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Showing posts from March, 2016

Nationalism of the Deprived

Those who can afford it are leaving India.  According to a report by New World Wealth published in today’s Times of India , 4000 Indian millionaires chose to leave the country in 2015 and settle down elsewhere.  They are rich enough to abandon nationalism and embrace internationalism.  Source: TCN Cartoon The godman is missing from the cartoon because he is an internationalist! Nationalism is for those who can’t afford internationalism.  Those who can’t afford to leave the country will have to accept the laws and regulations about what to eat, what to speak, what to wear, etc from certain groups of people who have the support of the ruling party at the centre.  The report says that France witnessed the highest outflow and the reason is the religious tension in the country.  Other European countries such as Germany, Belgium, Sweden and UK are likely to face the problem of emigration because of religious reasons.  Perhaps, religion is the major villain in most countries w

The Poet meets Bharat Mata

Courtesy: The Indian Express Moving from Ghar Wapsi to Bharat Mata, Through Cow Protection and slaughter of men, The poet sought meaning Knowing rhyme there was none Rhythm there was none In spite of the umpteen slogans: Make in India Start-up India Digital India Democracy struggled for breath In the attenuated air in the Arunachal mountains, In the Devbhumi of the Garhwal Himalaya; And promised to die in Himachal and Manipur. “What is it that you want, Mother?” The poet asked Bharat Mata. And she said hiding the tears that welled up: “Azadi.  Azadi from my upholders.”

Veer Savarkar and Amit Shah

“We want to tell him (Rahul Gandhi) that we are honoured to be called followers of Savarkar…he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the British. He jumped into the sea, escaping from the clutches of British soldiers and swam for 10 km, and fought for Independence.”  Amit Shah thundered while addressing a farmer’s rally in a Surat village .   This is yet another instance of his party’s relentless efforts at rewriting the history of India.  What kind of a person was this ‘Veer’ Savarkar in reality? Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was brought to the Cellular Jail in the Andamans in 1911 after his conviction for the murder of A.T.M. Jackson, Collector of Nashik district, who was "sympathetic towards Indian aspirations."  Within six months of his imprisonment, he submitted a petition for mercy to the British government in India.  In 1913, he submitted his second petition in which he wrote: " I am ready to serve the (British) Government in any capacity they like ... .

The Danger of BJP’s Doublespeak

One of the most common responses of the BJP to criticism is to cite examples of similar deviation by the Congress.  For example, tell them that communal disharmony is on the rise after the party came to power and they will quickly cite the riots that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination or other similar instances.  Tell them now that the imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand just a day prior to the scheduled trust vote is a cynical subversion of democracy and they will point to the imposition of Emergency by Indira Gandhi.  The BJP came to power promising us DIFFERENCE.  It promised us DEVELOPMENT.  It gave us dreams about a country that will fly on the wings of science and technology.  It promised us cleanliness.  We dreamt about RS 15 lakh in the accounts of each one of us, the black money brought back from wherever that is stashed away. While we dreamt, Vijay Mallya escaped with Rs 9000 crore from our banks! Nothing has changed, in fact.  As Arun Shourie, a

Fiddler on the Roof

The movie, Fiddler on the Roof , is 45 years old.  Winner of three academy awards, the movie tells the story of a Jewish family in Russia of the early 20 th century.  The Tevye family is economically poor.  But Tevye is a god-fearing man.  He has a lot of questions to ask Yahweh but all in a childlike trust tinged with the adult’s irony.  He follows the rules and traditions of his orthodox religion as meticulously as he can.  When his daughters fall in love one by one against the tradition of their religion, Tevye is shocked initially but bows to the love that shines in the eyes of his daughters.  Finally, the family has to leave the place like the other Jews who are all evacuated.  One of the many evacuations that the Jews faced throughout their history which goes back to the biblical Exodus.  The eponymous Fiddler on the Roof is a symbol of the precarious situation of the Jews.  Perched perilously on the sloping roof, the fiddler has to produce his music which is his duty on

The Blind Lady’s Descendants

Book Review Title: The Blind Lady’s Descendants Author: Anees Salim Publisher: Penguin India 2015 Pages: 301 Price: Rs 399 A metaphorical blindness is part of most people’s lives.  We fail to see many things and hence live partial lives.  We make our lives as well as those of others miserable with our blindness.  Anees Salim’s novel which won the Raymond & Crossword award for fiction in 2014 explores the role played by blindness in the lives of a few individuals most of whom belong to the family of Hamsa and Asma.  The couple are not on talking terms for “eighteen years,” according to the mother.  When Amar, the youngest son and narrator of the novel, points out that he is only sixteen, Asma reduces it to fifteen and then to ten years when Amar refers to the child that was born a few years after him though it did not survive.  Dark humour spills out of every page of the book.  For example: How reckless Akmal was!  Sleeping with his mouth wide open righ


Fiction Warning: FOR ADULTS ONLY The beggar pulled him out of the rail track just in time.  As he fell on the side of the track, the train stormed past his ears like a bomb blast he had just missed. He stood up, brushed off the pain from some parts of his body, and blurted out to the beggar, “Fucker!” The beggar who had just picked up his one-string violin laughed as if he were Bhishma faced with Shikhandi .  Then he placed his violin on his shoulder and started playing a violent tune.  Almost like the Fiddler on the Roof .    “Why did you fuck my death?” he asked the beggar ignoring the enticement of his one-string music. The beggar grinned through the darkness of his mane and said, “It’s not your time, boss.  Give me the money for my next drink and wait for the next train.”  He stretched out his hand. “Fuck off!” he said. “Cliché,” said the beggar.  “Cliché.” “What?” “You are bored, aren’t you?  Bored of clichéd life?” He spat out another

Killing for Myths

Cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker has shown that people can go to any length and expose themselves to any risk merely to prove that the myths they live by are actually true.  The Brussels bombing is the latest episode in man’s quest for converting myths into truths. Myths are necessary for making life bearable.  How miserable would life be without the consolations offered by the pie that is awaiting us in the sky after death?  How can we survive without those gods at whose feet we can unload the burdens in our hearts? As long as gods remain painkillers and shock absorbers, they are harmless.  But the problem is when their worshippers want to impose their painkillers and shock absorbers as the only entities of the kind on everybody in the world.  Christianity did this for a whole five centuries from about 1050 to 1550 CE in the name of crusades.  Did the world become any better place for all those killings and brutality and conversions and what not? Today we have peo

Religion and other Games

Once I presented a copy of the book, Amen , by Sister Jesme to a couple who visited me.  A few days later I came to know that the husband had flung it out of the car as they were returning home.  “I won’t let such books in our home,” he said as he stopped the car near one of the many garbage heaps belonging to the Municipal Corporation. Sister Jesme’s book is not a particularly outstanding work in any way.  It shows that the Catholic Church is as corrupt as any human institution is.  It elaborates on the sins and human weaknesses that exist in the religious congregation to which the nun (Sister Jesme) belonged until she left it in disgust as well as the realisation that it was meaningless to continue living a life of sheer hypocrisy.  I gifted it to the couple because the lady had shown some interest in it when she saw it on my book shelf and also because the gentleman was very closely associated with the Church and would not allow any criticism of the Church within his hearing

IS and RSS

Ghulam Nabi Azad did not really compare the terrorist outfit, Islamic State, with RSS.   He says he only mentioned the two in the same breath.   He was opposed to both. Though the IS and RSS may share a few things in common, putting them on two sides of the same balance is preposterous.  Tavleen Singh, in her column in The Indian Express , elaborates on that preposterousness and then goes on to assert that she grew up despising RSS.  This is what she says: I found their aggressive nationalism silly and their obsession with Hindu revivalism boring. I still do. I believe that reducing the vast wealth of Indian civilisation to a debate about beef is vandalism. Since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, we have seen far too many of his partymen exhibit their complete ignorance about Hindu civilisation by spreading hatred against those who eat beef and believing that they do this in the cause of reviving Hindu thought from Vedic times. Most of them have learned their ideas from R

Education and Success

In all probability, most of the richest people in the world today were not exceptional academicians at school.  Most of the powerful political leaders might not have scored very high marks at school.  Conversely, the top scorers at school need not become highly successful in life.  In short, academic brilliance particularly at school seems to have little to do with success in life if we associate success with conquering certain quanta of wealth or power (or both).  More scandalising is the possibility that many of the best scholars at school did not achieve anything much in life by way of what is normally meant by success.  I don’t know if any detailed research has been done on this recently.  I know that psychologist Lewis Terman (1877-1956) carried out a very detailed research on a large number of highly gifted students and found out that a good many of the highly gifted students did not really make it big in life.  He realised that apart from high level of intelligence

The Book of Fate

Book Review Iran witnessed revolutions based on communism as well as Islam.  Like all revolutions, they had their share of bloodshed and frenzy, narrow perspectives and flatulence.  Revolutions make heroes of some and victims of many others.  Opportunists fish in the troubled waters and reap rich dividends.  In the end, nothing really changes for the majority for whom one form of oppression is replaced with another. In The Book of Fate , Persian writer Parinoush Saniee tells us the story of both the revolutions that rocked Iran.  The story is narrated by Massoumeh who is a young school-going girl at the beginning of the novel.  She is 53 at the end.  The novel is essentially about her painful experiences in a country which has too many rules for women.  Girls are meant only for procreation and education is not required for that.  Girls should not reveal their teeth while laughing, nor can they laugh loud.  They are not even allowed an identity: their face has to be conce

The Betrayer Within

Have you read   Reading Lolita in Tehran ? I have just begun reading it. I am stuck on something.  On the very first page, I find the words "that in the final analysis we are our own betrayers, playing Judas to our own Christ." If and when you have sometime, can you please write something on it? I received this email from a blogger friend yesterday.  My impulsive response was to say ‘No’ because I know the statement in the quote is true and, worse, I know that I have a Judas within me.  On a second thought, I decided to honour the trust placed in me by a good friend. When I began my contemplation on the topic, the first thing that came to my mind was a story that appears in the opening pages of Richard Bach’s novel, Illusions .  There are some aquatic creatures that spend their entire life sticking to the bottom of the river.  They just cling.  Life is nothing but that clinging for them.  One day they spot a creature just like them floating on the water

Hypocrisy on the Yamuna

The godman brought the world to the banks of the Yamuna and proved that India is a tolerant country.  He invited even Boutros Boutros Ghali who passed away a month ago and thus showed that India’s tolerance extends even to the world beyond.  The Prime Minister stood beside the godman and proclaimed that India had much “to offer to the world because of its cultural diversity.” When the PM was declaring his tolerance to the whole world from the banks of the Yamuna, the Milli Gazette published an article by Pushp Sharma with the headline: “ We don’t recruit Muslims”: says Modi govt’s Ayush Ministry .  The journalist had received the information through an RTI filed by him.  The godman’s Cultural Fest presided over by the Prime Minister was open to international diversity.  Is the country open to diversity within it?  If not, what was the Cultural Fest but a mere show, a gigantic exercise in hypocrisy?  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was an ardent supporter of Mr Narendra Modi

Pi Day

March 14 is Pi Day.  Those who have some familiarity with basic arithmetic will know that pi is a mathematical constant - a ratio, in fact - whose value is approximated to 3.14.  So 14/3 (or 3/14, as the Americans write it), today, is pi day. Interestingly or coincidentally, it is also the birthday of Albert Einstein, arguably the greatest genius who ever lived.  The New Yorker has published, among many illuminating articles, a very humorous questionnaire on the occasion:  Diagnostic Exam: Do You Have Math Anxiety?   A sample question: What is a hypotenuse?  (a) A very graceful hypot.  (b) An overweight chanteuse.  (c) The  French word for profound boredom. Mathematics is often assumed to be a scary monster.  Actually it can be sheer fun if we learn to exercise our logical faculty properly.  Most people don't want to think - that's the simple truth.  Mathematics calls for some abstract thinking also which is assumed to be boring or even scary.  Hence many give u

Two Indian heroes of the week

Source: The Hindu


Happiness and intelligence seldom go together, said Ernest Hemingway.  Malayalam poet, Akkitham (who will be turning 90 exactly a week from today), illustrated it with an example in one of his poems.  The little son joins the father on the latter’s morning walk.  On the roadside they see the body of a woman who was raped and killed in the night.  The father tells his little son, Light is sorrow, my son, Darkness is solace. Was the Buddha a happy person?  Was Jesus?  The existential sorrow that haunted intelligent people like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus is reflected throughout their brilliant novels as well as non-fiction works.  Can Mahatma Gandhi be described as a happy person? On the other hand, can we describe any of the above as essentially unhappy persons? They were happy at a level that the mediocre people don’t ever achieve.  Wealth, luxury, possessions, power, entertainment, delicious food – the list of things that serve as sources of happiness