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Showing posts from April, 2016

Moralists

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One of the fifteen persons facing corruption charges related to coal mining in Jharkhand is a young man who displayed his nationalism and idealism by wearing the Indian national flag on his sleeves.  He took to the Supreme Court his right to display his patriotism by flying the national flag in places he thought appropriate. His patriotism won him a seat in the Parliament too.  Good old humour Superior to New Morality His uncle is a great moralist apart from being an industrialist.  This great uncle recently handed over his school in Delhi to a godman because of reasons related to morality.  A few years earlier the biography of this great uncle was written by his daughter in which the uncle was quoted raising charges of immorality on the staff of the school in question.  The uncle is renowned for enforcing morality – his version of it, of course – using methods which are not often moral by conventional standards. The school was eventually shut down by the godman.  In

Matching Heartbeats

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“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature,” declared Joseph Campbell, illustrious mythologist.  Myths, rituals, and prayers help in making our heartbeats match the beat of the universe.  It’s about the harmony between oneself and the world outside.  It’s about discovering the meaning of that world in  spite of its apparent harshness, absurdity, and terror.  It’s about discovering the harmony between the self and the universe. Literature has helped me much in the process of discovering that harmony.  Any good work of literature makes me probe the defences I have erected against painful truths about me as well as the world outside me.  Good literature chips away those defences.  Truth is revealed through a alchemical process.  Good literature also has the potential to heal the ruptures caused by the chipping away of the facile inner illusions and self-delusions.  Good literature takes the reader beyond his “in

Cowardice and Conformity

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Rollo May, psychologist, thought of conformity as one of the greatest vices of man.  “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity,” he asserted repeatedly.  You are not fully alive, not even fully human, unless at some point of time you felt that the world around you is wrong and you wanted to scream at it, “This is me and the world be damned.”  Isn’t that what Socrates did?  Isn’t that what Jesus did? People love conformity.  It makes life much easier.  It is easy to swim with the current, to move with the herd, to be a faceless shape in the crowd.  It is not just easy, it is beneficial too.  Trophies belong to those who abide by the rules of the game.  Pain, on the other hand, is the essential companion of the one who chooses to stand out. No one becomes fully human painlessly, Rollo May quoted Dostoevsky.  Pain is what you undergo necessarily when you choose to be what you are rather than what the herd wants you to be.  But why should any

Game of Changes

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One of the many paradoxes of human life is that people always tell you that the best way for changing the world is to change yourself.  They want you to change yourself.  They won’t ever change themselves.  Moreover, they will meddle with your life so much that you will have to change yourself in some ways at least: otherwise they won’t let you survive. When I changed myself using a software Actually, it’s not that people don’t want you to survive.  They are not really bothered about you at all.  They are bothered about themselves.  You are just a stumbling block in their way.  So they want you to change: move yourself from their way so that they can get on.  Philosopher-writer Jean-Paul Sartre famously said that “Hell is other people.”  Our freedom is curtailed by other people, their demands.  Freedom is all about making choices.  Can I make choices without giving due regard to other people, their likes and dislikes, demands and proclivities...?  Their likes and di

Blogging and Narcissism

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Indispire edition 114 #IAmABlogger inspires the narcissist in me.  Why do I blog?  To feed endless hunger of the narcissist in me, I suppose.  Like Narcissus gazing neurotically at his own image in the water, I decided to gaze into the eyes of my enduring benefactor, Reverend Tormentoro, and extract his view on why I blog. Narcissus  by  Caravaggio , gazing at his own reflection. Source: Wikipedia “You display all the signs of NPD as listed by the DSM,” he said.  NPD elaborates as Narcissistic Personality Disorder for those who are not initiated.  And DSM is the Bible of psychiatrists: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).  Can anyone be a serious writer unless he/she considers him-/herself important to some degree?  I did not voice my question.  No one dares to question the Rev.  Not if you know him personally. “You still look for appreciation from your readers,” explained the Rev.  “You wan

Shakespeare and Betrayal

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Google celebrated the genius of Shakespeare on his death anniversary (23 April) with a doodle.  Shakespeare deserves commemorations and celebrations.  What has fascinated me the most is the theme of betrayal in Shakespeare.  Our own experiences determine our favourite themes.  “To be or not to be” is a question that rose from the gut of the wavering prince of Denmark whose trust in mankind was betrayed by none other than his mother.  There was poison in that mother’s heart.  When she smiled serpents writhed in their mating pits.  “Die, die,” hissed the serpents to the wavering intellectual.  Death is the noblest consummation in the world of betrayals.  If your mother betrays you, if she betrays her husband your father, what more is left in the world to be trusted?  How many heartaches should we suffer before we can shuffle off our mortal coil?  How many thousand natural shocks is our flesh heir to? Shakespeare’s Hamlet asked those and umpteen other questions.  In thos

The Dark Side of Development

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The more notorious a criminal you are, the more respected you are in Tihar, says Kobad Ghandy in his Indian Express column .  The petty thieves and other little criminals vie with one another to join the notorious ones.  Your very survival, let alone success, depends on how close you are to the great guns.  Virtue will undo you.  Principles will turn into knots round your neck.  Kobad Ghandy knows what he is speaking about.  He has spent seven years in Tihar.  Seven years in Tihar is enough to dehumanise anyone, writes Ghandy. Is this true only of Tihar?  Isn’t it true for the entire country?  Where do you find virtue and principles in the public life of the country?  Criminals and murderers occupy eminent seats in the parliament and state assemblies.  Mafia dons and land grabbers masquerade as godmen.  The poor become poorer and end their lives on knots that descend in various shapes from above.  The rich are given more and more.  What little the poor have is ta

Incomplete Minds

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Delivering a Martin Luther King Jr Memorial lecture, actor Kamal Haasan said that “incomplete minds that somehow manage to reach the seat of power” create inequality.  He went on to say that enlightened minds are with the poor.  Power is something that attracts only “incomplete minds,” generally.  Power is one way of completing oneself, filling up the blanks within.  Why don’t we find scientists, philosophers (writers), artists and other such people in politics running after power?  Probably, their minds are not so “incomplete.”  Or they find better means of filling the blanks within: by inventing something new, thinking new ideas or creating works of art.  Those who are incapable of such creative contributions hanker after power.  Boss over others and prove your worth! Imposing oneself on others is precisely what’s wrong with these incomplete minds.  We find them imposing their ideas, religion, culture, food habits, dress, anything and everything on others. Dacher K

Waves in the sky

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Book Review Author:  Rakhi Jayashankar Publisher: Cyberwit.net Pages: 215 Waves in the sky narrates the story of six girls who studied together in the same school and were popularly known as the Canaries.  CANARY is an acronym for Charu, Ananya, Neha, Avantika, Raihana and Yami, the six girls whose story unfolds in the novel.  The girls grow up and go to different colleges and also learn about some betrayals that had occurred within the group when they were at school.  Not all friendships are genuine.  People have various motives for being part of a group and some of the motives may lead one to betray the group or some members of the group for one’s own personal interests.  Life is full of incidents that are born of betrayals by friends as well as relatives.  The novel explores some such betrayals or even plain murders.  Some of the murders can shock the male readers.  Are women capable of such cruelty?  Can a mother kill her own offspring? The back cover blu

Zorba’s Wisdom

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Happiness is as simple as “a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea.”  The Buddha is not required for arriving at enlightenment.  In fact, the kind of enlightenment brought by the Buddha can be anti-life.  The Buddha can be a demon within.   Zorba is the antithesis of the Buddha.  Zorba is the protagonist of Nikos Kazantzakis’s classical novel, Zorba the Greek .  The narrator of the novel is a young intellectual who has decided to bid goodbye to books for a while and take up active life.  He wants to be with people.  Zorba, an elderly man with boundless and unconstrained passion for life, becomes the narrator’s companion.  No, not just companion but his Buddha. A scene from the movie Zorba the Greek However, the kind of enlightenment that Zorba brings differs totally from what the Buddha had brought.  If life was “sorrow” for the Buddha, it is “trouble” for Zorba.  The highest point you can arrive at in life is not knowledge or

Legal Lawbreakers

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“When the state itself disregards the law, what is to be done?” is a question raised in the lead article of the latest Frontline .  The article is about the Chhattisgarh government’s oppression of the tribal people in order to snatch their lands and hand them over to the corporate bigwigs in the name of development. The authors argue that the BJP has converted many parts of the country into a laboratory for “neoliberal Hindutva” which combines “Hindutva communalism with a corporate-driven development agenda.”  Mission 2016 is the name of the game in Chhattisgarh.  It seeks to evict the Adivasis from the forests using various oppressive measures such as branding them as Maoists and torturing them.  Various new organisations have come up whose members roam the Adivasi regions, pull up people, demand answers, and threaten outsiders such as lawyers, journalists and activists. Why have governments turned so anti-people and pro-corporate?  There may be many answers.  Throughout h

Watery lessons

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A scene from the terrace of an apartment in Delhi Water is the foundation of life. 500,000 litre water was brought to Latur in Maharashtra yesterday by train from a distance of 350 km and each person in Latur got less than one litre. The cricket pitch and other places belonging to the privileged sections get water galore while the poor have to wait for the water trains to come with one litre of water for each person. Delhi is one place which taught me that success belongs to those who can wrench it mercilessly by hook or by crook. Now Maharashtra is teaching us a lesson about water.

Temples and Tragedies

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Long ago, when our ancestors descended from the tree and started walking on the earth, we allowed religion to hijack everything from our entertainment to our morality, from our pains and joys to our gods and devils.  When the immensity of the cosmic mystery overwhelmed those primitive creatures, it was understandable that they sought solace in superstitions and rituals.  Today, when science has broken through most of the mysteries, revealing the principles of gravitation and quantum mechanics, unseating gods from their celestial thrones, replacing heaven and hell with black holes and stellar bodies, why does religion continue to inflict us with tragedies? For details: The Hindu The latest tragedy in a Kerala temple, like most other such tragedies in places of worship, is a man-made one.  The organisers and operators of the fireworks display flung all norms to the cosmic winds for the sake of enhancing the impressiveness of the show.  It’s a kind of competition.  Our temple

Thinking with Precision

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There is a branch of psychology called Cognitive Psychology according to which our thoughts, feelings and behaviour are interconnected.  In other words, our thinking is clouded by our feelings and/or attitudes, and our behaviour is determined by that cloud. Let us take an example.  A real one.  Smiley, please.  A religious leader with a big fan (devotee) following declares openly that he would have beheaded those people who refused to pay homage to Bharata Mata, if the law would not have punished him.  How would cognitive psychology assess the godman? The godman is suffering from a serious cognitive disorder, the cognitive psychologist would say immediately.  His thinking is terribly faulty.  His feelings and attitudes seem to be crude.  And hence his resultant behaviour (making the murderous statement from a public platform knowing that there are thousands of people listening to him with devotion) is neurotic. Bharat Mata is a symbol of the nation and as such deser

The Error Called Man

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Arthur Koestler considered man an evolutionary blunder.  The lion’s share of the wealth we create is spent in war, terrorism and other destructive activities.  We have infinite gods with countless priests and yet we are not able to surmount the unbounded hatred we carry inside our little hearts.  We work miracles with science and technology but remain crude brutes deep inside us.  Is it all because of some evolutionary error? Arthur Koestler Koestler believed it was.  There is “a screw loose in the human mind,” he wrote in his book, The Ghost in the Machine .  He called the Homo Sapiens a "biological freak, the result of some remarkable mistake in the evolutionary process."  It is because the ape began to walk on two legs too quickly.  The whole mutation took place in too short a time for the human heart to change significantly.  The reasoning brain evolved, but the heart remained savage.  That’s what Koestler says. Koestler relied on neuroscientist Paul D. Ma

Responsible Blogging

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People have different reasons for writing.  From an expression of one’s thoughts and feelings to looking for appreciation, writing can be motivated by anything.  In most cases, the motives are mixed.  Blogging too has various motives similarly. Whatever we do as a social activity must be done with a considerable sense of responsibility since it affects the society one way or another.  Quite a lot of bloggers engage in harmless activities such as putting up simple poems or photos.  Many focus on travel, food, shopping or some such innocuous theme.  However, when it comes to dealing with political, religious, social and other such issues some caution is required. In 1992, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama predicted that human civilisation would evolve towards a conflict-free utopia founded on liberal democracy and free market capitalism.  Samuel P. Huntington, another political scientist, countered it immediately arguing that the clash of civilisations would con

Patriotism?

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Do watch the video.   If you have the time, read the article about it in the Indian Express written by Swami Agnivesh:  Why Baba Ramdev would do well to go into vanvaas . And then decide whether this godman is a patriot.

Where the mind is in chains

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“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it,” said one of Terry Pratchett’s characters in his witty fantasy novel, Diggers .   An open mind belongs to the seeker of truth.  Truth being as elusive and deceptive as happiness, it keeps the seeker going on and on endlessly.  Most people don’t like such endlessness.  People like to snuggle down in the cosy warmth of the status quo.   Religion is the most staunch supporter of the status quo.  And religion insists on putting things into open minds.  And shut them. The cosy warmth of the status quo is what turns the BJP and its allies against Jawharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad Central University, says Kancha Illaiah in his article in the Indian Express .  Both JNU and HCU have produced numerous thinkers and scholars because their academic environment encouraged the liberal pursuit of truth. Banaras Hindu University, on the contrary, has failed to prod

The Buried Giant

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Book Review Memories play a vital role in human life.  It is also necessary to forget many things because some memories may be a painful burden.  Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel, The Buried Giant , is about memories. Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple, set out in search of their son.  They don’t remember why their son left them.  In fact, their memories about many things are vague.  It is because of a magic that King Arthur’s beloved magician, Merlin, had performed in order to bring peace among the Britons and the Saxons. The novel is set in those days when the Romans had left Britannia and the Saxons came in to take their place.  King Arthur is no more but his nephew, Sir Gawain, is alive though very old.  Axl and Beatrice will encounter Sir Gawain on their way.  Two other persons who join them are Wistan and Edwin.  Wistan is a Saxon warrior who hates Britons.  His mission is to kill the dragon Querig who is as wise as she is wicked.  Sir Gawain’s mission is to prote