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Showing posts from October, 2012

Religious Pollution

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Dussehra was celebrated all over the country yesterday in various ways in tune with regional beliefs.   Today’s [25 Oct] Times of India carries a few interesting headlines in relation to the celebrations. “Filth, stench mar Durga idol immersion,” says one such headline.   “Puja material adds to Yamuna’s woes,” laments another. The devotees of Durga were not aware of the Delhi government’s order that the idols should be immersed only in certain places allotted specifically for the purpose.   Consequently people disposed of the idols wherever they liked.   Along with the idols was also disposed a lot of waste matter including plastic wrappers of food items and empty mineral water bottles.   The much polluted Yamuna was ill fated to carry more pollution than it could ever digest. A question that should necessarily arise in our minds is: why can’t we modernize certain rituals that have become out of tune with the time?   Doesn’t religion require modernisation, renewal, or – in tec

Moral corruption

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The novel that I started reading yesterday and keeps my attention riveted is Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Dream of the Celt (2012).   Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature two years ago.   The reason why I bought this novel of his is not that, however.   The novel is about Roger Casement, a controversial hero of Irish nationalism.   My reason for buying the novel was not that either.   I ordered for the book when I read in a review that the novel was about the barbarism perpetrated by the European colonists in the Congo.   Llosa’s protagonist was an Irishman who went to the Congo with the noble desire to “civilize” the people there.   A few pages into the novel, I am quite delighted to come across Joseph Conrad as a character.   Conrad was a sailor and he met Roger in the Congo.   In Llosa’s novel, Conrad tells Roger that the latter “should have appeared as co-author” of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness . In Heart of Darkness , a character named Marlow tells the story of Kurtz to

Why Insure Ourselves?

Insuring ourselves is one of the silliest things we can do in life, I think.   Life insurance means that a certain amount will be paid to my dependents after my death.   Fine, there’s nothing that can give me more happiness (after my death) than seeing my beloved ones(not dependents , but loved ones) living happily after my death. The latest issue of the Frontline [dated 2 Nov 2012] argues that insurance has been made just another business of the capitalists.   For example, it says that “countries where competition is rife in the insurance industry, such as the U.S. have been characterised by a large number of failures.”   India is opening up itself to that competition. Because Dr Manmohan Singh has to save his image in the Western press.   Just because the Western press called Dr Singh (our beloved PM) all kinds of names, he chose to give us a lot of FDI, hike in prices of cooking gas and other items precious to most of us (leaving aside the most people who have no access t

Fullness of Life

One of the many paradoxes of human life is that many people who are overtly religious may have the vilest evils lurking beneath their overt behaviour. Such evils may never become manifest in external behaviour since they remain successfully suppressed by the religiosity of the person.   The same is true of morality.   Conversely, many people who are not overtly religious or moralistic may be much better at heart than those who display virtues in their external behaviour. Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House , depicts this paradox. Ibsen died in 1906.   The play was originally published in 1879.   It is classical enough to grip our imagination and exercise our minds even today. Helmer, the protagonist, is a morally upright person, a man of honour.   No one will accuse him of any fault.   Yet when his wife, Nora, leaves him in the end returning the wedding ring, he sinks into the chair crying “Empty!.”   It is his inner emptiness that he has to confront now, the exemplariness of his exte

Compromise. Pretend… and Succeed?

‘Should Wizard Hit Mommy?’ is a short story by John Updike.   It’s prescribed by CBSE as a lesson for class 12 students.   CBSE’s interpretation of the lesson is as silly as any interpretation can get to.   The story is about a family.   Jack the father, Clare the mother, and Jo the daughter. Jo is just 4 years old.   Jack tells her the bedtime stories.   He also tells her stories on Saturday afternoons for her nap. One Saturday afternoon he tells her the story of Roger Skunk whose problem is his stench which keeps other animals away.   He is not able to make friends because of his stench. The wizard solves the problem by transforming the smell into the fragrance of roses. Jo is happy with the story and would have gone to sleep had it not been for Jack who was unhappy with the resolution of Roger Skunk’s problem.   How can a skunk smell like roses?   He won’t be a skunk.   His identity will be lost. So Jack continued the story.   Roger Skunk’s mother took her boy back to

Teaching – a cheap profession?

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Teaching extends far beyond the classroom A few of my students on the bank of the Ganga The above ad appeared in today’s [10 Sep] Times of India ( Ascent , the job vacancies supplement).   The school wants both teachers and “coaching experts.”   While the teachers will be paid a salary of Rs 22,000 per month, the coaching experts will be paid from “Rs 9 Lac to 12 Lac” annually.   Moreover, “Higher start can be considered for highly deserving candidates” in the case of coaching experts – but apparently not in the case of teachers.   As a teacher I was amused by the discrepancy between the remunerations of a tutor and a teacher.   The job of the tutor (or coaching expert, as the ad calls him/her) is to prepare “students competing for Board Exams & for IIT, AIEEE, PMT, NDA etc.” Why is there so much discrepancy between the remunerations, I wondered naturally.   Is it tougher to prepare students for competitive exams than teach them the subject, instil values in them

In the Land of Gods – 2

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From NIM, Uttarkashi “I’M IN MY PRIME, THERE’S NO GOAL TOO FAR / NO MOUNTAIN TOO HIGH,” says a quote from Wilma Rudolf, displayed on the campus of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) at Uttarkashi in the Uttarakhand state of India.      Uttarkashi was the base camp of our Himalayan trekking simply because our tour manager has a resort in that place.   The resort consists of permanent tents which look like temporary ones.   The look is important.   We live in a world that gives much importance to looks.   The hospitality, however, was of 5-star standard.   The resort can indeed boast of a high standard.   My students were happy with the facilities provided there.   They love appearances.   Illusions are real at the age of 16 or 17. Our bus backtracked from here What I wanted, however, was the rough trekking and the challenge it would provide to my aging body.   We started our journey from the star-class resort in Uttarkashi toward Gangotri by the two buses that we

In the Land of Gods – 1

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“Welcome to the Land of Gods” is a signboard that will greet you the moment you reach the Garhwal Himalayas.   What Arun Kolatkar wrote about Jejuri is quite true about the Garhwal Himalayas too: “what is god / and what is stone / the dividing line / if it exists / is very thin / at jejuri / and every other stone / is god or his cousin” (in the poem, A Scratch ). On my way to Gomukh from Gangotri My recent trekking to Gomukh with a group of 35 students taught me quite many a lesson about gods of all hues including wealth. We started our trekking from Gangotri soon after breakfast.   Gangotri, as the name implies, is (supposed to be) the origin of the holy river Ganga.   We had reached Gangotri a day before our trekking with enough time left for a wandering in the holy mount.   One of the places that caught our fancy during our wandering was the wooden cabin of a Baba (sage) who lives very close to the place where the Ganga spouted forth lustily through the gap between two r