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Small Gods

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  “Do you know who my Jesus is? He is money. Jesus is money. Do you want money? Send your bank account number to …” Frenzied people take out their smartphones and… Brother Raunaq Mathew holds them in thrall. He is one of the many new gen religious cult leaders in Kerala today. There are many like him now. Their only motive is making money. Make money by the Holy Spirit or by the unholy apps. I am astounded by the number of followers that these frauds gather even in Kerala. Kerala claims to be the land of enlightened people; Prabuddha Keralam is what it calls itself. But I find the people here as beguiled as those anywhere else in India. Long ago Swami Vivekananda [whom Prime Minister Modi once called Vivek Munda] called Kerala a lunatic asylum because of the inhuman casteism that prevailed in the state. Kerala was rather quick to cure itself of that lunacy. But soon other lunacies replaced it. The latest is a bunch of Christian cults. Pastor M A Varughese is an icon amon

Nirvana

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  If India had a one-child policy like China, I would never have existed. If my parents had a two-children policy, I wouldn’t have existed either. I was their third child. The nirvana of non-existence was not to be mine. I always imagine nirvana as non-existence. The Buddha too meant that, I’m quite sure. What else can ‘non-self’ and ‘emptiness’ mean? If nirvana is indeed the end of all desires and feelings and illusions, as the Buddha saw it, then it has to be as good an existence as a stone’s. Which is as good as non-existence. When you don’t know that you exist, do you exist? Ask the stone and wait for the response. [That is one route to nirvana, I assure you.] If nirvana is non-existence (the end of the self), then it logically follows that non-existence is the ideal form of existence. The next best is the stone’s existence. No desires, feelings and illusions. Animals must rank one step higher than human beings since they have no illusions though they have desires and feeling

Dead Poets Society

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  T his book is a novelised version of the 1989-movie by the same name. It tells the story of an unconventional English teacher, John Keating, and a few of his 16-year-old students at Welton Academy Prep School. The plot is set in 1959 when elite schools followed certain rigid codes very religiously. Welton (which is Hellton for the students of this novel) is erected on the “four pillars” of Tradition, Honour, Discipline and Excellence. All the teachers except Mr Keating belong to the usual conventional rut. Keating inspires his students to follow their hearts. Carpe Diem, he tells them, Seize the day, “… because we’re food for worms, lads!” “Because we’re only going to experience a limited number of springs, summers, and falls.” There’s much to be done before our bodies turn cold in their inevitable tombs. Triumph as individuals instead of following the herd. That’s one of the things we need to do, Keating tells his students. As an English teacher, Keating insists on his student

Shikhandi and other transgenders

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  Book Review Title: Shikhandi Author: Devdutt Pattanaik Publisher: Zubaan and Penguin India, 2014 Pages: 179, Rs 299 G ender is a social construct unlike sex which is a biological status. Until recently, the human world was divided neatly into the male and female. Every child born was assigned one of these genders on the basis of its genitals. The child might grow up to be something else eventually. We have lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. These were all considered as aberrations. And, obviously, unwanted. Why these, even female children were not quite wanted in many families. But the Indian mythology has far too many characters who apparently question the validity of the traditional male-female duality. Devdutt Pattanaik’s book presents these ‘queer’ characters. They are queer in both senses: (1) transcending the male-female duality; and (2) strange or odd. Those who are familiar with Indian mythology will also be familiar with most of these characters and t

Sensitivity

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  What, according to you, is the virtue that the world stands most in need of today?   #NeededVirtue [Indispire Edition 403] A little more sensitivity will make the world a far better place.   Can the wind kiss the leaves without shaking them so much as to make them fall? Green leaves quivering in the breeze that caresses them fondly fills my heart with romance. Often they are like lovers in an embrace. Sometimes like the infant in its mother’s arms.   The cool touch of the misty air on my face as I ride my scooter early in the morning. Sensitivity. Palpable was the moisture of the moonlight that was asleep on the village road until it got up and walked away as the dawn broke. Sensitivity is ephemeral. Like the rainbow somewhere far, far away.   The sun begins to lash soon. At the market junction, the loudspeaker blares charming slogans whose hollowness penetrates into the marrow of my bones. Is it impossible for politics to be sensitive? Is it impossible f

Price of the Modi Years

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  Book Review Title: Price of the Modi Years Author: Aakar Patel Publisher: Westland, 2021 Pages: 488, Price: Rs 699 S ome leaders become extremely popular and may even acquire messianic proportions but end up costing the country a price beyond all imagination. Narendra Modi is one such leader, according to Aakar Patel’s book, Price of the Modi Years . The book has 13 chapters each of which deals with very specific aspects of Modi’s governance and provides the details of the damage done in each. Modi’s endless campaigns versus his actual delivery is the subject of the first chapter. Like in every chapter, hard-hitting facts and statistics tell us in no uncertain terms how Modi has failed in almost every domain that he has touched: from human development to religious freedom, economy to mass media, terrorism to climate. What you see in Modi’s diverse advertisements is far from the reality. Chapter 2, titled ‘The Godi Media,’ shows how the Indian media has become Modi’s l

Masculine Virility

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Image from here Satchidanandam. The mammoth signboard was visible from far away. A surly face peeped from inside the enormous saffron gate beside the signboard as Joseph pressed the calling bell outside the gate. ‘I want to see Ramankutty,’ he said to the surly face. ‘Who?’ The face frowned. ‘Ramankutty, the man who owns this enterprise.’ Then he added as a vital piece of information, ‘He was my classmate, you know.’ ‘This is not an enterprise, first of all,’ the surly face said. ‘This is a holy ashram. And it belongs to Satchidananda Swamikal.’ ‘The same,’ Joseph said. ‘He was my classmate before he became Swami. You just tell him my name, Joseph George, and he will remember, I’m sure.’ The surly face was not convinced. But he let in Joseph after asking him to enter his details in the visitor’s register. A visitor, that’s what he was, Joseph realised. As he walked towards the Reception, he was greeted by various huge billboards on either side. For Firm and Full Breasts