When we come across people like Shubh Joshi, hopefully never in real life but on screen or in the news, we wonder whether they are just born wrong. We don’t even mean that in a harmlessly different or quirky sort of way, as in the kind of people who believe that Starbucks is appropriately priced or that the earth is flat. We are talking about a way of thinking that relishes chaos and the pain it can inflict upon people, just for the sake of it. Absolutely nothing in Shubh’s past in the two seasons of Asur could be used to explain away the kind of man he became or the destruction he wanted to cause. Not to sound superstitious, but maybe Shubh’s father had a point when he judged his son based on his horoscope because the boy defied any other rational explanation.
Shubh’s father never let go of a chance to threaten him or beat him up. All the anger he had due to his own prejudices or due to the death of his wife, he took them out on Shubh. The boy was a born genius, and he took just minutes to grasp complex concepts and could finish reading advanced literature in a day. It was evident that he was destined for great things, but there is something to be said about the fact that he lacked emotional intelligence in the way that he was a sociopath. We mean that literally because he exhibited all the signs of being one. There is redemption for sociopaths if they ever wish for it, as proved through many social experiments. But if they don’t seek redemption and, in fact, believe that their sociopathy is the way to a higher form of life, there is nothing to be done anymore.
The scriptures are not ambiguous about whose side they are on. They are very clear about their loyalty to the gods. Yet, when Shubh read them at a young age, he could relate to the Asurs more. It might have started with a child’s curiosity to know why his father always kept calling him an Asur, but it is surprising that his opinion never changed with time. Mythology has often spoken about the constant wars between Asurs and the gods, but something that is not discussed often is that the gods have been guilty of using unfair means to win these wars. For example, take the story of how Amrit (the nectar of immortality) was drawn from the ocean. The Asurs were cheated out of it by Mohini (a Vishnu avatar), even though they were the winners. It can all be explained away by saying that the good side needed to win; otherwise, there would be utter chaos in the universe. But Shubh might have ended up questioning the morality of these actions and the actual line of difference between Gods and Asurs. Additionally, where is the promised order in the world? Why is there so much evil and suffering if it is the gods and not Asurs at the helm of affairs? Maybe a change in governance is needed?
We are not making an argument for Satanism but trying to understand Shubh’s way of thinking. Shubh’s intention behind the AI system was not just to make something efficient and all-encompassing; it was to cover the gaps left by his lack of emotional intelligence. The fact is that Shubh did not understand people and their complexities. He understood power and devotion, yet he had trouble separating the two. This is how he gained his followers: by helping them when no one else could. But even that wasn’t devoid of lies, and that is why the woman who killed Ishani turned against him when she found that her daughter was alive. Shubh never understood love. He did not lack that in his life. His grandfather had always loved and cared for him.
When Shubh lived in the ashram, people loved and respected him, and even when he was working with the professor, Venkat Ram was fond of his assistant. Shubh had love all around him, but maybe when he realized that it was conditional, he felt that it did not have any value. The people in the ashram and his professor loved him because of what he could do. They had not been kind to him simply because that was the right thing to do. The only people who had done that for him were his grandfather and then Nikhil. When Shubh landed in jail after the fabrication of evidence by Dhananjay, Nikhil was the one person who had been nice to him. He was the first person other than his grandfather to show him kindness when he did not need it and while expecting nothing in return. That is why he had a soft spot for him. We honestly think that Shubh believed that there was some goodness in the world. Maybe he even respected it, and that is why he liked his grandfather and Nikhil. But he must also have believed that there was not enough for it to matter, or maybe that it was too minuscule to stand in the way of his ambitions and the new world order.
The problem is that we don’t believe the series managed to prove him wrong. Dhananjay and Nikhil stopped him from carrying out more attacks, but they were not able to conclusively prove to him that his ideology was wrong. However, it also remains that Shubh was not asking questions or expressing doubts. Otherwise, he would have given more viable choices to his victims. Even Anant would have had a better choice between believers and non-believers. Shubh either believed that humans just couldn’t do better than their egos or that he didn’t care. At the end of Asur Season 2, when Shubh knew for sure that he would not be able to do anything anymore, we don’t think he wanted to continue living either. He was definitely baiting Dhananjay to kill him, and when he refused, it was one of the few times we saw some emotion on Shubh’s face. The other times were when he had to kill his grandfather and when he felt like there was a threat to him from Anant. Shubh was undoubtedly a narcissist as well, and if only he did not have such a high IQ, he would not have been such a menace to the world.