Bright Lights, Big Buddha by Anil CS Rao,
Cyberwit.net, Allahabad, India (2013) p.b. 116 pp.
ISBN 978-81-8253-394-3. Rs. 200/-
Bright Lights, Big Buddha, a Runner Up in the 2005 Hypnologic fiction Contest, is the first novel by Anil CS Rao. The novel reveals innumerable effects or impressions in Anil’s heart and soul, caused by self-hypnosis. We find here a detailed psychological analysis of Anil’s mind. No doubt, Rao shows “the heart of a poet” by revealing most profound levels of delusional broodings.
The novel undoubtedly exhibits psychiatry at work and Anil’s deepest intensities probing the history of his own mind. Rao’s main attraction throughout Bright Lights, Big Buddha is to explore his hero’s eloquent mind stirred by hypnology. This is evident in the following lines where Klonop points out to Anil that his mind is full of delusional thinking:
“Anil, there is no Irish model, no girls following you around, no pranksters, no Chaz, no Heidi or Sally, no detective named Cooper hired by the dean, no femme fatale named Mary, nothing. Do you hear me, Anil? Nothing. Anil, I’m not letting you out of this hospital until you come to this conclusion!” (116)
Rao aptly shows how Aly “began hearing things-the beginning of a slow resolve into the realm of joyful insanity.” Aly requested Dr. Klonop to discharge him so that he is able to complete his degree. He is sure of the fact: “No amount of therapy would enable me to stop my alcohol and drug use.” The fact is that Aly doesn’t want to change. He seems to have unquestionable faith in the fantastical trappings of his mind that create unprejudiced leap from a harmony to the other delusional world.
Rao is suggesting that the world of imagination is more real than the real and factual world. This also reminds us of the Dada characteristics emphasized by Tristan Tzara in his Dada Manifesto: “Respect all individuals in their folly of the moment: Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colours, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE.”
Rao’s novel compels our admiration and reminds us of the surrealist artists emphasizing the omnipotence of dreams. Anil is trying to liberate the human spirit by indulging in anti-rational reflections that we find in the writings of Rimbaud, Picasso, Paul Eluard and other surrealist artists. Anil living his life through delusions and dreams reveals a remarkable way to explore the unconscious and deepest levels of mind. Rumi aptly writes:
Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.
Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition.
While talking to beautiful Delores reminding him of his beloved Irish model, Anil makes very profound observation about an artist’s struggles against life’s brutal realities:
“Art should be the only reason why people live and die. But did you ever consider that the odds were stacked against you? To will something is one thing, but the harsh reality of basic human needs may reveal something quite different. When our dreams collide with the demands of the world, my darling, a tragic beauty surfaces.” (93)
Anil feels that his addiction to drug and alcohol is incurable. Dr. Klonop fails to understand the undeniable fact that the addicts don’t want to change, and Anil feels happy to leap “fearlessly into the inward world of the unconscious.” Rao reveals in his novel real and vital knowledge of the human heart.
The voices and the merry pranksters cease to inflict him, but he now suffers from “sedation and stiff muscles”, so he desires to leave the hospital. He confesses that after smoking pot he “began to journey into myself”, and he “did encounter in these journeys The Grail.” He rightly says: “My imagination was on overdrive, fueled by pot and cheap scotch”. He is obsessed and haunted by the Irish model. “I believed that the world believed I was married to the Irish model. I ate her, breathed her, excreted her in my sweat.” The fact is Rao is in quest of the Holy Grail. Maria tells him the secret of the Grail:
“Aly, the secret of the Grail lies deep in your heart, and I am the Grail you seek. Come back with me and we will both be rid of our wounds.” Aly reached for a Smirnoff bottle and took two gulps. Mary turned from him and said, “For some reason, I love you. And until you find me, you will never find the Grail, let alone understand its secret. (74)
There is no doubt that in Rao’s story telling, the effects are made with consummate ease. Rao draws the characters in the novel with force, tenderness and imaginative insight. Anil’s delusional thinking and negative programming makes it evident that through autosuggestion and hypnotized mind-traveling it is possible to explore the unconscious, induce alteration in situation, perception, emotions, attitude towards life, and remove fear of the unknown and fear of death.
Rao is a novelist of supreme genius. His attitude towards life is not pessimistic. We are not shocked by Anil’s delusional thinking, because self-hypnosis opens unknown doors of the subconscious, and most profound levels of mind. Rao delights his readers by his style that appeals to our heart and imagination. His wit is keen, subtle and incisive. This is evident in the following lines where Rao replies to Bo’s comment that Jesus died for our sins:
“Why would someone die? For everyone’s sins, for that matter? Isn’t that carrying altruism to the limit?” I asked sincerely. “Well, that’s a long story. People spend a whole lifetime trying to figure that out,” Bo replied. (70)
It’s quite right to say that Rao’s novel will be both admired and enjoyed by all classes of readers. Without any doubt, Bright Lights, Big Buddha will have an enduring popularity. Bright Lights, Big Buddha is a fiction story and has no basis in actual events in Anil CS Rao’s past.
Anil CS Rao is an artist and writer presently based in Andhra Pradesh in South India. He has lived in the West from the age of 4 prior to obtaining “dual citizenship” and relocating to his Mother Land in 2010. His mixed media / photoshop artwork has been exhibited in galleries in the States, Europe and in India.