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Effective story telling

One of my favourite short story writers has been Somerset Maugham for a long while. The most obvious reason is that the characters he presents in his stories are hauntingly fascinating. The second reason is the themes he deals with. And I must add his quintessential cynicism to the list too. He didn’t hold humanity in high regard. In the words of one of his own characters, “Perhaps the best of us are sinners and the worst of us are saints.” Deftly crafted characters and themes carved straight from ordinary human life are the primary ingredients of a good short story, for me. Maugham had the additional virtue of telling those stories in a simple, unadorned style that keeps the reader hooked till the end. His insights into human nature were shrewd. Maugham didn’t go for the kind of technical gymnastics we find in today’s stories. Let me present just two of his characters to illustrate what I’m saying. One is a zealous Christian missionary named Davidson who is determined to reform
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Whose India?

The Sangh Parivar and the corporate clique that supports them are celebrating the Amrit Mahotsav of India’s independence. Their India has reasons to celebrate. Two of them have entered into the top ten of the Forbes list of the richest people in the world. Adani has climbed over Ambani to occupy the third place while the latter is in the eighth place. Gautam Adani’s economic growth has been nothing less than fabulous after Narendra Modi became India’s Prime Minister. His brother, Vinod, has also emerged as superrich with a wealth of Rs1.69 lakh crore. IMF has declared that Indian economy has beaten the British economy to emerge as the fifth strongest economy in the world. At this rate, India is going to push Germany and Japan behind by 2030 to become the third largest economy in the world. Great. But who benefits? That’s a pertinent question. There is a dark, very dark, side to this economic growth. In the global hunger index, India is slipping down pathetically.   Out of 116 count

Yogi and Politician

Whenever I see Yogi Adityanath’s pictures, I am reminded of oxymoron. A despotic ascetic, ruthless sage, religious criminal… He is a long list of oxymorons, in fact. The BBC recently described him as “India’s most divisive and abusive politician who often uses his election rallies to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria.” Hatred drives this yogi. That is rather funny if you are an irreligious person like me. For religious people, especially for those who believe in this Yogi’s kind of religion, that description may sound spiritual or jihadist. What I find funny about this man is that he is a despicable criminal but revered by a few million people merely because he wears a particular dress and speaks a particular language. Anywhere else, he would have been confined to a prison. But in the heart of India, he is a saintly yogi. Eugene Ionesco would have written his best play had he met Yogi Adityanath. If asceticism is about renunciation, this Yogi has nothing to do with it. He is attach

The darkness of Indian media

I deleted my Facebook account a few months back because that social media was blocking me off and on. Initially it blocked me for a day each. Then it became three days, seven days, and so on until they blocked me for a whole month. The reason: I was satirising the ills that plague my country. The evils that I questioned were ostensibly promoted by Facebook which had no issues with the various individuals as well as agencies that advocated sectarianism openly on the platform. Facebook views me as an antinational person because I want peace and harmony in the country! This is the tragic situation in the whole country. Sane voices are stifled and sheer madness is promoted as patriotism. Media is one place where you see it blatantly in practice. India has been sinking pathetically in the ranking of press freedom ever since Modi took charge as Prime Minister. Now the country stands at a low of 150 out of 180 nations in the press freedom index. Modi has taken India close to despicably

CBSE English Paper – a review

The Central Board of Secondary Education [CBSE] has released sample question papers for the current academic session. As a teacher of English in the senior secondary section, let me take a look at the class 12 English question paper . Fosters Creativity The first thing that struck me is that many of the questions in the Literature section foster the creativity of the students. Earlier there used to be only bookish questions and answers. Now there are many questions that let a student exercise her creative imagination. Look at this question, for instance: ‘Their mother sighed. Sophie watched her back stooped over the sink and wondered at the incongruity of the delicate bow which fastened her apron strings.’ The prose selection, Going Places includes this telling comment about Sophie’s mother. In Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers , we are told that - ‘The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band / Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand.’ Imagine a conversation between Sophie’s mother

Don’t be yourself

I have a student in one of my present classes who gives me the creeps. He holds everyone in contempt and thinks that he is the only perfect human being. He has a magnanimous attitude towards his mother, I observed, whom he resembles way too much and who thinks that her son is nothing less than an adorable prince. Let me call him Holden after the protagonist of J D Salinger’s celebrated novel about an adolescent’s inability to grow up. Holden – mine and not Salinger’s – lives in his own world even if he is in the classroom not even pretending to be listening to the teacher. He dreams keeping his eyes open when he is not really sleeping. I have always wondered what he could be dreaming about. It took me a while to realise that all his dreams are about himself because nothing engages his mind except himself wherever he is. Holden thinks that all other people are nothing more than insects beside his eminence. He misses no opportunity to sneer at people, their appearance, views, anyth

The Ideal Blog

There is no ideal blog , let us face that plain truth. There are over 600 million blogs in the world today, out of over 1.9 billion websites. More than 3 billion blog posts are published each year worldwide. Almost 6000 blog posts are published each minute. And these posts deal with topics like How to make coconut chutney and What to pack if you are travelling to Timbuktu . People blog about food, travel, fashion, movies, photography, and what not. People like me blog about almost everything under the sun. Yes, there is politics in my blog and there is philosophy. There is fiction and there is provocation. Some of my most popular posts are rather mediocre stuff written for students. What I consider my best writing has invariably got poor readership. My presently active blog is about a decade old. It has clocked over a million views so far with the graph showing very encouraging slopes. Let me speak here from my personal experience and not as an expert on anything, least of all blogg