27/02/2015 8:08 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

For Pachauri And Others, Imagination Is Dangerous and Combustible

Arvind Passey

'That's incorrect,' said an editor and I had to remind him of the reason why David Davidar had to be fired in 2010. In every relationship there will be two people imagining different outcomes and it is the friction between two wonderfully abstract thoughts that invariably results in a conflagration that tickles reporters and readers alike.

Believe me, imagination is a scintilla in virtual space that most of us carry around with abandon, thinking it is unreal. But look at the real fiction of N D Tiwari or Tarun Tejpal or even Phaneesh Murthy and you'll know what R K Pachauri missed as he extended his overtures to absent-minded conjectures. What he probably failed to appreciate was that, as Carl Sagan said, "Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were" and so it is fine to stick to the logic of things.

Now let me dwell for some time on imagination, the word. How many of us have noticed that imagination has image and nation squirming in its folds? Well, when you happen to be Dr Pachauri and you have a vital role to play in a climate summit - where you will be in a position to make world leaders understand the kind of harm global warming is doing - a few months later, how can you not know that the image of a nation is at stake? Why on earth did Dr Pachauri want his imagination to pole dance in the virtual world of emails, SMSes, and WhatsApp and add bits to this form of global warming in the world of news? I know scientists and writers have maverick genes giggling in their chromosomal structure and Dr Pachauri is both... and I have a feeling that he knew how dangerous and combustible a leader's imagination can sometimes be.

People in responsible positions need a robust imagination. Even Edison remarked that "good imagination and a pile of junk" are all that one needs to invent. Dr Pachauri has been watching the earth transform into a pile of junk and has effectively used his imagination to come up with some really innovative solutions to save it from an early death. And then, rather like an intriguing thriller and without adequate warning, his imagination decided to go for a steamy sauna in ways that the present standards of morality frown upon. In the words of Dr Seuss, it was imagination discovering that "fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living."

And so we come to the sci-fi world of fantasy. Fantasies aren't aberrations as they transform us all into master chefs, pulling in fiction and non-fiction to create a meal that fuels feelings of a truth that isn't yet one. Look at what the fantasising imagination of the fringe groups did to Mathorubagan (One Part Woman) in Tiruchengode, compelling Perumal Murugan to write his own obituary on Facebook! I am using this example to show that imagination is quite different from and much milder than a fantasising imagination. So I'm glad that Dr Pachauri was stopped just as the scintilla of his imagination was planning to turn into a conflagration.

What is yet not known is how much of this dangerous and combustible imagination forms a part of those who are accusing Dr Pachauri. There have been cases where professional incompetence and an unstoppable urge to rise in professional hierarchy have been reason enough to encourage conversations that can be easily redefined as sexual innuendoes. Whatever the case be, it is imagination at the bottom of every exposé of this nature.

Do not, even for a moment think that 'we are what we imagine we are' isn't as villainous as it sounds in this short article. Do not, even for a moment think that imagination becomes dangerous and combustible only if you rise to become a TERI boss or win world acclaim. Imagination can turn wild and stab you even on a cold dark night as you board a near-empty bus in Delhi... it can pounce on you as a lusty shadow in a school in Bangalore... or come dressed as a ward attendant in a hospital in Mumbai... so imagine wisely. Play with imagination only after you have learned how to not let it turn into a monster. Yes, imagination does come with this statutory warning: I am dangerous and combustible!