Saturday, July 30, 2016

Towards Hindu Rashtra


We become like our enemies. The Sangh Parivar is proving the saying right if the latest issue of Outlook is to be believed.  The Parivar which never tired of accusing the Christian missionaries and the Islamic fundamentalists of converting people into their respective religions is now indulging in the same activity much more ruthlessly and heartlessly, according to the Outlook cover story. 


Children between the age of 5 and 12 are weaned away from their parents under fraudulent promises and with fake documents and taken to institutions in Gujarat and Punjab.  Most of the children belong to various tribes in Assam and other North-eastern states.  According to the Outlook reports which quote official sources, about 5000 children were taken away from Assam alone in 2012-15.  These and other similar children from other states are sent to the various institutions run by Sewa Bharati which was set up in 1978 by Balasaheb Deoras with the purported goal of promoting the welfare of the marginalised.

The parents never get to know where their children are once they are taken away.  They are denied any contact whatever with the children.  It is mostly girls who are taken away.

In June 2015, 31 girls between the ages of 5 and 8 were rescued from a train that arrived from Assam at a Delhi railway station. But none of the girls reached back home because political powers intervened. The Outlook reporters traced them in the various Sangh Parivar institutions in Gujarat and Punjab. 

Saraswati Shishu Mandir at Halvad in Gujarat is one such institution where the reporters discovered many of the girls whose parents in Assam are worried about. The report says that the children are indoctrinated with radical religious teachings.  They are taught to hate Christians and Muslims.  They are taught to admire the Hindu traditions such as the sati system.  The walls of the institution carry pictures of Hedgewar, Savarkar, Shivaji, Jijabai and Bharat Mata.  Of course, Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel too find place among them.  Guru Gobind Singh is labelled as a “Hindu Dharmarakshak.” 

History is distorted in the teachings. So is religion. The distortions can go to ridiculous extents sometimes. For example, Rukmini, Krishna’s wife, becomes a Bodo when Bodo children are being taught, a Naga when the students are Nagas, and so on.  One of the reports mentions the RSS Joint General Secretary, Krishna Gopal, who claimed that Rukmini was from a tribe in Arunachal Pradesh while he was flagging off the Gyanodaya Express, Delhi University’s annual ‘Train of Learning’ on 7 Dec 2014.

Saraswati Shishu Mandir in Gujarat which houses many of the girls brought from Assam was inaugurated by none other than Mr Narendra Modi in 2002.  It is now following very faithfully Mr Modi’s motto of ‘Beti bachao, beti padhao.’  It is ‘saving’ the betis even from their parents!

The reporters say that little children are being radicalised in these institutions.  The children are not allowed to meet people from outside except under high supervision.  They cannot ever meet their parents or relatives.  They become “indoctrinated and embittered,” according to the reporters.  Are we creating suicide bombers for the future India which, according to the vision of the Sangh Parivar, will be “hundred percent Hindu”?


Friday, July 29, 2016

Wi-Fi Relationships


The three girls grew up together right from primary school.  They studied in the same school and lived in the same premises.  When schooling was completed, they went to different colleges.  But they met every evening for some time in an open area near their homes.  They would sit together and chat while their fingers moved dexterously on the keypad of their smartphone.  The occasional giggle or  peel of laughter that was let out did not considerably affect their engagement with the phone.  Now that they live in different places, the relationships must have turned entirely virtual, I guess. 

In the same city, I have noticed people, especially those not old enough to dye their hair, engrossed totally with their mobile phones while travelling in the metro trains or buses, while talking to people in various places, or even while looking after a patient in a hospital.  

I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone posing for a selfie with the dead body of his/her grandfather or an aunt and then posting it at Facebook or Instagram. 

Relationships have gone wi-fi.  The people far away seem to be a lot more important, or at least interesting, than those nearby.  Distance lends enchantment to relationships, perhaps.  The ‘likes’ in the virtual world are much more articulated than in the real world.  And people are far more generous with ‘likes’ in that world rather than in this.  That world!  That’s a Paradise, Heaven on earth!  People there ‘like’ whatever you do, whatever you write, whatever pictures of yourself you pass on.  How nice to be liked so much!

Is that an escape into a world of soothing illusions?

Is genuine love an emotion which binds people together more in bad times than in good ones?  Wouldn’t I rather be with my beloved one in the storm rather than be safe by myself?  Are there real seas without those storms?

If the person who makes you the happiest does not also occasionally make you the saddest, the love that binds the two of you may not last very long.  Still more, things not said matter much more than those said in a genuine relationship.  What is not said cannot be expressed in that virtual Paradise.  The gaze in the eyes and pulse of the heart are too real for the virtual sites.  Emoticons are too mechanical to carry emotions.




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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What do people want?


Conduct a survey on what people want and you may be surprised to find that god(s) don’t figure in the list of choices.  People don’t want god(s). They want:

1.     Happiness
2.     Money
3.     Freedom
4.     Peace
5.     Joy
6.     Balance
7.     Fulfilment
8.     Confidence
9.     Stability
10.            Passion

This is a list of things that people want, in that order of priorities, according to a survey conducted by Kathy Caprino, a leadership trainer and apparently a feminist, and whose results have been published here. The choices may change if a similar survey is conducted in India.  Food, house, clothes, and other basic necessities like toilets may figure in the list in Indian surveys.  I’m sure god(s) won’t. 

Conduct the survey in China (most populated country) or Pakistan (apparently most religious country) or Qatar (the wealthiest country currently) and you will still get similar results. God(s) won’t figure in people’s choices.

My question is: Why do we have so many people fighting for god(s) in spite of the fact that people don’t want them (gods)?


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A brief history of gods


In the beginning were bacteria. They were bored. Millions of years of life will bore anyone. Even bacteria. They wanted escape from boredom. In spite of volcanic eruptions and other entertainments. In spite tectonic plates shifting whimsically. In spite of falling comets and asteroids.

Boredom is the most powerful agent of change. It can kill you. Or it can make you create new life. New life came. In various forms. Plants. They were bored soon. They longed to meet mate. And the mate was born.

Dinosaurs. They found it difficult to mate. Snakes crawled around and cockroaches flew around.  Some mated. Some devoured some others. The lion came claiming kingship. The lion was soon bored. The ape came mocking his boredom and running around on trees that the lion could not climb after mating and eating or eating and mating. When the lion was insulted enough into genetic humiliation, the ape descended from the tree and became man.

Man was bored sooner than all others. In spite of condoms. And other entertainments. So he sat down to meet and discuss. Brainstorming led by a CEO. “Let us create a god,” the most creative brain suggested. And they created a god in their own image.

Xerox copies of the god soon gained popularity. And they assumed new shapes. Avatars, the creators called them just for the sake of authority. Authority comes from the author of the new story.

New stories. New gods. New authors.

Somebody wanted to be the leader. He said, “We shall have only one god. All other gods are false.” A lot of blood flowed. Down many a stream.

History continues.  Gods rule.


Monday, July 25, 2016

No future without the past


Is it possible for anyone to shed the ‘baggage’ of the past and turn a clean, new leaf in life? A few years back, some eminent psychologists studied this and came to the conclusion that our ability to envision the future is strongly influenced by our memory of the past. In other words, we tend to use memories of past experiences to predict what our life will be like in the future.

Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize for his contribution to the field of behavioural economics, uses an example to illustrate how our memories shape our thoughts and feelings. A person had dinner at a restaurant. Everything went well. The food was delicious, the wine wonderful. Memorable dinner. You would recommend the restaurant to anyone. Just then something goes wrong. The waiter spills some coffee on your elegant suit. Odds are that the coffee spill will taint your memory of the food and the wine.

What lingers on is memory rather than experience, argues the psychologist. Further he says that the decisions we make are based on our memories, not our experiences. The restaurant triggers your unpleasant memory whenever someone asks your opinion about it. Life is a continuous series of moments of experience, says Kahneman. Once these moments are passed, most of them are lost forever.  Kahneman calculated that the psychological presence of an experience lasts about three seconds.

But memories linger on. You cannot wish them away. They are not baggage you carry on your back which you can put down when you feel like doing so. They are more like the stains on your suit that refuse to fade, all the stain removers notwithstanding.  

The situation becomes much worse if these bad memories have been reinforced by further similar experiences. Take the case of a woman ditched by her boyfriend. She overcomes the trauma and learns to place her trust in another man. Imagine her being ditched by him too. The likelihood of her ever retaining any trust in her heart for another man is almost nil.

The bad past is not an excess baggage carried by us.  They become integral parts of our very being. Memories are not mere experiences. They are the marks left in your soul by the experiences. How deep are the marks, how durable they are, these decide whether you can escape from them while planning your future.

PS. This post is my response to a discussion that took place in a blog by Pranju Chakrapani.





Friday, July 22, 2016

Companionship and some smiles


One of the paradoxes of human life is that society corrupts but isolation destroys.  While critiquing Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, J H Stape points out a number of related paradoxes.  Civilisation is a hypocritical veneer over savagery; yet it is a valuable achievement to be vigilantly guarded. Morality is a sham; but without it human beings become sham humans. Awareness is superior to ignorance; yet ignorance can be bliss in many ways. A person who sells his soul does at least have a soul to sell, while most people who try to redeem their souls through quotidian religious practices do not have a soul at all.  

The latest Indispire theme [Human beings need someone in their life. At least a person to ask occasionally, how one feels now. What's your say on it?] brought to my mind these paradoxes. The theme is essentially about relationships. It can be rephrased as: Can we live alone? Do we need at least one companion?

Hermits live alone. However, their god(s) and spiritual practices save them from the potential destructiveness of isolation. There are recluses who are not hermits.  Their dislike of human society sustains their isolation. I guess they find some means of engagement which may be a less spiritual alternative to the hermit’s choice. Pets, garden, books or something else may be their saviours. If they are happy with their choices, I am no one to question them. If they are not happy with the choices, I still have no right to question them as long as their discontent does not spill out in antisocial forms.

Personally, I am not enamoured of any society. I never fit into any of the societies that were kind enough to tolerate me from my childhood. And I had no choice but tolerate them too. Given a choice along with the economic buffers it entails, I would choose quasi-isolation.  Books are good companions. They are not only harmless but also intellectually stimulating and, to some extent, emotionally sustaining. But the emotional sustenance provided by books is a virtual reality, almost like what I derive from blogging. Some real emotions are good. A caring touch, an affectionate glance, some real reciprocity is very reassuring. It makes me feel more human. And that feeling has a comfortable warmth about it.

That warmth can occasionally spark off into a smouldering fire. That’s another inevitable paradox of human life. Since there is no safe escape from such paradoxes, I choose the minimum required. What really matters is that there are more smiles in life with that minimum.





Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mirror


“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of all?” The Queen stood before the mirror and asked as usual.  The response was also the usual one: “My Queen, you are the fairest one of all.”

The Queen was never tired of this exercise which went on ad infinitum, ad nauseam.  But the nausea was mine.  Only mine. The Queen, like most people, relished the flattery mistaking it for truth.

“You accuse me wrongly,” complained the Mirror. No, it was not a complaint really. I took it as a complaint because I, like most people, judge others according to my own nature. I have a tendency to complain and so I think others also are like that. But the Mirror is not like me. It merely makes statements and not opinions stained by emotions. It tells the truth, in simple words. I don’t tell too many truths, like most people. But unlike most people, I can’t flatter. When I see something unfair or unjust I am tempted to point it out though I, like most people, learnt that it was wise not to tell unpleasant truths. We can’t always go by the teachings. Our very nature rebels against the teachings. That’s why I pointed out my nausea to the Mirror.  I told her that I was sick of her flattery of the Queen.

“Of all the people I have seen,” said the Mirror, “the Queen is the fairest. That’s the truth.”

It’s then I realised that the Mirror had actually not seen many people.  Who are the people that ever enter the Queen’s chamber? The King. The maids. And occasionally I, the Queen’s Secretary.  People call me all sorts of names.  For some, I am the Queen’s Spy. Bootlicker, for some. Killer, for a few. That’s how the world is: they give you unfair names. I’m merely a Secret-ary. The treasurer of secrets.

“You haven’t seen Snow White.” I tried to make a statement like the Mirror.

“Who is Snow White?”

I explained to her who Snow White was and why the Mirror would never have a chance to meet her.

“I would like to meet her,” said the Mirror. “Just for a change.” How long will one go on meeting the same faces? Faces!

As the Secret-ary of the Queen, I was in a position to take some liberties in the Palace.  Without other people’s knowledge, of course. When other people are left out of certain knowledge, they call you Spy or Bootlicker or even Killer. But I wanted the Mirror to know at least one truth. If you don’t meet many people, your truths are highly limited. That’s why I decided to place Snow White before the Mirror.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of all?” The Queen repeated her flattering exercise as usual.

"My queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White who is beyond my purview is a thousand times more beautiful than you," answered the Mirror.

I saw the Queen turn red. I saw the Queen go mad. I saw the Queen dwindle in dimensions. 

She, the Queen, my Mistress, picked up the gold flower vase which contained the latest gifts of whitest lilies from her husband the King and flung it at the Mirror.

The Mirror shattered to smithereens.

One of my dreams shattered into smithereens.

I learnt one more lesson. How expensive is truth!

I learnt another lesson. How expensive is fairness!

Life is expensive. Is the Mirror lucky that it is dead?

Am I unlucky that I am alive? What do these lessons matter if you have to go on learning them endlessly and pay with the life of your friend in the process?

“I’m sorry.” I whispered to the fragments of the Mirror as I gathered them and stored them in the heart of my heart.


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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Is the Supreme Court being saffronised?


Why is the Supreme Court so anxious to make Rahul Gandhi apologise for telling the truth?  What Mr Gandhi said was that “RSS people killed Gandhiji...”  What’s wrong in that statement?  The apex court says that it is “a collective denunciation.” It is. And what’s wrong in that? Wasn’t the RSS opposed to the Mahatma so thoroughly that it wanted to eliminate him? Nathuram Godse, Narayan Apte and Vishnu Karkare who hatched the conspiracy and planned everything meticulously sitting in the Retiring Room number 6 at Old Delhi Railway Station were all RSS people. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Union Home Minister when Gandhi was assassinated, wrote to Prime Minister Nehru that it was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that “[hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through.”  Both RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha celebrated Gandhi’s assassination by distributing sweets.

Yes, Rahul Gandhi was absolutely right: it was RSS people who killed Gandhiji.  It was the organisation’s official desire that Godse implemented. Why is the Supreme Court eager to rewrite history?

The people of India had a lot of faith in the apex court. But it seems that under the present regime even the Supreme Court will lose its credibility. That’s a pity. The apex court’s argument that it is only some people of the RSS who killed Gandhi is ludicrous. Such hair-splitting may sound good in the musty corridors walked on by men in black coats. People know the simple truth which needs no hair-splitting.  Or people ought to know it.

If the BJP and even the present RSS wish to rewrite history, it is understandable.  That is politics.  But the Supreme Court should steer clear of such politics. Otherwise the entire nation will be dragged to darkness.  It will do good for the country if the apex court remembers that loss of trust in the judiciary is the greatest disaster that can befall a country. Many lower courts in the country have already betrayed that trust time and again. One would expect the apex court to stand far above petty politics.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Jenny, the Witch


Fantasy

The witch looked like somebody I knew.  That’s why she didn’t scare me though I should have been scared since she resembled the woman whose hobby was messing up people’s lives.  No, the witch wasn’t wearing a sober-coloured sari like this woman I knew.  Nor was her hair silver grey.  In fact, her hair was red.  And her teeth were green unlike the pearly white teeth of the woman she reminded me of. She wore a ragged gown which smelt of cremation grounds.  In fact, there was nothing about her that matched this woman I knew. But she resembled her. It was her smile.  Yes, that smile was deadly.  You knew the smile was meant to kill.  Whenever this woman I knew smiled, somebody’s end was sure.  End does not mean physical death.  This woman was the boss of the institution where I worked for some time.  Whenever she smiled, somebody lost his or her job. And this woman made sure to fabricate some charge against the employee so that the latter wouldn’t dare to fight back.  He or she wouldn’t even get another job with that sort of a history in the curriculum vitae.  That is worse than death.  Like that guy in T. S. Eliot’s poem, the employee would be glad of another death.

I was blessed; the woman had never smiled at me.

“Fair is foul and foul is fair,” wheezed the witch through her green teeth.

“Is this a formulaic utterance of witches” I asked remembering Shakespeare’s witches in Macbeth.

“Isn’t every witch a formula?” she asked.

“How did you become a witch?” I was curious.

She laughed and her green teeth glistened in the gentle light of the setting sun.

“I am Jenny Greenteeth,” she said. “Heard of her?”

“Hmm,” I said.  Jenny Greenteeth was a lonely old water witch who was supposed to carry away bad children.  Mothers used her name to scare children into behaving well.  Jenny lived in the waters.  The water moss made her green.  They made her teeth green.  Thus went the story. We are the stuff that stories are made of.

“We are stories,” said Jenny as if she had read my thought.

Stories can be rewritten, I suggested to her.  “We rewrite even histories. Want to try?”

She looked amused. She grinned at me. Greenteeth.

“You can change the colour of your teeth, for example, if you want.”

“Yeah?”

“Oh, just anything can be changed.  We have the technology.” I explained to her about beauty parlours and plastic surgery and cosmetic products.

“We have Ayurvedic toothpastes manufactured by a godman who produces a lot of other miraculous things like Male-offspring-seeds.”

She was not interested in male offspring. But she was not entirely averse to experimenting with the toothpaste.

“Oh!” she screamed at herself after the toothpaste had turned her teeth pearly white. She stared at herself in the mirror. “Who will recognise me as Jenny Greenteeth anymore?”

“Why not be Jenny Whiteteeth now?”

“How callous you are?” She stared at me. “You have taken away my identity.”

In that case thousands of people are losing their identity everyday in beauty parlours and other cosmetic centres, I wanted to tell her.  But I did not wish to be callous.  I only meant well. Like the Jihadists, for example, I was trying to better the world by converting a witch into a proper woman.

“But how will mothers tame their children anymore?” Jenny worried.

“Oh, they will invent a new witch,” I consoled her.  

I suggested her to dye her hair silver grey and don a sober-coloured sari.  She obeyed like a child.

“Now you are ready to be a boss,” I said.  I sent her to the woman whom Jenny had reminded me of.  “Keep up your smile,” I  reminded her.

I wondered how I could be so callous as to send an innocent witch to that woman. I’m still wondering.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Delusions of Truth


Shamsudheen Fareed, a Salafi preacher in Kerala, has decided that Onam, Christmas and other such celebrations are haram.  A lot more things are haram in his version of Islam.  Movies are haram.  Even trimming the beard is!

When a person convinces himself that he possesses the ultimate truths, he is destined to live in a bundle of delusions.  Simply because there are no ultimate truths.  Except in science and other rigid systems.  Even in those systems, truths are amenable to corrections.  An Einstein corrected a Newton.  Einstein’s theories are also not ultimate truths.  When it comes to human life and affairs, truths are never ultimate.  We keep learning and understanding them in our own way. 

Source
Joseph Conrad’s celebrated character, Kurtz (Heart of Darkness), is a good example of someone who deluded himself with his own ultimate truths.  He thought he possessed the ultimate truths and he wanted to civilize the native Africans by giving them those truths.  The result was torture and slavery.  He enslaved the people.  He terrorised them.  He became a god for them.  A monster, that was what he was in reality.  But for a terrorised people there is little difference between a god and a monster.

Kurtz isolates himself from society.  He places himself above the society because he has deluded himself into believing that he is superior to all the society.  He has certain truths.  The others don’t have them.  Hence the others are harami. 

What many religious organisations are doing today in the name of jihad and divine reign are no different from what Kurtz did.  They are placing themselves above human societies.  They are the judges of societies.  They become the moral arbiters of other people.  Yes, there is one difference.  Kurtz didn’t even fall back on his god; the terrorists make use of god.  But gods are elusive creatures.  They assume the shapes and colours given to them by their inventors or interpreters.  Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses illustrates the malady that underlies those inventors and interpreters.  It is quite impossible for any man to don the mantle of God and maintain sanity too.  Kurtz became a god to the savages.  He was mad, in fact, in the judgment of the other white people who knew him.

All the while he thinks of himself as the moral authority in the jungle, Kurtz is actually a criminal and a hypocrite.  He is a homicidal maniac who has decided that other people are harami.

The pursuit of absolute truths necessarily creates such delusions.  Many literary writers have pursued similar themes.  I took Kurtz as a prototype. 


Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Romance called Childhood


Put a few children on an island with no adults to supervise them.  Watch from a distance what they do.  In no time you will have to intervene in order to save them from themselves.

William Golding wrote a novel on that theme.  Lord of the Flies, the novel by the Nobel laureate, tells the story of some children who were marooned on an island.  Soon savagery dominates their life.  The benign Ralph loses to the bullying Jack.  Evil triumphs.  There is no childhood innocence.   There is only the savagery that marks humanity essentially.

Three years before Lord of the Flies was published, American literature was blessed with J D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (1954) which told the story of a 16 year-old boy, Holden Caulfield, whose dream was to preserve children’s innocence from the necessary corruption of adults.  Holden ends up in the loony bin. 

One has to lose innocence if one is to remain sane in the human world.  Growing up is necessarily to embrace evil or at least grapple with it.  There is no escape.  When you die, as Holden tells us in the novel, people will come and put “a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday.”  When you are alive, all they give you is crap.  Holden detested people.  And the psychiatrist thought he was insane.  After a year’s treatment in the asylum, Holden could not begin to love people.  But he was willing to accept their limitations.

Holden didn’t grow up, in short.  Did that help him anyway?  Not at all.  Accepting that human nature is essentially more evil than good is important in the process of growing up.  Childhood innocence is a good romantic notion.  It does no good to anyone trying to make it a gospel.  The harsh reality is that we can only grow up to evil or at least grappling with it; there is no way to grow down to childlike innocence.  The harsh truth is that there is nothing like childlike innocence.  Unless you keep the child locked away from the world of men!

As poet Gerard Manley Hopkins told the little girl Margaret, “as the heart grows older / It will come to such sights colder.”  Margaret has to grow up and learn the sorrows that accompany human existence.  There is no growing down.



Saturday, July 16, 2016

Create, not Produce


There is too much productivity in our world.  We are bombarded with commodities.  Half of the TV time is dedicated to advertising commodities most of which are not necessary in anybody’s life.  Half of the newspaper space is similarly dedicated to redundancy. Shopping malls and popular markets bring us a lot of commodities which we don’t need really.  

Suppose we change our focus from production and consumption to creation.  Suppose people start spending some time every day on creating something like a flower vase from waste material, a poem about the agony left by the religion of bombs, a short movie on the mobile camera... Well, each one of us can create something according to our taste and skills.  Create, not produce.  Creation is an act of love.  Production is mere commerce.

The world will be a different place.  Qualitatively different. There will be more beauty than vulgarity. More refinement.  More happiness.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Devika's Dreams

Fiction

Devika's dreams were filled with flying reptiles.  Crocodiles and serpents soared heavenward on diaphanous wings.  They disturbed her sleep night after night.

  "She wants the best of both worlds."  That was her father's interpretation of her dreams.  Seeing her swollen eyes in the morning, mother asked her what disturbed her sleep.  She told mother about the crocodiles and serpents with diaphanous wings that visited her night after night. Mother dutifully reported the matter to father.

  "Both worlds?"  Mother did not understand.

  "The reptiles belong to the earth.  Too much to the earth.  The wings belong to the heavens.  And diaphanous wings!"  He paused.  "Hmm... They belong to angels, I suppose."

  Devika was reading a poem by Sara Teasdale when mother was trying to decode the link between the terrestrial reptiles and the celestial angels.

  Stephen kissed me in the spring,
  Robin in the fall,
  But Colin only looked at me
  And never kissed at all.

  "ISIS attacks North of Baghdad, seven killed."  Father read aloud the newspaper headline.  He was silent for a while.  Then he said, "It's no wonder if she dreams of reptiles with wings."

  Stephen's kiss was lost in jest,
  Robin's lost in play,
  But the kiss in Colin's eyes
  Haunts me night and day.

  Devika continued to read Teasdale.  The aroma of fried eggs rose from the kitchen.  Mother was cooking breakfast.  Fried egg sunny side up was Devika's favourite item on the breakfast menu.  As long as there was fried egg sunny side up, the rest of the breakfast could be anything from plain dosa to humble upma with chutney.

  Did she inherit the flying reptiles from her mother?  Devika wondered.  When she was a little girl, Devika remembered now, mother had a peculiar headache.  Whenever an aeroplane flew over their place, mother would get a headache.  Since they lived in a village, the aeroplanes would be flying very high in the sky.  They were quite rare too.  They looked like tiny birds which hummed mechanically.  They gifted headaches to mother for a few years.  Then the headaches stopped miraculously.  "I have no more any desire to fly in them," mother said as if that was the explanation for her miraculous recovery.

  Will the reptiles stop flying in my dreams if I smother my desires?  Devika asked herself.  But what were her desires?  She wondered.  Maybe they lay somewhere beyond the horizon.

  Best of both worlds.  Father's phrase rang in her ears as Devika put aside Sara Teasdale and picked up her bath towel.  Soon she has to be ready to go the city where she worked for a software firm that specialised in creating apps for smartphones.

  As the shower water descended on her, a new app was emerging in her imagination.  A game with flying reptiles that could be manoeuvred by the player while bombs exploded beneath.  The successful player would be rewarded with a kiss from Colin or Colleen depending on the gender or sexual preferences of the player.  Virtual kiss, of course.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Little Prince and a lot of megalomania


One of the persons encountered by Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s peripatetic Little Prince is the King of a tiny asteroid.  The King teaches Little Prince that “Accepted authority rests first on reason.  If you ordered your people to go and throw themselves into the sea, they would rise up in revolution.”  The King claims that he has the right to require obedience because his orders are reasonable.

 
Read the book here
From whom will the King demand obedience, however?  Little Prince had noticed that the only inhabitant of the asteroid was the King.  He asks the King, “Over what do you rule?”

  “Over everything,” the King answers promptly and makes a majestic gesture which sweeps everything including the stars and the planets.

  “And the stars obey you?”  Little Prince is dismayed.

  “Certainly they do,” tells the King.  “They do instantly and I do not permit insubordination.”

  Little Prince makes a request.  He being very fond of sunsets would like to see one now.  Can the King order the sun to set since everything obeys him?

  “You shall have your sunset,” says the King.  But Little Prince should wait until conditions are favourable for sunset.  The King explains that authority does not mean making irrational and unnatural demands.  Authority is a harmonious relationship between the ruler and the subject.

  A good ruler should never demand from his subjects anything that would grate against the nature of the latter.  Let the subjects live in their natural freedom as long as one man’s freedom does not meddle with another’s.  Respect everyone’s freedom.  Good authority does not curtail individual freedom.  Nothing need be imposed.  Not gods.  Not morality.  Nothing.

  But that is the ideal situation.  The fact is that there is no ideal situation.  Even the Kings has human limitations or imperfections.  He likes to feel his power by having someone to order about.  Hence he tries to make Little Prince his minister. When the latter is not interested in the position, the King offers other options.  Little Prince could be a Judge.  There is a rat somewhere on the asteroid and Little Prince could exercise his power by condemning the rat to death and then forgive the rat so that Little Prince can again exercise his power and condemn it to death.  Little Prince cannot condemn anybody to death, however. 

  The King turns out to be a megalomaniac.  Like all those who love power.  Bored of the megalomania, Little Prince takes leave of him.  “I make you my ambassador,” says the King imperiously as Little Prince leaves.  The King feels he is exercising his authority by making Little Prince his ambassador.  It makes no difference to Little Prince since he is leaving the kingdom for good.

  The ideal authority is one which exercises its megalomania without hurting the subjects in any way.  But the subjects have to be as innocent as Little Prince.  And that’s impossible.  I’m amused to think: is the quest of certain people to establish their God’s kingdom on the earth – call it Caliphate or whatever – any more possible than making everyone a Little Prince?


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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Nothing and Something


There are days when you don’t want to write anything.  Today is one such day for me.  I would normally have followed the instinct blindly and written nothing.  But I realise I have to write something today because I promised that to a friend: that I would participate in the WriteTribe’s weeklong Festival of Words challenge.  My last two posts were submitted at the site with due compliance and loyalty.  The fact is neither of them was written for WriteTribe or any other specific purpose.  The naked truth is that I don’t write these days with any purpose.  Writing just comes.  Whatever I write is born of the thoughts that spring in my mind irrepressibly. 

Nothing was coming today. Nothing irrepressible, I mean.  But I wish to keep the promise.  Some friends are valuable.

That’s how I realised that I still value some friends.

That’s also how I realised that I don’t have any motive for writing.  I breathe.  I eat.  I write.

I’m not trying to influence anyone in any way, let alone convert.  But if someone tells me that he/she finds my writing good for certain reasons, it makes me feel that I’m doing something worthwhile.  That sense of worth makes me realise that I’m still human.  

Perhaps, that’s the only reason why I write.  Just to reassure myself that I haven’t lost myself.


PS. This post is written specifically for 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Imaginary Paradises

Imaginary Paradises and Real Hells

Fiction

Aziz raised the machine gun and pumped a million bullets into the heart of his frustrations.

            Firoz lay dead in a pool of warm blood which exuded a smell that strangely reminded Aziz of the chemistry lab in his college.  Soon he would be lying in a similar pool of blood, his own blood, Aziz knew.  He had killed one of the top leaders of the organisation and he would be a fool to hope that he could get away with it.

            What would be the smell of my blood?  He asked himself.  Will it smell of the deodorant whose seductiveness is what first drew him to Miriam?

            “Miriam will be a suicide bomber,” Firoz had decided.

            Miriam was Maria.  Maria Joseph of St Antony’s College whose humid corridors carried various odours one of which was the seductive fragrance that wafted whenever Maria Joseph of B.Sc. (Bio) came along.  Aziz was a B.Sc. (Chem) student of the same batch. 

            When Firoz suggested to make a non-Muslim girl fall in love with him, it was the fragrance of Maria that rushed into his veins and made him blush.

            But why? He wondered. “Why should I fall in love with a kafir?”  He asked.

            “Who’s asking you to love anybody?” He growled. “The girl should fall.  In love.  With you.”

            But why?

            Our mission.

            Firoz explained.  A new world, a totally different world, emerged in Aziz’s imagination as Firoz spoke.  A paradise on earth.  One god, one religion, one Caliphate.  All infidels will be converted.  Or else eliminated.

            Miriam’s duty was to eliminate.  She would be a suicide bomber.  A martyr.  Firdaws, nothing less, awaited her.

            “But we thought we would be creating the paradise on the earth!” exclaimed Aziz.

            “Yes.  Paradise on earth requires martyrs and their work on the foundation.  Miriam is fortunate to have been chosen to be a martyr.”

            “But I love her,” Aziz protested in spite of all the training that they were given over months.   They were taught to forget earthly attachments until the mission is accomplished.  Once the mission is accomplished, their rewards would be manifold, so much more than they could ever have imagined.

            “In the meanwhile you can get another girl to fall in love with you,” Firoz grinned.

            It was then Aziz grabbed the machine gun.  To hell with Firdaws and Paradise.

            He flung the smoking gun and walked out. 

            He saw a drugged Miriam get into the driver’s seat of a car.  Suicide bomber.

            “Miriam!”  He wanted to call.  But his voice died in his throat as he became aware of the steel barrel of a pistol behind his head.  “Allah! Mercy!”

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Call of Islamic State


A year ago, the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague (ICCT) reported that about 4000 people from the West left their homes and countries to join the Islamic State (IS).  Many of them are women.  The reporters had made a special study of the women who joined the terrorist outfit and found that it was difficult to categorise which type of women were particularly drawn to IS. “While most of the girls are young, some as young as fifteen,” says the report,  “there are also mothers with young children who make the trip. Some of the girls have difficulties in school and are said to have an IQ below average,  but there are also women who are highly educated. It also appears that even though a relatively large portion of the girls had (or still have) a troubled childhood, there are some who come from families with no known problems with the authorities. Most of the girls come from religiously moderate Muslim families,  yet some converted to Islam at a later age. While some of the young girls seem vulnerable and impressionable, others appear to be strong and hold deep convictions.”

Nimisha (left) converted by Ezza (middle) into Fathima (right)
Both went missing from Kerala recently
Picture courtesy Malayala Manorama
All sorts of people are being trapped by the pie in the sky offered by the terrorist outfit.  Today’s newspapers in Kerala carry front page reports about young people of the state who have supposedly joined the IS.  People go missing and after a gap of silence they contact from somewhere to say that they are on some divine mission associated with Islamic paradises. 

It’s mostly young and impressionable people who go “missing.”  Some of them are converted to Islam from Hinduism or Christianity.  Some are girls married by Muslim men and converted.  The erstwhile stories about love jihad were not all figments of fervid imaginations, it seems. 

There is a method in this madness called Islamic State and allied outfits.  They want to convert the whole world into a Caliphate with one divine ruler up in the clouds and his imams and mullahs clouding the earth with divine revelations. 

Divine revelations.  That’s the secret of the success of IS and other similar outfits.  It’s about a utopia.  A utopia supported by none other than god.  The Western culture and civilisation that dominate today’s world is seen as too worldly and evil.  It is spiritually empty.  It offers no purpose to life.  No meaning. 

And Islamic State offers meaning and purpose.  Through barrels of guns and shrapnel of bombs.

PS. A new Genesis for the purpose seekers: 

“In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness.

And God said, "Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done." And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely.

"Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.

"Certainly," said man.

"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God.

And He went away.” 


                                  ― Kurt VonnegutCat's Cradle


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