books

last man in tower by aravind adiga

the human world moves at a pace we’ve arbitrarily yet collectively agreed is correct: ramming speed. before you’ve come to terms with the latest advancement in social/technological/cultural behavior you’re already a fossil. with a small step back and a tilt of the head to the left you see there is little logic to this rapidity. it could be any other way. we could move tortoise slowly and the universe and natural world would still regard us with the same detached indifference, and yet we’ve somehow settled upon full speed ahead as our guiding principle.

and if you refuse to say no? either become a pariah of the status quo, retreat, and avoid the known world, or perhaps more commonly be overwhelmed and potentially destroyed.

there is goodness in the world, and while it might be confused and ill-formed its most important aspect is the seed. it often arises and grows out of the refusal to bend on principle. by holding fast to the conviction that no purported societal advancement should ever be deemed mandatory. and most simply: if my actions and words aren’t harming you or others, you should have no say.

this particular exploration, ‘last man in tower’ is complicated, hilarious, and ultimately tragic. it asks when are we being noble in our steadfastness to principle and when are we simply being stubborn. if we scratch beneath the surface of appearance, do we find the potential for great intellectual reflection? should we simply join the global direction and accept all change with open hearts or are we allowed to say no without judgment?

within a decade we have been gifted any number of “essentials”, things we couldn’t imagine living without, and yet we have lived without them, quite successfully. in fact, most of these additions (read cellphones, computers, the internet, etc.) simply make things faster, and yet we almost universally translate that as better, but why?

if a person wants to stay as they are, refusing additions, refusing the world of “development”, “advancement”, “success” as adiga’s central character masterji does, what can one do other than become at best a baffling eccentric or at worst an enemy?

uneasy questions put forward against the backdrop of corrupt real estate development in mumbai. aravind adiga explores the plight of new india, but also the potential for great decay in all communities. how is it that we should regard the “difficult” person who simply says i’m not interested?

i am urged to take a deep breath.

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