Saturday, October 31, 2015

True Love

Rama consigned Sita to the flames.  Krishna made many husbands cuckolds.  And they are our gods.  Their love ought to be true love.  Really?

Helen and Paris loved each other and started a war which killed thousands of people.  Was that true love?

Antony loved Cleopatra to such an extent that they died for each other, killing many in the process.

Jesus Christ loved mankind so much that he let himself be crucified and then went on to be worshipped as a god.  True love?

The Buddha was not much of a lover, I think.  He was too indifferent.  But if we were to live with him, we would have found him the ideal human being, almost a god.  Indifferent.  But never judgemental.  Eccentric and yet the most sane.  True love?

Mother Teresa loved everybody because she saw the face of Jesus in everybody.  She loved Jesus.  Not Tom, Syed or Hari.  Was that true love?

Mahatma Gandhi loved his principles more than his wife or children.  True love?

I love Mr Narendra Modi because there is no connection between what he says and what he does.  I think that is true love. In today’s world.

PS. Written for the latest Indispire theme.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sign Not in Use

Mat wanted to die because he thought life was too frivolous an affair to deserve itself.  He had already consulted many experts on the matter before he ran into me.

The doc whom he approached for medical assistance bluntly refused.  “You want me to spend the rest of my life in prison?” asked the doc furiously.  

“What prevented the doc from giving me the injection was fear of the prison,” Mat explained to me.  "Not any love of life."

“If the law did not prevent suicide, would you have helped me?” Mat asked the doc.  “If I try to commit suicide and fail, will the law be punishing me for failing to live or for failing to die?”

The doc stared blankly into Mat’s eyes.  Then the blankness became fury.  “Get out,” he said.

Then Mat went to his pastor.  “Nowhere in the Bible is it said that suicide is a sin,” explained Mat to the pastor.  And the pastor thought Mat was right.  The Old Testament’s Yahweh was very fond of rules and regulations.  In fact, the only purpose of His existence was to give rules to His chosen people.  Poor Jews.  They must have wished time and again for their God to choose some other race as the target of his affections. 

“You’re right,” said the pastor to Mat.  “Even the ten commandments don’t stipulate that Thou shalt not kill thyself.”

But the pastor couldn’t help Mat.  He didn’t know why but he knew suicide was a sin even if the Bible didn’t prohibit it.

“So the Bible is not the ultimate truth!” lamented Mat as he took leave of his pastor who had been thrown into deep contemplation by the rigmarole that appeared before him in the shape of a god-shaped hole in Mat’s soul. 

It was then that Mat ran into me. 

“Philosopher Schopenhauer would have been the right person to help you,” I said having listened to him patiently.  “He could speak about suicide very joyfully while having a sumptuous dinner.”

“Where is he?” asked Mat eagerly.

“He died,” I said indifferently because Schopenhauer had died a century before I was born.  “How cruel!” said Mat.  I don’t know which he found cruel: Schopenhauer’s death or my indifference.

I went to the gallery in my mobile phone and showed Mat a picture of a road with a signboard which read, “SIGN NOT IN USE.”

Mat laughed.

“So you have not lost the ability to laugh,” I said. 

“What do you mean?” he became serious again.

“You say life is frivolous.  Why don’t you laugh at it then?”  I was trying to give Mat a reason for living.  Most people want a reason for living though there really is none.  They borrow one from the Bible or the pastor, from Schopenhauer or the shopping mall, or from an engineering college or a medical college.  Let me be Mat’s Schopenhauer, I decided with some pride. Maybe, one day Mat will write his autobiography in which my name will appear as the person whose SIGN NOT IN USE saved his life.

“If a sign is not in use,” I listened with the concentration of a soul-saving counsellor as Mat asked me, “if a sign is not in use, how long can it continue to be in use?”

Mat was thinking seriously.  “Life is not as frivolous as I thought,” he said as started walking with a heavy head.

He will become a Schopenhauer, I thought.  “It is difficult to find happiness within yourself,” the philosopher had declared.  “But it is impossible to find it anywhere else.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cows of Logic

A scene from Delhi.  Source: The Hindu

In his book, The Rebel, Albert Camus speaks about two types of crimes: crimes of passion and crimes of logic.  Heathcliff of the Wuthering Heights will kill anyone who stands between him and his beloved Cathy.  This is a crime of passion.  He is motivated by his passion, and his passion is genuine. Camus calls him a man of character.  As long as you don’t get in the way of his love, he won’t touch you.  He won’t even notice your existence, in fact.  You are nothing to him.  All that matters to him is his love, his Cathy, nothing else.

Now, suppose Heathcliff converts his passion into a doctrine.  Suppose he begins to believe that Cathy is worthy of everybody’s admiration.  Suppose he asks all the people around him to venerate Cathy.  He can make a religion or a doctrine out of his love for Cathy.  He can build up a whole theology around his love.  He may get some supporters too.  He can get those supporters to drag out from home anyone who refuses to pay homage to Cathy and then lynch him on the street for the sake of Cathytva.  This is crime of reason.

Crimes of reason are very dangerous, argues Camus.  We can multiply reasons for anything and crimes will multiply proportionately.  Millions of people were killed in the past for the sake of doctrines that sounded very logical to some people.  Crusades and Jihads are examples.  Hitler had clear reasons for eliminating six million Jews.  Every dictator had clear reasons for committing innumerable murders. 

There’s only one problem with the reasoning of these rational murderers.  The very first premises of their syllogisms are wrong.  For example, Hitler’s logic rested on his basic premise about the superiority of the Aryan race.  It was an absolutely false claim.  As false as Heathcliff’s demand that everyone should share his passion for Cathy.  But Heathcliff’s love was genuine. 

Suppose the newfound love of some people in India for the cow was genuine, would there be so much sound and fury in the name of that meek creature?  We can be sure of one thing at least.  If the love was genuine, there wouldn’t have been so many cows roaming the roads of a city like Delhi where the gau matas feed on the garbage thrown in dumping lots. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dangers of Quixotism

Finally Tony Blair has admitted that the 2003 Iraq war was a mistake. Juan Cole, teacher and writer, compares Blair's apology to that of the little boy who, on being asked to apologise for calling a lady "fat," said, "Lady, I'm sorry you're fat."

America, under the leadership of the quixotic Bush Jr, wanted to secure its hegemony in the Middle East particularly for grabbing the petroleum available there.  Even after the United Nations Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) reported that it could not discover any weapon of mass destruction in Kuwait, Don Quixote of America led his army against the country with the passionate support of his Sancho Panza, Tony Blair.

Thousands of people were killed.  Precious properties were destroyed. Thousands of people were displaced.  Many more thousands were left as survivors suffering from chronic heartaches.  And quite a few thousand terrorists were spawned by the heartaches.

India is witnessing a similar situation, though a scaled down version.  Our own Don Quixote and his very loyal Sancho Panza are fighting a war in the name of an animal of mass veneration.  Hegemony is the actual goal once again. But every Quixote was brought to his knees in the end.  Even Hitler who swallowed six million corpses was.  Six million lives was a heavy price even for a Hitler, however.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Love and the cow

Suresh was watching Bajrangi Bhaijaan when I dropped in.

“It is easy to peddle hatred,” a TV reporter in the movie was saying, “love gets few takers.”  But the movie ended in the victory of love over hatred with the Pakistani Muslims and the Indian Hindus gathering on either side of the international border clamouring for love. 

“Why does a meek creature like the cow instigate so much aggression among people?”  I asked when the movie was over.  

“Why the cow, even an inanimate thing like a piece of cloth cut in a particular geometrical shape can instigate aggression the moment religion becomes fanaticism,” said Suresh.  “And religion becomes fanaticism only when the character of the person is domineering and aggressive.”

Suresh went on to explain that the submissive person who is religious surrenders himself to whatever virtues his religion teaches him such as compassion or selflessness.  The surrender can go to extremes depending on the degree of the believer’s religiosity.  “Our Meera who imagined herself as the bride of Krishna is an example,” concluded Suresh.

I was reminded of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque who cried to Jesus, “Hold back, O my God, those torrents which overwhelm me, or else enlarge my capacity for their reception.”  Jesus appeared to her in the form of a heart surrounded with rays.  The wound it received from a mocking soldier while Jesus was on the cross was visible too.  There was a crown of thorns around the heart and a cross above it.  Jesus took Margaret’s heart, put it inside his own and then returned it to her saying, “You are now my slave.”  Margaret was Christianity’s Meera.

“Such people who are pathologically religious,” said Suresh, “tend to concentrate on some small fraction of the entity perceived as supernatural.  Krishna as a lover or Jesus as a heart, for example.”

“Or Krishna as a cowherd,” I added.  “And the cow becomes holy.”

“Indeed.”  He fell into thought for a moment.  “The solution would be to enlarge the perception.  Widen it from the heart or the cow or any part to the whole.”

“Then Krishna would cease to be a mere cowherd with a flute that played romantic melodies for Gopikas and transmute into the divine entity who told Arjuna that only those whose hearts are attached to small things have need for renunciation.”

“Precisely,” agreed Suresh.  “If the Buddhists had understood the Buddha’s middle way, there would have been no idols of the Buddha squatting like a fossil.”

“Do you think people are not intelligent enough to understand the depth and width of the teachings of Jesus or Krishna or Buddha and hence they narrow it down to the heart or the cow or the squat?”

“William James would agree with you,” Suresh smiled.  “But there are also people who don’t want to understand.  Because genuine understanding of religion will strip it of its political potential.”

The Prime Minister appeared on the TV screen with his characteristic body language of outstretched arms.  He called Lalu Prasad Yadav a “tantric” and his party “Rashtriya Jadu-Tona Dal.”  He accused the Bade bhai (Lalu) and Chhote Bhai (Nitish) of dividing Bihar into Bihari versus Bahari.

“Lalu is a real lover of the cow,” said Suresh.  “He has an air-conditioned cowshed for his gau matas.  Yet...”  He grinned at me and did not complete the sentence.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

My Stories as Ebook

I have collected 33 short stories of mine into an ebook which will be published next week.  Most of these stories were written in the last two years and published in my blog.  Just to give a taste of what the stories are like, let me give the links to three stories selected at random:

Ahalya – the first story in the volume
And quiet flowed the Beas – the tenth story
The Nomad Learns Morality – the title story

The volume is dedicated to “Radha Soami Satsang Beas especially Dr Pranita Gopal.”  RSSB is a religious organisation which took over a school in Delhi where I was teaching for quite a while.  In about two years the organisation bulldozed the school to smithereens.  The bulldozer became my guru and muse.  However, the stories are in no way related to the school or RSSB.  Not at all to the bulldozer.  Not even to Dr Pranita Gopal.  All these happened to be my best inspirers.  I’m obliged to them eternally.  Were it not for them, the potential for fiction writing would have died quietly within me.  As Lord Rama’s touch brought life to Ahalya, RSSB brought a different life to the writer in me.  Dr Gopal is one of the many faces of RSSB that I came close to.  My admiration for her grows day by day.

I’m now working on a novel which is totally inspired by the RSSB.  The novel is tentatively titled Black Hole.  Following is an extract from it:

In the beginning was a black hole.  The black hole was with God, and the black hole was God.  All things existed in the black hole.  Nothing could escape the tenacity with which the black hole held everything within it.  The bonds of that tenacity grew strong and stronger until the black hole could not bear the bondage anymore.  And it exploded.  Boom.  Big Bang.  And the black hole became flesh.

Ishan Salman Panicker was writing his gospel.   

The picture in this post is not the actual cover of the book.  I designed it for fun.  I now live a few metres away from the road in the picture.  It is a picturesque village in Kerala whose landscapes suffuse beauty and vigour into my soul through an osmotic process which could not have taken place elsewhere.  I’m grateful to RSSB and its people for giving me this gift without even their knowledge.

That’s how life works.  We become agents of transmutation in other people’s lives.  We can be Desdemonas or Iagos.  Othello may fail to recognise the genuine face.  Othellos, Desdemonas and Iagos create art for us.  My stories are humble attempts to catch some of those aesthetic moments of life.  Some of those glimpses which may add some beauty to a life that is otherwise bulldozed over.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dogs and Politics

Marilyn Monroe loved dogs because they never bit her unlike the human beings.  Mark Twain was of a similar opinion.  “If you pick up a starving dog,” declared the witty writer, “and make him prosperous he will not bite you.  This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”  Milan Kundera found his Eden by sitting “with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon.”

Our leaders of the most powerful political party today seem to hold dogs in a slightly different regard.  A few months back our Prime Minister declared his love for puppies when he made a subtle equation between them and the victims of communal riots belonging to a particular community.  Now General V K Singh, union minister and former army chief, thinks that the Dalits share some genes with the canines.   

The dogs are very friendly creatures which are unpolitically selfless.  They earned a bad name in India, however, because their general (not to be confused with the General) lot in this country was no better than that of the oppressed and marginalised people.  Like the people in the country, the dogs too belong to two classes: the privileged and the underprivileged.  The former get rides in luxury cars, treatment in well-equipped vet clinics, and food imported from countries where dog is not an abusive word.  The latter roam the streets, scavenge for their food, and – in their leisure – enter the mouths of our Prime Minister and other VIPs when they want to declare their love for certain sections of people.

The great writer of crime fiction, Arthur Conan Doyle, saw in the dog a reflection of the family life.  The dog is as its owner is, he said.  Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one?  Snarling people have snarling dogs, said Doyle, and dangerous people have dangerous ones. 

What kind of people are our Prime Minister and the General, given the kind of dogs their rhetoric owns?  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Real Togetherness

Real togetherness is the relationship between the tree and the earth.  One draws its sustenance from the other.  Both draw life from each other.  Necessarily.  Ineluctably.  That ineluctability is the real togetherness.  But the extraction is based on a deep understanding.  The tree needs the earth for driving its hungry roots down as much as the earth needs the tree for materialising its fecundity. 

When the infant draws life from its mother’s breasts, the mother is enriched too.  That mutual enrichment is real togetherness.

Real togetherness is when man and woman probe into the eyes of each other and see oneself reflected in the eyes of the other.  The other becomes a lake into which one plunges to emerge in a while with enhanced zest for life.  The breeze of the heavens wafts through the necessary interstices of that zest. 

Real togetherness is the essence of the apple that Eve and Adam bit into before being ejected summarily from God’s patronisation.  It is grappling with the waves in the unchartered waters outside the Eden where Newton, rather than God, calculates the gravitational pull between the apple and the earth.  Where the various avatars of God determines who can live together.  And, alas, who cannot!  Avatars that have not attained the enlightenment required to understand the longing of the apple to dissolve into the earth’s entrails and re-emerge like the phoenix with new life. 

This post is inspired by an admirable venture from

Togetherness is impossible without Enlightenment.  Because togetherness is a harmonious symphony that transmutes the bestial biped into a merging raga.  A harmony that extracts a willing surrender which is rooted in the realisation that everyone of us owes Nature a death.  

In the meanwhile, before the time draws close for the final surrender, real togetherness is a deliverance.  Deliverance from the preposterous gods that have extracted orgasmic sacrifices from us in their electronic avatars.  It is the deliverance of the spirit from digital bits and bytes into soulful verses.

Real togetherness is the mating of the spade with the soil stirring phoenix wings into motion from the interred ashes.  Not the lustful assaults of the bulldozer seeking mastery over the earth and its genuine inheritors.  Not the assembly of hallucinated Satsangis chanting soulless mantras about bovine sanctity, but the assimilation of the eternal spirit that sparkles in all that was, is and will ever be.  It is the ascent of the soul to the wisdom of the Aham Brahmasmi.

It is the vanishing act of the Aham at the vision of the eternal spirit whose creative impulse wafts relentlessly through the multifarious instruments producing the orchestra of the cosmos.  It is the enlightenment that transforms the Aham into yet another flower in the vast garden of heterogeneous flowers. 

Real togetherness is when the tomatoes can inspire us with new songs.  With melodies in place of tragedies.  With smiles that reduce the miles between you and me. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Yudhishtiras and holy cows

"The devil called god must indeed be marvellous," exclaims a character in Subhash Chandran's Malayalam novel,  'Manushyanu Oru Amukham,' (A Preface to Man).  The novel has already won many eminent and well-deserved awards.

The protagonist argues that the dog which accompanied Yudhishtira to heaven must be a stray creature and the moral is that a man who ignores his fellow creatures in his single-minded pursuit of heaven is no better than a stray dog. Yudhishtira had not cared to throw as much as a loving gaze at his people who were falling dead on the way.

Contemporary Yudhishtiras are beseiging the gates of heaven accompanied by holy cows.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Secrets of the Knight

Two centuries of wandering in the valley of withered sedges was brought to an end for the Knight of la Belle Dame sans Merci when an adventure-tourist gifted him a digital camera.

"In case you bump into her," advised the tourist,  " click a snap.  It might serve to forewarn future potential victims. "

It is immaterial whether the tourist was a universal do-gooder or was merely playing a practical joke on the haggard and woe-begone Knight.   What matters here is that the gift transformed the Knight's life.

His camera lapped up the beauty of the landscapes that stretched farther and farther from the valley of fairy sedges.   Undulating landscapes and riotous horizons became digital heartbeats in the Knight's camera.  Country roads flanked by thriving flora composed heavenly rhapsodies.

Every road invariably led to a twilight.  In the dimness of twilights, in the most insignificant crannies of landscapes,  in the unlikeliest places,  the Knight discovered the secrets of life.   Those secrets had the sweetness of honey wild and manna-dew.  And sure in language strange they professed their love to the Knight.   "Love you too," said the Knight shutting their eyes with countless kisses. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Butterflies and Perspectives

Horse: If you don’t want to be a caterpillar, how can you become a butterfly?

Caterpillar: Did you pass through so many stages before you became a horse?

Horse: Not exactly the same stages.  But stages, yes.

Caterpillar: Was it hard?  The stages, I mean.

Horse: It depends.  Being a caterpillar is not hard for all caterpillars, I guess.

Caterpillar: One grows up only by passing through the stages?

Horse: One grows real only by passing through the stages.

Caterpillar: Real?

Horse: Opposite of fraud, let’s say.

Caterpillar: Why should anyone be a fraud?

Horse: Discontent, I guess.  Not happy being what you are.  Wanting to be something else.  Somebody else.

Caterpillar: Like me?

Horse: Well.  There are many creatures who are unhappy about what they are.  Who want to be somebody else.  Becoming real is a slow process, I guess.  It needs patience.  Like being a caterpillar crawling on leaves.  And then a chrysalis. 

Caterpillar: But only we butterflies go through all those stages.

Horse: Not at all.  Everyone does.  The names of the stages differ.  Infancy, childhood, adolescence, and so on.  Many break while going through these stages.  Those who have blunt edges, glass shells, air bags, and such things. 

Caterpillar: And then?  After the break up, I mean.

Horse: Some vanish from the earth.  Some survive and learn to live without those attachments like blunt edges or glass shells.  That’s how they become real. Shedding the unwanted attachments.  It’s tough.  Shedding attachments is tough.

Caterpillar: For us that happens naturally.

Horse: So you’re luckier than the others.

Caterpillar: And I thought I was the most unlucky creature!

Horse: Perspectives.  Perspectives make the difference.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Some Virtues

I used to be Snow White until I was bored
And drifted in quest of colours
And met holders of magic mirrors.
Colours come in at the cost of whiteness.

My generosity with words overflowed
Until the words became flames
And she said she was ready to burn herself
Wasn’t she doing it from day one, she asked.

So many holy books full of truths
for which people kill one another.
And I’m still seeking that truth
which doesn’t demand so much blood.

Every time I joined my palms in rueful prayer
God said he had already forgiven me.
But I couldn’t forgive him
for making me a beggar again and again.

I have a tail that’s nothing much to boast about,
It loves to get in the way sometimes just
to show off whatever colours and plumes it has;
The silly little thing is attached to me as I am to it.

Monday, October 12, 2015


It is a blessing to be able to smile after you have crossed over into that period of life which people would rather refer to with the help of some euphemism than plainly as ‘old age.’  When friends of the same age group counsel you condescendingly that “age is a matter of the mind,” you are free to smile.  Smile at the condescension.  Or you can smile at the hypocrisy.  Or self-delusion, if you wish to look at it that way.  You are free to smile when people choose to call it positive thinking.  And you can smile all the way as you drive to some Art of Living prayer session which will teach you avant-garde terminology for the senility that inevitably catches up with you.

The realisation that life is all the sound and fury that transpires between the wail that marks your arrival on the scene and the gasp that pushes you out can be an ideal source of smile.  The lessons that your near and dear ones tried to teach you in the countless scenes of the drama of life may deserve pretty much smiling.   The lessons in charity, for example, which were not quite charitable.  Green indignation over your jealousy.  Mocking chuckles about your cocking a snook at what failed to appeal to your snobbery.  Fiery sermons that scorch the lust that befriended your youth. 

Life is generous with opportunities for smiling.  Thomas Grey’s flowers that blush for you alone in the air of your willed solitude.  The country roads that stretch into welcoming twilights.  The smiles on the wayside, smiles not warped by pedantry or self-righteousness, not tainted by the city’s rat-race. 

There’s so much to smile at. 

PS: Inspired by Indispire Edition 86 : #YouMakeMeSmile

Sunday, October 11, 2015

You are Dying, Columbus

You are dying, Columbus.
I wish your corpse would carry to your grave
the sins you committed
against whole races of people,
my people, and all the other people,
whom you held to ransom
in the name of a god and a king and his queen.

What were you but a thief, a murderer and a rapist?
You came armed with a sword in one hand
and the Bible in the other.
Our women were naive to welcome you
with gifts of parrots and bales of cotton;
They showered their hospitality on you
and made spears for your men on your demand.
And you killed them with those spears
after raping them.

Did your god smile
when you poured the baptismal water
on our infants
who grew up to be plunderers
of the earth
like you?

We were clay in your hands
and you moulded us
in your image.
We despise us
in your image.

PS: America is celebrating Oct 12 as Columbus Day.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

When Intellectuals Wake Up

Finally India’s intellectuals are waking up, it seems.  “The tide of intolerance has risen to such a level that individuals do not have the freedom to eat what they like or to love a person of their choice,” said Sara Joseph, eminent Malayalam novelist, who has decided to return her Sahitya Adkademi award following the example set by Nayantara Sahgal.  Hindi poet Ashok Vajpeyi had already returned his award.  Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas followed suit.  Sashi Despande stepped down from the Akademi’s General Council. Former Akademi secretary and poet K. Satchidanandan has announced his decision to resign his membership in all committees of the Akademi.  Subhash Chandran, Malayalam novelist and Akademi award winner, has told a TV channel that he is going to return his award.  Short story writer P.K. Parakkadavu, member of the Sahitya Akademi General Council, said he is resigning his membership in the council with immediate effect. Literary critic K.S. Ravikumar, member of the General Council, has already resigned.  There may be others who have joined in or are doing so.

A cry in the mountain can set an avalanche in motion.  Provided the cry rises from the right throat.

With so many writers taking up the cudgel on behalf of individual liberty, there is reason to be optimistic in contemporary India. 

Truth was becoming the biggest casualty in the country.  Individual liberty, after that.  Fascism had begun to unsheathe its claws and fangs. 

And there’s Hardik Patel who has declared the Gujarat model of development a myth.  He is threatening to expose the reality behind the myth.

India is waking up to the harsh realities buried beneath expedient shibboleths and psychedelic slogans.   Chak de, India.

Friday, October 9, 2015

We and They

Fascism is an act of contempt.  Albert Camus made a detailed analysis of that contempt in his book, The Rebel.  Conversely, said Camus, “every form of contempt, if it enters politics, prepares the way for, or establishes, fascism.”

Those of us who are not victims of selective amnesia may remember certain mock-slogans such as Hum paanch, humara pachees which won the sloganeer tremendous popularity in the country.  If from Mein Kampf the road led straight to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, the mock slogans of the country’s most eloquent orator have brought us to Dadri.  Leaving aside a Nayantara Sahgal and an Ashok Vajpeyi, the intellectuals in the country are lulled into stupor by the eloquent contempt.  Have we reached that stage where –  as in Camus’s analysis of fascism – one leader, one people translates into one master, millions of slaves

Finally when the orator broke his silence on the issue he took recourse to the counsel given by the President who is a soft-spoken man with no gift of the gab at all.  Why didn’t the orator declare his own ideology?  His own philosophy about the plurality of the country’s culture and religions?

Hitler did not have any clear set of principles or ideology, argues Camus.  He was a man of action.  Action alone kept Hitler alive, says Camus.  For him, to exist was to act.  That is why Hitler and his regime needed enemies.  Bereft of a constructive vision, the leader can only survive on hatred of the enemy and the constant action it generates.  The very meaning, the purpose of existence, for such people is defined in relation to their enemies. 

Yet the enemy has to be decimated too.  The regime moves from conquest to conquest, from enemy to enemy, until the empire of blood and action is established.  Or else, the march ends in total defeat – as it happened in the case of Hitler.

As long as the march is going on, it is only conquest, occasional setbacks notwithstanding.  Hitler used to tell his generals that nobody was going to ask the victor whether he abided by truths or not.  Hermann Goring, one of Hitler’s generals, repeated again and again during his trial that “The victor will always be the judge, and the vanquished will always be the accused.”

The guilt of the perpetrator of violence is shifted easily to the victim wherever there are victors and the vanquished.  “They disrespected the religion of the majority.”  That’s the crime.  You can see that verdict in the umpteen comments made by readers below online newspaper reports of the Dadri lynching and related issues.  It doesn’t even matter whether the hapless man had actually eaten what he had been accused of! 

Even if the man had eaten the food forbidden by the so-called majority, did he deserve the kind of death he was awarded?  During Hitler’s heyday the Nazi newspapers proclaimed a “divine mission,” namely, “to lead everyone back to his origins, back to the common Mother.” The Germans were divided into we and they.  ‘We’ became the cogs in the fascist machinery, and they (those who did not belong to the common Mother) were viewed as the waste products to be dumped. 

Let us hope that our great leader, instead of relying on the feeble inspiration muttered by the President, will use his eloquence to reunify the nation on a platform of pluralism where even bovine metaphors can have different meanings to different people as they ought to.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Judgment at Dadri

‘Do you think your leg is a part of yourself?’  The Judge asked the convict.

‘Yes.’  The convict was confident.

‘What about the bacteria in your intestines...?’  The convict’s eyes bulged.  He seemed to know nothing about bacteria, and that too in his stomach.

‘There won’t be no digestion of what you eat without them bacteria in your gut,’ the Judge explained condescendingly before proceeding to the next question with his usual solemnity.  ‘What about the stream from which you take your drinking water?  Is the stream a part of yourself?’

The convict blinked.

‘Is your cow a part of you?  Is the land on which your cow grazes a part of you?  Are you a part of the landscape and all that it holds, a part of Nature, a part of the universe, one with the streams and rocks, trees and grass, buffaloes and grasshoppers?  What makes you think a cow is more a part of the universe than a Muslim?’

The convict’s eyes, which were lifeless until then, glared at the last word uttered by the Judge.  The glare struck the Judge as fiendish.

‘Read out to this unfortunate creature the extract from the Gospel according to Saint Albert Einstein.’  The Judge ordered.

The clerk opened a book ceremoniously and read:

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space.  We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest.  A kind of optical delusion of consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

When the clerk had finished reading that, the Judge said, ‘Now read to him from the sacred scriptures of the religion he regards as his own.’

‘A reading from the Brihadaranyka Upanishad,’ said the clerk opening the Upanishad.  ‘Brahma va idam agra asit...

The convict glared baffled.  Sanskrit is as good as Latin or Greek to him, thought the Judge.  ‘Translate it into his language,’ he ordered.

‘Brahman was indeed this in the beginning.  It knew itself only as “I am Brahman.”  Therefore it became all.  Whoever among the gods became awakened to this, he indeed became that.  It is the same in the case of the sages and the ordinary men.  This is so even now. Whoever knows “I am Brahman” becomes this all.  Even the gods cannot prevent any man’s becoming the Brahman.  So whoever worships a divinity other than the Brahman in himself, he is ignorant.  He is like an animal to the gods. 

The convict showed no sign of comprehension.  The Judge was watching him carefully.  He pronounced the verdict.

‘Since the accused claims to have committed the murder for the sake of his religion, and since his foul deed is a heinous blemish on his religion which upholds the sanctity of all that exists, and since religion without proper understanding is the most menacing threat that looms over humanity, this court finds it necessary that the accused be subjected to a rigorous training.  Let him begin with some elementary lessons.  Let him begin by reading Mark Boyle’s latest book, Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi....’

The prisoner sat down on the mat in his cell and read:

I am the land, I am the salmon, I am the holly tree, I am the swallow, I am the earthworm, I am the pigeon, I am the hen, I am the fox, I am the ramson, I am the bluebell.  When the robin eats the worm and shits onto the soil from which I eat, it is not violence, but Life giving life onto itself....

Note:  The last paragraph is quoted from Mark Boyle’s book mentioned in the post.  Albert Einstein’s words are also borrowed from Boyle.  The opening questions about the leg, the bacteria and all the rest being a part of the self are also adapted from the same book.  I have not read Boyle’s book yet.  I read the extract here.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Mr Ram Jethmalani is disillusioned with Mr Narendra Modi.  “I thought God had sent him as his ‘Aulia’ [representative] for India’s salvation... How I became the victim of fraud,” said the eminent lawyer who was in Bihar asking the people there to defeat the BJP in the imminent elections.  And he is a BJP MP in the Rajya Sabha!

“Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion,” said Arthur Koestler whose faith in communism met with a tragic end because of Stalin, a leader who had made tall promises to his country.  Mr Jethmalani may not possess the insightfulness of Koestler to understand that “As long as chaos dominates the world, God is an anachronism; and every compromise with one’s own conscience is perfidy. When the accursed inner voice speaks to you, hold your hands over your ears…” [Darkness at Noon, Koestler’s illustrious novel].  Hence a few blustering dialogues in Bihar will ease the pain in his heart which will soon be ready for compromises.  Our politicians have mastered the art of not hearing what is inconvenient even without holding their hands over their ears. 

But Justice Katju is not a politician.  So when he says that he eats beef and doesn’t consider the cow as his mother, it should ideally produce disillusionment among some people at least.  Instead it produced a lot of heat and dust in the social media.  The pain of disillusionment could have paved the way to truth.  But heat and dust can only produce pollution. 

ABVP, the student wing of BJP, clashed with SFI, the student wing of CPI(M) in a college in Kerala on account of the cow.  Beef used to be the most common non-veg item in the menu of Kerala’s restaurants until the Modi govt started rewriting the country’s history.  Who is waiting for disillusionment in Kerala: ABVP who is dreaming up a new history for the country or the general public in Kerala whose diet is being reworked with the zeal displayed by Aurangzeb in reworking certain religious places?

Who is right?  Who is wrong?  Whose prerogative is disillusionment?

Let me end this apparently haphazard post with yet another quote.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Invisible to the Eye

One of the many creatures that Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classical Little Prince encounters on the earth is a fox.  The creature approaches the Prince with a weird request.  “Please tame me,” pleaded the fox.  The Prince did not know the meaning of ‘tame’.  “It means to establish ties,” explained the fox.  Without the ties, the boy would be just another boy for the fox just as the fox would be just another fox for the boy who don’t need each other in any way.  “But if you tame me,” continues the fox, “then we shall need each other.  To me, you will be unique in all the world.  To you, I shall be unique in all the world.”

Little Prince and the Fox
When you establish the “ties” the person or thing becomes unique to you, the Prince understands.  He remembers the rose which he used to look after on his own planet.  He watered it, he made a special glass enclosure for its safety, he killed caterpillars for its sake.  The Prince refers to the rose with the personal pronoun ‘she’.  “It is she that I have listened to when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing,” he says. “Because she is my rose.”

Relationships do not require many words, reminds the fox.  “Words are the source of misunderstandings.  But you will sit a little closer to me, every day...”  The fox goes on to share its personal secret with the Prince.  “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  He also reminds the Prince that he must not ever forget what he has tamed. “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

Men have forgotten this, accuses the fox.  “Men have no more time to understand anything.  They buy things all readymade at the shops.  But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends anymore.”

The latest Indispire theme [What do women need more today: equality or empathy?] brought the Little Prince and his fox to my mind.  Man has established his lordship not only over his own planet but also over the infinite cosmos whose mysteries are being probed by man-made telescopes roaming the interstellar spaces.   Yet why has he not been able to shape a civilisation in which the question of equality and empathy should not arise at all, especially for the whole half of the species?  Or are some of the fears grossly exaggerated?  Personally, I have seen many women who have wielded tremendous powers over men in workplaces.  I have seen men being made dumb asses by clever women who ascended the winding staircases and dark corridors of power in a world that reminded me of Kafka and his Castle.  Yet, of course, there are women too who still languish outside the Castle, I suppose, waiting for the corridors to open, waiting to ascend the staircases...

Perhaps, the question should not be about equality and empathy.  Perhaps, it is about the taming that the fox speaks about.

“The men where you live,” the Little Prince tells the narrator-human, “raise five thousand roses in the same garden – and they do not find in it what they are looking for.”  A little later he adds, “And yet what they are looking for could be found in one single rose, or in a little water.”  Then he concludes, “But the eyes are blind.  One must look with the heart...”

But our hearts are up there in the telescopes that are conquering the stars.

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...