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Showing posts from November, 2015

Secularism is not a bad word

‘Secular’ and ‘communal’ are bad words in India unlike in any other part of the world.  Most countries in the world are secular in the sense they don’t have state religions; they keep politics and religion apart from each other.  ‘Communal’ means belonging or related to a community and has no negative connotations except in India.  Source We Indians are queer indeed.  We elected a party to power in the Centre because it promised to deliver us development .  But from the time the party started governing us, we started entertaining ourselves by abusing some people as ‘secular’ or ‘pseudo-secular.’  The latter term seems to have gone out of fashion. The country is polarised today into the ‘secular’ and the ‘communal.’  If you believe in some religion or god, you are communal.  If you demand peace and prosperity, you are filthy secular.  Rajnath Singh, our Home Minister, wants to cleanse the Indian vocabulary of secularism.  He tried to sound profoundly philosophical by a


Delhi is a city of flyovers and high-fliers.  People from all over the country are driven to the welter of opportunities that the National Capital Region offers with the magnanimity that the emperors of the walled city displayed to their favourite courtiers and courtesans.  Anyone who has the inclination and the drive will find his or her place in Delhi sooner than later – under the flyover if not above it.  Sprawling landscape around Qutub Minar The loves we share with a city are often not very upfront.  What drives Delhi are not merely the well-maintained roads and flyovers and the exquisite metro service but also the secret gratifications it offers in the sprawling malls with their multiplexes and the greenery that throbs in the woodlands that dot the city’s map with an unusual excess of nature’s bounty.  You can drive a dilapidated Bajaj scooter or a luxurious BMW and be at home in the anonymity of Delhi’s crowded vastness.  You can wear a cheap outfit bought from the s

Buddha and Zorba

My favourite novelists are those whose characters went on some wild goose chases, looking for oases in the mirage of life.  Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, and Dostoevsky have remained on the top of my list for long.  Jose Saramago’s The Gospel according to Jesus Christ and Javier Marias’s Infatuations captured my fancy later.  But one writer who has remained above them all for long is Nikos Kazantzakis.  His novels explore the conflict between the body and the soul, between “god and man” as he put it.  The Last Temptation of Christ, Christ Recrucified , and Saint Francis explore that conflict brilliantly.  However, the author’s earlier novel, Zorba the Greek , is what strikes me as the best.  Kazantzakis Zorba presents the classical Greek dichotomy between the Apollonian and the Dionysian.  Apollo is the god of reason and control, while Dionysius revels in the wild passions.  In the novel, Zorba is a worker who is taken on as an assistant by the narrator who is a young intel

Women Happy to Bleed

Once I asked a class of sixteen-year olds, both boys and girls, mostly Christians, why the Biblical Satan chose to tempt Eve rather than Adam.  The answers varied from women’s “gullibility” to their “susceptibility to flattery.”  I was mildly disappointed for not getting the response which I looked forward to: “The Bible was written by a man.” Image courtesy: Countercurrents A few days back, the Travancore Devaswom Board obtained a new president, Prayar Gopalakrishnan, who seems to be the 21 st century avatar of the writer of Genesis.  He thinks, like the author of the Adam-Eve myth, that women are an impure species.  When asked whether women would be allowed entry into the most celebrated temple in Kerala, the Sabarimala Temple, he said that he would wait for the invention of a machine that could scan the female body to determine “if it is the 'right time' (not menstruating) for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting

Why do I Write?

Every writer is happy when his writing sells.  When I decided to collect some of my short stories into a book, I was not very hopeful about the commercial success of the book; I was only venturing on an experiment.  The real motive was not commercial success but the dedication of the book to some people who nagged me into writing the stories.  The publication of the book with its dedication that appears on the very title page was a ritual of exorcism for me.  I was casting out the demons that were put in me by certain people.  One of my acquaintances who read the book or a part of it asked me today, “What made you write these stories?”  Most of the stories in the volume are subversive to some extent, he said that in different words.  My first reviewer , Sreesha Divakaran, said the same thing in her own words: ‘...all the stories in the book, in subtle ways, question morality as we know it, what we have been taught as “right” or “moral.”   Being a subversive is not my conscious

A Terrorist Learns to Read

Fiction Professor woke up hearing the sound of something falling in the backyard of his two-storey house.  He switched on the lights.  It was three o’clock, still a couple of hours to his wake-up alarm.   A groan rose from the yard.  He went downstairs and opened the backdoor. “Who are you?  What are you doing here?” He asked the man who was struggling to get up. Professor helped the man to get up and led him into his drawing room.  He gave him water to drink and offered to prepare tea. “You have a fracture in the foot, I think,” said Professor having examined the man’s leg.  He picked up his phone and called for an ambulance.   “Let me change my dress.  Relax here until the ambulance arrives.” “Why are you doing this to me?” The man asked Professor while they were in the ambulance.  He was lying down on the stretcher.  Professor was not a fool; he must have understood what had happened.  The intruder had fallen down while trying to get into his house through th

A Terrorist meets his God

Fiction Salim slapped himself and said, “Allah, forgive me.” The very sight of Sonal Sharma sent a rush of blood to what his friends called “centre point.”  Sonal was beautiful.  At the age of 17, she had conquered the peak of feminine charm in every possible way.  Her physical figure was statuesque.  She was flighty and coquettish while dealing with the boys in the class but sincerely committed to her studies and topped the class usually.  A future doc.  Salim imagined her in the doctor’s white coat with the stethoscope dangling on the perfect parabola of her bosom.  They were classmates, Salim and Sonal. In many ways she was like his mother, reflected Salim.  Maria, his mother, was a Catholic of Keralite origin though born and brought up in Delhi.  She and Sulaiman met each other on a flight from Delhi to Washington DC.  She was a journalist with a prominent national newspaper and was deputed to report the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  He was a professor at a Delhi University

Ramdev Remedy for Terrorism

Baba Ramdev is the 21 st century sage.  In the ancient system, the sage went away from the world of men to places like the Himalayas and afflicted themselves with the extremes of what their normal counterparts in the normal world endured.  Ramdev has redefined religion for the 21 st century.  Religion need not be a pain in the posterior; it can be a luxury – that’s the new Veda. Source The other day the Baba came up with Patanjali atta noodles to counter Nestle’s Maggi.  The yogi has now come up with yogawear which is expected to give Nike and Adidas a run for their money.   “The spiritual guru will soon launch health drinks such as Powervita to take on Horlicks and Bournvita, babycare and beauty products...,” reports the Times of India .  Patanjali has become a brand name, thanks to the inspiring entrepreneurial skills of the yogi.  It may even buy up the entire country in a few years’ time and rename it Ramdevstan.  We will have everything from cooking salt to smartpho

Merciless Beauty

Source One of the poems that has never ceased to fascinate me is Keats’ La Belle Dame sans Merci .  Recently the poem featured in my blog post, Secrets of the Knight .  The haggard Knight also features momentarily in the novel I’m writing.  At the age of 16, the protagonist of the novel writes an English assignment titled The Quest of Keats’ Knight , which his English teacher, Father Joseph Kunnel, finds scandalous.  While the priest was doing everything within his capacity to bring up the boy as a God-fearing Catholic, the boy seemed bent upon following in the disastrous footsteps of the romantic poet’s Knight.  Let me quote the relevant lines from the novel. The real mercilessness of la Belle Dame lies in her “titillating tantalisation,” argued the essayist. “Titillating tantalisation!”  Father Joseph was stuck on that phrase for quite a long while.  Interesting, he thought.  All human quest for the meaning of life is sure to end in futility, Ishan’s essay went on.