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Showing posts from October, 2014

Under the Peepal

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It was years since I had met Siddhartha.  When I heard that he was sitting under a peepal awaiting enlightenment, I was curious.  I embarked on the metro train that would take me near to Kapil Vastu Estate. Kapil Vastu Estate was a huge complex developed by Siddhartha’s father, Shuddhodhana Gautama, one of the most successful industrialists of neoliberal Hindustan.  “Profit is the dharma of the trader,” was Shuddhodhana’s motto.  He had graduated from the London School of Economics before doing MBA from Harvard University.  Siddhartha and I were classmates.  Not that my father could afford to send me to the same public school as Siddhartha.  Since my father was Shuddhodhana’s personal assistant and a close confidante, the business magnate decided to put me in the same school as his own son.  Probably, it was his way of monitoring his son indirectly.  Siddhartha showed little interest in academics or co-curricular or extra-curricular activities.  He came and went back by

Religion is not necessarily idiotic

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Pope Francis Pope Francis has declared that the Big Bang theory and his religion are not in conflict with each other.  The Bible is fiction.  The Bible is scripture.  It is not meant to teach science.  As Galileo put it beautifully, “The Bible teaches how to go to heaven, science teaches how the heavens go.” Even the religious fundamentalists are interested in how the heavens go rather than how to go to heaven.  Even they know that there is no heaven.   All that religions have been doing so far is to manipulate.  So that they have power.  Power.  No exceptions.  Exceptions became extinct.  Or evolved.  And gained power.  Or are begging/fighting for power.   When power rules, humanity dies.  Because power belongs to the animals. ‘ Might is right’ is the law of the jungle. Religion originated as a quest.  A search for the beyond.  What could not be understood was labelled as god or demon.  Do we need that sort of search anymore?  Don’t we have a bett

I am Malala

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Book Review “Our country was going crazy.  How was it possible that we were now garlanding murderers?”  (174)*  Malala Yousafzai’s autobiographical book , I am Malala , is the story of how her beloved Swat Valley was overtaken by a bunch of murderers who considered themselves religious reformists.  It is also the story of the Talibanisation of Pakistan in general and the failure of the Pakistani government in dealing with the problem. The book is an eloquent illustration of two conflicting attitudes towards religion: one which tries to understand it rationally and use it for improving the society and the other which wields it as a weapon for oppressing people with the objective of keeping them under its all-pervasive power. As a very young girl Malala started questioning certain aspects of her religion.  Denial of education as well as many other rights to girls and subjugation of women in general were things that she found highly discriminatory and unjust.  She was f

The Underworld of Car Owners

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The political leaders in Delhi are driving the cars of their citizens underground.  Civic Centre on Minto Road is an imposing tower complex that overlooks both Old and New Delhi.  It houses the Municipal Corporations of Delhi, both Old and New.  If you are an ordinary citizen, even if you are driving the costliest car you can afford, you will be asked to park your precious vehicle underground.  All overground parking space is meant for the politicians and their cronies.  Even SUVs bearing an inscription somewhere on or near its number plate claiming allegiance to some politician will get access to the overground parking space.  All the rest will go snaking down to the pit below. In 1895, H G Wells wrote a novel titled The Time Machine in which the author imagined the future of the capitalist world as divided between the Eloi and the Morlocks, people overground and underground.  The Eloi were the capitalists whose vision was grant enough to send all industries and their worki

Selfies

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Fiction “Which topi did you buy?”  She asked while her fingers flew with supersonic speed on the virtual keypad of the smartphone commenting on the selfies posted by her countless friends on Facebook. “Your favourite brand,” he said indifferently.  He was busy with the selfie videos posted by his other girlfriends on Whatsapp.  He couldn’t remember which her favourite brand was.  It doesn’t matter, he knew.  She was not likely to notice it.  What does the brand name of an artificial skin matter when the bliss experienced by real skins explodes like a neural bomb in the brain making it oblivious to everything else?  He knew girls well enough to understand that their brand choices were only ways of inflating their already overblown egos.  “Hey, look here,” she said.  “Our PM has sent a selfie after casting his vote.” “He is our leader,” he said without looking at what she was playing with.  He was busy with his own selfie messages on Whatsapp.  But he added, “The leade

The Day After

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The burnt-out parts of crackers and fireworks Lay scattered in the yard and road and wherever the eye could reach. The festival is over. The intoxication lingered a while. And that died out too. Naturally. Leaving an aftertaste somewhere in the hollows within, Sweet and bitter, bitterness competing with sweetness. The sound and fury of the fireworks on the ground and in the heaven Repeated the same old tales, wise or idiotic – who knows?  Who cares? Dazzling lights strutted and fretted Their hour upon the stage Leaving distorted and gaping fragments behind. The fragments will be swept into the dustbins of Swachh Bharat Maybe the next time the Great Actor drives us to the broom store Or maybe they will be carried away by the winds of time That blow relentlessly And mercilessly Erasing the markings we make on dust.

Reconnecting history in Malala’s land

When the voice of truth rises from the minarets, The Buddha smiles, And the broken chain of history reconnects. The lines are from the poem, The Relics of Butkara , written by Malala’s father and quoted by her in her autobiography, I am Malala .  I’m still reading the book and found this passage about Butkara, her birthplace, interesting. “Our Butkara ruins were a magical place to play hide and seek,” she writes.  They were relics from the days when Buddhism was practised by the people of the place.  In other words, Malala’s forefathers must have been Buddhists.  The people who are now Muslims have a Buddhist ancestry.  It is that reconnection that Malala’s father speaks about in his poem.  “Islam came to our valley (Swat) in the eleventh century when Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni invaded from Afghanistan and became our ruler, but in ancient times Swat was a Buddhist kingdom,” writes Malala.  “The Buddhists had arrived here in the second century and their kings ruled th

Happy Diwali

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Light amid darkness Some light Stars Dark holes Priests Politicians Patriarchs Crackers and NaMo bombs Namo Bombs replacing Lalu bombs Replacing Yadav bombs Gandhi bombs hahaha Why not a new light Wish you a new light THIS DIWALI HAPPY DIWALI

One life is not enough

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Book Review “Innovation and originality were frowned upon and mediocrity was a virtue.”  That is one of the first lessons that the author of this book learnt about Indian Civil Services.  The author joined the civil services at a young age and if the book is any indication he did not deviate into the “risk” of surpassing mediocrity. Though the book is subtitled “an autobiography,” it is more a political history of contemporary India.  The first few chapters throw some light into the personality of the author, but the light remains too scanty for the reader to gauge the personality and its formative factors.  What the reader gets is a hasty tour through Bharatpur (the author’s birthplace) and the Mayo College, Ajmer, as well as the Scindia School, Gwalior.  The author is evidently proud of his alma maters as well as his college, St Stephen’s, Delhi.    The rest of the book is about the author’s experiences with the various political leaders of the country start

Not all terrorists are inhuman

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Kidnapped by the Taliban is a recently published book written by Dr Dilip Joseph, along with a co-author, about his experiences with the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Dr Joseph is an American physician of Indian origin.  His dream was to offer his medical services for the welfare of humanity.  In 2009 he joined the Colorado-based non-profit community and economic development organisation, Morning Star Development. On 5 Dec 2012, Dr Joseph and two colleagues, en route from a medical clinic in an Afghan village to Kabul, found themselves face-to-face with four men carrying AK-47s. Forced at gunpoint into the back of a truck and driven to a remote location, the men were sure their hours were counted. The doctors were rescued on the fifth day by the American Navy SEAL Team Six, the elite group of soldiers that took down al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.  The book narrates the experiences with the Taliban terrorists.  Dr Joseph learnt how much America values its citizens.  The

Whoever has will be given more

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Source “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”  Jesus said that [ Mathew 13:12 ].  Jesus was speaking about certain inner qualities, particularly the ability to perceive and understand.  “ T he top one percent of the wealthiest people on the planet own nearly fifty percent of the world's assets while the bottom fifty percent of the global population combined own less than one percent of the world's wealth,” says John Queally quoting latest statistics.  Jesus lived in a time when human societies were organised around religion and the values and principles considered important by religion.  We are living in a time when the societies revolve round economy and economic considerations.  But what Jesus said holds good even today.  Those who have are getting more in our world too: the rich are getting richer.  And the poor are being eliminated. When Capitalism began its

When Monkeys Learn Commerce

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Keith Chen, associate professor of economics at Yale University, wanted to test Adam Smith’s confident and classical assertion that man is the only animal that engaged in commerce and monetary exchange.  “Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that, ” Smith had written. For his experiment, Chen chose a group of 7 capuchins.  The capuchin is a species of small monkeys with a very small brain.  They spend most of their active life engaged in two activities: food and sex.  Hence, thought Chen, they are quite similar to human beings.  In fact, the capuchins are so greedy for food that they can overeat, and then throw up what they had eaten in order to eat more.  What will happen if such creatures are taught to make use of money? Chen and Venkat Lakshminarayanan worked with the 7 capuchins kept at a lab set up by Laurie Santos, a psychologist.  First of all, the capuchins were taugh

Malala – daring to dream

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With the American first family - Exactly a year ago  Malala Yousafzai is a symbol of human aspirations.  What did she want apart from the simple things of life?  Nothing.  She wanted education, freedom to live her life as she would choose, and the space to dream.  Why didn’t people give her that?  When she was shot point-blank as she was returning home from school, it was the innocence and aspirations of childhood that was assaulted.  Malala was just 15 years old when she became the target of religious fundamentalists.  She was a child.  Why would a child be a threat to any religion?  What kind of a religion is it that permits the murder of innocent children?  The masked Taliban gunman who attacked Malala asked, “"Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all."  His religious fervour was such that he could kill a whole lot of innocent school children.  No normal human being can understand the relevance or meaning of such a religion. “I h

The Original Sin

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“The question is how qualitative you want your life to be,” said Satan.  “True,” replied Eve.  “In fact, this life is quite boring.” “This is not the only life that’s open before you.  What you’re now doing is to live like animals.  You and Adam are just like the elephants or the goats or the fish or the birds.  You wake up in the morning, search for food, eat, rest, mate in the season and go to sleep.” “What else is there to do?” wondered Eve. “That’s precisely what I’m going to teach you,” Satan beamed with a kind of glee that could exist only in the hell.  “Imagine that you combine this animal life with the consciousness of the spirits.” Satan paused.  Eve had begun to imagine.  But her imagination got stuck on the word ‘consciousness.’ “Mind, thinking, awareness...” Satan tried to explain.  Eve stared at him blinking in ignorance. “See, the life of a pure spirit is boring too; more boring than that of the animals’.  The animals can at least eat and m

Heathcliff on his deathbed

I’m coming to you, Catherine, dear, Together we shall ravage this moor With the fire of our passions. We shall share these heights with none Other than the creatures of the night Whose grit and cheek match ours. How long and terrible a vigil did You demand from this your mate! And wait did I, like a lump of coal In the womb of the earth, for a birth. This death is my birth: To our dark nights, our paradise. Our paradise! Where fire shall purge fire Into the brightest flame That tempers coal into diamond. Then shall be my rebirth, and yours, And of the night. Note :  Heathcliff is the protagonist of Emile Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights .

Orator

When the orator sees a mike Words rush out like a torrent. He’s a good juggler of words. Juggled words are like                 water drops falling in sunlight; They have hues indeterminate                 and they dazzle. I have learnt                 that words can create reality.

The Autumn of the Patriarch

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Fiction Draupadi’s question struck his heart like a poisoned arrow.  “Do you really believe that you are a selfless person?” Bhishma, the Patriarch of two kingdoms, the most venerated of all the Kauravas and the Pandavas, stood speechless before a woman’s question.  Women played more role in his life than he would have ever wished.  In spite of his renowned vow that he would never let a woman enter into his life, women forced their way into his life. It all started with a woman.  She was the daughter of a fisherman-chieftain.  Rather, adopted daughter.  In reality, she belonged to the celestial realms.  She had the gracefulness of a mermaid and the fragrance of musk.  No wonder Bhishma’s father fell madly in love with her.  It was that mad love which made a terrible demand on Bhishma.  He vowed that he would never marry, that he would never have any offspring.  A great sacrifice.  A noble sacrifice that made his reputation as the selfless patriarch of the kingdom. That sa

Haider – Kashmir’s Hamlet

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Vishal Bhardwaj has given us a monumental movie.  Haider keeps the audience glued to their seats from the beginning to the end.  Though the story is adapted from Shakespeare’s Hamlet , it takes on a fresh life of its own drawing its vitality from the complex situation that existed in Kashmir in the 1990s when militancy snowballed rending the whole social fabric of the state.  The Pandits were forced to flee in large numbers.  The Indian armed forces became a ubiquitous phantom amidst the dark shadows that hovered over the earthly paradise. In the movie, however, the armed forces appear briefly only. Shahid Kapoor mesmerises us with his enactment of the young idealistic poet’s dilemma as he is torn between his romantic idealism and the horrible reality that unfolds before his very eyes.  Terrorism and the evils it spawns are sidelined by the betrayal of the young poet’s dreams about love and relationships.  Is his mother guilty of marital infidelity?  Is his paternal uncle a