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Dreams

Dreams are free. Yet I have only two dreams for 2015. 1. A world without terrorism: both religious and political. A world in which religious people realise that religion is a purely private and personal affair to be practised by oneself in order to improve one's convictions, to hone one's values and principes. A world in which politics is seen as a means of service rather than one for self-aggrandisement. May politicians realise that they are the leaders who mould people's thinking and attitudes.  That they are the people who are ultimately responsible for the direction in which the country or state moves. 2.  A world in which business people don't make any country's policies.  Let business hanker after profit. Let policies be made by statesmen. Wish you a Happy New Year. May your dreams come true.

The politics of Bharat Ratna

Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malviya, both deserve the Bharat Ratna.  One is an eminent statesman and the other is a reputed freedom fighter.  Nevertheless there is something sinister about the motive. Ever since the Modi government took charge there has been a concerted effort to distort history and manufacture a monolithic culture.  Sanskrit being forced upon certain students midway through an academic session and making the Christmas day a working day indirectly are just two examples. The motive is clear: make India a nation of people believing in a single religion and possessing a single culture. It is neither possible nor desirable an objective. Majoritarianism is just another version of fascism. At any rate, when pluralism has become a necessity in a globalized world why would India seek to eliminate diversity? Even more significantly, can all Indians really be Hindus? Should they?  Why? The BJP already has much to answer.  It will soon have too much to answer, i

Convert me too, please

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Ghar Vapsi in Keral: Courtesy The Hindu Converting to Hinduism is the latest fad in India, it seems.  It is amusing to watch people asking the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or other organisations like the RSS to convert them.  I can now understand why many people converted from Hinduism to Islam in the heyday of the Mughal Empire.  There are some material benefits by joining the people in power.  In other words, for the first time in the history of independent India we have a party in power which resembles the Mughal Empire.   30 Christians from 8 families in Kerala are the latest black sheep that have returned to their true family.  The Hindu reports that these families are “not traceable.  Local VHP organisers said they had been moved to another location.”  That’s interesting.  Is the VHP afraid that the converts will sell their religion yet again to a higher bidder? The VHP and the RSS seem to be converting Hinduism into a commodity for sale.  I’m ready to buy it too

Aurangzeb too dies

“I came alone and I go as a stranger.  I don’t know who I am, nor what I have been doing.” Azam listened.  He knew his father, Aurangzeb the Great, was blabbering on his deathbed.  Everybody blabbers on the deathbed.  Everybody blabbers in old age. “I conquered.  I defeated.  For what?” Aurangzeb continued holding on to Azam’s hand.  Azam was the legal heir.  But in a family with six official wives and their sons.  Forget the daughters, they are born to be wives and son-bearers.  Sons fight.  Sons make the rules.  Sons conquer and rule. My father is dying, realised Azam.  All my siblings will fight for the throne.  Fighting is all that they had learnt. Is there nothing more than fighting that life can offer?  Aurangzeb asked himself lying on his deathbed. Too late to learn lessons.  It’s only when you lie down helplessly, unable to fight, unable to put on the armour, you realise the futility of all.  How many temples did I demolish?  How many people did I ki

Janus-faced BJP

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The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has two sharply contrasting faces.  One looks westward, to the capitalist economy and technological advance.  The other looks backward into history and clings to ossified fossils that will stand out like monstrous gargoyles on the edifice of any modern thinking. Thus the party has a leader who hops on and off airplanes that take him places which have absolutely no affinity for his or his party’s ideologies and long term objectives.  Back home in the country, his colleagues go on harping on one and the same string of ancient – very ancient – history producing a tedious monotony ad nauseam. The latest pronouncement is from the urban development minister, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, who wants to rename Delhi as Indraprastha or Hastinapur.  How far back does the BJP want to take India?  How forward, on the other hand?  Is the party suffering from a split personality disorder?  Some kind of political schizophrenia? I wonder if Mr Naidu has some bas

Peshawar’s Children

More than a hundred innocent children were killed by the Taliban today in Pakistan’s Peshawar.  Many were injured.  Teachers were burnt alive.  All in the name of religion. Nurturing a cruel thought in your mind implies you are cruel.  I remember having read something to that effect long ago in Dag Hammarskjold’s little classical diary, Markings .  How cruel must one be in order to line up innocent children and fire bullets into their hearts?  And they call that religion! Like most religious fundamentalist organisations, the Taliban was born out of a conflicting mix of passions: hatred towards certain sections of people and a childish longing for an ideal world .  Mullah Omar was a barely literate jihadi who had lost his right eye fighting the Russians in Afghanistan.  In 1994 he witnessed a local warlord eliminating an entire family, not before raping every girl in it.  The incident put the fire in the romantic soul of Mullah Omar.  He vowed to restore the true sha

The Bitterness of Tea

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She, the Producer Today, 15 Dec, is observed as International Tea Day by countries producing tea.  What the Day brings to my mind primarily is the picture of a tea picker I came across in one of the undulating tea plantations in Darjeeling when Maggie (my wife) and I were on a holiday trip in June 2010.  When the woman noticed us, she came rather shyly and offered her basket to Maggie asking if she wanted a photo with that basket on her back.  In the conversation that followed, the worker listed her grievances.  She was paid a pittance by the plantation owner.  She had to work for endless hours and walk down the hill to the factory where she had to deposit the collected leaves.  She pointed at a distant building and said, “That’s the place I have to take these leaves to.  A long and arduous walk down the hill.  And then the return climb...”  The tourists who paid her Rs 10 for lending her basket for a photo were a very munificent source of income for her in contrast to her empl

Narendra meets Ashoka

Satire “Why did you write this?” Narendra questioned Ashoka. They had just walked by one of the many rock edicts erected by Ashoka.  It said: But the Beloved of the Gods does not consider gifts of honour to be as important as the essential advancement of all sects. Its basis is the control of one’s speech, so as not to extol one’s own sect or disparage that of another on unsuitable occasions... On each occasion one should honour the sect of another, for by doing so one increases the influence of one’s own sect and benefits that of the other, while, by doing otherwise, one diminishes the influence of one’s own sect and harms the other... therefore concord is to be commended so that men may hear one another’s principles . * “Conquest is imposing one’s ideas on others.  One gets sick of that eventually,” said Ashoka with a weary smile. “You used religion to make your mark in history.  I’m doing the same.  How can you blame me?”  Narendra asked. “History is a seri

The Indignity of Homecoming

The lead story in today’s Times of India (Delhi edition) flashes the headline: RSS body seeks donations to fund Christmas ‘conversions’ in Aligargh.   ‘Rs 5 lakh to convert a Muslim, Rs 2 lakh for a Christian,’ says the subheading.   RSS is collecting funds in order to buy adherents to Hinduism.  Ghar Vapsi (returning home) is the affectionate name of the project. The Muslims and Christians in Uttar Pradesh were allegedly converted from Hinduism and they are being brought back home by purchasing their religious loyalty.  But why the disparity in the prices?  Why 5 lakhs for a Muslim and only less than half of that for a Christian?  Because the Christians were originally Valmikis, untouchables.  This is precisely where the problems lies.  Even when the people return home their caste will be retained.  The erstwhile untouchable will continue to be an untouchable.  What the RSS and its affiliates fail to understand is that the people abandoned Hinduism precisely because

From Vote Bank to Identity Bank

Poverty has many uses.  One is that the poor can be made vote banks easily.  Many political parties have ascended the stairs of power by bribing the poor with gifts during election time.  The Congress is one party that now carries the charge of having used the entire poor of the country as vote banks through what is rather imaginatively called “appeasement”. When the Congress and other political parties stand accused of having “appeased” the poor, the new dispensation is proving that it is indeed “a party with a difference.”  It is not using the poor as a vote bank; it is wrenching their religious identity from them. Rulers with imperial ambitions have always used the strategy of stripping people of their religious identities.  The Muslim conquerors and the Christian imperialists found their own unique ways of implementing religious conversion in regions captured by them.  While the former relied on brute force, the latter made use of gentler missionaries.  The reigning

Ordered to achieve

Sunday musings “... if God spoke directly to your face and said, ‘I command that you be happy in the world, as long as you live.’  What would you do then?” That’s one of the questions that has remained with me ever since I read Richard Bach’s Illusions as a twenty year-old man.  It remained somewhere within me without affecting me really in any significant way.  Later on, as a teacher, I used it many times in the class for conveying certain messages effectively. Disclaimer: I don’t believe in God. But I don’t question anyone’s faith.  What I question is the exploitation of people in the name of gods and faith.  I have seen many people drawing the much needed psychological (call it spiritual, if you prefer) sustenance from their religious faith.  I’d be the last person to take away such sustenance from anyone. There are times when I felt that religious faith would be a blessing.  It can be a free panacea for certain ills that plague mankind in general and indivi

Bastards, Saints and India

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This cartoon fascinated me.  Just like most cartoons in The Hindu , this too unfolds the infinity before us, the ordinary mortals. The sadhu and the sadhvi are supposed to live a life of renunciation.  They should be somewhere in the Himalayas braving the snow and the landslides.  Or in some jungle covered with a gargantuan anthill.  Acquiring the wisdom that they failed to acquire in the normal course of life.  Instead they are in the Indian Parliament calling some Indians bastards .    The Parliamentary proceedings in India have been stalled for days because of one such saintly woman who became a sadhvi by climbing up the elevator of success with the help of the Prime Minister rather than climbing up the arduous stairs of austerity and contemplation.  Or plain hard work like a few of us Indians. In the meanwhile the government of India, under Mr Modi’s dynamic leadership, had already cut down Rs 11,000 crore from the Education budget .  Education is not important.

The Return of Sanskrit

Sanskrit was originally the language of the gods the their beloved people.  Manu stipulated a terrible fate for the lower caste people who dared to listen to the Vedas or utter the shlokas.  “If the Sudra intentionally listens for committing to memory the Veda, then his ears should be filled with (molten) lead; if he utters the Veda, then his tongue should be cut off.” Now some 3000 years after those glorious days, the language is struggling to find learners.  Hence the BJP government has decided to make it compulsory in certain schools.  A language is ineluctably associated with a culture.  When the culture evolves, the language has to evolve too.  Conversely, the death of a language implies the death of a culture.  The ancient Brahminical tradition with its neat and convenient hierarchy which ensured that power remained concentrated in a few hands died as the civilisation evolved and democratic ideas overtook it. By the time India became independent the Brahminical sy

Paternity of Gods in India restricted by Sadhvi Jyoti

To tell anyone that he has many fathers is quite an abuse and an abominable aspersion cast on the virtuousness of his mother.  But our Minister of State for Food Processing Industries, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, certainly did not mean anything of the sort when she declared that everyone including Muslims and Christians are sons of Ram.  “Which Ram?” asked my cousin when he heard it. “Of course not our vegetable vendor,” I said and asked him whether he was a fool not to understand which Ram could afford to have so many sons. “Oh,” he said dismissively.  “That Ram.” He explained to me that he had no problem in considering the Sadhvi’s Ram as his father if she had no problem in taking the colourless and formless Allah or the grey-haired, misty-eyed Christian God as her father.  “It has to be a give and take, isn’t it?  After all, we live a liberal economy.” “Why not start with some indigenous options?” I asked.  “Like Krishna and Shiva and any of the other thousands of

Genuine Religion

The season of Advent has begun for Christians who will be celebrating the birth of Jesus 25 days from now.  These 25 days are supposed to be a season of abstinence from certain foods and drinks so that the believer prepares himself spiritually for Christmas.  Religion has no significance unless it makes one a better person and the practices like abstinence are meant to help one in the process of self-renewal.  But can a set of practices or some rituals make anyone a better person?  They can help.  But Jesus was explicit in saying that religion is not a matter of rituals or regulations.  Religion is an attitude of love and compassion. The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the best in the Bible.  A wayfarer was beaten up by thieves, stolen of all his possessions including his clothes, and was left “half dead” on the roadside.  A priest came along but went away doing nothing to help the dying man.  Then can a Levite.  A Levite is a semi-priest in Judaism.  He too refused

Ad free Blog

I thought I would change my profession if Google Adsense could actually give me something by putting their ads in my blogs.  But I got nothing so far.  And there's no sign of anything coming at any time either.  So I'm removing all ads and sticking to the only job I know, teaching. I feel liberated now.   Liberated from the world that I may never understand. If any ad still appears in my blog, only Google is gaining. I can't help it, I suppose. 

War and Love

“You are so capable of loving.  Yet why do you fight and kill men?”  Briseis asked. “Fighting is not my choice,” said Achilles having planted a passionate kiss on the ruby lips below Brisei’s lilac eyes.  Her eyes resembled those of a gazelle, serene and pure.  “I inherited it from my father and his father and all the ancestors.  One cannot wish away one’s ancestral inheritance.” “I wish you could,” said Briseis wistfully.  She had lost her husband, father, mother and three brothers in the war led by Achilles’ people.  She was delivered to Achilles for the nocturnal pleasures of the day’s warrior. Achilles looked at her as the soldier dragged her along and threw her on Achilles’ bed in the tent.  The gaze and the grace of the gazelle charmed Achilles instantly.  He sat beside her on the bed and wiped away the blood from her ruby lips.  But the lips still shone like ruby.  He smelled her hair. “You a royal?” he asked. She refused to reply.  He took his towel, squ

Ego-balloons and Iagos

“Society is necessary, yet inevitably corrupting.”  This is a theme that appears repeatedly in Joseph Conrad’s novels, according literary critic David Daiches.  One of the worst things that can happen to us is to be destined to live in a society that blatantly refuses to recognise our achievements.  It becomes worse still when there is a concerted attempt to belittle us for reasons like jealousy.  The plain truth is that we all seek to be loved by the world whether we admit it or not.  We need the attention of other people though it may not be in the form of love.  The human ego is a “leaky balloon, forever requiring helium of external love to remain inflated, and ever vulnerable to the smallest pinpricks of neglect,” as Alain de Bottom said in his book Status Anxiety . Society is the place where we get that indispensable helium from.  When we buy a car that’s better than the neighbour’s or send our child to a better school, we are in fact inflating the ego-balloon.  Accor

Reaching for the stars

A former student of mine who is a diehard supporter of the BJP and its radicalism wrote on Facebook: “So some of the political parties in my country has (sic) a stern view that 'Astrology' is no science.”  I don’t know if the political parties in India have really stern views about anything, let alone astrology.  Isn’t politics, particularly the kind one finds in India, all about opportunism?  Even the BJP, my student’s own party, would have made all kinds of flip-flops had it not won the absolute majority in the Lok Sabha elections, hugging strange bedfellows and cooking up a bizarre coalition.  The drama that unfolded in Maharashtra after the Assembly elections is a mild indicator of the nature of politics in India. The stars in the heavens do not alter their positions a bit while such dramas unfold all over the world.  Do the stars affect our lives in any significant way?  When the Earl of Kent said in Shakespeare’s King Lear , “It’s the stars, / The stars above

India’s new rulers

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Capitalism has never anywhere provided good houses at moderate cost. Housing, it seems unnecessary to stress, is an important adjunct of a successful urban life. Nor does capitalism provide good health services, and when people live close together with attendant health risks, these too are important. Nor does capitalism provide efficient transportation for people—another essential of the life of the Metropolis. In Western Europe and Japan the failure of capitalism in the fields of housing, health and transportation is largely, though not completely, accepted. There industries have been intensively socialized. In the United States there remains the conviction that, however contrary the experience, private enterprise will eventually serve. Source A personage no less than John Kenneth Galbraith wrote that in his book, The Age of Uncertainty (1977).  America has succeeded in exporting that belief to quite many countries.  India, under the present leadership, is the latest entr