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Showing posts from January, 2015

Words are Ghosts

Words lost their souls and turned into ghosts             that haunted the pulpits and public places. The King is a great orator who conjures up             paradises of soulless words and gimmicks. Verbal ghosts are hungry for blood             that was shed in the dark alleys of bygone days. They travel on witches’ brooms between             Rama’s Treta yuga and the Mahatma’s Kali yuga, Their forked tongues spitting poison             presumed as nectar by fortune-seekers,             the sexless witches impotent to make love. They make war, They make places of worship, Where the gods are always hungry,             creatures of infinite hunger,             they swallow love and truth; They are gods of words,             words turned ghosts,                         ghosts that haunt a nation.

Gandhi and Godse

It was a cold morning on 30 Jan 1948.  Nathuram Godse, Narayan Apte and Vishnu Karkare met together once again in Retiring Room number 6 at Old Delhi Railway Station. Godse had failed in his two earlier attempts to kill Gandhi.  He did not want to fail again.  “Third time success,” he said half jokingly to his friends. “There will be heavy police guard for Gandhi especially because of the murder attempt just ten days back,” said Godse.  Godse suggested they should buy an old camera which needed a tripod and a black hood.  He would pose as a photographer and conceal the pistol inside the base of the camera. “Nobody uses that sort of a camera nowadays,” said Apte.  He dismissed it as “a bad idea.” “Disguise yourself as a Muslim woman wearing a burqa,” suggested Karkare.  “There are many Muslim women who attend Gandhi’s prayers.  After all, he is their saviour, isn’t he?”  He spat out his hatred.   “No,” said Godse having put on the burqa that was brought in. 

The Indian Spirit

The real question is not whether the original Preamble to the Indian Constitution contained the words ‘secularist’ and ‘socialist’ but what the present India really wants to be.  It is not a matter of words as much as about intentions and motives. A flashback from history Delhi, June 1947 Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of the British Raj, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and a few others are giving the final touches to the governments of independent India and Pakistan.  “You be the first Governor-General of independent India,” says Nehru to Mountbatten who is visibly dismayed. It is a gesture of gratitude and appreciation from the magnanimous people of India to a person who has been working heart and soul for the past four months keeping in mind the welfare of both the countries that are being created. Jinnah has already declared himself the Governor-General of Pakistan. “

Obama’s Parting Shot

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The ad: see the watermark   In its advertisement - DAVP22201/13/0048/1415, which was published on 26 January - the government quotes the preamble of India's Constitution as "We the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC...." as opposed to the genuine version that states: “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens..." Mr Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister, is averse to both socialism and secularism.  He is adept at making use of surreptitious practices to achieve his objectives.  The way he tried to foist a lot of ordinances on the country, in spite of his party enjoying the majority in the Lok Sabha, was snubbed by the President himself.  There are many activities going on behind invisible curtains, activities that may remind one of Hitler and his propagandists, activities that w

Grow up, Kejriwal

Dear Arvind,          I’m not surprised by your latest act of sob-sob over not being invited to the Republic Day celebrations.  You must have been particularly peeved by my presence in the VIP enclosure being chaperoned and parasoled by a senior security officer.  Come on, man, grow up.  Stop being a silly whimpering kid. You’ve always been a kid, I know.  When I shared the platform with you during the India Against Corruption days, I saw through your silly infantile idealism.  You are a childish dreamer, Arvind.  You dream of an India without corruption.  I have grown up and grown out of impossible dreams. I know you haven’t forgotten those days when I called Mr Narendra Modi all kinds of names for your sake.  I thought you were the leader, the Messiah, that India was waiting for.  But I am now grown up.  I know who the real leader of India is.  I know how the game is played. Grow up, Arvind.  Shirk off your childish dreams and learn the politics of the adults.  Le

Two Superpowers Meet in Delhi

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The American President, Barack Obama, has already embraced the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in the highly girdled airport in Delhi.  This is the second jaadu ki jhappi between the leaders of two nations with similar global interests.  Obama’s country has been the world’s moral police since the second world war and Modi’s India aspires to wrench that hegemony.  About two decades ago, Samuel P Huntington wrote in his famous and controversial book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order , that “If at some point India supplants East Asia as the world’s economically most rapidly developing area, the world should be prepared for extended disquisitions on the superiority of Hindu culture...”  Interestingly, Huntington added that the disquisition would have to be about “the contributions of the caste system to economic development” and a fundamentalist assertion of indigenous culture.  Huntington was not a divinatory astrologer but a Harvard University p

Godse, God and a little history

Indian history is poised to take some interesting diversions.  One of the many rewritings will be the deification of Nathuram Godse, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi.  The Hindu Mahasabha has been threatening (or promising, depending on which side you are) to construct a temple with Godse as the deity.   As India is going to celebrate the 65 th anniversary of its secular Constitution in a function solemnised by none other than the President of a country which exported secularism whenever it found it opportunistic to do so, it may be worthwhile to take a look at the contribution of the new god being added to the country's overcrowded pantheon.  Poona, 15 August 1947 – a flashback adapted from Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre Independence from British rule is being celebrated.  The flag slowly moving up the staff in the centre of the 500 men assembled is not the flag of the independent India.  It is a saffron triangle with the swastika emblazon

Another God is Born

Subramaniam had no idea where he had been.  All he could remember was the shipwreck and the lifeboat which he was pushed on to along with a few others.  The huge waves that tossed the boat up and down. When he opened his eyes a few men, naked except for the rags tied round their groins, were standing round his staring into his eyes.  There was fear in those eyes as much as curiosity.  A couple of the men carried a bow and arrow each.  It didn’t take him long to realise that he had landed up on the island of some primitive people.  His ship had wrecked in the South Indian Ocean.  The people spoke a language that was curiously similar to Subramaniam’s own.  After all, his was a classical language, one of the oldest in the sub-continent called India, one which withstood many onslaughts from languages of the North.  At any rate, his ability to communicate with the island people did not surprise Subramaniam too much since he had read Gulliver’s Travels and knew that Gulliver co

Tyranny of the Majority

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“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect,” said Mark Twain.  Some members of the ruling BJP seem to have become so intoxicated with power that they are ranting and raving like people bereft of their sense.  It is time for them to pause and reflect.  And it is time for the Prime Minister to pause his reflection. A few days ago, Sakshi Maharaj advised the Hindu women of India to have four children each.  Now the Shankaracharya of Badrikashram orders the Hindu women to have ten children each.  Of course, the women aren’t so foolish as to take such exhortations to heart.  So nothing will change.  Yet it is worth asking the question: What motivates the Maharaj and the Acharya (supposedly wise people) to make such statements?  Do they think that the population of India is skewed against the Hindus?  Below are two diagrams that illustrate the population of people belonging to different religions, according to the 2011 Census of India

Scholar, Politician and Priest

Historical Fiction “He is a mere scholar, he can never rule the people,” declared Napoleon Bonaparte as he signed the dismissal of Pierre-Simon Laplace as the Minister of Internal Affairs.  “Six weeks in power and what has he contributed?” thundered the Emperor.  “He sees subtleties everywhere, conceives problems instead of solutions and thinks in terms of infinity and infinitesimal.” Laplace was happy to be out of power.  He never wanted any political power in the first place.  But the Emperor wanted the most intelligent people to be in the government.  What has power got to do with intelligence?  Laplace did not ask that however. In the solitude and peace of powerlessness, Laplace perfected the Newtonian solar system.  Mediocre people wish to become stars on the earth.  Intelligent people wander among the stars in the heavens.  Newton was one such star who lived among stars.  But even he needed a divine hypothesis to answer certain problems in his scientific model.  L

Illusions

“What is an illusion?” asked Rahul when he caught up with me during my stroll on the campus after dinner.  I was used to a lot of such questions from Rahul, one of my favourite students. “Look at the sky,” I said.  A few stars were visible notwithstanding Delhi’s polluted skies.  “Do you think all those are real stars?” “Aren’t they?”   Rahul was confused.  “We are seeing them.” “Yes, we are seeing them.  Do you know how many years it takes for the light of a star to reach us here on the earth?” “The light from the nearest star takes more than 4 light years,” said Rahul. “Good,” I said.  “It takes many more years for the light from the other stars to reach us.  Many of the stars die by the time their light is seen by us here on the earth.  So how many of those stars are real?” “Sir,” Rahul appeared slightly confused. “Are you suggesting that what is not real is an illusion.” “Well, almost,” said I.  “But the light is real, isn’t it, even if the star is n

Kiran Bedi has made the right choice

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Dr Kiran Bedi has finally landed in the Emperor’s camp and that was expected.  It was clear from the days of India Against Corruption that her ultimate goal was political power.  When she understood that Arvind Kejriwal was not the kind who could sway the masses as effectively as Narendra Modi, she made the right choice.  Who can blame her?  Why blame at all? Was Kiran Bedi an epitome of moral values and any kind of principles at any time?  Yes, as a police officer she did make significant contributions particularly towards making the prison system in India more effective and productive.  She was a good police officer.  Was she above blame?  In 1992 she got her daughter admission for MBBS course in Delhi’s Hardinge College by manipulating the quota for the tribal students of the North-east.  Ms Bedi (not Dr at that time) offered many justifications for her act but nobody who knew the facts would have bought her explanations. Later her NGO came under the scanner for

Thanks, Rekha

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Rekha found my blog inspiring and decided to honour me with an award.  I don’t want to be ungrateful.  So let me fulfil the obligations imposed by the honour. I am to state 7 things about myself and that’s one of the easiest things I can do since I have a fairly inflated ego.  1.      The biggest challenge I face day in and day out is to keep my ego under control.  It is like an elephant that loses its self-control for no fault of its own. 2.      I love to make friends but never succeed in the attempts because of my own personal limitations.  So I choose to be contented with virtual friends ranging from Dostoevsky to Mario Vargas Llosa as well as quite a few bloggers. 3.      I have very few prejudices in spite of the numerous allegations to the contrary (that I am a highly prejudiced person) and I cling to those prejudices tenaciously.  In spite of those prejudices, I am more broadminded and open to new ideas and possibilities than my well-wishers may be willing to

Room for Hope

The Times of India reports today (13 Jan) that Mr Amit Shah is going to issue a show cause notice to Sakshi Maharaj for continuing to make noises that are inconvenient for the BJP though they are in tune with the theme of the party’s hidden agenda.  People like Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Jyoti are the religious faces of the party, while Mr Modi and Mr Shah are the political faces.  For the former certain medieval beliefs and practices are the truths, while for the latter those beliefs and practices are mere ploys for attaining and retaining political power.  It is possible that those beliefs and practices have some value for Mr Modi and Mr Shah too since they seem to be harbouring a hidden agenda: creating a Hindu Rashtra in India.  But transforming a nation from one constitutional system to another is not very easy, they know.  Bringing about the transformation by force will engender violence and bloodshed.  Neither Mr Modi nor Mr Shah want a civil war in the country.  That is one

Hindu students in Muslim madrasas

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A madrasa in Mandsaur Courtesy The Hindu Hindus and Muslims still live together in India cooperating with each other.  Today’s Hindu newspaper carries a report on the front page with the headline ‘ Mandsaur’s inclusive madrasas .’  Mandsaur is a district in Madhya Pradesh which has 128 madrasas with a total of 5500 students.  In 78 of these madrasas, Hindu students outnumber their Muslim friends, says the report.  630 of the 865 teachers are Hindus.  Images of goddess Saraswati and Ajmer Sharif coexist in peace and harmony on the walls of the classrooms.  One must be thankful to The Hindu , I thought as I read the report, for highlighting such inclusiveness when far too many Indians are driven crazy by religious fundamentalism.  This blog post is my humble attempt to express my gratitude to the newspaper as much as for celebrating the inclusiveness. It is also an earnest plea. One of the questions I have raised time and again in the classroom as a teacher is how many o

Religion and Intolerance

The book which I am now reading is God is not great: How religion poisons everything by Christopher Hitchens.  In the very first chapter the author says: “Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable.  It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other.  For this reason, I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could.” [emphasis in original] The author is an atheist.  His book is a serious philosophical critique of religion.  Yet he is generous enough to let religions be.  That is the spirit of all genuine atheists.  All genuine atheists I have come across so far display similar generosity and tolerance.  By genuine , I mean atheism chosen by an individual after due consideration, reflection and understanding.  Hitchens goes on to ask a question: But will the religious grant me the same indulgence?”  A few lines later, he says that religion is incapabl

Can I marry the person I love?

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Durga Vahini poster "Can I marry the person I love"? my daughter confronted me with the question. "Well," I fumbled.  What could I answer?  In the pre-Modi days I would have said something like, "Can I talk to him before I give an answer?  What kind of a person is he? Good enough to look after you?"  But in the Modi days I stand more confounded than Ann Frank's father was when Ann's nubile sister was asked to submit herself to the Nazis. "What well?" she demanded. This is the problem with today's generation.  They want immediate answers like instant coffee.  Or chai or instant conversions. I'm old.  I don't wear the bottoms of my trousers folded.  I don't dye my hair.  I don't shave my beard just like my Prime Minister. "Darling," I put on the best tone I could muster.  Not master, of course.  Only Mr Modi is the master now. "You have to get the permission from Durga Vahini, not me,"