Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2013

Butterfly Effect

Short story Shilavati was bored.   She had everything she wanted.   A huge LED screen with more than 200 TV channels and a resounding Dolby sound system filled the vacuum of her days with light and sound.   There were manservants and maidservants waiting for her orders to fill the emptiness in her ego with a glass of fruit juice or a ride to the shopping mall.   Yet she felt bored.   Her two children were at school and husband was in the office of the MNC which paid him more money than they really needed.   The family used to go for an outing almost every weekend.   Yet she felt bored.   She switched the channels on the TV. The English news channel was discussing whether death penalty fitted in with contemporary civilisation.   Within months of becoming the President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee had sent two persons to the gallows and dismissed the mercy petitions of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi. Why is there so much brouhaha about executing some criminals?   Shilavati wondered.   Aren’

Winter of the World

Author: Ken Follett Publisher: Penguin, 2012        Pages: 940 Price: Rs399 Ken Follett is a master of epic tales.  He has woven mesmerising stories with wide arrays of memorable characters who are the warp and weft of the fabric of history.  They are characters who either shape the history or are shaped by it.  They are masters or victims.  But they are never puppets dangling from the mechanical fingers of some robotic history.  They are the normal human beings, partly good and partly evil, some strong and others weak, some of whom dare while others cower. Winter of the World differs from those novels, however.  Its characters are more puppets dangling from the warp and weft of history.  The real persons who shape and manipulate the history are Hitler and Stalin.  Yet they hardly appear in the novel; they work like invisible gods through their agents, the Gestapo and the NKVD, both of which are ruthless in hunting down perceived enemies. The plot of the nov

The Music in the Background

What seas what mountains what planets Or a honeymoon cottage on an exotic isle    with a bride on hire to suck the lust What car what villa what gadget Or a smorgasbord spread out in paradise Where does it end, this pursuit? How many millions or billions should the bank balance be How many villas and hectares will this body need How many parties bacchanalian and rumbustious Before I hear the music in the background? Note : This is the first poem I've written in years.  Maybe, when you sit idle with your foot caged in plaster of Paris poetry forces itself into your soul.  I have an excuse, however, for letting poetry make this forceful entry: I was reading something on philosopher Schopenhauer who thought that a man who has no mental life goes greedily from sensation to sensation in search of happiness and at last he/she is conquered by the nemesis of the idle rich or the reckless voluptuary - ennui.

A Justified Strike

Eleven central trade unions have called for a strike which is already on in the country.  The strike is not really unjustified.  The demands for generation of more employment, better enforcement of labour laws, controlling  privatisation of Public Sector Undertakings, and abolition of contract labour are all justified in the given situation today. It is a situation created by an extremely greedy capitalist system that fostered a self-centred individualism without any social responsibility.  Perhaps, the fault lies in the human heart rather than in systems. Communism was a system that sought to guarantee the welfare of each citizen in the country.  But in the hands of a man like Joseph Stalin, it turned out to be no different from Hitler’s Nazi fascism.  Capitalism was also not meant to be what it is today.  It was meant to provide more opportunities to individuals to explore their potential and achieve whatever success they are capable of.  Unfortunately, like any sy

Awards and their joy

  One of the funniest things I find about myself is that my attitude to life is extremely ambivalent.    I take many issues of life very seriously.   On the other hand, I’m aware of the most profound absurdity that underlies human existence, and this awareness helps me laugh even in the face of disasters. Right now, I’m laughing at my foot imprisoned in plaster of Paris by the orthopaedist.   While I’d hate to stay put even in heaven for too long, I have learnt to play with the luxury of free time afforded by the present experience.    This blog is part of that playing. First of all, I must thank three persons with an apology to two of them.   They are: Anjan Roy , Guspazha Chinar , and Umashankar Pandey .   My heart goes out to them for nominating me for the Liebster Award.   Unfortunately, I was not in a position to respond to Anjan and Guspazha because when their nominations came I was on both my feet which carried me from place to place on my regular duties.    I wouldn

Let One Billion Rise

The last Valentine’s Day witnessed a women’s movement that brought global attention on certain important problems of women.  Women were discriminated against in the past in a variety of ways.  While discrimination seems to be on the wane today, violence against women is apparently mounting.  It is possible that the decrease in discrimination and the increase in violence are correlated.  When women began to be more successful and more visible in the public, some of their male counterparts (who could not achieve proportionate success in life) reacted violently.  As women continue to ascend the rungs of success, this problem is likely to be more accentuated.  The problem, in this case, lies with the men; it is men who need treatment. But it’s not fair to put the entire blame on men alone.  True, patriarchy has been the dominating system in most parts of the world and men created the rules for women.  It is a man who drew the Lakshman rekha for Sita; it is a man who kidnapp

When God Said Cheers

Anurag Kashyap’s play, When God Said Cheers , was staged in Delhi recently.  Reading about it in the Metro supplement of today’s Hindu newspaper [14 Feb], I wondered why God couldn’t actually be a person with some sense of humour. All the gods I know are dreadful bores.  They are too grumpy, or jealous, or bloodthirsty.  I’d love a God who would share a drink with me in the evening and engage me in a light-hearted conversation peppered with occasional bouts of laughter.  I’m sure God will burst into laughter when we discuss his priests and their religions.  I can imagine the tears that God will try to hide behind the whisky glass when we will discuss His believers killing other people in His name. And God will tell me a parable: In one of Hitler’s concentration camps, a group of Jews put Yahweh on trial.  They charged him with cruelty and betrayal.  There was nothing that could be offered as a defence for Yahweh.  No extenuating circumstances.  No benefit of doubt. 

The Pope Retires

Pope Benedict XVI has announced his decision to retire.  Let’s hope that the Catholic Church will get a liberal and visionary Pope. Benedict XVI was one of the most conservative popes of the recent times.  He failed to tackle certain important issues that rocked the church, particularly related to sexual matters.  The Church’s attitude to homosexuality has always remained ultra-conservative and Benedict XVI did not help to understand the issue in any intelligent light.  The issue of priests’ marriage was shelved conveniently even when the misdeeds of many priests, particularly instances of paedophilia, rocked the Church many a time.  The ordination of women as priests was not given due consideration. A year before Benedict XVI was anointed the Pope, he was described as his predecessor’s “Grand Inquisitor” by theologian Hans Kung.  Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (who later became Pope Benedict XVI) together persecuted many theologians who advocated liberal and s

Bigots and Selfistan

In Salman Rushdie’s novel, Shalimar the Clown , a Muslim boy and a Hindu (Pandit) girl are in love.  When the matter is brought to the attention of their parents as well as the panchayat, nobody finds anything seriously wrong.  Abdullah, the boy’s father, mentions Kashmiriyat , “the belief that at the heart of Kashmiri culture there was a common bond that transcended all other differences.” Pyarelal Kaul, the girl’s father added, “There is no Hindu-Muslim issue.  Two Kashmiri (…) youngsters wish to marry, that’s all.” This is the Kashmir of the early 1960s as presented by Rushdie.  Half a century later, we know how far Kashmir is from such a broadminded understanding of religion and life. It’s not a problem confined to Kashmir or a few places.  The more the world advances towards the utopian global village, the more the people’s minds seem to shrink.  A recent New York Times report lays bare the bigotry of a Lutheran pastor in America.  The pastor had to apologise for

The Path of the Masters

The Path of the Masters Author: Julian Johnson Publisher: Radha Soami Satsang Beas Though I bought this book when I visited a satsang 6 or 7 years ago, I wouldn’t have read it even now had my school not been taken over by the Radha Soami Satsang Beas.  Religion and spirituality don’t appeal to me.  In fact, the word ‘religion’ conjures up in my mind images of burning heretics and witches, crusades and jihads, protests and riots. I visited the satsang as a visitor driven by curiosity and not as a pilgrim.  The impression I gathered (from the only one visit I ever made) was that what attracted people to such gatherings was nothing different from what the author of this book discards as normal religion. There are many places in the book where the author calls religion “the solace of the weak” (Voltaire’s phrase), an escapist measure, or a childish solution to life’s problems.  Almost half of the book tries to show that traditional religions cannot bring genuine an