George Orwell's '1984' was one of the many books recommended to me by a person I look up to, about seven years ago. Since then, I've been ticking off many a book on that special reading list, but '1984' was relegated to the rear end of the shelf, its pages turning from crisp white to sweet-smelling yellow. Each time I tried to read it, I'd be so bored by the third page, that the book would be pushed out of sight, and purposely forgotten for another spell. Perhaps I was too young, and perhaps too impatient with anything that had big sounding political words in it.
But when I took my Nagpur vacation in June 2011, waiting between jobs, I decided to make my time worth its while, and do some serious reading. And as I stood before my bookshelf, '1984' promptly jumped out at me. I decided it was time to finish off the last book of that reading list, and picked it up. I think it picked me too. And now that I've finished it after 15 long parenting days, I've decided I've grown up.
'1984' is one of those books that claim you and keep you in their stranglehold, till you've finished with the last word on the last page. When the first few pages sucked me deep into its scary, grey world, I rejoiced at the breaking of the literary jinx (I'd been chancing upon bad books for a while), having finally found a book worth its salt. But I knew not that the book would possess me to such an extent that every time I slept, day or night, I would find myself locked in a nightmare called '1984'.
There was no escaping the dark totalitarian society, ruled by the all-powerful Ingsoc, and the omnipresent Big Brother. Orwell's powerful writing seemed to have fitted one of those ominous telescreens inside my head, which transmitted constantly the idea of a miserable existence in a oligarchical society, into my subconscious. Many of my waking moments were spent wondering how much do our governments really control and how much do common people like me, living under the illusion of democracy, really know. What if, as Orwell envisions the 1984 Oceanic society, even my ideas of freedom were governed by a thought-controlled society? Satire though it is, '1984' poses such vividly frightening questions of existence, that one is compelled to wear grey goggles of suspicion and view the world one lives in.
Concepts such as the Thought Police, Newspeak, the paradoxically named Ministries of Truth, Love, Peace and Plenty, the Anti-Sex League, Doublethink, and a history-altering totalitarian state are nightmare inducing stuff. I've risen from my slumber so many times in the last 15 days, watching my back and my tongue. Orwell's Thought Police may well have stepped out of the pages, arrested me, tortured me and 'vapourised' me for thinking the 'wrong' thoughts, dreaming the 'wrong' dreams.
So compelling are Orwell's words, that you are never once allowed pity for the protagonist. The party, and only the party, grips your imagination and your feelings. You stand aside and watch like a helpless Outer Party member, and are at the control and mercy of Ingsoc. You can only wince and wish you could look away, as the Party inflicts its atrocities, but you cannot as morbid curiosities take hold of you. You are a prisoner in the unjust world of Orwell's '1984', where
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
PS: If you haven't read this book, DO.