Monday, December 29, 2014


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.

Friday, December 26, 2014

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, it seems.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Convert me too, please

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.  Will they sell it to me?  I don’t need money. Convictions can never be bought or sold.  I don’t believe in gods and religions.  I trust my reason and imagination.  I have faith in my intuition.  Can the VHP buy my trust and faith?  Can it convince me why I should accept Hinduism?  If it can, I’m ready to be converted. 

In fact, I want to be converted.  I’d love some illusions provided somebody can convince me of their necessity.  I think illusions make life much easier.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

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 kill?  All for the sake of conquering some land.  And what did I gain?

I ruled.  I ruled almost the whole of what can be called India.  What did I gain?

I’m sick and dying. 

You must die, thought Azam.  I should get the power.  You die and I become the next emperor. 

No, my son.  The larger the empire, the more the enemies.  Keep your ambitions low.  The crown, the country, and the glory.  They mean nothing. 

You are dying, old man.  Die.  Die in peace. 

The Empire is dying, my son.

I’m the Empire, responded Azam.  People are fools.  Any fool with ambition and heartlessness can be a ruler.  And I am not a fool.  At least I know how to kill.  At least how to conquer the gods of the others.

Nobody knew better how to conquer the gods of others than Aurangzeb.  He knew it was his time to die.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Janus-faced BJP

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 basic knowledge of human history.  Or is he mixing myth with history with some heinous ulterior motive?  “The question to ask here is whether Mahabharata is a myth or reality. If it is a reality then when did it exist. Some say it was lakhs of years ago. ... Evidence of the oldest settlement in Delhi dates to the 3rd century BC inside Purana Qila, which means just 2,300 years ago,” remarked Sohail Hashmi, historian and film-maker.

Every day one or another leader of the BJP comes out with some suggestion which can only take India backward by centuries and reinforce certain superstitions and ignorance.  Why is the party doing this?  Does it want India move ahead toward a greater civilisation founded on scientific temper or push us deeper into the world of myths, mantras and old wives’ tales?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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 sharia in Afghanistan.  He went from madrassah to madrassah enlisting volunteers for his ‘noble’ cause.  Soon the Taliban was born.  It recognised no Islam but their own.  It imposed its will on the people.  It became the law. 

True to the spirit of such romantic dreams, it elected Omar Amir-ul-Momineen, Commander of the Faithful, in 1996.  In no time, the Mullah became the successor of the Prophet himself and declared jihad on anyone who opposed the Taliban.

Thousands of people have been killed all over the world by this organisation which grew out of an infantile dream and much hatred.  People like Osama bin Laden, “idealist and romantic, dreamer of past future glories and perhaps even harbouring apocalyptic visions of martyrdom” (as described by Charles Allen in his book, God’s Terrorists) and the learned Dr Ayman al-Zawahri lent their support to the Taliban dreams.  Pakistan’s ISI used the organisation for its political purposes.  And today, there it strides all over the world like the Frankenstein  monster.

How do we save ourselves from such monsters who come donning the garb of the Messiah?

We, the ordinary people, are quite helpless. We can question them.  We can refuse to support them.  We can speak against them, write against them, teach against them.  What more can we do?

We are the hapless children of Peshawar.

Politicians use such monsters for their own nefarious objectives.  Politicians create them too.

Ignorance is the root cause of such diabolical forces which masquerade as holy outfits, custodians of public morality and guardians of gods.

They have existed throughout human history in one form or another.  When will mankind be redeemed from these redeemers?

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Bitterness of Tea

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 employer.

Three years after my encounter with that tea worker, the Guardian published a report titled ‘How poverty wages for tea pickers fuel India's trade in child slavery.’  A tea plantation worker is paid 12 pence an hour, according to the report.  As a result poverty is rampant among the workers and their girl children are trafficked across the country and outside.

I received a mail from the Walk Free Foundation today with a request for support to
I, the Consumer
their campaign for tea workers, particularly asking Tata to do justice to the workers.  Of course, Tata is not the only estate owner that underpays the workers.  But the Foundation feels that “Of all the possible players, Tata Global Beverages has the power to do the most good in this situation and that is why we are calling on them to engage.”

A cup of tea in a shopping mall costs nothing less than Rs 50, a shocking disparity with what a tea picker earns in an hour.  When we dream about the much vaunted development that the malls and clean India symbolise, perhaps we may be ignoring some dark realities crying for attention in many parts of the country, not just in the remote tea gardens.  

This does not mean we don’t need development.  It only means that development cannot be one-sided.  There is gross injustice in such one-sidedness.  As Bryan Stevenson said, “The opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.”

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Narendra meets Ashoka


“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 series of blames and claims.  When you put forward claims, you’re sure to face blames.”

“But I’m doing it all for the development of Hindustan.  See what the Muslims are doing.  They are using religious terrorism.  See what the Christians are doing.  They are using economic terrorism....”

“And you’re combining both.”  Ashoka laughed.  It was a faint, ghostly laugh.

“It’s very easy for you to admonish me.  You’ve already made your mark in history.  And you changed Hindustan into Buddhastan.  Then came the Iblis and made it Muslimstan.  And then came the British and made it Isaistan....”

“Did you ever take a look at the Census of your country, Narendra?  Do you know how many Muslims are there in your kingdom?  How many Isais?”

“I can’t read all that stuff.  I am a chaiwallah, don’t you know that, and a proud one at that?”

“No problem in being a chaiwallah, my dear.  Only chaiwallahs possessing ambition can be a conqueror.  Intellectuals like my Vikramaditya or your Manmohan can only depend on Vetalas or Sonias and send the money of the country to Swiss Banks.”

The mention of Swiss Banks made Narendra’s beard bristle.

“I’m trying to get all that money back.”

“The day you get that back you will cease to be a king, Narendra.  Black money is a Trojan horse.  Don’t ever deal with it.”

Narendra looked at another Rock Edict which said, “Don’t give or receive bribes.”

“Black money, bribes, corruption, sin... Can you get rid of them?  What are you?  An incarnation of God or a Conqueror?”

“I’m a simple chaiwallah.”

“Stop thinking that you’re a chaiwallah.  Understand that you are the Emperor, the Rajadhiraja of Hindustan.  Shed your complex.  Then you will understand life from  a different perspective.  Perspectives make all the difference, you know.  Now come and have lunch with me.  The best chicken and mutton are waiting for us.  Even beef from the sacrificial offering in the temple is likely to be there.”  They were approaching Ashoka’s palace.

Narendra’s stubbly beard stood as fully erect as it possibly could. 

“I am a vegetarian.”

“Don’t make a religion of even your food, my dear man.  Stop carrying your cooks around wherever you go.  Learn to appreciate the diversity in the world.”

“No, no, I can’t do that.  I have some principles.”

“You should let go some of them.  Principles are meant for intellectuals and saints.  You are a conqueror.  You can kill people and yet be a vegetarian.  You can eat chicken and still be a vegetarian.”

Narendra didn’t know what to say in spite of his eloquence of which he was very proud.

“You know what your problem is, Narendra?”  Ashoka looked into his eyes with a naughty grin.  “You never knew love.  You could not even hug a woman close to your bosom.  You knew only conquests.  Every conqueror worth his salt is also a lover.  You never learnt that.”

“My predecessor, Atal, was a bachelor too,” protested Narendra.

“Oh, Atal,” Ashoka sneered.  “He was an intellectual.  Worse still, a poet.  Poets and intellectuals don’t leave footprints in history.  They leave words.  We leave footprints.  Made in blood.  Human blood.”

The smell of chicken tikka and mutton korma wafted in the air.

Narendra’s nose turned upward. 

“Swachch Bharat,  I have to do much more for Swachch Bharat,” he muttered to himself.  Then he shook hands with Ashoka.  “Good bye,” he said.  

As he walked toward the flock of Black Commandos waiting for him with a fleet of bulletproof vehicles he took out his mobile phone and clicked a selfie.  Having posted the selfie on Facebook, he called his confidante, “Amit, go ahead and offer the lakhs to all infidels for converting to our side.  I don’t want another Kalinga in history.  Let money do the business.”

He felt elated.  He felt converted.

* Ashoka’s Major Rock Edict XII, Translated by Romila Thapar in Ashoka and the Decline of the Maurya

Friday, December 12, 2014

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 of the indignity of its caste system.  When they switched their divine loyalties, they were in fact looking for a life of dignity, for a society which would place them on an equal footing with others.  Not too many people are willing to sell themselves for money. 

It is quite ironical that the RSS which boasts about its ideological foundations in the philosophical spirituality of the country has stooped so low as to put a price on human beings and their gods.  It is also a symptom of what the whole process means to the Parivar ideologues: bringing back the ancient caste-based system.

RSS hopes to convert 6000 people (“5000 Muslims and 1000 Christians”) on the coming Christmas Day.  The capital invested in the project is Rs 270 crore.  That’s just a fraction of the black money that Prime Minister Mr Modi had promised to get back from abroad for the welfare of the poor people in Hindustan.  RSS can get some kickbacks in the whole deal hopefully.  So the RSS gains, the poor people in Uttar Pradesh gain, Hindustan gains.  Why grumble then?

For many people, this could very well be the achche din promised by Mr Modi.  For a family of four persons, let’s say, the conversion would mean an income of Rs 20 lakh, an amount which they cannot even dream of in the normal course of their life.  A windfall.  Achche din!

What will be the price tag for a Brahmin if a Hindu Dalit wants to convert to that class?  Will the RSS eventually put price tags on various gods and goddesses in India?  On the godmen and godwomen who run numerous cults which don’t follow the tenets of Hinduism? 

When gods and religions have become commodities on sale and people’s dignity is bought for a few lakhs of rupees, what will be the next hot item in the Parivar market?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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 BJP and its allies are now employing a mix of both force and lure to convert the poor belonging to minority communities into Hinduism.  A few hundred (the number varies in the media reports) Muslims in Uttar Pradesh have been converted with the lure of money, residential flats, aadhar cards and other enticements.  The strategy is also being employed in Bihar and West Bengal.  Soon it will spread its tentacles to other states where poverty is rampant.

The BJP is not hankering after votes since it already enjoys a “brute majority” (an interesting phrase) in the Lok Sabha and is confident of winning such majority in coming elections thanks to the popularity of the Prime Minister who is all set to become the Time’s Man of the Year.  What the BJP wants is not votes but identities.  Ever since the inception of the Jana Sangh, the Sangh Parivar’s primary concern has always been the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra in India.  The infinity of social identities (religious, cultural, linguistic, regional, and even racial) in India always circumscribed such an irrational ambition. 

Empires overcome obstacles through marauding strategies. The religious conversions sponsored by the Parivar belong to those strategies and effectively utilise the imperial ambitions that underpin Mr Modi’s personality.  Mr Modi and the Parivar feed on and nourish each other. 

Will they be successful, however?  The poor are as malleable and ductile as gold.  Their identity can be placed on the anvil again and again and beaten into many shapes and designs (and distortions too).  Such works of craftsmanship may help to inflate certain figures in the country’s Census.  Will it create any genuine Hindu or Hindustani?  Can people’s hearts and souls be reshaped under the hammer?

More importantly, will the Parivar actually succeed in its ambition to create a Hindu Rashtra with a monolithic Hinduism?  Already south Indian leaders like Vaiko have raised the banner of dissension.  He has made it clear that he won’t support the Parivar’s plans to Sanskritise India and impose one region’s culture over the entire country.  Will Kerala embrace the Parivar’s dreams?  What about the North-east?

Ultimately, a few thousand poor people mostly in North India will end up struggling to absorb a new religious identity.  That’s the only major difference that “the party with a difference” will make, it seems. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

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 individuals in unique ways.  I’m unable to get that blessing.  My extremely critical mind relies heavily on logic and the rational faculty which refuses to condescend.

It dreams much, however.  Bach’s question is one of the recurring motifs in my dreams.  This Sunday, sitting at home watching the winter sunshine in the sprawling playgrounds outside the staff quarters where I reside I toyed with the question yet again.

If God appeared and told me, ‘I command you to write a novel,’ wouldn’t I quit my lassitude and spin out the tale weaving together the warp and the weft lying higgledy-piggledy in the loom of my mind? 

No doubt, I would.

Why am I waiting for God to come with the command?

Anybody would be an achiever if God came with some such command.  God won’t come.  The fact is the command is already given.  To each one of us.  If only we care to listen, it would be palpable.

Where there is a dream, there is also the skill.  Or, in the words of Richard Bach, “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true.  You may have to work for it, however.”

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bastards, Saints and India

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.  Becoming a sadhu or a sadhvi may help.  (Sanskrit is important in that process.)  Becoming a trader will help better.  Becoming a politician will surely help.

I am a bastard teacher in this country.  Bastard, because I belong to that category  officially designated by Sadhvi Niranjana Jyoti, Union Minister appointed by Mr Narendra Modi.  Teacher, because that is my profession for the last three decades. 

Thank you, Prime Minister, for giving such wonderful laurels to your citizens.   

But look at the cartoon once again, please.  The halo keeps changing even before the people are dead.  Today’s hero is destined to be tomorrow’s bastard, especially in your regime. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

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 system was quite dead.  The Nehruvian concept of secularism (which has been pooh-poohed for quite some time now) and the Gandhian ideals which promoted the rights of the erstwhile subaltern people gained vitality.  But the various governments that came to power in Indraprastha after the days of the nation’s founding fathers diluted the concepts and ideals for the sake of vote banks.  

Victors and vanquished change places in history quite often.  Indian history is entering a new phase of evolution with some such displacements and replacements.  Some of those ancient victors who were vanquished at the turn of the 20th century are now capturing back their lost powers.  The return of Sanskrit is a symbol.  That some people who were originally subalterns are the present agents of the dislocations may be an interesting irony.

There is nothing wrong in teaching and learning the classical language of the country.  In fact, there are more Sanskrit scholars outside India now than inside.  The problem, however, is when it is imposed with political motives.  Why not leave it as an optional subject which those interested can choose?  Why not encourage students to choose it rather than ram it down their throats? 

Some things in history change naturally and gracefully; Enlightenment in Europe, for instance.  Some changes are forced upon and they distort civilisation; Nazism, for example.   Only those changes last which merge meaningfully into the current condition of the civilisation.  Indian civilisation is at an advanced status and hence may not absorb all the things being imposed on it by the current regime in Indraprastha.  All saffron is not necessarily holy, Indians have learnt that already. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

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 Indian fathers before importing fathers from abroad?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said.  “Charity should always begin at home.  When we have so many around here open for adoption, why should she stick to Ram alone?”

“Pluralism of paternity, quite a novel concept,” I was amused.  We import and export all sorts of things across various borders.  We travel, mingle with all kinds of people, work with them, marry them, have children of all possible racial / religious / linguistic / cultural permutations and combinations... But why do our leaders insist on keeping the paternal outpourings of our gods within the confines of our national borders?

Monday, December 1, 2014

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 to help the victim.  The third person to come was a Samaritan.  The Samaritans were religious converts and were held in contempt by orthodox Jews during the time of Jesus.  

The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable went to the wounded man, treated him with whatever medication he had with him, took him to an inn and looked after him.   The priest and the semi-priest were not religious, according to Jesus.  Religion is not the uniform of the priest, or finding one’s residence in an ashram or presbytery.  Religion is not recitation of prayers or performance of rituals.  Religion is love and compassion.   That’s basic message of Christmas, of any religion. 

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...