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Showing posts from March, 2014

Global Temple

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Fiction Unexpectedly the clouds burst.  Maybe, it was not so unexpected; I had ignored the gathering clouds.  I have a way of deluding myself that life will treat me well since I am a person with no malice in my heart.  I am kind of a Narcissist, if you like. The clouds burst anyway.  I had no choice but run into the nearest building which looked dilapidated.  Not in ruins really.  It looked like someone had pulled it down intentionally before its time had run out.  Not a terrorist attack; not so random.  It looked like a planned attack.  Destruction part by part.  Slow ruin.  Painful ruin. These thoughts were running in my mind when I noticed someone sitting at one of the many doorstops that led to endless emptiness in that ruined building.  He looked like a lunatic.  He had a stubble, unkempt hair which was dripping with rain water, and a burnt-out beedi stub between his fingers.  He sucked at the beedi stub occasionally though it was drenched with water. He gri

Miracles

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Sunday Sermon Miracles, Miracles That's what life's about Most of you must agree If you've thought it out. Don Williams sang that beautiful song a few decades ago.  Life is a miracle.  The flower that blooms in the morning and fades away with the setting sun is a miracle.  The birds that sing and the fish that swim are miracles.  This gadget on which I type is a miracle.  Even the cable that connects it to the switch and the switch itself along with the electric power that runs through it are all miracles.  If you think it out! How many of us can create a lap top, let alone a simple switch?  To be able to stand among the teeming crowd in the underground station of Delhi Metro at Connaught Place and marvel at the miracle of human enterprise is a blessing.  To be able to marvel at the miracle that exists everywhere around us is the best gift that we can possess.  Because the moment we realise the miracle that everything is, that everyone is, we acquire a

The Battle of Varanasi

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Varanasi is a saffron city.  The Hindu culture is embedded in the very dust of the city.  It is no wonder that Mr Narendra Modi chose it as his primary battle ground.  The message he is trying to give is that he is the representative of the Hindus, the spokesman for Hindutva if not Hinduism, and also that he is not merely a political leader.  Shiv Vishwanathan, professor at Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, has written an article titled Why battleground Varanasi is different in today’s Hindu .  The article borders on hagiography showering much accolade on Mr Kejriwal.  In spite of the bias, the article deserves serious pondering.  There are some illuminating ideas. “Sadly,” says the author, “the chaiwala has now become the agent of corporation.”  This is one of the contradictions that Mr Modi embodies within.  He tries to take pride in his humble origins and use it as a proof of his closeness to the lowly people.  The fact, however, is that he has worked re

Sinner

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Baba was sick of all the crimes that he had perpetrated.  He went to the stone deity in the thick of the night and beat his breast crying, “Oh, goddess, I am a sinner.  I am a sinner.  I have stolen everyone’s wealth to make parking lots for my devotees.  Forgive me.” Baba’s closest disciple, who was always watching his master so that he could sponge up the lessons directly from personal observations, saw what his master was doing and decided to imitate. Imitation of successful people is the stepping stone to success, says the book, Seven Secrets of Success .  The disciple had the bad habit of reading, you see. He, the disciple, went to the stone deity in the broad daylight (so that devotees could see) and beat his breast saying, “Oh, goddess, I am sinner.  I am a sinner.  I have been an accomplice in stealing wealth to make parking lots for my master’s devotees.  Forgive me. Forgive me.”  And he beat his breast many times. The cook had seen both of these.  He was

Science and nonsense

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Dr K Radhakrisnan Photo courtesy the Frontline Man cannot live by reason alone, if I may paraphrase Jesus so.  Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone.”  A friend of mine added humorously, “Man needs butter too.”  Jesus is believed to have meant that people need spiritual food in addition to material bread.  The chief of Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO], K. Radhakrishnan, paid obeisance to the deity in the Venkateswara temple in Tirupati before the launch of the Mars Orbiter Mission last November.  The Frontline has published a brilliant article about the issue. Can a scientist of Radhakrishnan’s stature afford to be as superstitious as to go with a miniature model of his rocket to a mute statue and seek its blessings?  Isn’t it his duty to transcend the need for the “psychological boost” provided by such an infantile exercise? Or is Radharkrishnan giving us a convincing proof that man cannot live by reason alone?  Man is not as much a rational bei

The Omega Scroll

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The Omega Scroll Author: Adrian d’Hage Pubisher: Penguin, 2006 Background information In 1947, some ancient scrolls were discovered in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea.  They are believed to have been written by a Jewish monastic sect called the Essenes .  According to Pliny (23-79 CE), the Essenes were a celibate Jewish sect of hermits who lived in an area that might be understood as the Qumran caves.  Josephus, Romano-Jewish scholar of the first century (37-100 CE), described the Essenes as a monastic group or a mystery order that despised pleasure and wealth.  Josephus described the Essenes as a community which did not allow any private property.  He says that the sect had a 3-year probation period after which one might be accepted as full-fledged member who would have to rise before dawn, work for 5 hours, take a ritual bath after the work and then have a communal meal.  According to Josephus, the members had some divination and healing powers.  The Essenes were

The Body Obsession

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Sunday Sermon According to a report in today’s Hindu , youngsters in Delhi “spend the most on improving themselves physically.”  Skin complexion, hair style and dress: these seem to matter more these days. Not only in Delhi, however. There is no harm in looking good physically.  It is even desirable.  But the problem lies in assuming that only the body matters.  What about the mind?  The ignorance of today’s youth about great thinkers and serious writers is an indication of a malady: the obsession with the body to the detriment of the mind. The capitalist system which has taken over the entire world has what Dr Fitjof Capra calls an “object-centred consciousness” ( The Hidden Connections ).  Competition, expansion and accumulation are its hallmarks.  It is never satisfied however much it may accumulate.  One may have accumulated enough wealth for five generations and yet one remains discontented.  This discontent is one of the nemeses of the capitalist system.  Pos

Superstition

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If you stop a moment to observe, you get characters for stories.   Every moment is a story.  Every person is a story.  Life is a story. I was in a shop in Delhi.  A buyer’s bill came to Rs 115.  He gave a five-hundred rupee note.  No change, says the shopkeeper.  So the client fished out a hundred-rupee note and a ten-rupee coin and a five-rupee coin.  Both the coins were golden.  A moment passed.  I was busy (in my own clumsy, lazily observing way) picking my items.  That man came back.  “Where’s the coconut I bought?” he asked. “Sorry,” said the shopkeeper who picked out the coconut from under his outdated weighing balance.  “But I have not charged for this…” “I know,” said the client.  “How much?” “Rs 25.” The client gave a Rs50 note.  The shopkeeper gave back Rs25 which included the same golden coins that he had given earlier. “A lucky sign,” said the client.  “You believe in luck?” said the shopkeeper pretending to be nonchalant. “Not at all. 

Goodbye, Khushwant Singh

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To be able to live a whole century and relish that life to the fullest is a rare blessing.  Khushwant Singh (2 Feb 1915 – 20 March 2014) is one of those blessed souls.  It would be preposterous to wish his soul eternal rest since he had no such beliefs.  Agnostic Khushwant: There is no God! is the title of one of his many books. He was a prolific writer.  A popular writer, I should say.  I don’t consider him a great writer although he could have been one, as evidenced by his novel, A Train to Pakistan . He was also a very knowledgeable person as revealed by some of his books on Sikhism particularly.  But he chose to write for the masses.  Probably, his acute awareness of the absurdity of human existence prompted him to do that. What appeals to me about Khushwant Singh is his sheer forthrightness.  With malice towards one and all , as the title of one of his newspaper columns proclaimed tongue-in-cheek.  It was not malice at all, however; it was plain honesty, utter lack

Meditation

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Page 87 of The Prayer of the Frog - Volume I by Anthony de Mello Published by Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1988

Grammar no matter

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Who made the grammar?  Was it the Pundit who had a vested interest in the days of the caste system?  Wasn’t it the aristocrat who ensured that there must be a way of controlling the people? Who made the grammar of behaviour?  Was it the Vedas, the Bible, the Quran?  Or was it the 5 star hotel, when you made enough money to visit that? Who made the grammar of economics?  Was it the zamindari system?  The caste system?  The Western way of invasions?  Or more recently the Ambanis with their own ways of invading and the Modis with their politics? Who taught you to speak your language?  Did any grammar do it? Did you learn to speak your mother tongue by leaning any grammar? Who made the grammar of love?  Kamasutra?  Dotted condoms?  Or revolutions in universities like JNU? Who made the grammar of education?  CCE?  IIT?  Entrance tests?  Or the coaching centres in Kota? I’m looking for answers. I consider myself fortunate that I can still afford to l

The Artist

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Paul Cezanne “How do I judge art?”  Paul asked the man who had introduced himself as Ambroise Vollard.  “When I complete a painting, I take it and place it near a God-made thing, a tree or a flower; if it clashes, it’s not art.” Paul Cezanne had failed every time he submitted his works to the Paris Salon for exhibition.  The true artist cannot change his art in order to please the gallery.  Art is not a commercial product.  You paint according to your artistic taste and sensibility.  If people can appreciate them, it’s good.  Otherwise, it is still good.  Follow your soul’s diktats.  Paul did just that.  From 1864, when he was 25 years old, he submitted his paintings to the Salon for nearly two decades.  Rejections did not cloud his soul.  After all, his father, Louis-Auguste C├ęzanne was a successful banker and had left him enough money to live on.  “I was lucky,” Paul explained to Vallard, “selling my paintings was not important to me.  But the irony is that the Salo

The Lowland

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Book Review The Lowland Author: Jhumpa Lahiri Publisher: Random House India, 2013 Pages: 340       Price: Rs499 [Hardbound] There are two brothers.  They differ in age by just over a year and resemble each other physically.  But psychologically they are poles apart.  One becomes a Naxalite and the other goes to the USA where he completes his higher studies and settles down.  The Naxalite is eventually killed and his brother marries the widowed young wife who is pregnant.  She gives birth to a daughter in America and soon deserts the family.  She goes to a faraway place and works as a professor of philosophy and writes books, cutting herself off totally from her second husband as well as her daughter.  The daughter grows up and inherits some of her biological father’s revolutionary spirit.  She gives birth to a fatherless child and lives with her adoptive father doing odd jobs related to conservation of the environment.  The adoptive father decides to marry a friend

Teacher

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Vasavadatta lay dying.  Upagupta came to teach her the lesson she had never learnt in her life. Vasavadatta was beautiful.  She had admirers.  The admirers came with gifts and laurels.  She realised too late that men were making use of her.  Making use.  Making her a commodity.  Making her body a commodity.  They admired her lips.  They admired her breasts.  They admired her thighs.  They fucked her.  In short. They showered gifts upon her.  She became rich.  She became a capitalist.  There was also the religion to support her.  God was behind her.  She thought that God was with her. It was by pure chance that Vasavadatta met Upagupta, a Buddhist monk.  Tall and lanky, seeing but not leering, looking and also seeing, Upagupta was different from all the men that Vasavadatta had seen so far.  So different from all the men who had seen only her body. Upagupta did not fuck her.  But Vasavadatta wanted to be fucked.  For the first time in her life Vasavadatta

Destiny

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One of O V Vijayan’s characters narrates a parable to show how we may not be able to alter our destiny, not much at least. A bullock, one of a pair used for drawing a cart, prayed, “Oh God, why did you give me this destiny?  You have not only made me a cart-bullock but also fixed my place on the right side of the cart.  The driver uses his whip relentlessly and it is on my back it falls all the time.  If you can’t alter my destiny of being a cart-bullock, at least change my place from the right to the left side.” God decided to grant the wish.  The bullocks and the cart were sold on the same day.  The new owner placed the bullock on the left side.  And the new driver was left-handed. Well, I really don’t think that our destiny is entirely out of our control.  Some things are beyond our control, but some are certainly within control.  For example, Mark Antony’s meeting with Cleopatra might have been beyond his control, but choosing to let Rome melt in the Tiber of his

Prose, Poetry and Life

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“You live in a dream world – a haze of poetry and fuzzy ideas about revolution.  To build something is not the same thing as dreaming of it: building is always a matter of well-chosen compromises.”  (214) One of the themes of Amitav Ghosh’s novel, The Hungry Tide , is the futility of effete idealism and the inevitable need for compromises.   Nirmal Bose is the effete idealist to whom his wife, Nilima, speaks the above words.   A brief detention by the police for participating in the 1948 conference of Socialist International unsettled Nirmal so much that he could not continue his job as English lecturer in a Calcutta college anymore.  His physical condition deteriorated so much that his doctors advised a life outside the city.  The couple chose Sunderbans where Nirmal took up job as the headmaster of a school in Lusibari, one of the islands.  Nilima founded a Trust which built up a hospital for the people of the islands.  Romantic dreamers like Nirmal will never be happ