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Showing posts from March, 2015

Mayank Passes

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Fiction Mayank had been through countless admission tests.  The worried look on his mother’s face had become a source of guilt for the little boy.  “I’m sorry, mom,” he consoled his mother.  He didn’t know what else to say.  The way she looked at him with so much pity in her eyes made him feel guilty, guilty of being alive, guilty of having been born. Mayank was lucky that his father was so busy with his job in the city that he lacked the luxury of the time for worrying about his son.  Otherwise how would he bear to see two dear faces carrying an endless worry named Mayank?  Mother was a teacher in Ananda Vidyashram which belonged to Phenomenananda Baba and faced the threat of extinction. Mayank was a class 3 student of Ananda Vidyashram.  But when the new session started there were only a handful of students all together in the school.  Phenomenananda Baba was not interested in running the school.  The school was started by his great, great grandfather, Anantananda B

One Part Woman

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Book Review Perumal Murugan’s novel, One Part Woman , which attracted unnecessary controversy in Tamil Nadu recently, is essentially about the fundamental complementarity of the male and the female components of humanity.  “The male and the female together make the world,” as the priest in the Ardhanareeswara temple tells Kali, the protagonist.  Within each individual too there exists both the male and the female components.  Who destroyed that harmonious balance between the male and the female? Is it the Brahmin who expediently creates and imposes certain rules and regulations on the people?  The novel raises this question when a Brahmin lawyer gets toddy and arrack banned in the Salem district and thus throws the whole Sanar community out of “their traditional livelihood.”  But the novel never suggests that the Brahmins have been responsible for the loss of certain traditions.  It does not even suggest that the traditions are sacred or useful in any significant way

Deepika Padukone's Choice

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I happened to come across this video by chance.  Loved it for its message, conveyed clearly and powerfully.  Though Ms Padukone is endorsing women empowerment, the message is applicable to all human beings and not just women alone. Many years ago, another woman, Ayn Rand, made one of her characters say that the savages said, "Hands Up!" while the policy for the civilised world should be "Hands Off!" "My body, my mind, my choice," says Deepika.  It should be so for everyone. Why should anyone's mind or body be meddled with by anyone else? Why should a priest or a fanatic assume that he has the right to impose his truth(s) on others? Why should a political party decide the course that history should take, let alone the course it already took? Why should anyone become the guardian of others' morality? The most courageous act is thinking for yourself.  Aloud. Do it. PS. My last short story, The Devil has a Religion ,  is about h

The Devil has a Religion

Fiction It’s not only the gods but the devils too have specific religions, Maria realised when she saw the devil appearing on her husband’s face fifteen years after she had seen it the last time. Fifteen years ago, one nondescript autumn afternoon in Shillong, Philip came back from the school where he worked as a mathematics teacher and declared that he had resigned from his job.  Maria was stunned though she had known deep within her all the time that this was coming.  Reverend Father Joseph Potthukandathil, the Headmaster of Saint Joseph’s School where Philip taught, had been rubbing up Philip in the wrong way for a long time, years in fact, assuming that it was every Catholic priest’s canonical burden to bring the lost sheep back to the fold.  Philip not only refused to accept the priest’s gospel but also cocked a snook at it by guzzling peg after peg of brandy sitting in the Marbaniang Bar that stood just a hundred metres away from the church where the priest who dreamt o

Ramayana: Shattered Dreams

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Book Review Ramayana: the Game of Life Book 2: Shattered Dreams Author:  Shubha Vilas Publisher: Jaico, 2015 Pages: 387       Price: Rs350 Both the Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, are brilliant tales about the complex game called life.  The good and the evil, the benevolent and malevolent, the divine and the demoniac, all appear in their due proportions at the appropriate times.  Though many thousand years have passed since their composition, the stories continue to fascinate readers all over the world because they are still relevant.  The virtues and vices portrayed in them belong to mankind irrespective of time. However, any reader should learn to interpret them according to his/her given time.  This is precisely what Shubha Vilas has done with his series of books titled, Ramayana: the Game of Life .  While the first book, Rise of the Sun Prince , dwelt upon the life of Rama until his marriage, the present volume takes us through arguably the m

How to Kill?

Killing has always been the job of the religious.  They kill for their gods and the gods are always happy.  Death is the pastime of the gods.  And of those who are close to the gods.  Remember the sacrifices stipulated by the Vedas? Remember the crusades made by the Christian missionaries in the medieval period? At least, remember the terrorist attacks of our own days? The politics of the gods.  If you're not sick of them, you have mastered the art of killing. 

The Real Enemies of India

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People in general are inclined to pass the blame on to others whatever the fault.  For example, we Indians love to blame the British for their alleged ‘divide-and-rule’ policy.  Did the British really divide India into Hindus and Muslims or did the Indians do it themselves?  Was there any unified entity called India in the first place before the British unified it? Having raised those questions, I’m going to commit a further sacrilege of quoting a British journalist-cum-historian.  In his magnum opus, India: a History , John Keay says that the “stock accusations of a wider Machiavellian intent to ‘divide and rule’ and to ‘stir up Hindu-Muslim animosity’” levelled against the British Raj made little sense when the freedom struggle was going on in India because there really was no unified India until the British unified it politically.  Communal divisions existed in India despite the political unification.  In fact, they existed even before the British ever set foot on the count

Being with the beloved

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Nothing ennobles human beings more than the company of their beloved ones in an environment suffused with the splendour of nature.  My latest such experience occurred last summer when Maggie and I visited Shimla.  The verdurous hillsides that rise majestically all around cling to your soul with an unearthly tenacity.  They bewitch you so much that you feel oppressed and liberated simultaneously.  You become the questing knight of  Keats’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci .  You are drowned in transcendental beauty.  You are intoxicated with it. Having spent the day visiting various places of tourist interest, we were dropped back by our driver at the Old Bus Stand from where we wished to walk up the fairly steep ascent to the Mall Road.  The narrow lane is lined on both sides with goods of all sorts ranging from exotic trinkets to day-to-day grocery items.  The mundane and the sublime coexist in an edifying spirit of camaraderie in the markets of hill stations.  A view from the Ma

Holy Wars

When Babur was conquering more territory in India, one of his formidable opponents was the Rajput king Rana Sangha of Mewar.  The news of the defeat of one of his battalions by Rana Sangha was accompanied by a soothsayer’s prediction of disaster and the desertion of the Indian mercenaries.  Babur’s soldiers were thoroughly demoralised.  A new strategy was required.  Thus came in religion.  “This is not just a war for territory,” declared the divinely inspired Babur.  “This is a jihad against infidels.”  With no other weapon than a few words, Babur converted a greedy and violent war into a holy jihad.  “Cowardice became apostasy while death assumed the welcome guise of martyrdom,” writes John Keay in his book, India: A History .  Keay goes on to quote from Babur-nama (Babur’s personal memoir-cum-diary), “The plan was perfect, it worked admirably...”  His soldiers took an oath on the Quran to fight till they fell.  What’s more, Babur enacted certain religious rituals too: abjuring al

The Big Change

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If your life ever becomes a mess and goes out of your control, one of the few options you are left with is to leave the environment. Leaving the familiar territory and taking a leap into the apparent darkness that lies ahead calls for something more than frustration.  It requires boldness.  Boldness to face new challenges when you are already beaten down by old ones! The year was 2001 and the place was Shillong.  I was 41 years old and working as a lecturer in a reputed college in the town.  There was a curious mixture of factors that had thrown my personal life into utter chaos. Immaturity, inability to deal with the society, inadequate understanding of myself, some futile illusory quests... The list was pretty long, long enough to bog me down utterly. When you are down and out, Newton’s law on momentum and acceleration attaches itself to you with unflinching fidelity and your downward cruise becomes irreversible.  The society is more than happy to add its bit by giv

Justice Katju and Mahatma Gandhi

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I say 90 per cent of Indian are idiots.  You people don’t have brains in your heads.... It is so easy to take you for a ride.  You mad people will start fighting amongst yourself (sic), not realizing that some agent provocateur is behind a mischievous gesture of disrespect to a place of worship. Today 80 per cent Hindus are communal and 80 per cent Muslims are communal.  This is the harsh truth, bitter truth that I am telling you.  In 150 years, you have gone backwards instead of moving forward because the English kept injecting poison. Justice Katju Justice Markandey Katju, retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, said those words in a seminar organised by the South Asia Media Commission on 8 Dec 2012 in Delhi.  Now he tells us in his blog that Mahatma Gandhi was “an agent of the British.” He lists three reasons. 1.      By injecting religion into politics, Gandhi helped the British policy of ‘divide and rule.’ 2.      Gandhi’s satyagraha diverted the revoluti

Story of Tublu

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Book Review Title: Story of Tublu Author: Jahid Akhtar Publisher: Lifi Publications, New Delhi, 2015 Pages: xii + 204           Price: Rs200 Every individual carries at least one story within him/her: his/her own story.  Life is a series of inevitable ups and downs which can be formulated into a beautiful tale with a little imagination and some effort. Jahid Akhtar succeeds in weaving one such tale in his debut novel, Story of Tublu . It is not an autobiographical novel, of course.  It reads like a story that could have happened really.  Every line reads as if it is taken from actual life.  Every character is like someone we may actually meet in real life.  The author does not take recourse to any literary embellishments or sophisticated techniques to narrate his story.  It’s a straightforward narrative that comes in the simplest language possible and tells the story of some children who eventually grow up into young adults going through the inevitable ups and d

Indian Women and their Leaders

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Mythologies of various civilisations present tales of kingdoms that became sterile because of the wickedness of their kings.  Kings or Political Leaders play a vital role in moulding the moral values and principles of their citizens.  No nation can be greater than its leader. Look at what some of our leaders have said about women.  You will then understand why women in India can never feel safe, why crimes against them are sure to rise.  Babulal Gaur is an 85 year-old BJP minister in Madhya Pradesh. Age has not made him wise in any way.  When can rape ever be right?  The people who voted for him deserve an answer.  Do ask. On this Women's Day. The Home Minister of Chhattisgarh, BJP's Ramsewak Paikra, thinks that rapes are accidental rather than intentional.  How many mistakes is he willing to tolerate or condone?  Do ask. On this Women's Day. Here is a solution from Haryana, a state where women are treated like goods and chattels.  Whe