesh Gaitonde could call a journalist from the Mumbai Mirror who would be avid to listen to him :

 No, it had to be somebody good, somebody simple. Somebody who would listen to me as a man might listen to another man on a railway platform, with simpathy and kindness, just for an hour ot two until the train came. Somebody who had seen me not merely as Ganesh Gaitonde, but a human beeing.
So that was when I thought of you, Sartaj Singh. I remembered my first meeting with Guru-ji, the first time I had sat with him, face-to-face. I remembered how you had helped me to that meeting, how you had talked to me and - on the very last day - taken me in, to my fate. I remembered that generosity, unusual for anyone, incredible in a policeman, and I remembered you. You have a policeman’s cruelty in your eyes, Sartaj, in your swagger, but under that studied indifference there is a sentimental man. Despite all your sardar-ji preening, you were moved by me. Our lives had crossed, and mine had changed for ever. (Sacred Games, p. 816)

If at this point we want to extract a moral from the tale, we could celebrate the unison between a criminal and a detective, truth that descends like grace through ways and processes that are different from those ordered by hierarchical roles and positions.  We could also remember the Christian recognition of the other as the mirror of ourselves. It should be enough but it is not enough.
The psychoanalyst Franco Fornari used to put down as the aim of the analysis to reverse the latin motto: mors tua vita mea / vita tua mors mea. Observing how at the time of the great atomic arsenal deployed during the cold war between the USA and the USSR men found themselves for the first time in front of a scenario in which the destruction of the enemy and the destruction of the friend coincided, the Italian psychoanalyst  wondered whether it would not be the occasion to give up the violence which explodes in the destruction of an enemy.
The scenario which is opening up a few decades later is the result of the dissolution of homogeneous blocks, fragmenting the conflict in multiple theater, so that it becomes possible to eliminate and convert the enemies without disappearing at the same time as they do. 
The threat of the end of life on the planet as the result of the environmental damage caused by dominant peoples but equally lethal for them does not guarantee to us a salutary return to reason. Feeling that we are unjust because only the condition of victim can guarantee a pure conscience, we continue our lives like the inhabitants from Sodom and Gomorrah in the polluted and unjust cities which continue to move our hearts because of the beauty that they deploy in front of our eyes.
The contemplation of the beauty of the city in  Sacred Games is accompanied with the knowledge that seeing it is a choice which is in accordance with our sensibility but it is not an absolute value, to impose upon the others. This happens to Ganesh Gaitonde when he comes back to Bombay:

I was sweating through my shirt, but I was enjoying myself. I asked for a glass of coconut water, and sipped it, savouring that particular Bombay stink in the thick air, of petrol fumes and pollution and swamp water. Behind me, a stack of flat buildings made a wall for my back, and in front there was a dirt road edged with streetlights, and then a leafy darkness. I felt reinvigorated, and the aircraft exhaustion dropped away froom me as I listened to the crickets sing. A pack of dogs skulked around the corner, yipping at each other. I was content. (Ib., p. 763)

It happens to Sartaj Singh, after he has eventually prevented the atomic attempt:

‘Boss [...] You are the hero of the day. Go and behave like you deserve the credit, or one of those gaandu IPS officers will steal it.’
But Sartaj didn’t particularly want to give advice to anyone. He was content to sit in the glow of the laptop screens and watch the skies change colour outside the window to the rear. Someone had once told him, he didn’t remember who, that the fantastic colours in Mumbai’s evening came from all the pollution that floated over the city, from all the incredible millions who crowded into a very small space. Sartaji had no doubt it was true, but the purples and reds and oranges were still beautiful and grand. You could watch them change and deepen and lose themselves in black. (Ib., p. 832)

The greatest wonder for the subject is the fact that reality is more immediately perceptible and at the same time more difficult to accept. Beauty exists only if our gaze may capture it but our gaze does not create it.  We have only our life but we haven’t chosen to have it.
Between omnipotence which drives us towards the paranoid domain of absolute isolation and the impotence which makes us perceive our disappearance like the only meaning left, the subjet attempts, within mythical normalcy, to guarantee  for himself a stable equilibrium, as if it were not the fruit of opposite tensions, which are intertwined, united, and disunited, guided by a vital force which can appear to us as equally the expression of a superior light or a blind obscurity.
What remains is the sense of truth derived from reciprocal recognition, where Eros like a force of life manifests itself with a simplicity which subverts all systems of thought. Small gestures, words which do not colonize silence, but which live in it and stay close by when the book is finished.
Sartaj and Gaitonde’s questions  remain open to the end of  Sacred Games, and what is somehow changed is the heroic tension to find an answer, when one has understood that the definitive solution will reveal sooner or later its axis of vexations, like Guru-ji’s desire to form a perfect India, a more ordered country than Singapore: a more ordered country than Singapore: if he’d survive, he would proceed in this way with more massacres, in the name of the perfection to which he aspires.
Sartaj in the end is a normal person, like Ulysses when he takes up his old life in Ithaca, a life no Homer can narrate, a life beyond anybody’s narration : it is an invitation to narrate our own story, to live our own life, allowing the mind to metabolize the sacred game of the novel and the colours of our emotions, of our awakenings and of our dark days. The reading creates hues that would not have existed had we not read the book.

 Sartaj got off the bike. He put his shoes up on the pedal, one by one, and buffed them with a spare handkerchief until they shone. Then he ran a finger around his waistline, along the belt. He patted his cheeks, and ran a forefinger and thumb along his moustache. He was sure it was magnificent. He was ready. He went in and began another day. (Ib., p. 900)

From the tragic defeat in the race against destiny there comes the principle of the rescue of the city, since Gaitonde, like Oedipus, does not want the destruction of so many human beings crowded in such a place as Bombay or Athens. Every city reveals its own beauty if the gaze manages to capture what makes it moving: the constructions that human beings have engineered, separated one from the others by centuries and by diverse desires, compose an assemblage  that not even the most exceptional architect, the greatest artist and the most powerful authority would be able to equal. What makes us love a city or the City is the sense of the conflict and the encounter between generations and hierachies which constitute it and transform it, inviting us to live in it and to shape it in our turn.
After Ganesh Gaitonde who is on a par with him in sympathy and humanity,  Sartaj Singh liberates himself from the anxiety of legitimation which held him close to the paternal figure. In order to find the bomb, he must dethrone his own boss Parulkar, the one from whom he has learnt so much . He then starts crying and finds again the root of his own nostalgia for the father, when he returns to the time of childhood, to the dreams which bring us consolation and to the memories that shape human beings.
In the last chapter the atomic nightmare is finished and Sartaj maintains the promise of accompanying his mother to Amritsar. On his way to this place, he remenbers the time when he took the same road as a child,  holding his father and mother’s hands. At that time he could not read the names of the sikh martyrs; today he cannot help crying over them:

What was he crying for? He was mourning the dead, the captain, but also his enemies, who had waited for him on that frozen battlefield, gasping for air and wasting away their lungs. He was crying for all the names on the plaques, and for the Sikh martyrs in the paintings in the museum upstairs who had stood in defence of their faith and had been tortured and mangled and executed. He cried for the six hundred and forty-four names on the list in the museum, for the Sikhs killed when th army had besieged the temple in 1984, and he cried for th soldiers who had been knocked down by bullets on these very stones. Sartaj walked. He wiped his face, and came in a full circle around the sarovar. Ma was still there, her back against a pillar, her eyes shut. He went past her, and started around the parkama again. An old man looked at him curiously, gently, and Sartaj realized he was weeping again. There was no calculation that could determine exactly how much had been sacrificed or what had been gained, there was only this recognition of loss, of pain endured and absorbed. The heat came into Sartaj’s feet now, and he welcomed its sting and walked on. In this circling around the Pool of Nectar, there was a kind of peace. He did not expect Vaheguru to forgive him, or even if this fragmented, doubting belief in Vaheguru entitled him to ask for forgiveness. He did not know whether he was a good man or a bad man, or whether his actions were rooted in faith or fear. But he had acted, and now this walking hurt him and conforted him. (Ib., pp. 892-893)

 It is not possible to assess the exact amount of gain and loss in a massacre, in a war, in a homicid.  Sartaj cries for the martyrs of his religion and for their enemies. He encounters himself like the original enemy brothers meet:

Abel y Caín se encontraron después de la muerte de Abel. Caminaban por el desierto y se reconocieron desde lejos, porque los dos eran muy altos. Los hermanos se sentaron en la tierra, hicieron un fuego y comieron. Guardaban silencio, a la manera de la gente cansada cuando declina el día. En el cielo asomaba alguna estrella, que aún no había recibido su nombre. A la luz de las llamas, Caín advirtió en la frente de Abel la marca de la piedra y dejó caer el pan que estaba por llevarse a la boca y pidió que le fuera perdonado su crimen.
Abel contestó:
-¿Tú me has matado o yo te he matado? Ya no recuerdo; aquí estamos juntos como antes.-Ahora sé que en verdad me has perdonado -dijo Caín-, porque olvidar es perdonar. Yo trataré también de olvidar.
Abel dijo despacio:-Así es.
Mientras dura el remordimiento dura la culpa. (Jorge Luis Borges, Leyenda)

 Forgiveness in Borges as in Chandra is not the fruit of an ethic superiority , which is a sort of heroism of the soul, destined to produce violence. Forgiveness may simply occur. This forgiveness, without which we cannot recognize either our similarity with the other or consider the alterity of the same, simply occurs, thanks to the games of memory, if we remember our painful stories of lost love, of fascinating and vain efforts, of departed friendship and we do not know any more if we were the evil one or the good one, the victim or the persecutor.
To liberate oneself from the weight of guilt means to live with a lightness of being which allows us to carry the weights we have to carry, like this unsustainable uncertainty, so true in Sartaj’s words.No one among us, if he does not give up listening to the weak voice of reason , knows if he is good or bad, if he acts out of fear or out of faith. 
To live in this uncertainty, which is not opposed to the flow of life, to say farewell to father Œdipus, means to accept that the security of the cradle can only be experienced in childhood.
We do not let the fathers die as long as we hold the shield of their protection, be it the unblemished integrity of Sartaj’s father, or the strong power of his boss Parulkar, or Guru-ji’s promise of a perfect order. Our father’s gentle cradle is part of our nostalgia even if it doesn’t guarantee our existence. 
Before leaving Amritsar, Sartaj remembers:

 That winter morning long ago, when he had come here with Papa-ji and ma, papa-ji had wanted him to take a dip in the pool. Papa-ji had taken his own shirt and trousers off, and in his blue-striped kachchas had gone into the water. ‘Come, Sartaj,’ he had beckoned. But Sartaj had hidden behind Ma, and refused to go. ‘A sher like my son doesn’t mind a little cold,’ Papa-ji had said. ‘Come.’ But it wasn’t the cold Sartaj had been afraid of. He had become suddenly shy. He was aware of the bulk of Papa-ji’s brown shoulders, and he felt skinny and small, not a sher at all. He didn’t want all those people looking at him. So he shook his head and clung to Ma, and she’d induged him,  ‘leave the boy alone, ji, he’ll catch cold.’ And Papa-ji had laughed and emerged from the pool, cascading water on to the steps, his kara bright against the widith of his wrist.
It was summer now, and Sartaj had no shyness left in him. ‘I think I’ll take a dip,’ he said to Ma. [...] He folded his hands and lowered his face under the water, and the sounds softened. Far underneath, there was an ancient spring that led to the breathng centre of the world. (Sacred Games, pp. 893-894)

To let the father die, to break bloodties, means to find back at the same time our frailty and the illusion of his invincible power. It means to give up the dream of becoming powerful as we thought our father was or to look for a father who looks like the one we would have had.
Then we see the greatest wonder, because Eros does not scorn weakness, having within himself the nature of his mother intertwined with the father’s wealth.  For this reason, he is the most beautiful invention in the world, whether he is the fruit of our inexhaustible imagination or a divine helper.
Sartaj takes his farewell of his father, and he goes to learn a new love with Mary, because she is able to forgive him for his uncertainty.  At the end of  Sacred Games we have the city and its pollution, its injustice, the criminals with their code of honour and the policemen who are corrupt. Guru-ji had decided to destroy it, Sartaj, who has gathered the last words of  Ganesh Gaitonde, has been able to save it. Was it worth it? 
There is no God, no father to give an answer, if we do not reject our uncertainty in front of the world, our doubts upon our nature and our destiny. At the end of Sacred Games just before the last white page, we cannot believe that the couple which has been formed in the book will live happily ever after and we cannot think either that any felicity is possible in this world . There is no hope for imminent peace and there is no anguish towards inevitable destruction.
There is only a new day which begins.


Note 1

Sigmund Freud, Wir und der Tod ; presentation to the Israeli Humanity Society "Wien" of the B'nai B'rith order, 1915. Noi e la morte, Palomar, Bari 1993; p. 39) I say that life looses thickness and interest, when the main ante [/gambling], the same life, is excluded from its fights. It becomes empty and silly like an american flirt, in which since the beginnig it's clear that nothing has to happen, differently from a continental love story, in which both the partners must always be mindful of the hanging threat. (English translation mine)

Note 3

 Cain and Abel came upon each other after Abel’s death. They were walking through the desert, and they recognized each other from afar, since both men were very tall. The two brothers sat on the ground, made a fire, and ate. They sat silently, as weary people do when dusk begins to fall. In the sky, a star glittered, that had not yet received its name. In the light of the flames, Cain noticed on Abel’s forehead the mark of the stone, and dropping the bread he was about to carry to his mouth, he asked to be forgiven for his crime.
“Have you killed me, or have I killed you ?I don’t remember any more; here we are, together, like before.”
“Now I know that you have truly forgiven me,” Cain said, “because forgetting is forgiving. I, too, will try to forget.”
“Yes,” said Abel slowly. “So long as remorse lasts, guilt lasts” (Jorge Luis Borges, Leyenda; in Elogio de la sombra, 1969. Elogio dell’ombra. Versione con testo a fronte di Francesco Tentori Montalto; Einaudi, Torino 1998; p. 104. My translation)

Note 2
           I received from Claudia Chellini (July, 3th, 2008) this note about forgiveness and tolerance

tasāmuħ SMĦ samħ mutasāmiħ samāħ
mutual forgiveness
reciproco perdono


This remark, which links the Sartaj's tears in Amristar with his ability to realize "the love of Mary and for Mary", intertwines the idea of forgiveness with the idea of tolerance towards someone else's imperfection and the own, as the warp and weft of the same canvas.
The Arabian word tasāmuħ designates something usually rendered in Italian as tolleranza (English tolerance), but the Arabian word refers to a semantic field quite different from the Italian word.
The etimology of the Italian tolleranza  (English tolerance) is related with the Latin tollo, whose first meaning is to bear, to forbear a pound, meaning the labour of forbearing someone else's difference (different from us, from our ideal); tasāmuħ means mutual forgiveness and comes from the root SMĦ.
A little research in the Arabian dictionary shows an interesting constellation of words branching off this root, whose development extends itself from generous (samħ) to indulgent, tolerant (mutasāmiħ including the polysemy of the word samāħ. Samāħ contains many concepts in its field: generosity; indulgence, tolerance, forgiveness; allowed, clearance.
Then, comparing the Arabian tasāmuħ with its Italian correspondent tolleranza (English tolerance), we obtain this semantic and conceptual interlacement: the freeness and the amenability toward the other and the opportunity/capability to bear the difference get a mutual, pregnant depth of sense.

Thanks to Héliane Ventura for her translation from Italian, to Claudia Chellini for her note, to Vikram Chandra for his precious appreciation.

Penultimo aggiornamento 7 novembre 2018
Ultimo aggiornamento 8 ottobre 2022