Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stars Stay Far Away

Short Story

On the day Srijan joined the residential school, a 14-year old boy was arrested from his neighbourhood for raping a 6-year old girl.  Srijan’s parents decided to put him in a residential school when he reached class 9 so that he could devote his entire time to studying and thus prepare himself for the medical course that would in due course of time enable him to fulfil his ambition to become a cardiologist.  In a world where people were becoming increasingly heartless cardiologists would be in great demand, his parents thought.

Srijan was not so clear about his life’s purpose and its relationship with the world’s hearts.  But he knew clearly that his parents wouldn’t do anything without clear purposes.  So he accepted New India Public School with his whole heart.

A few days in the school made Srijan wonder whether his parents had made a mistake.  He was sitting on one of the steps leading down to the playgrounds pondering about what some of his companions in the hostel did to him.  Dinner was over and most students were engaged in some indoor game or watching the TV or reading in the library.  The playgrounds remained desolate.

“Do you think you’re a hero here?” Mohit had asked him just a couple of days after his admission.  “Just came the other day and he thinks he has become a hero,” he turned to his friends before turning again to Srijan.  “Stop composing poems and stop buttering the teachers.”  Mohit looked menacing.

Srijan had already learnt that in the New India lingo “buttering” meant ‘flattery’.  Flattery with the explicit purpose of getting certain favours.  Srijan was not trying to flatter anyone when he indulged in composing poems during free time.  He showed the poems to some of his teachers because he enjoyed their pat on his back.  What’s wrong if someone finds my poems good?  Srijan wondered why his companions were offended by a simple thing like this.

The problem started when Mohit pulled out Srijan’s vest from the hook and wiped his shoes with it before throwing it on Srijan’s bed.

“How dare you do such a thing?” asked Srijan.

“How dare you go around singing paeans to the teachers?” asked Mohit.  “Don’t think the teachers can save you from us.”  He wagged his index finger on Srijan’s face.  “We are the dons here.  The teachers are afraid of us.”

“Hey, Srijan, what are you doing here?”  It was Mr Patnaik, one of his teachers. 

Srijan did not want to tell his teachers about his problem.  “Never complain about any student,” one of the senior students had advised him.  “Complaining is taken as treachery in the hostel.  If you have a problem with anyone you have only one of the two options: fight or flight.  Complaining to teachers is worse than suicide.”

“The poem you showed me today was superb,” Mr Patnaik said.  Srijan’s poem which he had shown Mr Patnaik was about stars and their twinkling light which made the night sky look like a blanket studded with silver spangles.  “Do you know that we live in a universe filled with dark matter and dark energy?”

Srijan nodded his head.  “I read about it somewhere,” he said.

“The stars are a good symbol,” said Mr Patnaik.  “And your poem has some deep meaning.”

Srijan did not understand it really.  He had not thought of such a meaning when he composed the poem.  His teacher began to explain that meaning.  Srijan listened intently.  He was lost in the teacher’s words.  Then he began to speak. Without realising what he was doing Srijan narrated to his teacher the reason that brought him to the lonely steps of the playgrounds.

“So, have you chosen to flee?” asked Mr Patnaik after listening to Srijan.  “Is that why you are sitting here alone, in this darkness?”

Srijan wasn’t sure whether he was choosing flight.  He didn’t want to.

“Maybe, it’s not flight,” said Mr Patnaik.  “Maybe, you’re choosing to live a life that doesn’t draw much attention to yourself.  You know you can write poems without drawing the attention of certain people?”

Srijan’s eyes widened.  He understood what his teacher was trying to say.   No wonder the stars choose to stay far away, thought Srijan.

Another story of mine set in New India Public School six years ago: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Some gates thrust upon us an impression of desolation. They may be left open, but they don't invite; rather, they repulse.  It's not the Nature with her trees and plants or even its aridity that repulses; it's the gate in such a place; a gate that looks out of place; a gate that doesn't look like a gate!

Take a look around and you realise that you are not alone.  There is another creature that looks forlorn too.  Its company is no consolation.

Nor does it seem interested in your company.  Maybe, it's looking for something to eat.  A little water to drink.  A shelter from the heat of the summer sun in Delhi.  Is it wondering, like you, what we have done to the planet?  Why did we make such a hell out of it?  Why couldn't we get along together like the passengers on a train... knowing that the journey will end anyway?

No, it's not interested in your company.  "Good bye."

PS. All the pictures were taken this afternoon from one of the rear windows of my residence.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Free Yourself

I am not free to jump from the balcony of my residence.  If I jump, I may break one of my limbs. Because I stay on the first floor. 

Freedom does not mean permission to do whatever I like.  “We are free only where we know,” said Will Durant [The Story of Philosophy].  Knowledge gives freedom.  Knowledge is freedom.

Most of us make the mistake of thinking that doing what we like to do is freedom.  What we like is determined by our knowledge or awareness or consciousness level.  The rapist in Delhi whose number keeps rising by the day (in spite of the equally rising number of religious leaders) thinks he is free to rape a child. His knowledge or consciousness level is too low to understand why his act is based on an incomplete understanding of himself.  

Passion is good and necessary for any human being.  Anyone without passion will be as good as a rock in the denuded Himalayas.

Freedom is not freedom passions. 

Freedom is freedom from uncoordinated or un-understood passion.  Freedom is the freedom from the thief within me.  From the politician in me.  From the assaulter in me.  From the rapist in me...

Freedom does not make me a superman who is free from social restraints.  Freedom does not make me a Spiderman of filmy heroism, either.  Freedom does not make me a godman or godwoman who will condemn other people as irredeemable... or see oneself as capable of working miracles in any institution.

Freedom is understanding myself properly and working toward my own self-fulfilment.  Unfolding my individuality.  Achieving my potential to its fullest.  Becoming what I can.  What I really wish.  What my heart really wishes.  And helping other individuals unfold their potential in the process.

In the words of Will Durant, “To be great is not to be placed above humanity, ruling others; but to stand above the partialities and futilities of uninformed desire, and to rule one’s self.”

To rule one’s self.

To rule one’s self.  That’s the real freedom. That’s the real power. 

PS.  This post is dedicated to a person whose speech I listened to this morning.  Yet another speech ad nauseam.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox

Book Review

Author: Lois Banner
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2012
Pages: 515
Price: Rs499

“A lot of people like to think of me as innocent, so that’s the way I behave to them.  If they saw the demon in me, they would hate me… I’m more than one person, and I act differently each time.  Most of the time I’m not the person I’d like to be – certainly not a dumb blonde like they say I am; a sex freak with big boobs.”  Marilyn Monroe said this to British photographer Jack Cardiff in 1961, one year before she met her tragic end. 

Marilyn lived a life she did not enjoy.  Yet that life was her choice.  Why did she choose that life if she didn’t want it?  Was it a psychological compulsion or helplessness or neurosis...?  Why did she allow so many men to walk through her life as if her life were a public park?  Did the Kennedy brothers who used her, as they did many other women, to sate their lust have anything to do with her untimely death?

Marilyn died in 1962 at the age of 36.  Lois Banner’s biography gives us a fairly vivid portrait of a woman who was indeed a bundle of paradoxes.  Marilyn was a smouldering passion too.

Marilyn spent her childhood in eleven foster homes and an orphanage.  It was at the age of 16, when she married, that she stopped living in a foster home.  Her mother was not in a position to look after her.  She broke down mentally when Marilyn was eight years old.  Her doctors diagnosed her as paranoid schizophrenic.  Marilyn herself suffered from many medical problems.  Dyslexia and stutter were minor problems that she grappled with.  “She was plagued throughout her life by dreams of monsters and witches, horrible dreams that contributed to her constant insomnia,” says Banner.  “She was bipolar and often disassociated from reality.  She endured terrible pain during menstruation because she had endometriosis, a hormonal condition that causes tissue like growths throughout the abdominal cavity.”  Chronic colitis, constipation, drug addiction, alcoholism... Marilyn did suffer much.

She was sexually abused as a child in one of the foster homes.  Banner thinks this left a huge scar in her psyche not only in the form of guilt feeling but also a relentless quest for love and acceptance.  The life in the foster homes must have added to her sense of insecurity.  Marilyn’s attachment to older men may be an indication of her search for a father-figure.  Her willingness to shed her clothes might have been also a way of wrenching attention from men.  But she was aware of the abnormality of her exhibitionism as she discussed it with one of her many psychological counsellors.  

She knew that the men in Hollywood were using her as a sexual toy.  Yet she allowed many men into her life, officially (by marrying) or unofficially.  When she could not get the man she wanted, she took a stranger from the bar or even a cab driver to her bedroom and thus avenged herself.
3 of the many photos in the book

Marilyn had a very strong psychological need for relationships.  Yet none of the relationships lasted much.  She was not much interested even in her mother.

Ralph Greenson, one of her psychiatrists, said about patients like Marilyn, “The more infantile people are, (...) the more deadly, the more self-destructive they are.”  Marilyn was infantile as well as self-destructive.  She had a childlike charm.  She also had demons within her, as she acknowledged herself.  She attempted suicide more than once.

Was her death really suicide?  Banner is not sure just as many earlier writers were not.  Did the Kennedy brothers have a role in her death?  Possible, but there are no conclusive evidences. 

Banner’s biography of Marilyn is well-researched and well-written. Anyone who is interested in reading about the sex queen of the Hollywood of the 1950s, in knowing about the passion and the paradoxes that populated her psyche is welcome to read this book.  The book also offers quite many photographs of Marilyn and the people who mattered to her.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Way to Heaven

"Each one reaches heaven by climbing his own particular stairway."

I received this picture in 1979
on the occasion of the priestly ordination
of a person who was dear to me.

I don't know whether he still believes in the inscription...

But I do!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Do I Dare?

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?

Do I dare disturb the power (god/politician/manager/baba/…) over me?  T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock asked that question in the poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Prufrock’s problem was his inability to be either damned or saved.  If you are damned you belong to the group of those who are counted out by the people in power.  If you are saved you are in the power ring.  Eliot’s Prufrock refused to belong in either of the places.  Probably, he was incapable of understanding the politics of the mediocre.

What did Prufrock see in his world?  “One-night cheap hotels.”  “A face to meet the faces you meet.”…  And people who make the rules for that world.  The world of masks.

Ultimately, it is about what kind of a world you are living in.  Who rules it?  Who manages it?  Who makes the rules?

Ultimately, it is about POWER. 

Might makes right.  In the jungle.

Knowledge is power.  Among the knowledgeable people. Among the civilised people.

Who is in power really?  Might or knowledge?  Neither. 

A small group who captures the power through certain manipulations.

It need not be a religious minority.  It need not be a linguistic minority.  It need not be a cultural minority.

It is the politics of convenience. 

Who brings me the maximum benefits here and now?  He/She is my ally.

The world is ridiculous.

Alliances keep changing. 

Where lies the true leader?  The real Baba?  The real Swami?

If you dare, you will be the Baba. 

If you dare, you will the Swami, the Guru, the Messiah.

No one will dictate terms. IF YOU DARE.

Do I Dare?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fairy Tale from an Asylum

Short Story

Mr Sharma was sitting beside the bathtub with a fishing rod in hand.  The hook was in the tub.  There was water in the tub.  But wherever there is water there may not be fish.  That’s a natural law.  Mr Sharma was not in a mental status to recall natural laws although he could recall the whole of the Vedas from his formidable memory at the snap of a finger from his boss.

Fishing in troubled waters was the lifelong hobby of Mr Sharma.  You can’t blame him for that.  What’s in the race cannot be erased even with Surf Excel Stain Eraser.  Mr Sharma’s grandfather is known to have planted an idol of Lord Rama in the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in the night of Dec 12, 1949.  That was a smart move as far as grandfather Sharma was concerned.  Grandfather Sharma saw himself as the prophet of Hindustan that would become in his imagination the Hindu subcontinent in the twenty-first century.  But grandfather Sharma would not have imagined that his grandson would be toiling seventeen hours a day in a residential school in the capital of Hindustan, and that too a school which would be taken over by a Baba through a business tycoon who would become such a devotee of the Baba as to donate the entire campus to the Baba in order to attain Moksha in the life hereafter. 

History is a funny enterprise.  You turn the page the other way and you will get another truth.  Turn again and yet another truth will emerge.  Now, what’s the true truth?  You will wonder.  That wonder is literature.  But that’s a different matter. 

“Hi, Sharma ji, caught any fish?” asked Dr Tyagi, the psychiatrist of the sanatorium where Mr Sharma’s family members had got him admitted when his fishing had gone off on a tangent.

“No, Sir,” said Mr Sharma stroking his necktie which he could never live without. “This is only a bathtub.”

Dr Tyagi was an expert not only on neuroticism but also on Chanakya’s Kautilya Shastra.  

“Sharma ji,” said Dr Tyagi, “do you really want to catch fish from a bath tub?”

Sharma ji pulled back his fishing line and stared into the eyes of the doc.  Sparkling eyes.  Longing eyes.  Ambitious eyes.

“Play the game further,” said Dr Tyagi.  “It is called SFBT.”

SFBT did not strike a chord with Sharma ji’.  There’s no such thing in the Vedas. 

“Solution-Focused Brief Therapy,” explained Dr Tyagi.  “Find solutions.”

Together they discovered solutions.  Sharma ji learnt how to give his duties to others in his school.  He learnt to make everyone feel miserable.  Muddy the waters to the fullest.  Fishes swarm madly in sullied waters.  Catch them.  Kill them.  Use them.  It’s your choice.  That’s SFBT.

Sharma ji became the vice principal of his school soon.  “Every story can have a fairy tale ending,” said Sharma ji in the first class he took as vice principal. 

1.      This is a work of fiction.  No character is intended to be from actual life.  If any character bears any resemblance to actuality, it is mere coincidence.  A writer lives in an asylum.
2.      The analogy of the fish is taken from Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Friday, April 12, 2013


Short Story

“The threefold offspring of Prajapati, gods, men and demons lived with their father Prajapati as students of sacred knowledge.  Having completed their studentship the gods said, ‘Please instruct us, sir.’  To them he uttered the syllable da.”

Baba closed the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad from which he was reading and looked at his listeners.  Thousands of faces were eagerly looking at him.  He was the source of their truths.  Their peace.  The very meaning of their existence.

“I’m going to speak to you today about the meaning that the men, demons and gods found in da,” Baba started his sermon. 

Men interpreted da as datta, give.  Baba preached about the vice of greed that had entered the hearts of people.  It is a cancer, said Baba, eating up our hearts.  Nobody wants to give anything.  All are out to grab.  We have become a grabbing civilisation…

The sermon on datta went on for an hour after which Baba retired to his air-conditioned office for an interval.  His manager was summoned.

“What are you doing to get the school shut down?” Baba asked.

“I have increased the workload of the teachers to 17 hours a day,” said the Manager.  “They are asked to go to the hostels at 5.30 in the morning to wake up the students, and then take normal classes till 2 in the afternoon after which they will look after the studies in the hostel, games in the fields, again studies in the hostels till 10.30 in the night.”

Vidya Devi Residential School had a 20-acre campus.  Baba had already bought up the entire land of about 1000 acres all around the school.   The school remained an eyesore in the middle of his empire. 

Finally he managed to convince the owner of the school, who was his devotee too, to donate the school to him.

The first thing that his Manager did on acquiring the school was to dismiss every employee who was on temporary appointment or probation.  The next thing was to change the colour of the buildings and walls.  Sooner than later the campus underwent a total metamorphosis.  It’s not just the colours that changed.  Tempers did.  Attitudes did.  People changed their colours.  Like miracles.  Miracles are an integral part of every religion whatever the colour.

“Yes, break them with work,” said Baba.  “The students are leaving faster than we imagined.  It’s the staff that remain a pain you know where.”

A fart escaped the Baba’s derriere. 

“It’s time for the next sermon,” the Manager reminded Baba.

“Ha, yes.”  The second meaning of da was dayadhvam, be compassionate.  The demons had given that meaning.  Baba was going to preach...

Note: This is a work of fiction.  No character is intended to resemble any real person, dead or alive.  If any resemblance is found by anyone, it is sheer coincidence   

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Camus’ Predicament

‘The Guest’ is a short story by Nobel laureate, Albert Camus.  It tells the story of Daru, a schoolteacher, who lives in his “schoolhouse” on a remote hillside “almost like a monk”.  One day a gendarme brings an Arab who killed his cousin in a family squabble to Daru’s schoolhouse.  Since it is wartime Daru is asked to take the murderer the next day to the police headquarters which is 20 km away. 

Daru thinks it is a dishonourable job handing over any person to the police.  He hates the Arab for committing the crime.  He tells the gendarme that he will disobey the order in spite of the latter’s warning about the consequences.  And disobey he does. 

The Arab is left untied in the night.  When he gets up and goes outside Daru hopes that he will run away.  But he returns to bed soon.  Daru takes him the next day having given him enough food to last for two days, instructs him about the way through the mountains to the police headquarters, tells him where he can find a resting place in the night, and then he returns to his schoolhouse.  On the blackboard is written a warning: “You have handed over our brother.  You’ll pay for this.”

Daru had come to see the Arab as a guest and not as a criminal.  He had served him dinner.  He had experienced an “imposing” feeling of “brotherhood” while he spent the night with the Arab in the same room.  But he hated the Arab as well as other human beings for “their rotten spite, their tireless hates, their blood lust.”

Daru hated humanity on the one hand for its essential viciousness, while on the other hand he felt an essential brotherhood with all human beings.  The gendarme calls Daru “crazy,” “cracked,” and “a fool.” 

What Daru hates is the evil side of humanity.  And that side is predominant too.  When Daru tells us that the region where he lived was “cruel to live in, even without men,” what he implies is that men are more cruel than the nature.  Daru would rather live far away from men, “like a monk.”  But that is not possible either.  There is much goodness or refinement in his heart that connects him with the human race.  How blessed life would have been if man were not so filled with spite, hate and lust!

But man is vile and there is no escape from that truth.  Daru can stay like a monk on his isolated mountainside, making his own laws, creating his own values, and finding his self-fulfilment with the choices he makes at every step – even with the sword of Damocles hovering just behind his neck. 

That is precisely the predicament of the perceptive intellectual like Camus.  Either you jump into the quagmire and make compromises with the spite, hate and lust, or stay out and face the consequences...

Well, Albert Camus was no more a pessimist than the other Existentialist writers like Sartre.  The human situation is not a happy one, but each one of us can (should) make our own choices and forge our own meaning in life.  This is what they all said.

If they were to be alive today would Camus and Sartre say the same thing?  Or would they laugh at the ridiculous shallowness that has overtaken the human civilisation?  I think they would have laughed much and most of us wouldn’t ever see the pain they were trying to hide beneath the laughter.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Your face shines like the moon

The origin of the art of flattery goes back to time immemorial.  Kings used to keep flatterers in their courts and reward them with treasures for their efforts to make the kings appear greater than they were.  It seems that kings generally suffered from acute inferiority complex which had to be cured with flattery in addition to accoutrements like shiny robes and golden crown.

It’s not only kings of the bygone days that craved for flattery, their later counterparts also seem to lap it up earnestly.  Most people in power seem to love flatterers.  Is it because the desire for power and  inferiority complex are two sides of the same coin? 

Whatever that be, it seems that the ability to flatter those in power is a valuable life skill.  The benefits one can derive using this art skilfully may not be insignificant at all.  In fact, it is much more useful than intelligence or what is generally known as IQ.

Robert Sternberg, psychologist, defined practical intelligence as a skill that enables one to ascend the ladder of success. In his own words, practical intelligence is “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.” [Emphasis added]

Maximum effect can be interpreted variously.  For most people, I guess, it would mean personal benefits.  Hence, for most people, practical intelligence may not be much different from flattery when it comes to their dealings with people in power. 

High IQ is of not much use as far as success in the world of practical affairs is concerned.  Psychologist Lewis Terman had proved it (much against his will) in the first half of the 20th century – before Sternberg spoke about practical intelligence. Terman was a worshipper of IQ.  “There is nothing about an individual as important as his IQ, except possibly his morals,” declared Terman before he set out to make an elaborate study of 1470 students identified from 250,000 elementary and high school students.  Terman’s chosen students all had an IQ between 140 and 200.  That is, they were all geniuses.  Terman’s assistants followed these geniuses as they grew up with the fidelity of a dog. 

Very few of these geniuses went on to make remarkable careers.  Some published books and scholarly articles, some others thrived in business and a few others went on to occupy some important public offices.  The vast majority of them had careers that could only be considered ordinary.  A surprising number of them ended up with careers which Terman considered failures.  Not one of them won any Nobel Prize whereas two of the students rejected in Terman’s selection process won the Nobel later – William Shockley and Luis Alvarez. 

That is to say, it is not high IQ that brings success in the world of practical affairs.  One needs practical intelligence.  Today’s Indian educational system has realised this and has included many non-scholastic skills in the curriculum.  “Life skills” are mentioned specifically in the assessment form for students.  They refer to thinking skills, social skills and emotional skills. 

Long ago, when I was a student, the educators didn’t think of such skills.  Or maybe they did.  When I was in class 5 or 6 the example that I was taught for simile was: “O King, your face shines like the moon.”  I remember all my siblings learning the same example.  Probably that was meant to be a lesson in flattery.  This example for simile was probably chosen in order to teach us how to flatter those in power though there were no royal kings in our times. 

The problem with many students like me is that we failed to learn the lessons except for the exams.  Our mistake was to think like Terman that only the IQ and the morals mattered really.  By the time I learnt about Sternberg and his practical intelligence I became too old to learn new tricks particularly those like flattery.  So I have chosen to be contented with standing on the sideline and watching the courtiers singing paeans as they move up and up... Believe me, there’s much fun in this exercise too.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I’m yours Ma’am

[A story in as few words as possible]

I’ll get rid of him from the firm in a month, said Ma’am.

You’d better rise to the standard set by Ma’am, said he.
And Ma'am gave him an extension of another six months. :)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Female Executioner

The executioner swanned along
   the corridors that smelt of perpetual repair,
With the Cheshire cat's grin on her grim lips,

Paused a moment on the way
to cheer the bearded man's music
not knowing it was sad.

And entered where her staff were at work,
Executed the day's scrutiny,
Ordered a hand chopped off here
   and a head there,
before retreating to her air-conditioned comfort zone
with job satisfaction in her religious heart. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Leader Matters

Courtesy The Hindu

Many civilisations have legends or mythical stories about rulers whose immorality caused disasters such as drought in the kingdom.  What such stories sought to underscore was the importance of a good ruler.  A ruler (leader) who lacks the qualities that should go with his/her position is sure to bring some calamity or the other on the people.

The calamity need not assume the form of a natural disaster.  In fact, it seldom does.  Hitler’s concentration camps were no more natural disasters than were the mass disappearances of dissenters during Stalin’s reign.  The communal riots that rocked Gujarat in 2002 were not natural reactions to the Godhra incident, much as Narendra Modi would like us to believe. 

That’s why Modi’s election to BJP’s parliamentary board is a matter of serious concern.  The election of one of Modi’s major accomplices, Amit Shah, as a general secretary throws much light on the direction in which the party is trundling along. 

Whether Mohan Bhagwat’s call on the same day for the construction of a “glorious” Ram Mandir at Ayodhya is directly related to the election of Modi and Shah is not perhaps very obvious.  But it is more likely to be related.  Because a leader always inspires like minds.

If I were an astrologer I’d straightaway predict a communal riot in the country before the next Lok Sabha elections.  Because leaders like Modi are destined to bestow disasters upon the land that is condemned to suffer their leadership.  And communalism is the Hydra-headed virus  that fills Modi’s arsenal. 

Modi is acclaimed as a leader who brought development  to his state.  Two questions arise immediately: (i) is the development as glorious as it is projected to be?  and (ii) was it not possible to bring the development without displacing, murdering and/or raping hundreds of people belonging to a particular religious community?

Why does the Modi brand of development have to reek of hatred and blood?  Can India afford such riots as the one Modi’s henchmen unleashed in his state?

Another pertinent question is whether these political tricks will yield any more the results desired by the party?  Historian and former professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (Delhi), Harbans Mukhia, writes in today’s Hindu (1 April 2013) [Saffron’s diminishing returns] that the 1991 rath yatra followed by the demolition of the Babri masjid was actually counterproductive for BJP in UP, MP and Rajasthan.  Will the people of India now accept the Modi brand of politics is only an elementary question.

The real question is what if Modi becomes the Prime Minister of India.  Modi has no ideology.  He only has an ambition.  Once his ambition is fulfilled when (and if) he ascends the throne of Indraprastha, he may shake hands with the leaders of the religious communities which he let his followers displace, murder and/or rape (though he may not go to the extent of donning their headgears).  The most pertinent question will be: what will be the aftertaste that he leaves in the social horizon of the country in spite of all the hypocrisy that he will be capable of displaying on public platforms?  Will he be able to wash away the stench of hatred and heal the pain of bereavement?  Or will all Indians be forced to wear Modi-masks?

Pessimism of the gods

There is a romantic at sleep in my heart who likes to believe that people were better in the good old days. The people I saw as a child we...