Wednesday, August 31, 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 mainstream society labelled as Dalits or kafirs or anything of the sort. The torture, kidnapping, murder, rape by the police, financial corruption, religious persecution, censorship, and other human rights abuses perpetrated by an Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, for example, would stupefy Aristotle. “Modernity?” he would scoff.  Cattle being worshipped as gods and human beings sacrificed to them would appear more savage than what his contemporaries did.

The irrationality that dominates our actions would astound him.  He would think we are an insane lot, far from being modern.  He would wonder why so many of us are so unhappy in spite of owning a fleet of cars, a number of houses, more luxury than any people that came after Aristotle.  He wouldn’t understand why we are so aggressively acquisitive.

The kind of gang rapes and other attacks on women happening in many parts of India would be far beyond Aristotle’s understanding.  “Are you just a bunch of rapists and murderers? ” He would ask.

Godmen and their female counterparts would be huge jokes for him.  “What’s this man doing amassing hundreds of acres of land in the name of god?” Aristotle would wonder seeing some of our godmen.  He would shake his head in despair if we tell him that many of our godmen are actually in jails for doing much more than grabbing land and properties.  He would think our religion is sheer humbug meant for hoodwinking people.

“How has the earth survived in spite of such savage brutes who strut on it so pompously, violating its very soul every moment?”  Aristotle would wonder and seek immediate deliverance from our modernity.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Arms in Kerala Temples?


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.  Hence the minister's allegation requires urgent attention.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Whose country is it?


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 kings, queens, and wars.  History belonged to them.  History now belongs to their contemporary counterparts: Presidents, Prime Ministers and their minions. 
Courtesy: The Indian Express

I wish our Prime Minister could actually materialise at least a fraction of what he promises.  I wish the cess we are paying for Swach Bharat, for example, was made accountable.

I wish the Prime Minister was accountable.  If ten percent of politicians were accountable, Dana Majhi wouldn’t have to carry the body of his wife for kilometres.  If one percent of politicians were accountable, Salamani Behera’s body wouldn’t be broken into half like a twig and packed in a sack...



Friday, August 26, 2016

Metaperceptions of the Ego


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’ was being communicated.

5.     You believe that you are superior and can only be understood by some special people.
6.     You require constant admiration from others.
7.     You have a sense of entitlement.
8.     You take advantage of others to get what you want.
9.     You are insensitive to the needs of the others.
10.            You are envious of others in the community.
11.            Worst of all, you are arrogant and a total misfit in the community.

He pursed his lips and probed my eyes.  I felt like the lamb whose throat was going to be slit for the next day’s feast.

I saved my throat by leaving the community.  I chose to live as alone as possible.  But I was bound by an invisible chain to my godfather.  Godfathers have more tentacles than the octopus.  Protean tentacles. Eternal tentacles that tether the lamb with an invisible chain to some spooky pillars. 

Like Kafka’s protagonist, the lamb strayed through the labyrinthine corridors of the human world looking for the redemptive Ariadne’s thread.  Redemption is an illusion.  Godfathers are real.

When I saw the latest Indispire theme, No one knows you better than yourself.... Peep into your heart and describe yourself in one sentence #Knowyourself, this post materialised in the musty corridors of Kafka’s Castle.

Who am I?  In one sentence?

My Twitter profile describes me as “Destiny’s Clown.”
My Facebook profile describes me as “The Joker in the Pack.”
That’s a natural climax of narcissism, I hear my godfather snickering sitting invisible somewhere in Kafka’s Castle.



Note: In psychology, a metaperception is how a person views other people's views of him. It is essentially how an individual perceives others' perceptions of himself. In other words, they are how we feel about how others feel about us. Metaperceptions are frequently inaccurate - they are shaped by our individual self-concept and personal biases.



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Thursday, August 25, 2016

The world loves winners


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 so much so I don’t expect victories in my personal life.  It’s good consolation: you are not buffeted by failures.  Yet I wouldn’t suggest this attitude to anyone.  Most of the time, you get what you foresee.  It’s better to foresee victories.  The world is not always hostile to you.  Not many people are ill-fated to be accompanied perennially by trophy-snatchers.   

I stand in awe of the winners.  I admire them.  And I console myself with Umberto Eco’s theory that “Losers always know much more than winners.” His argument is that the winner has to focus on one thing only.  The loser’s attention is spread across too many things.  Therefore “the pleasures of erudition are reserved for losers,” argues Eco.  “The more a person knows, the more things have gone wrong.”


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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 because Pakistan is hell.

All the antinationals in Hindustan must understand that the very reason for our existence as a nation is to hate Pakistan.  So anyone who refuses to denounce Pakistan is anti-India.  Even Sir Donald Trump endorses that policy.  Jai Hind.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Necessity of Hypocrisy


“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 17th 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 of us is wise, he says towards the end of the play.  “There’s some touch of human frailty in every one of us,” he realises.  And “every one” includes himself.

Alceste became a comic character while Jesus and the Buddha became gods.  Alceste could not have nailed himself to a cross.  Nor could he go through the living hell that the Buddha had embraced.  So Alceste learnt to accept the importance of compromise and condescended to become like the other human beings.  But he really could not become what he could accept intellectually.  He remains at a distance from the society at the end of the play.  Moliere ends the play leaving the hope to the audience that Alceste would eventually learn the fundamental lesson of life –  that hypocrisy is an integral part of human life unless you want to nail your body to a cross or live your life in a self-created hell. 

Let the preachers preach.  Don’t take them seriously.  You live your life.  As you wish so long as you know how to keep certain things secret from the society.  That’s what the preachers do.  That’s what Alceste will eventually learn and cease to be a comic character.



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Sunday, August 21, 2016

What is God’s gender?

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.  These are patriarchal religions made by men who thought that women were inferior, more fallible, or potentially dangerous to the man’s sexual morality.  There are or could be many other reasons too.  The very first sin (“original sin”? – James Joyce asked the question what was so original about it in his classical novel, Ulysses) was committed by the woman, Eve. 

The simple truth is that all the three dominant monotheistic religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – have always circumscribed the role and position of women in the society.  It is only natural that their God is male. 

But why should God have any gender at all?  That’s what the rabbi’s NYT article made me think.  Why should god be male or female or even neutral gender?  Sex is meant for reproduction.  (Let us leave aside the secondary and other uses of sex for the time being.)  The God of all the three dominant monotheistic religions is a chronic bachelor.  Sexuality is seen as something vulgar if not evil by all the three religions.  It is then a logical necessity for their God to be above sex.  What will an asexual being do with gender?



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Friday, August 19, 2016

Buridan’s Ass


Source
Buridan’s Ass, named after 14th 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.


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 Indian patriots are really motivated by love.  Or by greed for the land.  Or by nationalist pride.  Or plain greed, hatred or sheer perversion.

Love does not create the kind of situation that prevails in Kashmir.  Love liberates.  It does not enslave.  It cannot go about shooting unarmed people (unless stones are counted as arms) with machine guns.

The people of Kashmir are caught between freedom and love.  They love their homeland and they want freedom to live in that homeland.  Freedom from gau rakshaks, for example.  Freedom from people who impose themselves in the name of culture, religion, gods that include cows.

What’s the consequence?  Strife.

The ass needs both food and water.  Buridan’s Ass will not die of starvation except in philosophical discourses because the ass will choose one or the other and get on with life.  It needs both the hay and the water. 

We need both freedom and love.  Existence without one is a hypothetical conjecture fit for blogging discourses.  Denial of any will lead to destruction of the individual.  Or to strife.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

What makes Sakshi Malik a real heroine

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 better to protect your honour by concealing the crime," the police will counsel you if you are an unfortunate victim. And honour means more than life in Sakshi Malik's state. For the sake of honour, scores of women and some men too have been killed on the orders of Khap elders.  "What's done can't be undone," the guardians of law will console you as they lead you out of the police station.

The victim is made to feel like a criminal. That's the topsy-turvy world which Sakshi Malik survived heroically. That's why she is a heroine. She is not just an Olympian wrestler; she is what most women of her society won't ever be: a subverter of a perverted social system.


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Monday, August 15, 2016

Bird in the Cage


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 fly.  Wings are not meant for cages.  But Baba’s love has borders and fences.  So I am destined to live in this cage with atrophying wings.

I long to fly.  Beyond borders and fences.  I long to sing.  The songs of the dryads and sprites.  I long to wing in the heavens. 


 
Source

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Parallel Governments: UP shows the way


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 kingpin of the underworld. An IGP in Tamil Nadu was suspended for his associations with a cricket betting bookie.  Go to a police station to file an FIR and you will realise that the police are not interested in your case at all.  You will get the impression that they are going out of their way to shield the criminals. 

On the other hand, there are the vigilantes who are nothing but criminals wearing religious garbs.  They take the law into their hands with total impunity and even the blessings of top political leaders.  They make your job impossible in the name of some religious tradition or custom or whatever.

Criminals and vigilantes make your life miserable if not impossible.  What do you do?  Ensure your own security by forming your own security forces as they are doing in UP?

Source: Jairaj's cartoon
We are left wondering why we should have governments and the police forces at all?  Can we leave security to the local panchayats and the voluntary bodies they form?  Can we do away with state governments and police forces and thus save a lot of money which can be used for the welfare of the people?  We may need some sort of a government at the Centre for dealing with foreign affairs. 

I am stating the case in an exaggerated manner.  But the suggestion is worth thinking about.  Why do we need politicians who are only misusing the public exchequer for their own benefits or the benefits of a few people close to them leaving the vast majority of people to languish in poverty, misery and insecurity?  Is it time to change the democratic system in the country to make it really democratic: for the people and by the people?

People are the real strength of a democracy.  Yet why is democracy in India degraded to the rule of the corrupt and the criminal who are actually a minority?  It’s time for the majority to wake up and demand proper democracy or create it.  Maybe, the UP village elders are showing us the way.  Maybe, eventually we won’t need politicians.  We just need our elders and their volunteers.


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Friday, August 12, 2016

Love’s Travails


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 given themselves selflessly to certain humanitarian causes.  That selfless giving is love.

Contrast that love with what gau rakshaks and such right wing activists are doing now.  They are motivated by hatred and vindictiveness.  Some of them are prompted by sheer profit motive.  They are extortionists wearing the garb of religion.

Genuine love can never be violent at any cost, whatever the cause one is championing.  Love is empathy, psychology tells us.  Cruelty and violence have no place in it. No one can play with cruelty without losing his/her sensitivity of mind, as Dag Hammarskjold said. 

Those who love cows will look after cows and not attack people who live on their products.  Those who love their gods will perceive those gods in their fellow human beings as Mother Teresa did.  Yes, for Mother Teresa, people were images of her god, Jesus.  To that extent, her love was conditional.  She loved people because they were the living images of her god.  And make no mistake, there is no unconditional love in the world of human beings.  All love is conditional and limited by many factors simply because that’s all what we, human beings, are capable of.  But such conditional love is infinite times better than the hatred or the extortionist motives that drive today’s guardians of morality, religion, gods and cultural nationalism.


PS. Written for Indispire Edition 130


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Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Story of a Suicide

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 questions raised in the novel.

The novel can make us think about many aspects of life. 

It begins with a suicide note.  “Dear World, I am going to die.”  Which character in the novel wrote that suicide note?  That’s the suspense sustained by the novel throughout.  And the answer is worth waiting for.  In the meanwhile we get to meet a lot of action and intelligent probes into life.

“What I do in my bedroom is my business, not a politician’s. I do not want celibate priests dictating me how I should or should not have sex.”  Right in chapter 2 of the thirty plus chapters, a gay rights activist pulls the trigger on our thoughts.  Soon we are told that the people who write the most regressive laws against sex are those who “possibly have never been in happy equal relationships. They are sad, living miserable lives, jealous and yearning for love that they vengefully disapprove.”

Who makes the laws of the society?  That’s an interesting question raised by the novel. It does not hesitate to bring in Draupadi of the Mahabharata to take a different look at some of our established heroes. “... all my five husbands were thick as thieves,” says Draupadi in the novel whose character in the impromptu skit is played by none other than the heroine of the novel.  Charu, the heroine, goes on to question the integrity of Arjuna, the hero of the Mahabharata, pointing out his disloyalty to his vow of celibacy by mating with five women as soon as he began his self-imposed exile after seeing his brother in bed with their shared wife.  Furthermore, says Charu, Arjuna went on to marry two out of the many women whom he screwed after taking his vow of celibacy!

What is morality?  This is one of the many interesting questions raised by the novel.  Who makes the rules of morality?  Doesn’t the individual have the right to live her life as she chooses?  Why do most people choose to live “a life of fear, hypocrisy and political correctness”?  Charu, the one who asks these questions, is perceived by some of her companions as conceited.  “She is so full of herself. She only loves herself,” Hari says. Hari had learnt from his Madhavi teacher that “What matters is how much you loved and how much you made yourself vulnerable for the other person to love you.”  Madhavi teacher had also taught him that to love is to “give yourself completely ... including sex.”

Making oneself too vulnerable can be disastrous too.  Hari learns it in the hard way.  Charu is the antithesis of Hari.  Sam, whose real name is Sambamurthy which he hates, invents an app to poke his nose into the privacy of the headstrong Charu whom he cannot understand.  Inability to understand the complexity of the other can create villains.  

The novel probes into the various dimensions of life while telling a gripping tale beautifully illustrated by Ghana.  Young readers will find it amply rewarding. 





Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Vigilantism is Barbarism


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 3 out of 5, instead of the PM’s 4.  One is left wondering what the other two of the five are and what drove them into the company of criminals.

Whether we define the vigilantes as criminals or volunteers or whatever, one thing is certain: their barbarism is often both physical and psychological and sometimes only psychological.  What is only psychological may be done by the minority among them whichever statistics we may accept. 

Psychological violence is an assault on the self-confidence of the people.

Right from the time Mr Modi became the PM, there have been various forms of assaults on the minority communities and Dalits.  The assaults are designed in such a way as to undermine the self-confidence of the people belonging to those identities.  It is an attack on the identity, in fact.  The victims cannot even defend themselves because their very defence will immediately be projected as antinational. 

These nationalist vigilantes are nothing but savages at heart if we look at what they do to their enemies.  There have always been savages in every society in any period.  Which kind of savagery comes to the forefront is determined by the prevailing ideology.  So the Sangh Parivar can take pride in all the buttock-bashing, face-urinating and shit-feeding that is being perpetrated across North India.

Civilising savages is an impossible mission.  However, we may at least make them understand that the kind of parochial nationalism they espouse is antithetical to the spirit of globalisation that their leader, Mr Narendra Modi, has embraced.  How can the followers erect communal fences around little fiefdoms when their leader is out there most of the time, far beyond the national borders, inviting people to come in with investments and technology? 

It is high time that the cow-vigilantes are taken to the government primary schools most of which are vacant and given a nice spanking on their bums before making them squat and learn the basic lessons about their leader’s internationally vaunted goals and objectives.


 



Monday, August 8, 2016

Roads


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 virtual ride through illusions!










Sunday, August 7, 2016

Gau rakshaks, listen to the PM


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 Vemula’s suicide note that “My birth is my fatal accident” and the polarisation of the country into the entitled and the disentitled failed to move the PM. 

When Akhlaq was lynched by a mob of gau rakshaks, the PM refused to condemn the act and demand stern action against the murderers.

When some students of JNU demanded justice, they were labelled antinational by the PM’s own men and the PM refused to speak.

Silence is endorsement.  It is only natural that criminals began to think that they could indulge their antisocial proclivities in the name of the cow or other religious symbols.

Now the PM has spoken.  I hope the umpteen organisations that mushroomed in the country in the last two years purportedly to defend cows and other such icons will listen to the PM. 

As the PM said, those who really love the cows should look after the welfare of the cows instead of killing people in their names. 

As the Rig Veda says, "Let noble thoughts come to us from every side."




Saturday, August 6, 2016

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 beyond the initial moments.  Could I have chosen to be a conqueror and gone on rampages defending my holy cows?  My DNA would have revolted.

So I end up as one of the many vanquished ones.  Like a piece of the flotsam and jetsam cast ashore by the endless restlessness of the ocean whose craving is at once boundless and circumscribed.

Flotsam and jetsam.  Nice imagery.  And it brings to my mind the music band, especially their song, Life is a Mess.  “No way back from here,” begins the song.  Just go on.  Take the ride.  “And your troubles will still be here / Troubles will still be here, troubles are here....”

Let me give the link to that song before I sign off for now and carry on my ride.

PS. This is written specifically for Indispire Edition 129: 



Friday, August 5, 2016

Cow’s milk is not so holy


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 said that I preferred the taste of the soy milk in the Mother Dairy pouch.

People seldom believe you if you do things different from what they do.  Before I came to Delhi, I lived in Shillong where I was in love with the plain lal chai.  The people there were quick to portray me as a terrible miser who refused to spend money on milk.

You see, I had enough reasons to smile on seeing the above health capsule this morning.  It vindicated my stomach’s natural disinclination toward the bovine milk long, long before the Times of India brought home the merits of the vegetarian alternatives.

The first thing I did after taking the last sip of the powder-whitened tea was to search Google for “why american no to cow milk.”  The results stunned me.  Contrary to all what I had been taught from childhood, contrary to some of the beliefs that fuel the current rage in my country about the holiness of cows and all their sacrosanct gifts, cow’s milk is a terrible abomination for the human body.  That’s what the websites say and have been saying much before the Cow worshippers took charge of Bharat.

Consumption of bovine milk can cause life-threatening diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart malfunctioning, multiple sclerosis and stroke.  It can cause less dangerous ailments such as kidney stones, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.  The common assumption that milk is a rich source of calcium is an absolute myth, according to medical research.  The animal protein in milk depletes the human body of calcium creating serious bone diseases.  The websites list many researches carried out by reputed agencies which found that milk consumers are more vulnerable to fractures.

A very large number of people are lactose-intolerant.  Hence consumption of milk produces in them nausea, cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhoea.   Quite many are allergic to milk, especially children who vomit the milk force-fed to them.

I think those who don’t believe this should abstain from milk for a month and see the results for themselves.

Let the cow be holy or whatever people would choose it to be as per their tastes.  But we may do better leaving its milk to its calf.


Historical Distortions

18 th century French naturalist the Comte de Buffon wrote that the people of America had small and feeble sex organs so much so the...