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A History of India’s Roadblocks

Book Title: Caged Tiger: How too much government is holding Indians back Author: Subhashish Bhadra Publisher: Bloomsbury 2023 Pages: 303 For over two centuries the British held India captive. And then Indian politicians did the same. This book shows you how India’s leaders held their own country captive almost all through – with the exception of the first few decades. 77 years is not too short a period of time for a nation, especially one that is as huge as India, to reclaim itself from the ravages of history. What has India achieved in fact? “Governments have failed to provide the basic needs of life, such as clean air and water. India has 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world, with a child dying every 3 minutes from inhaling toxic pollutants. Also, India has failed to translate its remarkable economic gains into better lives for its most vulnerable; 35 percent of children under five are stunted…” Now, even Bangladesh is doing better than India though it “is poo
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Before the World Ends

Colours in the making When the monsoon landed in Kerala towards the end of May, the meteorological department predicted excess rains this season. The reality, as usual, cocked a snook at the forecast. It rained cats and dogs for a few days, probably because of certain disturbances in the oceans, and then the sun lashed the state mercilessly. I put trust in the forecast and bought quite a few flower pots to add colours to my close surroundings. I’m not giving up anyway even if the rains ditch me. If I have bought the pots, I will also make sure that plants grow in them. May not be flowers. Even the nursery staff tell me that it is difficult to grow flower plants given the nature’s unpredictable behaviour. So I have collected leafy plants with all possible colours. When they all grow up, I will have all the colours I wanted around my house.  We, in Kerala, are better off than our counterparts in North India where the temperature is well above 40 degrees Celsius in many places includi

A story in images

  I don't feel like writing anything today. I want a story to unfold through some old pictures.  One of the most beautiful places in Delhi is The Garden of Five Senses . You will find yourself bathing in an ocean of flowers and floral decorations. This picture belongs to 2010, long before the Radha Soami Satsang people invaded Sawan school and began to corrode our happiness for the sake of their spirituality.  2014. Narendra Modi came to power in Delhi. The invasion of Sawan by RSSB was almost complete. The sprawling playgrounds of the school are what you see in the picture above. Those grounds which were maintained meticulously by the physcial education teachers and their supporting staff were now filled with buses from all over North India. These buses brought the devotees of RSSB for their usual quarterly Satsang.  RSSB left an immense vacuum not only on the campus but also in the hearts of a lot of people.  Monkeys ruled the campus soon. They were alll over. Some of them occupi

Blessings

Fiction Pastor Joshua was watching Prime Minister Modi meditating on the Vivekananda Rock in Kanyakumari when Shanta and Gopan walked into his office. “We are such a blessed nation to have this saint as our Prime Minister,” Joshua said to the visitors whom he had never met earlier. Visitors come frequently to Pastor Joshua’s house because he is an influential person in the village. He is rich and has connections with politicians of all parties. “Alleluia,” Joshua greeted the visitors in his usual style. Shanta and Gopan joined their palms in namaste, the only form of greeting they were familiar with. Ah, some infidels coming for financial help , Pastor Joshua concluded instantly. He was familiar with all sorts of people, from top to bottom. When you are a public figure, you are in touch – whether you like it or not – with all sorts, and you know how to assess people accurately. “May the blessings of Lord Jesus be upon you,” Pastor Joshua said to the visitors. “How can the Lor

Ashoka is still relevant

Book Title: Ashoka: Portrait of a Philosopher King Author: Patrick Olivelle Publisher: HarperCollins India, 2023 Pages: xxxix + 356 This book belongs to a series that is being brought out by HarperCollins: Indian Lives . Ashoka belonged to a period about which we know relatively little: 3 rd century BCE. The centuries that followed Ashoka chose to ignore the great emperor because of politico-religious reasons. The Brahmins were averse to Ashoka and his teachings. Hence they chose to project the epic kings, Yudhishthira and Rama, as ideals, and relegate Ashoka to the dark backgrounds of history. Both Ramayana and Mahabharata had kings who were always devoted to the welfare and supremacy of Brahmins while Ashoka strove to forge an egalitarian society. Patrick Olivelle, the author, was born and raised in Sri Lanka. He is one of the greatest living scholars of ancient India, according to Ramachandra Guha, editor of the series of which this book is the first. Olivelle relies

A Wicked World

Book Title: Assassin Author: K R Meera Translator: J Devika Publisher: HarperCollins, 2023 Pages: 654 There is hardly any goodness in the world of this brilliantly crafted novel. Its world is driven by avarice of all sorts: for wealth, power, status… Halfway through the gripping drama, the protagonist is told rather curtly by a police officer. “You haven’t met good men. That is it.” Satyapriya, the 44-year-old protagonist who has just survived a murder attempt, replies promptly that the Inspector was right. “I have never seen a really good man. Can you show me one?” Leaving aside a couple of characters, every man in this novel is driven by some sort of avarice. The women are the victims of these men and the systems created by them. It may be worth mentioning here that K R Meera is a feminist. Right in the beginning of the novel, we hear Satyapriya telling the investigating police officer that “Luck in love is directly proportional to submissiveness, not beauty.” A few p

A Lesbian Kamasutra

Fiction When Lila sent a voice message on WhatsApp asking Anna to join her on a pilgrimage, Anna was naturally surprised. They belonged to two different religions. And nowadays no two religions are supposed to love each other. Hindus and other religious believers are supposed to hate each other in India, for example. The raison d’etre of the Jews of Israel seems to be killing the Muslims in their neighbourhood. Similarly, the God of the Muslims is too eager to exterminate all non-Muslims from the face of the earth. Why does Lila, a Hindu, want Anna, a Christian, to accompany her on a pilgrimage? It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, thought Anna, though she couldn’t recollect who had coined that extended metaphor and in what situation.   Lila and Anna were classmates in high school. They belonged to nearby villages and studied in the only English medium convent school of the nearest little town. The nuns who ran the school ensured that no two girls ever touched eac