A Gash in the World

Chapter 4            A New Form of Life 

4.1

Cambridge looked graceful in the late afternoon as sunlight streaked across the snow, creating bands of light and dark. Swathed in parkas, pedestrians on Massachusetts Avenue walked warily to avoid puddles. It wasn’t windy, but it was cold, a kind of bracing, clean cold that stung your ears, stretched your skin, and made your nose run. The whoosh of cars interrupted the stillness, leaving tracks in the slush.

The two great universities of the world, MIT and Harvard, stood resplendent in the light, a mile apart, at either end of the street. It was said that at MIT you learned more and more about less and less until you knew everything about nothing. At Harvard, on the other hand, you learned less and less about more and more until you knew nothing about everything—the tragicomic, un-Faustian constraints on knowledge in the modern world.

A shaft of light bounced off Harold’s desk, scattering in myriad directions, highlighting the motes of dust in the air. The desk itself was not particularly tidy. There was a neat pile of journal papers in one corner, a photograph of his wife who had died of cancer in 1975, and a photograph of Allison, his only child, now thirty. A little plaque saying ‘Superstition brings bad luck’ abutted the photographs. In the left corner was a telephone. The rest of the surface held books and papers, all disorganized.

The desk was L-shaped and upon the leg of the ‘L’ rested a Macintosh computer and a modem. A fan of email and e-conversations, Harold had once suggested in a footnote in a paper on Indian identity that a phenomenology of cyberspace was required, a study of electronic identity from the point of view of lived experience. He would have loved to do it himself, but needed a partner who knew more about computers. What he enjoyed most was e-flirting. He had once even met someone that way, a Russian doctoral student named Anna from Boston University. She was a computer scientist and he could never tell if their dalliance was real, e-real, hyper-real, or surreal. It probably floated in and out of all four. ‘Corporeal’ is what she had said, laughing, when he had asked her. Their flirtation lasted over a year.

Shelves, laden with books, covered the walls. Two piles of books rose beyond the desk. A slight knock would have toppled them over, but Harold kept this precarious arrangement for lack of space. There were two Barnett Newman prints on one wall, side by side. On another, next to the door, hung a large painting of abstract figures in reds and blues by Shah. Four windows let in light and air, but today three were shut and the curtains partly drawn. The room was a large rectangle with a sofa and two chairs in one corner. Despite being hemmed in by books, the room had a cozy, informal atmosphere, a lived-in, comfortable feel.

Harold bent down to retrieve a note that had glided off the desk, then straightened himself. A great deal had happened between Friday at Anouk’s and Monday at Harvard. After riffling through Meghnad’s papers, Harold had decided that only four were relevant. Of these, two were articles almost ready for publication, one was a newspaper piece on the history of Hindu fundamentalism, and the fourth was a mysterious one-page document that baffled Harold. The rest comprised incomplete notes for future work. Anouk had tucked these others in a bag outside her door at four and a policeman had hidden himself on the stairway and stood guard.

The thieves, murderers, brigands, whoever they were, had cleverly created a diversion. It appeared to the policeman that an old woman was being attacked on the stairs. Forced to leave his vigil, he had to run up a couple of flights. When he returned, the bag was gone. There was nothing he could do about it, but for all intents and purposes, Anouk was safe.

Harold had just returned to his office after a department seminar on the interpretations of Buddha’s famous silence on the question of God’s existence. Only two months remained now before his sabbatical—a few months in Bombay doing some research with Chaturvedi. The only problem was Meghnad’s death, the most serious and pressing matter, and one that required his attention first. Harold decided to see where the matter led him. There was also the Grindelwald conference in September to think about.

He could still not figure out the strange page from Meghnad’s papers. Was it meant to be fictional? Was Meghnad starting a novel? Or was it history or politics? The small fragment could be anything. Meghnad had been a creative, even protean fellow. It seemed impossible to say.

Harold scanned “The Sixth Veda” for the second time: 

 

The flame flickers momentarily. Bharata thinks of Akbar and Birbal in the future, and evanescently of khichdee. He has had a radical idea. The flame dances as the wind edges in through the open window. The room is silent and dark, except for the flame. The last rays of sunlight produce a faint glow in the room. Bharata is still as his mind searches history for illumination.

Religion envelops life in all its dimensions. It certainly suffuses his Natyashastra. His new conception has exhausted him. He cannot think of anything else. He has created it, even though the conditions for it do not yet exist. He has invented a new form of life. The flame spurts up as though in defiance of space and time.

A long period of suffering lies before him, the arduous labor of developing it, and of finding a vehicle for it. He does not want to write a direct political treatise. That is not the style of the day, and he is not a political philosopher like Kautilya. He decides to choose literature as his vehicle. It will be a companion volume to his Natyashastra. He will call it the Sahityashastra.

Religion has grown weary, spreading its tentacles. It has grown soft, infusing culture with its rituals. It has grown venal, imbuing the state with its powers. He wants a religion that is lean and essentialist, but not renunciatory. He wants to go back a thousand years to the Vedas and early Upanishads, to a philosophical religion, to a religion of desire. It has not come to him easily. Many hours lie spent before him. For one thing, there is no word for religion in the language. That, in a sense, is what makes it the form of life. So it has to be named first. Naming means conceptualizing, disengaging it from the flux of activities it inspirits. In the end, though, he wins. He envisages a form of life in which religion is separate from everything, and consequently holy.

His conception doesn’t stop there. It nibbles at the idea from both sides. If religion is to be separate from everything, it will also be separate from the state. If religion is to be distant from the state, then the state will be correspondingly distant from religion. He imagines, thinking especially of the future, that this would also be desirable for the state and the polity. Kingship is best when kept remote from religious matters. Caste has not succeeded in separating the two. Caste renders the two distinct but intertwined.

The Sahityashastra, while being a treatise on literary criticism, will deconstruct religion, in particular its institutional form. Literature is immersed in religion, it is literature’s form, as it is life’s, and this will give him an entering wedge. Whereas the Natyashastra contains scores of rituals, the Sahityashastra will contain none. It will be the dual of the Natyashastra. He marvels at his own powers of conception.

The flame casts a slender shadow on the statue. The wick, soaked in oil, lies against the rim of the shallow, reddish, earthen kaudyu. It rests on a raised platform of stone, rough, textural, and elegant, like a Noguchi sculpture. The platform is set against a rough, white wall against which stands the stone statue of Rama. The king had gifted it to him. The platform and the statue on top of it stand asymmetrically at one-third the length of the wall from its left side, facing the door. Anyone entering the room would see the statue first. The room is large and square. There is nothing else in the room. The platform, the statue, the flame, and Bharata. It is a minimalist’s delight, as it is Bharata’s.

Despite his powers, Bharata cannot foresee the fate of the Sahityashastra. History will lose it, then find it, and then consecrate it.

It is dusk, and Bharata can hear the chirping of sparrows dying out, returning to the stillness of thought. His eyes open, he stirs, and he rises. His puja is over.

 

4.2

The Sahityashastra was real enough but virtually everything else seemed invented, a reconstruction of events in Bharata’s life. Harold was mystified. Why would Meghnad want to write a novel on Bharata and the Sahityashastra? The page was striking, his talent was undeniable, and Meghnad could certainly have written it, but Harold wondered why?

He had to resort to an imaginative reconstruction himself. He recalled the broadly known facts about the Sahityashastra. It was a treatise written by Bharata, famed author of the Natyashastra, who some experts felt was a real person while others thought him a fabrication. Sadly, the text had been lost and only secondary comments on it by other authors were still available. For a short while there were comments on the comments, and comments on the comments on the comments, but this sort of indirect commentary dwindled rapidly like a geometric series and finally died out. As a result, scholars gradually lost interest in the work despite its refracted promise.

Harold surmised that Meghnad had taken up the problem of the Sahityashastra, and had faced the question of how to articulate his findings. Given the paucity of documentary evidence, and his original mind, Meghnad must have abandoned the usual article or essay format. He must have decided to weave fact and fiction together. The novel was the best way to realize this mixture, and so he must have embarked upon “The Sixth Veda.” It was all a question of form.

Harold admired Meghnad’s idea, and felt a spasm of sadness at his friend’s death. Until now he hadn’t really had the mental space to grasp the loss, or perhaps he had allowed external events to divert his feelings. Now emotions blazed in him, all merging together like spices in a kofta, sparking a surge of sorrow and compassion. Harold had spent enough time with Indians to have absorbed their ways of experiencing things. He had formed deep bonds—Nisha, thirty-five years old, was not the first Indian woman in his life. He could perceive their world from the inside.

What he admired most in Indians was their extended sense of self. Its penumbral scope enabled it to empathize with other people. It had a center, but it also spread out and included other selves. It was inclusive rather than exclusive. It made relationships easier, but also more fraught with danger. You could lose your self. He remembered especially the poignant moment when he was once caught outdoors in a torrential downpour in Bombay without an umbrella, and a family of three, two parents and a schoolgirl, huddling under a single umbrella and seeing him helpless, had beckoned to him to join them.

He freed himself from the memories that deluged his mind and focused on the demands of the present. The light had paled and the room had acquired darker hues. He glanced at his watch and noticed that it was six-thirty. He was going to be late for dinner with his daughter Allison.

 

4.3

It was time for Jim Boyd to leave Goa and return to New York. The tropical green, the languid heat, the nude beaches had lured him to cut off all contact with the world for a week. The ride from the airport to the Fort Aguada where he was staying brought the lush jungle to the fore. The torpor and the stillness, as he roared through palms heavy with coconuts, ushered in a world of thick scents and crowded flora.

And with the Aguada opening out onto the sea, he could almost feel the flung spray and the blown spume on his face. The rough stone, the cavernous architecture, the private beach. Heaven! He had spent the first few days on the beach in a blissful reverie. By the middle of the week he was ready to explore the town, its history, architecture, economy. He sampled feni, the Goanese alcoholic drink, and threw up; he couldn’t stomach it. Isolated as he was in this cradle of sun and sand, he had no idea of Meghnad’s murder.

Jim was a graduate student of Meghnad’s. He was twenty-five and had close-cropped hair, wore checked shirts, and always had a relaxed look about him. He was returning from a field trip to Ahmedabad. For once, he didn’t dwell on his great discovery there, though Meghnad was sure to be pleased. As a necessary diversion, he immersed himself in Goa. He deserved the week.

On the sixth day, as he sipped a glass of wine, watching the sunset from the terrace, it occurred to him that he was lucky. He would produce a groundbreaking dissertation, based on his find. He felt secure, solid; now he’d land a good job at a reputable institution. He would be able to impress his girlfriend, Meera, an art history major. He thought of her brown eyes, black hair, and dark skin. He pictured her slim full body, his hands caressing her.

Jim’s mind returned to the Sahityashastra and to his discovery. The library at Ahmedabad had seemed dank and unused, and smelt of peeling paint. The Meccano-like racks gave it a Spartan appearance, though scholars admired its eclectic collection. He had chatted up the attractive librarian, praising her colorful salwar khameez in his easy manner, and she had, with a darting glance to make sure no one was about, pointed him to the section on painting though he had asked for ‘Literature.’ Puzzled at seeing books on Indian miniatures on the shelves, he had dawdled there for a while, fingering the volumes idly. He found himself in a dimly lit corner, and there it lay, right between Archer’s “Indian Paintings from the Punjab Hills” and Beach’s “Rajput Painting at Bundi and Kota.” He had no idea what it was doing in the section on painting, as it belonged in the literature section—a slim monograph, yellowed and torn in places, it was Abhinavagupta’s “Remarks on Bharata.” It contained Abhinavagupta’s notes on the lost book of Bharata.

The sun dipped below the horizon. Jim’s vivid impressions descended into a haze, dulled by the wine, and he looked out upon the frothing sea, the sky golden red with the departed sun.

The last day was hectic. If he had informed Dwivedi or Trivedi about his find, he would have learned of Meghnad’s death. He walked to the beach one last time. And then he was off for Bombay with a connection to New York.

 

4.4

Allison stretched her back and tapped away at the keyboard. She was sitting in a cubicle in the offices of AEC, a software firm on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, where she was a member of the research lab. The lab’s activities were divided into projects, usually with a single leader, and most employees worked on multiple assignments. AEC wanted its researchers to draw analogies between different problems and use models in one domain to illuminate problems in another domain. Engineers always did this individually, but AEC had institutionalized the process. Besides, it prevented boredom and sparked the employees to be more creative. Many corporations from around the world funded its ideas.

Only eight feet by eight feet, her cubicle was neat and ordered, a computer with a large monitor in the corner, a telephone, a photograph of her mother, in and out trays. There was a large poster of a Helen Frankenthaler painting, purple and brown and yellow with a figure-ground ambiguity. Allison often said life was like that, with figure and ground shifting all the time. A brown briefcase leaned against her desk.

Allison had her father’s manner of getting totally absorbed in projects, and the AEC environment was perfect for her, as had been MIT where she had gone to school. Her area of interest and expertise was Artificial Intelligence. Her dark brown eyes sparkled, a trait she was entirely unaware of, making her even more desirable.

She’d initiated her favorite assignment with a friend. She and Anil Desai, a co-worker on the Interpretation Project, had urged the Vice President of the Artificial Intelligence Group to consider sponsoring a Machine Translation Project. This had many commercial applications, even the mundane translation of inter-company communications by computer.

The Interpretation Project was comprised of ten people concentrating on different aspects of natural language understanding. The problem involved communication in spoken and written languages like English and Hindi. It also dealt with Sanskrit and Latin texts.

For machine translation they had suggested a different approach. Just the two of them would think informally about the task first. This would require relatively little funding. On the basis of their findings, AEC could then form a larger group. After some initial hesitation, based on the slow progress of other translation projects around the world, their Vice President had agreed.

Six months passed but the Machine Translation Project did not progress. The problem was to think about the concept in a fresh way, both for automatic translation by computer as well as for human translation. For them, translation was a broad concept including pictorial and other language systems. And there were metaphorical senses of the word that were even more challenging. But the point was to probe the essence of translation in a precise way. Instead of moving forward on translation, Allison and Anil began to make advances in the domain of romance. After every email message, Anil would say something at least vaguely suggestive. She would ignore his little notes, but they grew on her until she came to expect them. He intensified these feelings in her by never alluding to his emails in a regular conversation. He would pretend nothing had been said and treat her indifferently. This titillating uncertainty overwhelmed her, resulting in her thinking about Anil all the time. She fell in love with him.

Anil was in India at the moment and had sent her a message from there. After finishing her reply to a friend in Hawaii, she turned to Anil’s message.

“Allison,

Different languages individuate the world in different ways. And different languages affect recipients of discourses in different ways. These simple facts have a profound consequence: perfect translations do not exist.

This compels us to seek approximate translations and to view translation as a process of approximation. How are we to view approximation? As conceptual nearness, not quite so close as physical nearness.

Wish you were here,

Anil”

Maddeningly, Anil would never spell out his thoughts. It was obvious to her that perfect translations did not exist, but the idea of translation as nearness was new. How was one to conceptualize nearness? She thought immediately of topology, the mathematics of ‘nearness’, of what it meant for one object to be near another. With topology you could think of nearness in terms of distance or even without distance, in terms of neighborhoods. Approximation would be worked out in terms of words and phrases being near one another. As an applied mathematician Anil would surely have thought of that. Or was there something else? She was sure that is what he meant by ‘conceptual nearness’.

And how to connect it with the lattice of words? She wondered how the idea of using topology would tie with this lattice. She smiled at his last sentence, picturing his eyes and face before her, but was determined to maintain her silence, too. If he was playing his game, she would play hers. The hint of romance was more tantalizing.

There was a second message from Anil.

“Allison,

I met Dr. Das of Information Products today, and they are keen to contribute some funds to our translation project at AEC. They are interested mainly in translation from one Indian language to another and to English, and interestingly, they are also working with the Sahitya Kendra on Indian literature. There is a similar project at the National Centre for Software that they are supporting but they would like to diversify their efforts. I’m also sending a message to Bob to get in touch with Dr. Das.

Miss you,

Anil”

That was great news! A significant player in India’s computer industry, Information Products was a conglomerate run by the industrialist K. P. Oswal, a friend of Allison’s father. Indian companies were increasingly opening branches overseas, she knew from her conversations with Anil and other Indians in the lab.

Allison rapidly hammered out a response to both messages as she glanced at her watch. It was six thirty and she was going to be late for dinner at Dunster Street with her father.

 

4.5

They had circled in the air over JFK for fifty minutes. Air India touched down five and a half hours late with three light bumps. Jim was still reeling from the impact of the greasy paneer bhurji and peas pullao and thanked the hostess weakly as he stepped onto the jet-way.

All these frustrations did not matter to Jim. He could hardly wait to tell Meghnad that he had stumbled upon something new in their research project on the Sahityashastra.

His methods of work were not always the most economical, but he always found his way to the target. He had initially approached Meghnad because of his incipient interest in sculpture, but Meghnad had coaxed him to his new passion for the Sahityashastra.

Because of his serendipity, Jim had chanced upon some unseen writings by Abhinavagupta. He recalled how he had discovered these at the Institute for Indology, rotting away on the shelves, in the section on painting, a fleeting image of the librarian’s conspiratorial look flashing through his mind. It appeared to be the only copy. No wonder only one person had checked it out. When Jim inquired further, he learned that Aditya Gandhi had borrowed it. Jim had wondered if Gandhi was also immersed in a study of the Sahityashastra. Perhaps only Abhinavagupta interested Gandhi. After all, there were many things in the book quite unrelated to the Sahityashastra. Jim decided to ask Gandhi when he returned.

The sky was black and shrouded as Jim’s cab sped to his apartment on 107th Street, on the west side of Central Park. At that late hour it had been a quick ride back to the city. His mind raced to all that he would now have to accomplish with the copy of the book in his bag. He prattled on with the taxi driver, telling him about his discovery. The Sikh taxi driver from Amritsar brought up Mohenjodaro and Harappa, fueling the conversation.

Before long, he arrived at his townhouse, a six-story brownstone that looked forbidding in the pale moonlight. He had the basement to himself, a long, narrow rectangle with one bedroom. He had recently carpeted it and it felt snug inside, the perfect place to seduce Meera. After paying the cabbie his fee and tip, he drew near his home. The block was deserted. The row of houses loomed under a starless sky, cars parked in a metallic line on one side of the street. From one corner he could see a few cars traversing Broadway. He fumbled for his keys as he set his bags down on the pavement. His hand shook a bit and he shivered lightly. He thought momentarily of Meera, her bright face and elegant body, and a broad smile illuminated his face. Finally, he unlocked the door and nudged it open. He stepped inside as a man turned on the light.

“Good evening, Mr. Boyd. You are late,” the intruder said in a soft voice, gently admonishing him.

“Who are you?” Jim asked, a chill tingling his arms.

The stranger strode forward effortlessly to his frozen frame and stabbed Jim in the stomach and chest. He slumped against the wall and fell to the floor.

The man adjusted his glasses and wiped the knife clean on Jim’s clothes. He put on his trench coat and hat. After ensuring that Jim was dead, he robbed him to make the crime resemble a mugging.

 

4.6

Harold arrived at Dunster Street first and was delighted to see the usual table, where he dined with Allison every week, was available. The restaurant had a collegial atmosphere: books strewn about on shelves, plants hanging from the ceiling, and academics clustered around the bland wood tables. Allison arrived soon after her father, hugged him, and sat down.

“Shall we order, Dad? I’m starved,” she said, picking up a menu.

A blue-eyed waitress with a Southern accent took their order as they asked for wine, salad, and spinach quiche.

“We’ve had some interesting developments at work today. A colleague has suggested that topology might be a way to approach the problem of translation, that translation is really nothing but nearness. It involves finding words ‘near’ one another in a mathematical sense.”

“Interesting,” Harold said. “Translation as nearness…It has a nice ring to it. Heidegger also talks about nearness in ‘The Thing,’ if I remember correctly. I wonder if it has anything to do with your mathematical meaning? Incidentally, we Indologists also face this problem when we translate Sanskrit texts. But do you think your approach has anything to say to human translation?”

“It’s just an idea at this point, so it’s hard to say. But I think it can help a translator if he knows that he is approximating or finding words near each other in some precise mathematical sense when he translates. It’s not just fuzzy approximation, it’s precise nearness. In other words, this approach can help to provide a kind of conceptual understanding of the translator’s task, even if it doesn’t provide any direct tools to carry out the translation immediately. This should speed up human translation. The first task is characterization, the second is finding an algorithm, a procedure to actually do translation.”

“That’s very interesting. How does it work? How do you characterize translation?” Harold asked.

“I don’t know yet. I haven’t figured it out. But Anil seems to know,” Allison said.

“Translation also has to do with conceptual schemes, you know, where you translate from one scheme to another. For example, you may have to translate from a conception of ancient Indian life to a conception of contemporary life, as with Bharata and his times, or I suppose the Sahityashastra. With the Sahityashastra, both senses—the one dealing with words and the other dealing with worlds—would apply.”

“Yes, certainly. The second sense would be the metaphorical sense of the word, but that is too hard to conceptualize at this point,” Allison said. “It would mean considering actions and institutions.”

“Nisha would say you can’t separate the literal from the metaphorical because everything is metaphorical. Language always has a conceptual world embedded in it and a translation from one text to another always implies a translation of worlds,” Harold said.

“Nisha talks a lot of nonsense, Dad. And you know it. Those deconstructionists are quite muddled. There is so much information that could be translated at a literal level, like instructions for using email. Or faxes sent between offices. Literature is a different thing. There the purpose is to create a world. The deconstructionists are wrong in reducing the world to text and text to world.”

“Nisha isn’t here to defend herself, so let me switch to my world. You know Meghnad? Meghnad Surya, professor at Columbia? He was murdered,” Harold said.

“What?” Allison exclaimed.

Harold brought his daughter up-to-date with the events in New York, recounting that feeling of danger he had experienced the first evening at the Asia Society.

“I hope you’re not getting involved,” Allison said.

“I have to. He was my friend. Besides, I think he was onto something important.”

“But your life could be in danger, too.”

“I have to take that chance. Don’t talk to anyone about it. I think it was the ideas Meghnad was working with that landed him in trouble.”

“Creepy. This sounds like a replay of the campus deaths at Harvard. You almost got killed then, do you remember?”

“But I managed to solve them and emerged unscathed.”

Their talk shifted back to Allison and the grant Information Products might be giving to her and Anil.

“You know the chairman of Information Products is K. P. Oswal,” Harold said.

“Yes. Maybe I should meet him if I visit India.”

“Of course. He would certainly like to meet you.”

“It could give our project a big boost.”

Harold and Allison chatted until about nine o’clock. Another hug and they parted company, Harold returning to his office. When he entered his department, the hallways were dark, revealing only the outlines of furniture. The corridor lights seemed to have gone out, though a colleague was still in his office. Harold opened his door warily.

He flicked on the light and strode over to the computer. He read the first message.

“Professor Stone,

Please drop the Surya case. Or you will regret it.

Observer”

 

4.7

The second message was longer.

“Harold,

I found this in Meghnad’s folder in the Mac. It seems like a continuation of the first sheet that you took with you. Here it is. Things are fine but empty without Meghnad.

Anouk”

The following paragraphs unfolded before Harold’s perplexed eyes.

It turned out to be a real masterpiece, one of the great books of all time. Bharata took five years to complete it after his initial conception. He immersed himself in it and at the end lay a magnificent tome involving literature, religion, and the state. It was a complex work, and few at the time understood it. The conceptual framework required to understand it was simply not available to most people at the time. In it, he argued for a minimalist religion and a minimalist state and a clear separation of the two. He also argued for literature as the new form of life, but this part of his thesis was admittedly vague and inconclusive. His deconstructive argument for minimalism, however, was an analytical tour de force. There was also in it an argument about forms of life in general that brings to mind some of the later writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein. It is obvious that the Sahityashastra was a rich, overflowing text full of subtle conceptions emanating from a few central ideas.

Many critics have commented on it. Among others, the Sahityashastra is mentioned by Bhamaha, Dandin, Vamana, Rudrata, Anandavardhana, Kuntaka, Abhinavagupta, Udbhata, and Dhananjaya. But there is no detailed exposition of its arguments or extended discussion of its positions anywhere in the canon. For some scholars his work must certainly have been heretical. Perhaps Abhinavagupta’s and Dhananjaya’s comments are the most detailed.

Abhinavagupta tells us that the book had twenty-four chapters, and discusses various points in relation to drama, religion, and politics. He is most interested in and perplexed by the idea of balance bruited by Bharata. But his discussion is not detailed enough to glean a picture of the argument of the Sahityashastra, nor whether the idea of balance in it is the same as the modern idea of equilibrium. He does say that it requires a book of its own but this new book, if it was ever written, has not come down to us. Dhananjaya reveals that he is fascinated by the concept of a “rational actor” introduced by Bharata in the Sahityashastra. Unfortunately, Dhananjaya’s remarks are too exiguous for us to determine whether Bharata had hit upon some part of the modern concept of a rational agent or whether it was something quite different.

There are no more comments after the eleventh century and it is conjectured that the volume was lost.

Then, out of nowhere, two copies of it were found in the 1780s by David Jones, the archaeologist. This created a stir in the scholarly community of the time. Apart from the indirect proof of commentary, this was the first direct proof of the existence of the Sahityashastra. However, this serendipity was not to last. Jones was on his way to England soon after when his ship capsized and everyone and everything aboard was lost to the ocean.

To this day in 1993 nothing more is known about this treatise. Perhaps Bharata’s efforts were in vain. This is not unusual after all. But it is unfortunate because its contributions would have been great and deep.

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