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Showing posts from May, 2016

For a world of thinking people

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After reading a blog post of mine ( Legal Lawbreakers ), an ex-colleague of mine sent me a message yesterday that the criminals would be punished by God.  She has absolute faith in her God, she wrote.  Is there any justification for such faith?  Nowhere in the history of mankind do we get any reason to believe that divine intervention has awarded justice to any people at any time.  On the contrary, we have infinite examples to show how the wicked flourish and the naive perish.  It is easy to delude ourselves with such beliefs as divine justice after death.  Hell and heaven, the Judgment Day, Karmic consequences, and other such religious carrots-and-sticks don’t serve any purpose to make human life more equitable on the planet.  Religions also offer believers ways to circumvent the stick and secure the carrot: a confession or a bath in the Ganga or some other ritual can wash away your sins.  If religion were indeed effective in helping people resist evil with the carro

To blog or not to blog?

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“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living,” said Flaubert. A meticulous writer whose novels became classics though he was, Flaubert died penniless.  Many great writers lived rather miserable lives because writing was not a very remunerative job in those days.  There were many artists too who lived in utter poverty though after their death their paintings were sold for sums which they could never have imagined in life.  Is it because they never worked for money that their works had such profundity?  Does money contaminate everything it touches? There is no money in blogging anyway.  At least, not anything significant.  Flaubert and Dostoevsky could accept the agony of pennilessness because they were in search of something much more meaningful than money.  It is their search for meaning that made their writing profound.  And that search, the search for meaning, is an endless search. Why don’t we find such deep writing today?  The best writers of our times

Two Values and a Dream

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This post is written for Indispire Edition 118: #Values .  It is specifically about three “immensely necessary skilful values” that the emerging generation should possess. 1. Thinking Skills Serious thinking seems to have gone to some shopping mall and got lost there.  It must be fiddling with the keypad of some smartphone trying to send its selfie picture to everybody in the contact list on half a dozen social network sites where egos go on rollercoaster rides at breakneck speeds. Let it come back home and sit down coolly with a copy of Will Durant’s Story of Philosophy or  Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Doubt: a history .  Let it hobnob with the insane Nietzsche and the statesmanly Jefferson.  Let it discover the bloom that blushes in the desert for no one in particular.  Let it bathe in the springs of classical literature.  Let it learn to listen to the symphony of the planets.  2. Scientific Temper There are a lot of scientists all around.  IT professiona

Kerala Elections – Random Thoughts

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Kerala does not have the tradition of re-electing a government.  So yesterday’s poll results would not have surprised anybody.  Moreover, the UDF government was steeped in corruption charges.  Kerala Results in a nutshell Yet the Pala constituency re-elected K. M. Mani who faced serious allegations related to the bar scam.  The people of Pala are neither ignorant politically nor blind in their allegiance to Mr Mani.  Mani has done much for the people of his constituency.  He has intimate relationships with the Catholic church which is a strong force in Pala.  People benefit one way or another if Mani is in power.  That is the secret of Mani’s success.  It has nothing to do with any ideology. P. C. George who rebelled furiously against Mani’s corruption and became an enemy of both the UDF and the LDF because of his undiplomatic forthrightness and bravado won as an independent candidate from Poonjar, Mani’s neighbouring constituency.  George’s victory indicates that wha

Rewriting our own life story

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Derry is an adolescent boy who sees himself as a failure in life because of a huge scar on his face.  He looks hideous to himself whenever he looks in a mirror.  He thinks that he is unlovable.    People stare at him because of the scar.  He has heard people make remarks about the scar.  “Only a mother can love such a face,” he heard a woman say once.  But even his mother cannot apparently accept the scar; she kisses him on the side of his face which is normal.  Derry hides himself from people because of that hideous scar.  Courtesy: NCERT English textbook, class 12 One day he meets an elderly man called Lamb.  Mr Lamb tells him to rewrite his life story.  You have everything that a normal person has: two legs, two hands, etc.  Mr Lamb tells Derry.  Just like any other normal person, you can be a success if you change your perspective: the way you view the scar.  Accept the scar on your face and learn to ignore other people’s remarks about it.  And go about doing your job.

How Religion Kills Innocence

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In Amitav Ghosh’s novel, Sea of Poppies (which I reviewed yesterday ), there is a very interesting character named Paulette Lambert.  Her father is a scientist who does not believe in God and religion.  He brought up his daughter “in the innocent tranquillity of the Botanical Gardens.”  He did not allow her soul to be corrupted by religion and God.  The only altar at which she worshipped was that of Nature.  The trees were her scripture and the earth her revelation.  “She has not known anything but Love, Equality and Freedom,” her dying father tells another character from whom he seeks the favour of taking her out of the British colony.  “If she remains here, in the colonies,” he says, “most particularly in a city like this (Calcutta), where Europe hides its shame and its greed, all that awaits her is degradation: the whites of this town will tear her apart, like vultures and foxes, fighting over a corpse.  She will be an innocent thrown before the money-changers who pass themselv

Sea of Poppies

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Book Review “The truth is, sir, that men do what their power permits them to do. We are no different from the Pharaohs or the Mongols: the difference is only that when we kill people we feel compelled to pretend that it is for some higher cause.  It is this pretence of virtue, I promise you, that will never be forgiven by history.” Captain Chillingworth of the ship Ibis utters those words in Amitav Ghosh’s novel, Sea of Poppies .  The novel is about power and how different people wield it over others as much as it is about the powerless who are destined to suffer the oppressions.  The novel presents a part of the India in the 1830s.  The British have become very powerful in India and they control the trade too.   As Benjamin Burnham, one of the traders in the novel, says, trade indicates the “march of human freedom.”  Even slave trade is part of that glorious march.  According to Burnham, the white man gave freedom to the African slaves from “the rule of some dark tyra

Language and Grammar

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I’m not a fan of grammar books.  In fact, they confuse me no end with all those technical terms such as inchoative verbs and protasis.  As a teacher of English, I’ve always advised my students to hone their linguistic skills by listening, speaking, reading and writing.  We can learn another language just as we learnt our mother tongue: by using the language rather than learning its grammar.  However, I have had to teach grammar sometimes as part of the academic courses.  I’ve tried my best to make the grammar teaching sound as light and interesting as possible by avoiding jargon as far as possible and focusing on exercises that are relevant to the students’ day-to-day life.  Traditional grammar teaching would be the most boring part of language learning for most students.  And yet, having said all this, I must add that some knowledge of basic grammar always helps us to master the language. During my recent visit to Delhi, one of my ex-colleagues presented me a set of gram

Assholes

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Three years ago, Aaron James published a book titled Assholes: A Theory according to which “A person counts as an asshole when, and only when, he systematically allows himself to enjoy special advantages in interpersonal relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people.”  In simple words, an asshole is a person who takes every advantage, thinks himself superior to all others, and is immune to criticism.  Most of our politicians belong to that category, in case you are looking for examples.  Now James has come up with a new book: Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump . Aaron James is not a popular writer who seeks to entertain the readers with hackneyed humour.  He is a professor of philosophy.  The first book in which he explains his theory of assholes is an erudite work drawing heavily on philosophers such as Plato, Kant, Rousseau and Hobbes.    Politics creates assholes necessarily.  Politics is about po

Positive Thinking

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Source The concept of positive thinking gained undue popularity in the last few decades.  It does help us much in dealing with certain problems and obstacles that life brings inevitably.  But does it have some drawbacks too? Psychology tells us that we are already programmed for over-optimism.  ‘Optimism bias’ is what psychology calls it, according to which we have a natural tendency to think that bad things will happen to us less often than they will happen to other people.  Earthquakes and floods and other such disasters won’t occur where we live.  The airplane which is carrying us won’t crash.  The train on the other track may derail but not ours.  There is actually a part of the brain that sustains this sort of optimism which is a kind of inbuilt defence mechanism.  The problem with this defence-shield is that it can make us over-optimistic.  It can make us blind to certain potential hazards and threats.  It can blunt our caution. Source It can also make us

Why I admire Mr Modi

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Hairstyle Style is the man.  I like Mr Modi’s cascading mane which is being groomed with much care.  I was always a fan of his beard especially since it helped me to justify my own bristles for which I am yet to find an admirer.  Now, having fallen in love with the PM’s mane, I’m thinking of letting my hair down especially behind my neck.  It may help me to keep quiet where I should speak up and blah-blah where I should shut up. Leadership Mr Modi doesn’t need any script.  He can speak to the audience any time anywhere without a script written by some political advisor.  Speak effectively too.  He is a born orator.  He knows the power of words and rhetoric.  He can sway his audience with those powers.  That’s the sign of a real leader.  Mr Modi is THE leader.  We deserve him.  Discovery of India I am about to complete a year of living in Kerala.  I’m yet to find any ragpicker in the state – whom I used to encounter every day in Delhi in dozens of places.  In f

Politics of Allegations

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The most sacred duty of our political leaders seems to have become hurling allegations against one another.  Turn to any news channel on the TV at any time and you will hear some politician accusing another one of some crime.  The Prime Minister accuses the Leader of the Opposition of chicanery.  The Chief Minister of Delhi accuses the Prime Minister of possessing fraudulent academic degrees.  In Kerala which is going to the polls next week, every candidate’s speeches are spiced with aspersions cast on the integrity of his opponents.  In addition to all the domestic laundry washing carried out in the public places, the Keralite is condemned to endure much laundry brought from Delhi by all the significant leaders including the Prime Minister. Moulding Kerala in the Modi way A Dalit student was raped and killed brutally (or killed and then raped, as reports have it) recently in Kerala.  The police carried out the mandatory investigation in the most perfunctory manner because

Personalising Success

Three men were marooned on an uninhabited island.  As they sat desperate and disheartened, unable to find a way out of the dreadful place, the spirit of the island appeared to them.  Having had no association with human beings hitherto, the spirit was untouched by malice or evil.  “Make a wish and I can grant it,” offered the spirit genially.  “Get me back to my people,” wished the first man and his wish was granted instantly.  The second man too wished the same and he too joined his people back home.  “What about you?” the spirit asked the third man.  “I’m feeling so lonely here without those two friends.  I wish they were back here.” A good friend of mine made a couple of comments on one of my recent blog posts.  In one of the comments she suggested that I should learn to personalise success when I had argued that living in a world run by crooks and sharks good people would find success too elusive a thing.  A few minutes back she sent me a whatsapp message which implied that

Mutineers’ Descendants

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Pitcairn Islands is a country whose history reads like a thriller.  It consists of four volcanic islands out of which only Pitcairn is inhabited.  The total population is 42.  That is, Pitcairn Islands is a country with 42 people: as big as an Indian joint family. The people of Pitcairn are the descendants of the Bounty mutineers as well as the Tahitians who accompanied the mutineers. ByRobert Dodd - National Maritime Museum The Bounty was a ship that was commissioned to collect and transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the British colonies in the West Indies.  During the five-month layover in Tahiti, indiscipline crept into the marrow of the sailors.  The idle mind is the devil’s workshop.  Back in the ship after a long and frolicsome sojourn on the Polynesian island, the crew met with serious disciplinary measures from Captain Lieutenant William Bigh.  However, it was the captain who ended up being punished.  The crew rebelled against him.  There was a mutiny on t

NOTA on my ballot

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Courtesy: Lawlex Just ten days from the elections in Kerala, I’m left wondering who to vote for.  The UDF government that ruled the state for the last five years has almost ruined the state.  Scams and scandals haunted the government throughout its reign.  It appears that every Congressman in the state is either a money-guzzler or an accomplice of some swindler.  When the Opposition leader, nonagenarian V S Achuthanandan, alleged that there were many charges against the Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy filed a defamation case for a damage of Rs 1 lakh.  Mr Chandy’s reputation cannot be very precious when the wily man had refused to file any defamation charge against Saritha Nair who went on hurling all sorts of allegations against him.  There seem to be very few Congressmen left in Kerala whose otherwise immaculately white, perfectly starched, khadi shirts are not tainted with variegated stains of corruption.  There are a few who are not corrupt in the traditional sense.  But t

Rituals

The word became flesh And the flesh was nailed to the cross In a religious ritual On a mount called Calvary. Crucifixion became a ritual.  “Hey Ram!” Called out the flesh that was nailed again and again by owners of The Truth. The cry became the ritual.  “Shed the skin like a snake And regain your new self,” said the Buddha. Becoming snake became a ritual.  PS. Written for Indispire Edition 115 which had already extracted a post from me: Matching Heartbeats .  I'm obliged to write one more post on the theme by the latest posts at Indiblogger.  This is my response to some of the posts which I did not endorse at Indiblogger. #rituals