Thursday, December 31, 2015

God in Literature


George Steiner
God is always present in a good work of art, literature and music.  George Steiner says that in his book, Real Presences.  That God enters our being and asks us to change ourselves. 

Good literature, art and music have the power to change us.  They touch our souls, in other words.  Psychology tells us that a lot of our attitudes and behaviour are determined by our subconscious mind.  The subconscious mind is the seat of all the suppressed emotions which can take the shape of the devil at times –  when we lose our cool, for example. It is this subconscious mind that good literature touches, that good music soothes or good art cools.  The suppressed feelings undergo transformation under the influence of good art, literature or music.  That transformative power is God, in Steiner’s words. Aristotle gave it a more secular name: catharsis.

The process of writing is also deeply related to the subconscious mind.  Our themes and imagery, our style and diction, they all have their origin in that powerhouse called the subconscious mind.  Let us take three Jewish prophets, for example,  who found their place in the Bible and stayed there for centuries.  Isaiah viewed Yahweh as a King because the prophet came from a royal family.  For Amos, Yahweh was full of empathy for His people.  The fact is that Amos himself possessed that empathy.  Hosea described Yahweh as a jilted husband because his own wife, Gomer, was unfaithful to him.  Each one created Yahweh in his own image.

We will like the God of Isaiah or Amos or Hosea depending on the needs of our own subconscious mind.  

The author of sentences like “There is no love of life without despair about life” (Albert Camus) appealed to me much because that love as well as the despair was part of my subconscious mind.  The twilight of uncertainty in Kafka’s novels, the hopeless hope in them, has been an integral part of my own psyche. 

God can be found not only in the holy books or the dark corners of temples but also in the novels and poems of good writers. Of course, God can be found in the rose in your garden or the pine on the mountain.  In the gurgle of the brook or the murmur of the breeze.  In the pages of a novel or the lines of a poem.  It all depends on the nature and needs of your subconscious mind. 

The ideal would be each person finding his/her own God.  That is the only real God.  The rest are others’ gods and they turn inevitably bloodthirsty.  The other man’s subconscious is not mine.  Its devils are his.  Hence his gods can’t be mine. 

Good literature, art and music and a lot of other things can help us connect with our own subconscious and discover our own god. Steiner is right, after all.


Indian Bloggers




Wednesday, December 30, 2015

God's Love Song

A view from Shimla's Mall Road


Indian Bloggers



I willed my being into an extension
And the cosmos was born in a Bang:
Every birth is a terror and a joy,
Every creation an extension of a core.
I live, move, and have my being
In all that is, and that shall be,
Much as in the core that sits here.

Hypothesis is what the creation was
When I let myself go in a bang:
An overflow of love infinite.
Experiment is what the creation is
When I add patterns in the mosaic:
A sporting game of love unremitting.
Abel was I, much as Cain was.

I am the turbulence of the rolling waters,
The rage of blasting bombs and fleeting bullets,
The hunger in the eyes of widows and babies,
The roar of the clouds, and the grace of the rainbow.
And the nailed wail on the crucifix.
Evolution is what the creation is, of
The hell and the heaven that I am.


PS.  

Years pass and we undergo changes swallowing the lessons that life shoves down our throats.  Some of the lessons I learnt in the last couple of years have made my writing a little more complex than earlier.  Really?  It's then I remembered some of the poems I wrote two decades ago when life had inflicted similar experiences on me.  This is one such poem.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

New Year


The calendar will be replaced,
The old has to give way.
Even the voice, for language too grows old;
Rather, language renews itself like the proverbial phoenix

The new year is for making new mistakes
Trying out new trails
Falling into new traps and ditches
Learning new lessons

Writing new stories
Discovering new voices

 
Read Sunaina Sharma's Review
of
The Nomad Learns Morality
HERE



Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Gift

Courtesy: Joshi Daniel



More than a century and a half ago, Charles Dickens converted selfish Scrooge into a compassionate human being on the Christmas Day.  Today’s Indian Scrooges have awarded themselves a gargantuan pay hike on the occasion of Christmas which has already been converted into Good Governance Day. 

Our MPs have decided to double their salary.  If the proposal is approved (it will be), each MP will take home Rs 280,000 every month as their salary.  Plus all the freebies whose cost will run into lakhs of rupees.  Plus a doubled pension.  When the vast majority of Indians who slog their entire life for pittances will retire in their old age with no benefits such as pensions, an MP who may serve a term of a few months or 5 years at the most will enjoy a monthly pension that is higher than the annual income of many families in the country.

Democracy has been strengthened, mocks a cartoon in today’s Malayala Manorama referring to the MPs’ pay hike. 

Are these the achche din promised by the Modi government?

According to the India Rural Development Report 2013-14, poverty among marginalized groups in is pathetically high. About 45 per cent of Scheduled Tribes and 31 per cent of Scheduled Castes in rural areas are struggling to make both ends meet.  More than half the SCs in the rural Bihar are still fighting poverty — the highest among states at 51.67 per cent. In Chhattisgarh, 48.19 per cent of SCs were poor, while in Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, the figure was around 41 per cent. The all-India figure was 31.52 per cent, according to that report.

Courtesy: The Telegraph
We don’t need such reports to understand poverty.  Take a walk in the countryside and anyone will realise that all the promises about development and achche din were hollow dreams.   Except for the privileged sections whose benefits are looked after by the MPs along with their own.  And who will pay for their privileges?  The answer is the Christmas gift for the majority of Indians!






Thursday, December 24, 2015

Seekers



Indian Bloggers



The seeker walked on
Winter raged all around
And inside
Deep in the marrow of his bones

Fog descended
Making the night darker
Darkness mounted all around
And inside

Lying down on the veranda
Of some shop or whatever
He longed for warmth
For a touch

He did not open his eyes
When the touch came
Another body
Snuggled close to him

Another seeker, he thought,
Of light amidst thickening fogs
Of warmth against mounting cold
Another seeker, another absurdity.

When the dawn broke
The seeker woke
And saw his night’s companion, a dog,
Walk away indifferently having stretched himself.

From Bhatti Mines, Delhi,
where seekers gather galore



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Bestseller She Wrote


Book Review

Title: The Bestseller She Wrote
Author: Ravi Subramanian
Publisher: Westland Ltd, 2015
Pages: 391
Price: Rs 295


Paraphrasing Francis Bacon, one may say that some books are potboilers, a few are the fire beneath the pot, and still few are the food inside the pot.  Ravi Subramanian’s latest novel, The Bestseller She Wrote, belongs to the first category.  It has all the ingredients of a successful Indian potboiler.  There is the hero who is a successful executive in a leading bank and also a famous writer, a heroine who is the quintessential Indian wife with all the virtues and no vices, and a villain who is ambitious, scheming, manipulative and above all a ravishing beauty who is happy to shed her clothes as required by the author (or the director of the movie). 

The main plot revolves round a modern version of the ancient triangular love.  Aditya Kapoor is a happily married, successful banker and “a rock star author.”  Maya, his wife, is a paragon of virtues, a teacher at Dhirubhai Ambani International School, who also involves herself in the social initiatives of the school among the urban poor in Mumbai, particularly the slums of Dharavi.  A young graduate from IIM Bengaluru, Shreya, storms like a virus into the idyllic life of the Kapoors and churns the ocean of their married life with as much drama and skin show as required for a roaring Bollywood movie.  And the churning will also yield the amrit in the form of a moral lesson preached by none other than the hero.

Shreya is a ruthless egotist, a typical contemporary villain.  For her, everything and everybody is a means that can be manipulated to achieve success and fame.  “Everything is commerce,” as Aditya says in the novel, for people like Shreya.  “Others be damned.  Sense an opportunity, go for the kill.”

If Shreya enters like a virus into the Kapoor paradise, Ebola enters as the tear-jerker without which a movie in India can be a box office disaster.  “Soon to be a motion picture,” declares the cover of the novel.  When Shreya’s “bestseller” is released, Anurag Kashyap (yes, the real one) is the guest of honour and the movie rights are bought by him in a grand public gesture.   Promising to become a movie is one of the essential ingredients of a bestseller.

What are the other ingredients?  The journey must be tragic but the ending happy, dictates Aditya Kapoor.  If the writer is glamorous and sexy, the book will sell more.  “You will be the darling of the media.  A pretty author gets away with a lot.”  A few pages later we are told, “If an author is an MBA, or well qualified, foreign educated, young, well-networked, he or she finds many backers.  This is because the publishers know that they will be able to sell a significant number of copies in the author’s own personal network.”  Finally, “Sometimes the best-written books fail and the miserable ones do well.  It’s also a matter of luck.”

Ravi Subramanian knows what makes a publishing success and he uses that knowledge effectively.  Towards the end of the novel, a character says about whatever has been happening, “This is turning out to be a potboiler.”  That’s just what the novel is.  For those who want a quickie, The Bestseller She Wrote is a good choice.  Apart from the fairly fast-paced plot and suspense, skin show and panty-groping, there is a lovely moral lecture welded with an apology from Aditya Kapoor crowning the climax of the novel.  I can imagine the thunderous applause with which the Bollywood audience will receive that lecture coming from a tinsel Kapoor. 

The Bestseller She Wrote is a combustible cocktail of love, betrayal and redemption,” declares the blurb.  Indeed it is that.  A cocktail.  Once the intoxication is over there will be little to carry home.  Not a single character that sinks into your psyche.  Not a single line that bubbles in your memory.  But bestsellers are not meant to do those things. 



I am reviewing ‘The Bestseller She Wrote’ by Ravi Subramanian as a part of the biggest Book Review Program forIndian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!


Links to prominent sellers:


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Quest

A church in Kerala


Somewhere in the gloom
God took flesh upon himself
He washed its feet
fed the spirit’s hunger
and went to hang himself
On a cross.

Flesh haunts flesh
As the cross haunts God
To be nailed to each other:

The eternal quest.

I wrote this poem about 20 years ago.  In those 20 years I came across very many people who were affiliated to different religions.  Some of them tried much to infuse me with their fervour and verve.  Nothing has changed a bit.  Neither me nor them.  The quest of each is different.  And that's an eternal quest.  Even God is helpless.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas and Some Thoughts


One of the best poems about Christmas that I’ve read is T. S. Eliot’s Journey of the Magi.  My short story, The First Christmas, was largely inspired by this poem.

“The world went on with its usual activities of finding food, conquering lands, vanquishing other people, mating and reproducing, killing and plundering, building and destroying.”  The narrator of the story, one of the three magi, says that.  Caspar, the narrator, was on a quest because he could find no meaning in a life that revolved around eating, conquering, mating, and so on. 

“If human life is the progress from being a bold, free and above all creative child to cowardice, dependence and creativity that ends in procreation in a span of about 60 or 70 years and then succumbing to death as a child in the garb of an old creature, then, my beloved, I have nothing to be proud of being born a man.”  Thus says the narrator of a Malayalam novel (Manushyanu Oru AmukhamA Preface to Man) which I read soon after coming to Kerala having bid goodbye to Delhi’s gods, godmen and their women. 

Christmas celebration at Sawan Public School [RIP], Delhi in 2010
Christmas marks the birth of a child who went on to make an immense mark in history.  He divided the entire history into two, in fact: Before him and After him – BC and AD, which the world has now secularised into BCE and CE.  Whether Jesus himself made the historical mark or the religion created in his name did the job is a different question.

Two millennia after that first Christmas, it would not be futile to raise the question whether the birth and the subsequent death (martyrdom?) of that Messiah made the world any better a place.  The religion founded in his name turned out to be one of the most brutal ones with all the holy wars, inquisitions, and other such barbarities it inflicted upon mankind for a very long period in the short human civilisation.   [Today another religion has taken over those same jobs in a proportionately more malevolent manner.]

At the end of my story, The First Christmas, Caspar and his two companions are left with a longing for another special star because the visions of crosses and pain evoked by the infant at Bethlehem fail to satisfy the seekers.  They want, in other words, a life without the crosses and pain.  At the very least, they would want a Messiah who would not escape life by dying on the cross but would show people how to endure the crosses of their day-to-day life. 

The cross eventually became an object of veneration.  It became a means for imposing agonies upon people and also for justifying the impositions.  Life is a pain, endure it – that’s the message, in short.

Is that what Jesus really wanted to teach?  No, I’m not going to answer the question.  Rather, I have no answers.  It is because I have no answers that I prefer to write stories rather than essays. 

***
The First Christmas and 32 other stories of mine are now available in book form HERE.

Read Amit Agarwal’s review of the book HERE.

Sreesha Divakaran’s review: HERE

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Help Justice



“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are,” said Benjamin Franklin.  The release of the 20 year-old man who had perpetrated the most diabolic deeds on a woman against whom he had no reason to have any grudge highlights the helplessness of justice. 

Asha Devi, mother of Jyoti Singh, being consoled
by Shabana Azmi instead of by Justice
The law is helpless since it is bound to follow the written codes.  The criminal was a juvenile when he attacked a 23 year-old paramedical student three years ago in a cold winter night in Delhi.  The juvenile satiated his lust.  Not contented with that, he went on to gratify the monster within him by inflicting the most inhuman atrocities on the hapless victim.   And tomorrow he will walk free.  Because the law is helpless!  The law has to follow the written code that a juvenile cannot be retained in the correction home more than three years.  

What is the helplessness of the law doing to the society?  Letting lose a hardcore criminal on the society just because he had not sprouted enough moustache before he turned a devil?

The Juvenile Justice Amendment Act requires immediate attention.  Here is one attempt to get the law amended so that justice won’t be so helpless as it is now.  Your support by signing this petition will be appreciated.  Please follow this link to sign the petition.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

My Reading List for 2016


I have set a diminutive reading target for the coming year for various reasons.   Just five novels.  If everything goes well (and I’m no optimist), the list may lengthen as the calendar turns.  Well!

Umberto Eco
Topping the list is Umberto Eco’s new novel, Numero Zero.  The only novel of the author that I have read is his very first one, the one that sold millions of copies in the 1980s, Name of the Rose.  It was a thriller dexterously peppered with philosophy, theology, history and mystery.  Numero Zero will be released in India in a couple of days.  It traces a conspiracy linking a long line of events in Italian history, from the death of Mussolini to the 1978 kidnapping and assassination of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigade.  The Piazza Fontana bombing, the sudden death of Pope John Paul I, the Vatican banking scandal, the P2 Masonic lodge, and the shooting of Pope John Paul II, all find their place in the plot.  Many reviewers have not been very kind to Eco's new novel.  They accuse him of stretching his imagination a trifle too far to make everything fit neatly into his conspiracy theory or his philosophy about conspiracy theories.  His novel, Foucault’s Pendulum (1989),  was beyond my comprehension though I grappled with it two times.  However, I’m determined to venture into this seventh novel of the eminent philosopher-writer because of a mere whimsical, instinctual pull.

Christopher Rush’s Will is the second on my list.  It is a historical thriller written by a Shakespeare scholar.  The novelist has admitted that much of the history in the novel is fabricated.  But the fabricated history in good fiction may be truer than the history recorded by historians.  The ‘will’ in the title is a pun for William Shakespeare and the will he drafts before his death.  Published in 2009, this book did not attract too many raving reviews. 

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is a debut novel published in 2005.  “This book reads like a cross between Dracula and The Da Vinci Code,” says the Guardian review.  The legend of Dracula mingles with the history of certain real blood-suckers in this novel which also failed to impress eminent reviewers.

There should be some romance and love too to lighten the darkness of history and its weird mysteries.  Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember is a coming-of-age romantic novel published in 1999.  It tells the story of the love between the 17 year-old Landon and a very religious daughter of a church minister.   A romantic tragedy, it teaches the protagonist that “miracles can happen” – a lesson that I might want to learn.

Kazuo Ishiguro
I would like to begin exploring the mysterious world of Kazuo Ishiguro.  His novels end without any sense of resolution, I understand.  His characters are daunted by some mystery that lies buried in their past.  I would like to read his latest novel (2015), The Buried Giant, which tells the story of Axl and Beatrice who belong to the ancient England of King Arthur and his magician Merlin.  It deals with certain conflicts in the relationship between the couple whose past holds some secret which may enhance their love or ruin it.

I look forward to 2016 with new hopes and dreams in the company of these and hopefully more books.  I also look forward to completing the novel that I'm writing, tentatively titled Black Hole and tells the story of Devlok, a godman's ashram in Delhi's suburban Asola.  


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Prime Minister's Handshakes

Here are three different handshakes given recently by Prime Minister Mr Modi.


"I have the control, Baby."
A few days back Mr Modi and Rahul Gandhi shook hands when they met during the birthday celebrations of Sharad Pawar.  The handshake shows clearly who the Boss is.  But the eye contacts are of equals.

See the eye contact below.  Notice the handshake too.


Mr Oommen Chandy, Kerala Chief Minister, welcomed the Prime Minister in Kochi yesterday.  The Prime Minister cannot look Mr Chandy in the eye because the latter was chucked out of a function attended by the Prime Minister.  The strong feeling in Kerala is that Mr Modi wanted Mr Chandy out.

And one more handshake from Kerala.  With Archbishop George Alancheril.


The typical politician's handshake.  "The glove handshake is sometimes called the politician’s handshake. The initiator tries to give the receiver the impression that he is trustworthy and honest, but when this technique is used on a person he has just met, it has the reverse effect. The receiver feels suspicious and cautious about the initiator’s intentions. The glove should only be used with people to whom the initiator is well-known." [http://www.indiabix.com/body-language/palm-gestures/]

Monday, December 14, 2015

Susanna


Fiction

Susanna’s beauty disturbed the men’s sleep.   Both Shimon and Moshe were of an age that usually tempered the passions.  Moreover, they were responsible leaders of the community.  Shimon was a rabbi and Moshe was an exegete.  If bald head was the sign of one man’s wisdom, grey hairs proclaimed the sagacity of the other.   Susanna had never expected them to do this.

Painting: Guido Reni
“Mate with us,” they told her bluntly.  “Or else we will bring charges of adultery against you and get you stoned to death as per the law.”

Susanna had just finished her bath in the pool.  She had sent away her maids as usual and ordered them to lock the gates.  She didn’t want even her maids to see her bathing.  Her body was her private property which even the maids should not see.  Only Joachim, her husband, had access to it.  That was how Yahweh had ordained it from the time of Adam who exclaimed upon seeing Eve, “The bone of my bones!  The flesh of my flesh!”

People like Shimon and Moshe encroached upon that sacred space belonging entirely to the couple from the time of creation and shed their lust there in the form of laws and rubrics.  Eve was the first victim of their lust.  Their lust rushed like a cascade into her very being and impregnated her with the sinfulness of the entire human race. 

“I’d rather die than let lecherous hypocrites like you touch my body,” Susanna spat out as she grabbed for her clothes standing on the steps of the pool. 

“It will be a painful death,” declared Shimon.

“The entire community will pelt stones at you,” chanted Moshe.

“They will deride you,” sang Shimon.

“You will bring ignominy on Joachim and his noble family,” persuaded Moshe.

Susanna put on her clothes and pulled the veil upon her face.  “Have your entertainment, you elders.  Get the men to stone me to death.”

Neither Moshe nor Shimon wanted the death of such a beautiful woman.  Beauty is to be relished and not stoned to death.  The beauty of the female body is a property that belongs to the man like all other properties.  To the law-making man.  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, servants, animals, or property.  Susanna, you are forgetting the place we have assigned to you.  Along with the servants, animals and properties.  Come and lie down, woman, with us in the shade of the evergreen oak and the aroma of the mastic bushes and feed us with the beauty that overflows like the wine in the season of harvest.   We had spent days and weeks peeping at your beauty through the bushes.  We discovered the secret ways to your garden.  Now your beauty has become a pain in our veins.  Soothe our veins, Susanna, as only you can. 

Susanna’s lips contorted with despise.  The men could not see the contempt, however, for her face was veiled.  But the contempt penetrated the carapace of their souls and stirred up vengeance since there was nothing else to be stirred there. 

Shimon and Moshe, rabbi and exegete, respected elders of the community, rushed like frenzied men to the gate of the garden and pulled down the lock.  “Listen, O Israel,” they proclaimed their gospel.  Susanna became the adulteress in that gospel.  Shimon and Moshe metamorphosed into the guardians of morality. In the gospel, the middle-aged Susanna was made to squirm under the passionate kisses of a handsome young man.

Envying the young man bitterly, the people gathered stones eagerly.  They had demanded the unveiling of the woman’s face.   The radiant beauty of that face had blinded them.  It filled their veins with the rush of lustful blood.  Their lust turned into stones. 

Joachim sobbed helplessly.  He knew the truth.  He knew how helpless truth was.  He knew how truths were fabricated.

“Where are you, Yahweh, always so particular about justice?”  Susanna asked in her heart.  But she didn’t expect any answer.  An answer surprised her, however.

“I am innocent of the blood of this woman,” a shout arose from the crowd.

“Who said that?” demanded Moshe.

“I.”  A young man stepped out.  No, not even a man.  A boy who was just steeping out of adolescence. 

“My name is Daniel.”  His voice was sonorous and his face radiated innocence.  “Listen, O Israel.”  And the people were drawn to him magically.  “Are you going to commit a murder merely because of the words of these two relics of wicked days?  The sins committed by these two men are now coming back home to them.”

Daniel demanded a just trial.  The people shouted their assent.  It was the first time they were seeing someone who had the courage to question the elders.

Daniel arranged the trial.  Each man would be questioned separately and then the people could pass the verdict.

“Under which tree did you see Susanna committing adultery with the young man as you claimed?”

“Under the slender mastic plant,” professed Moshe.

“Under the huge evergreen oak,” declared Shimon.

The people shouted in anger.  “Stone them to death.”

Joachim hugged Susanna as lovingly as the law permitted.  A little more tightly, in fact.  Because the law was busy punishing its guardians.



PS.  The story is adapted from the Bible, the Book of Daniel, chapter 13.
The illustration is a painting by Guido Reni, 17th century Italian artist.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Baba’s Babies


Fiction

Mukul was one of the many thousands of devotees of Radheshyam Baba.  What drew Mukul to the Baba’s ashram was curiosity rather than spirituality.  What kept him returning to the ashram was Gopika, one of the many women who managed the front offices of Radheshyam Baba. 

The first thing that struck Mukul when he visited the ashram for the first time was the absence of men from the reception and other offices as well as counters.  Men managed the main gate and the security there.  Once you pass the security check, you are in a land of Gopikas.  Krishna’s Radhas.  Radheshyam Baba’s Babies.

Mukul saw Gopika at the reception desk during his first visit to the ashram.  She smiled as he approached the desk on which was placed the sign ‘ENQUIRY.’  He had nothing to enquire about except the name of the charming young woman who stood behind the sign with an indeterminate smile which struck him as less plastic than the smiles of the other women he would see in the ashram eventually. 

“Where is the bookstore?”  Mukul asked though he was not really interested in any book published by the ashram.  He wanted to impress the girl with his projected intellectual interests. 

The girl smiled at him.  The smile wafted through his being like a soothing breeze.  He did not hear her telling him the way to the bookstore in the enormous ashram complex.  The soothing breeze was metamorphosing into an intoxicating drug within him.  The drug would bring him again and again to the ashram.  His parents were delighted that their son had become very religious unlike the other young men of his age who loitered around taking selfies on their mobile phone and whatsapping them to everybody in the contact list.

The queries he could ask at an enquiry counter had been exhausted long ago.  He had taken to standing at a little distance from the ENQUIRY counter and watching the girl whose smile had become a shower in the summer of his being.  He had noticed long ago that she gave the same smile to everyone.  That made little difference, however, to his feelings towards her. 

“Jai Radhe,” he walked up to her one day and greeted her in the tradition of the ashram.

“Jai Radhe,” she reciprocated with the same smile on her face.

“What should a devotee do if he falls in love with another devotee in the ashram?”

“Love is a divine feeling,” she said with absolutely no change in her smile.  “We should love everyone.”

“I don’t mean that kind of love,” he said eagerly.

“I’m not the right person to guide you in such matters,” the smile continued unchanged.  “Please consult one of our counsellors.”  She went on to give him the route directions which he did not listen to.  He was bathing in the shower of her smile.  The movements of her lips.  The twitches of her cheeks.  The glow in her eyes.

“Forget those women,” one of the devotees who introduced himself as Sahasrabhojane counselled Mukul.  He had noticed Mukul’s obsession with the girl at the enquiry counter.  “They are Baba’s gopikas.”

Radheshyam Baba was an incarnation of Lord Krishna.  Sahasrabhojane explained.  Mukul found that interesting.  Krishna himself was somebody else’s incarnation.  Mukul hoped he would one day be able to be an incarnation of the Baba of the Babies.

“Baby.  That’s how Baba calls each one of them.  They are his babies.  Like Lord Krishna’s gopikas.”

“Hi, baby,” Mukul imagined the Baba addressing the girl at the enquiry counter.  “How is my baby today?”

“Fine, by your grace, Baba ji,” Mukul imagined her response.  Would it be the same smile that she has for her Baba too?  Or would the smile acquire a blush?  Would blood surge to her cheeks on meeting her Shyam? 

Mukul could feel blood surging through his body stirring something within him.

“It is spiritual love,” Sahasrabhojane explained.   “Lord Krishna had thousands of gopikas.  Some were more dear to him than others.  Radha was the most beloved.  Jai Radhe!”

“Jai Radhe!” Mukul returned the chant.  “Was he a philanderer?”  He asked.

“Who?  What are you saying?”  Sahasrabhojane was scandalised.  “The Lord, how can he be anything but a divine lover?”  He walked away chanting Radheshyam, Radheshyam, Shyam-Shyam, Radhe-Radhe...

Why couldn’t he love men equally then?  There was nobody to listen to Mukul’s query. 

Later Mukul learnt from another devotee that Sahasrabhojane was another aspirant to being an incarnation of the Baba.  “Everybody aspires after something,” said the devotee.  “Most of the women aspire to be Baba’s gopikas.  The men want to be Baba’s avatars.  There are also many who make much money out of the ashram.  Some are satisfied with some positions of power.  You can even aspire towards spiritual enlightenment....”

“I’m in love with you.”  Finally Mukul gathered the courage to walk up to Gopika and profess his real devotion.  Gopika was the name he had given her.  It was her love that he aspired after. 

Her smile vanished.  She took up the receiver of the phone, dialled some number, and said, “Security, immediately!”

Mukul did not get the time to absorb the transformation that had come over the face whose smile had been his shower and sunshine for quite many months.

 Radheshyam, Radheshyam, Shyam-Shyam, Radhe-Radhe...  Mukul heard the chanting from the Meditation Hall as he was being dragged by Baba’s security men.




A collection of my short stories is available in book form HERE







Thursday, December 10, 2015

Can History be Civilised?


English philosopher, C E M Joad, defined civilisation as thinking new thoughts, making new things, and obeying the rules for the smooth functioning of the society.  Yet we don’t find such people in our history books.  Our history books are filled with people who killed others, conquered their lands, and imposed themselves on other people. 

How many Indians have heard of Satyendranath Bose though there is a subatomic particle (Boson) named after him?  How many Indians are ready to recognise the name Ali Akbar Khan though he is known to the world as the Indian Johann Sebastian Bach?  Why does the genius of a Shakespeare get eclipsed by a Queen Elizabeth in history books though Shakespeare’s contribution to civilisation far outweighs that of the Queen? 

These are some of the many thoughts that crossed my mind as I read the very long article by A. G. Noorani, ‘India’s Sawdust Caesar,’ in the latest issue of Frontline.  “A year and a half after he became Prime Minister of India on May 26, 2014, the people of India have begun to discover that Narendra Damodardas Modi is a flawed character who has proved himself unfit to sit on the chair on which Jawaharlal Nehru once sat.”  That’s how the article begins. 

Nehru made significant contributions to civilisation.  Even if we ignore his contributions as a statesman, his writings will be enough to ensure a prominent place for Nehru in the history of India if history stops giving undue importance to killers and conquerors.  How will history remember Mr Modi?

Noorani quotes a cable sent by Michael S. Owen, the U.S. Consul General in Mumbai, in 2006 to his bosses in America: “In public appearances, Modi can be charming and likeable. By all accounts, however, he is an insular, distrustful person who rules with a small group of advisers. This inner circle acts as a buffer between the Chief Minister and his Cabinet and party. He reigns more by fear and intimidation than by inclusiveness and consensus, and is rude, condescending and often derogatory to even high-level party officials. He hoards power and often leaves his Ministers in the cold when making decisions that affect their portfolios.”

Source: Frontline
How will history books celebrate Modi?  It will depend on who writes the history, of course. 

Noorani cites instances that prove the little-mindedness of the Prime Minister.  For example, gifting a copy of the Gita to the Japanese Emperor, Modi said, “I do not know what will happen in India after this. There may be a TV debate on this. Our secular friends will create toofan [storm] that [sic] what does Modi think of himself. He has taken a Gita with him. That means he has made this one also communal.”  Modi was ridiculing his own country in another country. 

Another example: On September 23 in Dublin, Modi praised Indo-Irish students for reciting Sanskrit mantras, but in a manner that he can never shed: “It is a matter of happiness that they can do it in Ireland, but had this been done in India, it would have raised questions on secularism.” 

Which Prime Minister of a country, especially if he claims to be in love with the country and its culture as Modi does, will belittle his own country in a foreign country like this?

Yet how will this man go down in history books?  How much of his personality and its dark truths be buried, how much of the other side exaggerated? 

Why is history like this?

These are just some of the thoughts that crossed my mind.  I suppose there are no answers except that that is how history is.  If you want Bose and his boson, you should study science.  If you want Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, you should have music in your veins.  And if you want Shakespeare, be literate enough.   

But if history is what interests you, you will get marauders and conquerors.  History cannot be civilised, it seems.


PS.  Mr Modi is taken as an example here merely because it is an article about him that triggered these thoughts in me.  There are many, too many, leaders in the world today who can trigger the very same thoughts.  That’s precisely the question: why are leaders like this?