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Showing posts from January, 2013

What is Real?

An individual’s behaviour (“strategic conduct,” to be more precise, as phrased by Anthony Giddens, sociologist) is based largely on how s/he interprets his/her environment, or the reality around.  But what is reality? How real is my laptop?  The ancient Greek philosopher (to start with our ancestral wisdom) Plato would say that the idea of the laptop is more real and this particular laptop. Ideas are more real for Plato than particular concrete things. Modern science will tell me about the various components that make up my laptop which in turn are made up of atoms which consist of subatomic particles which are made up of more fundamental particles!  Which among all these is real? This post is a sort of continuation of my previous one titled Truth is Beauty .  I think we cannot speak of truth unless we tackle the issue of reality. People see reality differently.  Hence truth too varies according to people.  For most people the scientific world of atoms and suba

A Poor Politician

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Manik Sarkar The poorest chief minister in India is Manik Sarkar of Tripura.  His total assets amount to a meagre Rs250,000, according to the accounts submitted by him to the election commission.  He has been the chief minister of Tripura 3 times.   When he filed his papers to the election commission in 2008, his total assets amounted to Rs13,920.  The amount rose to lakhs (!) this year not because he fished in the troubled waters of politics but because he inherited his mother’s house whose value is placed at Rs220,000.   It is a tin-roofed house, the usual ones you’ll find anywhere in the state. Mr Sarkar does not own a car.  His bank balance is Rs9720.  He had Rs1080 in his pocket when he was filing the papers to the election commission.  Mr Sarkar’s monthly salary as chief minister is Rs9200.  He donates the whole amount to the party since he is a genuine communist.  The party gives him a monthly allowance of Rs5000.  That’s communism.  I’m not an advocate of pov

Truth is Beauty

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“What is truth?” Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, asked Jesus.  The Bible [John 18:38] does not quote Jesus’ answer.  We don’t know whether Jesus chose to remain silent or Pilate had no patience to listen. Nineteen centuries later, the Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov extracted an answer from Jesus.  “The truth is,” tells Jesus to Pilate, “first of all, that your head aches, and aches so badly that you’re having faint-hearted thoughts of death.  You’re not only unable to speak to me, but it is even hard for you to look at me.  And I am now your unwilling torturer, which upsets me.  You can’t even think about anything and only dream that your dog should come, apparently the one being you are attached to.  But your suffering will soon be over, your headache will go away.” [ The Master and Margarita , Penguin Classics, 2007, p.24] Bulgakov’s Jesus goes on to advise Pilate that he would do well to go for a stroll, maybe in the gardens on the Mount of Olives.  “The trou

My School

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I love my school. Though it is changing colours. The green is changing.  Into cream. And I know it will change soon from cream to some other colour the colour of the Hegemon The process is under way The gate looks like a prison BLACK Are we keeping students out with all that black? I wonder.

My Wedding Anniversary

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Courtesy: The Hindu My wife and I are celebrating our 17 th Wedding Anniversary today with sambar.  Sambar is a good dish when Chicken Manchurian is outlawed by the institution in which we are working.  We are law-abiders.  I liked Rahul Gandhi’s speech at the Congress Chintan shibir or whatever it is called.  Poor fellow, I thought.  He has a vision.  He wants to take the power from the wicked old people who have amassed enough and hand it over to the youth who are struggling to make both ends meet.  I wanted to thank my wife for tolerating me for 17 years.  She would have enjoyed a chicken dish.  I donned the senile turban of worn out traditions and said, “My love, thank you for bearing with me for 17 years.    Please bear with our institution for a few more years.  I’ll feed you karimeen (a fish that is likely to become extinct) to your heart’s content …” Rahul Gandhi came in between.  With his tears.  His past.  I felt sad.  So much feeling, so many emotions.

Waiting for Godot

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Courtesy: The Hindu The literary world is celebrating the 60 th Anniversary of the first performance of Samuel Beckett’s short play, Waiting for Godot .  It was first staged on 5 Jan 1953 in Paris.  Though it has no plot in the conventional sense, it went on to create history in literature.  It established a new convention in drama called the Theatre of the Absurd .  True, dramatists like Ionesco and Arthur Adamov had already written plays in that convention in 1950.  But Beckett catapulted the genre into limelight. Estragon and Vladimir are the two major characters in the play.  They are beggarly creatures waiting in a desolate street for someone called Godot.  But they are not sure whether they really have this appointment, nor whether they are in the right place.  They don’t know why they are waiting for Godot.  In fact, they are not even sure of their own names.  While waiting, they indulge in seemingly meaningless conversation .  They talk about the two thieves

Teacher

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Teacher is a parent away from the parents.  Today’s Hindu editorial demands better teacher training institutions.  The editorial thinks that lack of qualification has led to deterioration in teaching.  I don’t agree. The plain truth is that lack of remuneration has led to the deterioration. Quality flocks to where the money is.  If money is the ultimate value in society.  We are not living in the ancient days of the Gurukala when gurudom was the noblest position in the society.  Guru was god.  Guru possessed all the knowledge and hence the power. Today knowledge is not power.  Money is power today.  Does India want good teachers?  Pay them – that’s the answer.  Otherwise, change the system based on economy. At any rate, who is a good teacher? Let’s forget the economy and ask that question. A good teacher is one who has a passion for learning.  One who has a passion for learning will keep learning his subject and that passion will automatica

Proof of Heaven

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Book Review Author: Dr Eben Alexander Published in India by Haechette in 2012 Pages: 194, Price: Rs 350 The subtitle of the book is A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife .  Dr Alexander, the author, is a neurosurgeon by profession.  Bacterial meningitis sent him into a coma for a week from Nov 10, 2008.  The bacteria had made the entire neocortex of his brain dysfunctional.  But Dr Alexander claims that his consciousness (or soul, if you prefer) travelled to a realm which he thinks is the ultimate reality, the divine milieu. Dr Alexander’s experience reveals a reality or phenomenon which many mystics experienced in the past, irrespective of their religion.  It is a reality in which everything is interrelated and love is the binding link. No one / nothing is a separate entity with a distinct ego.  You have your identity, but you are at the same time deeply aware of your essential relationship with all the reality around.  You can feel the love and the relat

Surrender to Traders

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Courtesy: Internet Government employees belonging to the Leftist unions in Kerala have been on strike for the last 5 days.  They are opposing the contributory pension scheme that the state govt has implemented for staff  from April this year. What the govt of Kerala is telling the employees is that they should contribute 10% of their basic salary and DA (dearness allowance) to the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.  The govt will make an equal contribution.  When they retire they be eligible to withdraw 60% of the amount in the Fund and will receive a monthly pension from the remaining amount. Most of the states in India and the central govt offices have already implemented this scheme. The govt of Kerala has certain valid arguments for implementing the scheme.  The govt says that 80.61% of state’s revenue goes towards payment of salaries and pensions for govt employees. A meagre 19.39% is left for looking after the welfare of the 3.25 crore people

Waste Land

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This is a silly post though I dare to call it a poem.  Read it at your own risk. “In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.” T S Eliots’ Prufrock had at least the consolation of women coming and going talking of Michelangelo.   I’m back to regular routine tomorrow.  And women will come and go talking of duties, workshops and seminars.  They call themselves experts.  They will dictate the terms and conditions.  They have the backing of a religious sect. And I will sing along with T S Eliot : Weialala leia Wallala leialala The winter break is over.  The real break is going to begin. Religious break? Or feminine break? I’m looking forward to Madame Sosostris with her Tarot cards.  She will determine the future. The future of her staff.  She has started by terminating the services of the redundant.  Who is not redundant in this world? Is the expert essential? Is the Swami ji essential? Is the Manager essential?

Antichrist and other philosophies

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“The Antichrist can be born from piety itself, from excessive love of God or of the truth…” That’s one of the concluding lines in Umberto Eco’s fabulous novel, The Name of the Rose . I’m celebrating the 30 th anniversary of the publication of the English translation of the novel.  The original Italian version was published in 1980. The novel is set in a Christian monastery in Italy in the early 14 th century.  The plot unfolds in seven days in the year 1327 though the background will span many years earlier. Those were the years in which many people were burnt as heretics and witches by the Catholic Church, the most powerful religion of those days. Eco’s novel illustrates in its own subtle way how a very innocent woman was burnt as a witch simply because she had to sell her body to two monks in the monastery in return for the food she could take home for people at home.  The monks in question are tortured as heretics, and they are not innocent anyway.  The inqu

Funny...apes

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Delhi is too cold for me. I like it hot. So I decided to take some sunshine though the sun was too cold for me this morning just as it has been for quite some time. But some interesting photos I got as I stood on my balcony reading a novel...; Monkeys  come and go. As usual. But one monkey gets the other to bow down.  To stoop low.  Too low.  That's Delhi.  That's administration. That's human life.  That's life... Then the deal is settled. Once the deal is settled, we look the other way.  For the next prey!? And life goes on in Delhi or anywhere in the world of men/women PS: Believe me, each shot above was taken in the same sequence as given here.  Only the text was invented.

Simple People without a Leader

The English translation of Umberto Eco’s novel, The Name of the Rose , was originally published 30 years ago.  It’s the only novel of Eco that sold millions of copies.  I started re-reading it during this brief winter break in order to re-live the thrills I had gone through reading it about a quarter of a century back. While I’m about half way through the brilliant novel set in a Benedictine monastery in medieval Italy, I would like to share a thought from it on why certain new teachings, especially religious ones, gain popularity among the masses. In the medieval Europe, any new religious teaching [what other teaching was there in those days?] would be viewed as heresy, a challenge to the authority of the Pope.  Eco’s protagonist argues that the majority of those who flock after the new teachers are the “ simple” people (who lack “subtlety of doctrine”) who are also marginalised by the dominant classes.  The marginalised people are powerless in any society.  What th