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Showing posts from August, 2016

Are we modern?

Presenting Anthony Gottlieb’s new book, The Dream of Enlightenment , The New Yorker today raises the question whether we are “ really so modern .”  Modernity is not about science and technology, argues the writer.  “Rather, it is a subjective condition, a feeling or an intuition that we are in some profound sense different from the people who lived before us.”  He goes on to show that we are no different from the people who lived, say, a hundred years ago.  We may have accumulated a lot of new technology and its gifts. But our attitudes haven’t changed.  Aristotle who was born 2400 years ago was more sophisticated in thinking than most people living today.  If Aristotle were to visit us today, he would find us as savage as the people of his days.  He wouldn’t accept our attacking certain people with missiles and bombs in the name of gods and ideologies as a sign of modernity.  He would find it impossible to imagine that certain sections of people are kept away from the mainstr

Arms in Kerala Temples?

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Kadakampally Surendran, Kerala's Devaswom Board minister, has raised a very serious allegation against the RSS in the state. According to a Facebook post of the minister, the RSS is perpetrating certain illegal activities in some temples.  The minister claims that RSS is plotting to convert the temples into storehouses for arms and ammunition. It is a very serious allegation.  Both the RSS and the minister's party [CPM] are at loggerheads with each other.  Both have attacked each other violently leading to many deaths in the past. If the RSS is converting temples into arms stores, the situation needs immediate action. In the last two years the right wing in the country has become more violent than ever.  There have been attacks on many people belonging to minority communities in different parts of the country.  Even the Dalits are not spared by certain activists. Kerala is a state with a high non-Hindu population. Communal riots can become conflagrations quickly.  Hen

Whose country is it?

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Courtesy: The Indian Express Thanks to the media, a Dana Majhi or a Salamani Behera makes a brief appearance in the history of the country.  Who are they?  We will ask that question tomorrow.  We will forget them.  Because they don’t belong in history.  It was merely a freak chance that put them there.  Dana Majhi entered by carrying the dead body of his wife on his shoulders for a distance of over 10 km.  With his teenage daughter walking beside suppressing her grief.  The picture would shake the conscience of anyone who has a conscience.  Salamani Behera was an 80 year-old woman whose dead body was broken at the hip in order to fold it into two so that it could be packed and carried on a bamboo pole.  How much is a human being worth in this country whose Prime Minister is hopping on and off airplanes in order to carry the greatness of his nation far and wide? History always belonged to the rulers and their minions.  Pick up any history book and we will read about ki

Metaperceptions of the Ego

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Long ago, when I was young and more foolish than most of my contemporaries who were worldly wise, my godfather told me that I was a narcissist.  I possessed all the characteristics of a person suffering from the narcissistic personality disorder, he said.  Then he read out the list of my personality disorders from a diary. 1.      You have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. 2.      You expect to be recognised as superior even though you have achieved nothing worthwhile 3.      You exaggerate whatever little you manage to achieve. 4.      You are often in your own dream world, fantasies about... Then he stopped and looked at me.  “Am I correct this far?” he asked.  I nodded my head like a penitent at the confessional. “... fantasies about success, power, intellectual brilliance...”  He paused and stared into my eyes again.  “Are you with me?” “Bound to you with a chain,” I wished to say.  But I was trained to listen quietly when  the ‘personal scrutiny’ w

The world loves winners

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The politicians of Haryana are vying with one another, irrespective of their party allegiances, to claim the credit for Sakshi Malik’s Olympic medal .  That’s the major advantage of being a winner.  When you laugh, the world laughs with you; when you cry, the world sneaks away in search of the next winner.  Politicians, being the direct descendants of bloodsucking leeches, will be the first ones to do that.  The chelas will follow loyally. And the whole world will applaud them along with the winner. Never be a loser.  That’s the lesson, in short.  Otherwise, like L K Advani or Murli Manohar Joshi you get thrown out of the bandwagon even if you were its charioteer in your heyday.  The world is as eager to forget the loser as it is to applaud the winner.  Personally, winning or losing matters little to me.  I am a born loser.  There is no period in my life which I see as a winning phase.  There was always a winner eager to snatch my trophies.  I grew used to the process

The Sensitive Indian Patriot

Samuel Johnson was wrong.  Far from being scoundrels, we, the Indian patriots, are an exceptionally sensitive lot.  “As sensitive as the toilet seat,” I can hear the antinational prigs snicker.  The fact is that we care for Mother India.  We care for the Gau Mata.  That’s why we don’t tolerate the likes of Ramya, former MP and actress, who dare to say that “Pakistan is not hell.”  Tell me, how can a former Member of Parliament, make such a statement when she ought to know that the cause of all our problems is Pakistan?  Earlier that other actor’s wife said she felt insecure to live in India.  We told her to go to Pakistan along with her Muslim husband.  And now we have slapped a sedition charge on Ramya.  We are patriots, not scoundrels.  Our national sensitivity is offended when anyone says that Pakistan is not hell.  Our national pride is founded on the premise that Pakistan is our hell. For light to shine, there has to be darkness.  Pakistan is our darkness.  India is heaven

Necessity of Hypocrisy

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“I expect you to be sincere and as an honourable man never to utter a single word that you don't really mean.”   Alceste, the protagonist of Moliere’s comedy, The Misanthrope , utters these words in the opening scene of the play.  Alceste wanted a world of genuine people.  His desire was not as demanding as that of Jesus or the Buddha.  Yet Alceste became a comic character in the society while Jesus and the Buddha became gods. Source Alceste lived in the 17 th century when the world was more complex than when Jesus demanded childlike innocence as the price of the ticket to heaven.  The Buddha had found it even more impossible to accept life’s absurdity than Jesus, let alone Alceste.  The Buddha sought deliverance in the nonexistence of nirvana while Jesus nailed his body’s abominable passions to the cross and thus delivered his soul from those passions. Moliere’s Alceste is more human than these gods.  He eventually accepted the limitations of human nature.  None o

What is God’s gender?

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Sunday Musings God of Christianity Source: Here In a recent article in the New York Times , a Jewish rabbi raised the question whether God is transgender.  He points out that in the Hebrew Bible, when read in its original language, gender is not always precisely demarcated.  For example, Eve is referred to as “he” in one place, Adam as “them” and Rebecca as a “young man.”  “These aren’t typos,” the rabbi asserts and explains that “In the ancient world, well-expressed gender fluidity was the mark of a civilized person. Such a person was considered more ‘godlike’.” Why wouldn’t a god have the maternal tenderness of a woman, for example?  Why should any god be deprived of the good qualities that women possess?  Why should a god necessarily be a man? Of course, there are many ancient religions including India’s Hinduism which have both gods and goddesses.  But in the world’s dominant monotheistic religions, God is necessarily a man.  Why?  The answer is fairly simple

Buridan’s Ass

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Source Buridan’s Ass, named after 14 th century French philosopher Jean Buridan, is both hungry and thirsty.  It is placed midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water.  If the ass decides to exercise its free will, it will starve to death.  When it turns to the haystack, it can exercise its freedom to choose water first instead.  And when it turns to the water, its free will can interfere again.  Thus it can go on exercising its freedom of choice until it dies of starvation amid food and water. The current theme of Indispire, Love vs Freedom - what would you choose? ( If you land in a situation where you can get true love but not freedom of expression)   #freedom , reminded me of Buridan’s Ass.  Let’s take the example of Kashmir.  Indian patriots are supposedly in love with that piece of land.  Their love denies freedom to the people of the land to choose their own destiny.  Hence the civil war kind of situation in the state.  The question is whether the Indi

What makes Sakshi Malik a real heroine

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What makes Sakshi Malik a real heroine is that she hails from a cultural background in which a woman has no face, let alone other features, except for the pleasure of the men.  She comes from a state in which one out of every three girl children is not even sent to school. She belongs to a culture which values cows more than certain human beings and certainly more than women. The sex ratio in her state is as low as 823 in Panchkula district while the highest is just 927 in Rewari. Assaults on women and rapes are so common in Sakshi Malik's state that one of its prominent political leaders, Om Prakash Chautala, prescribed child marriage as the solution to contain the spilling Rajput libido. 15 women had been raped in one month when Mr Chautala was forced to find a remedy. Don't expect justice from the police in that state. Like the pigs and the men at the end of Orwell's Animal Farm, the police and the criminals bear a striking resemblance in that state.  "It's

Bird in the Cage

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I am this lousy bird kept in a cage.  This man who calls himself Swatantrananda Baba trapped me some time ago and put me in this cage.  “See how beautiful my Indian Ringneck Parrot is!”  Swatantrananda Baba introduces me to his very important guests.  I didn’t know I had a nationality until my captor gave me one.  What does Indian mean to me?  Do my wings care for borders and fences? What do names mean to me? The Baba gave me a nationality and a cage in addition to a name.  And he taught me some slogans.  I forgot my natural music.  The melody of the mountain pines and the orchestra of the brooks were part of my music earlier.  Now I chant some mantras that make no sense to me.  But the mantras have replaced my erstwhile symphonies learnt from the tree nymphs and celestial fairies.  Sitting in this lousy cage, sipping milk and chewing synthetic grains, I am unable to listen to the orchestra of the cosmos.  I have learnt to chant slogans.  Empty slogans. My wings long to

Parallel Governments: UP shows the way

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From today's Times of India Some villages in Uttar Pradesh have decided to form their own security forces for the protection of their women.  The Bulandshahr gang rapes are still fresh in India’s collective memory.  You can’t even travel on the national highways of the state without the fear of your women being pulled out of your car by bandits and raped.  The situation is not limited to Uttar Pradesh, however.  There is an increasing sense of insecurity all over the country.  Women are not safe in many parts of the country.  Property is not safe.  Even your money in the bank is not safe.  On the one hand, there are thieves and criminals gaining the confidence that they can attack people with impunity because the police forces are inefficient.  The police, the politician and the criminal seem to work together supporting one another.  Just to mention a few examples: last year an Additional Commissioner of Police of Bengaluru was suspended for his ties with a lottery

Love’s Travails

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Love is the capacity to put yourself in the shoes of the other person.  Sex has little to do with it.  Psychological researches have shown that lust is associated with motivation / reward areas of the brain, while love activates the regions connected to caring and empathy. Source: Here Those who care for others more than for themselves as Mother Teresa did, for example, are the ideal ‘lovers’.  She cared for the persons who had no one to rely on when they needed help the most.  She cleaned the filthiest of human bodies and applied the balm of tenderness on their festering wounds and lesions.  Hers was a sincere interest in people as people.  Not as vote banks.  Not even as potential converts, as alleged by some, though her love did convert a lot of people into better human beings.  Genuine love is transformative. Genuine love changes people.  Into better human beings.  Not many are capable of such love, however.  But there are a lot of social activists who have give

The Story of a Suicide

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Book Review Title: The Story of a Suicide Author: Sriram Ayer Innocence is short-lived. Unless you are equipped with the skills demanded by the prevalent social environment, you are doomed to fail in life.  This is the basic message of Sriram Ayer’s novel, The Story of a Suicide , published online and made available here . The novel tackles very important themes of contemporary relevance: individual liberty, women’s rights, homosexuality, potential hazards of electronic gadgets and the misuse of social media.  Moreover, the novel delves into the meaning and purpose of life as best as pop fiction can.    The novel tells the story of  four students who come together in a college and become friends. Charu, the only girl among them, is the only heroic character.  The male characters are either innocent and homosexual or wicked altogether.  Can homosexuality be triggered by innocence?  Can it be triggered by the trauma of a childhood experience?  These are some of the ques

Vigilantism is Barbarism

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Civilisation is an attitude.  It is a sophistication of the mind.  Very few people acquire such sophistication.  The vast majority remain as barbarian as the ancient savage was.  There may be one difference, however. While the ancient savages inflicted physical violence on real enemies, today’s savages tend to assault the individual’s self-confidence psychologically projecting the individual as a perceived enemy.  Physical violence has not vanished altogether.  Most terrorist attacks are physical annihilations.  Attacks on the Dalits and Muslims in India by the so-called vigilantes are often both physical and psychological.  Tying up people and lashing their buttocks before a crowd is more a psychological attack than physical. So is urinating on someone’s face or forcing someone to eat cow-dung.      PM Modi has publicly admitted that 4 out of 5 of these vigilantes are criminals taking advantage of the situation.  RSS has taken exception to the PM’s statistics.  It may be

Roads

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Roads hold out fascinating promises. They beckon us to the mystery that lies beyond the bend.  Here are some of those roads that added charm to some of my best years. All the pictures are from South Delhi. I rode a two-wheeler on these roads for many years humming to myself John Denver’s famous lines: “Country roads, take me home / To the place I belong.”  Not that I wanted to belong anywhere particularly.  Not that I was philosophical enough to suffer from rootlessness.  Rootlessness is the natural destiny of anyone who is delighted by roads even if he is not a Diogenes. Roads promise to lead you to somewhere beyond the horizon that circumscribes you.  That’s the charm of roads.  Hope is what roads are composed of.  Hope is an illusion insofar as it lies beyond the horizon.  What is life without those beloved illusions?  I love Mark Twain's dictum: "Don't part with your illusions.  When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live." A v

Gau rakshaks, listen to the PM

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I salute Mr Modi for his latest speeches.   On Saturday, he lambasted the gau rakshaks in no uncertain terms.   He called them anti-socials who are trying to masquerade their maleficence with feigned religiousness.   He has appealed to the state governments to take stern action against such criminals. Today addressing a rally in Hyderabad, he said, “If you want to attack, attack me and not Dalits. If you want to shoot, shoot me and not Dalits.”  Better late than never.  The PM should have spoken out long ago when certain sections of the country’s population or their religious places were attacked right from the time he took over the highest political authority in the country.   The PM should have spoken out when Kalburgi, Dabholkar and Pansare were murdered brutally for supporting the causes of secularism.  Not even the protests from eminent writers of the country who returned their Sahitya Akademi awards provoked the PM into taking the issue seriously.  Rohith Ve

Life and choices

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It is when I actually constructed a house for myself that I learnt how I could have made a better house at less cost.  It is when I reach the autumn of life that I learn how richer life would have been had I made different choices.  But neither can be undone.  The construction of a house is a one-time accomplishment.  At least, one’s life is a one-time affair.  There’s no going back. Life is a cruel game of the gods if they exist.  Christopher McDougall’s gazelle and lion that wake up every morning in an African forest and start running for survival are poignant symbols of that cruel game.  The graceful gazelle has to run in order to save its life from the feral lion.  And the lion has to run and capture the gazelle for its own survival.  The conqueror and the vanquished keep running in the wicked game of life.  Could I have chosen to stand out of that game and watch?  Even that wouldn’t save me because I wouldn’t be able to bear the heartlessness of that game beyon

Cow’s milk is not so holy

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The accompanying health capsule in today’s Times of India made me smile. I was having breakfast when my eyes fell on the capsule.  The tea in my cup whitened with milk powder sparkled with an unusual mirth.  Ever since I left Delhi last year, I never bought milk to whiten my tea.  I could never come to terms with the taste of actual milk though I was forced to drink it at my Delhi school whose breakfast had milk on its menu.  I drank quarter of a tumbler for the sake of a belly that longed for some warm liquid. Many people in Delhi (and its neighbouring states, I understand) consider milk and milk products as the ultimate secret of good health.  I used to buy Mother Dairy’s “toned milk” to whiten my evening cuppa as long as I was in Delhi.  Everybody who saw me carrying home that plastic pouch advised me to switch to the actual stuff available hot from the udder provided I was willing to take an early morning walk to the neighbouring village. They wouldn’t believe me when I