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Showing posts from October, 2016

Writer’s Dreams (and nightmares)

All of us carry a lot of stories within us.  Quite many people just bury them and get on with life which is an exacting dictator.  They get used to the endless agonies and the intermittent ecstasies.  Some offer the stories to their gods and derive the much needed solace.  A few with irresistible egos choose to write them.  I belong to that tribe of egotists who think that their stories have some relevance for others too. That’s why I chose to publish a collection of my short stories, The Nomad Learns Morality .  The book had some good reviews from fellow bloggers.  Let me take the liberty to quote a few of them. “... every story hits your mind hard and impels you to replay it all over again in your mind to join the dots of deeper meaning held within,” says Namrata Kumari , author of Change Your Beliefs to Change Your Reality . An old friend (“old” merely because I hardly have contacts with people now) who works with a national newspaper once told me that I was a perver

No Diwali here

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One of the flames that fluttered on our terrace in Delhi in a Diwali night It’s only when the greetings came via Whatsapp that I realised it was Diwali.  Saturday is a holiday anyway and I used it for completing the works set aside for the day as usual.  The work took me to two towns on either side of my village.  There was nothing in either of the towns to remind one of Diwali.  It was business as usual.  Not even an extra lamp was seen anywhere.  No diyas which were ubiquitous in Delhi where I lived a decade and a half before I chose the quietness of this village.  No crackers which the Delhiites insisted on calling ‘bombs’ – “bum,” in fact.   No, I don’t miss the diyas or the bums . I like this quietness.  I love the purity that wafts into my lungs.  I used to conceal myself at home during both Diwali and Holi while I was in Delhi.  Both these festivals are conspicuous by their absence in Kerala except maybe in the big cities where people from other states celebrate them

Zero

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“Zero was one of the greatest inventions in human history,” I remember one of my mathematics teachers telling us at St Albert’s college, Ernakulam.  Without zero we would have reached nowhere beyond some letters like X and M and C which were employed gratuitously in the Roman arithmetic.  Zero simplified and complexified mathematics at once.  It made easy not only counting but also all mathematical operations such as multiplication and division.  Just imagine division, for example, in the Roman system.  MMXLVI divided by IXCMXXXIII.  Wow, that is 1946 divided by 9933, after the invention of zero.  And the answer is 0.19591261451.  Imagine that figure in the Roman numerals.  Your imagination would go bust.  There was no decimal system before the arrival of the great zero. Take any number.  Say 20.  20 ÷ 20 = 1. 20 ÷ 10 = 2.  20 ÷ 4 = 5.  The smaller the divisor, the greater the quotient.  Take a big divisor like, say, 10000.  20 ÷ 10000 = 0.002.  Now apply this logic: as t

Cult Education - video review

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Video Review Rick Alan Ross is a cult  specialist, and founder and executive director of the nonprofit Cult Education Institute .  His website provides extensive information on cults and how they manipulate people's minds and emotions.  Here's a link to a video in which he introduces himself and his work.   https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=W7t8XV_rEbs In this video he tells us about the work he does in order to "deprogram" people who have been brainwashed by cults in various countries.   Rick Ross Ross identifies three criteria by which we can identify a disruptive cult. an authoritarian leader who has become an object of worship brainwashing of the followers the damage done to the followers - exploitation for money, sex, etc.  Ross has been working with victims of cults from 1982.  He deprograms the victims by fostering critical thinking in them.  The video is an introduction to him and his work.  Those who are interested in cults an

Satsang and some alliances

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Shahid's wedding reception Photo sent by my student When a former student of mine who is now a journalist sent me a photo of Shahid Kapoor and his wife with a lady who was my boss for a brief (and worthy of being forgotten) period of my life, what struck me was a necklace.  “That’s the religious asceticism they preached to us,” I wrote in my response to my student. I was aware of the glaring contradictions between the preaching and the practice of the religious cult to which the lady belonged.  In fact, I was one of the many victims of that barefaced disparity.  But what was Shahid Kapoor doing with her or she with him?  I googled and got the answer.  Google is a far greater miracle than any Satsang Guru! Source Shahid Kapoor is a devotee of the cult to which my former boss belonged.  In fact, his marriage was apparently arranged by the Guru .  India Today reported last month that the thespian had not yet named their child because the globe-trotting multi-bill

The Thackeray Legacy

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“The Shiv Sena does not have a theory, and it is impossible for an organization to survive sans a theory,” said the veteran communist leader S A Dange while addressing a Sena meeting in 1984 at the invitation of none other than the founder of the organisation Bal Thackeray.  Shiv Sena “survived, flourished, because of a lack of theory,” wrote Suketu Mehta two decades later in his brilliant book on Thackeray’s city .  The Sena “always hitched a ride aboard the theory of the day: anti-communism, fascism, socialism, anti-immigrant and, now, anti-Muslim, pro-Hindu,” wrote Mehta. Raj Thackeray inherited his uncle’s bizarrely opportunistic genes.  His latest antic is to get Karan Johar to donate Rs 5 crore to the Army welfare fund for having produced a movie with a Pakistani actor in it.  Indian army was quick to distance itself from such political drama.  Mercifully, the army is still led by sensible people especially after General V K Singh left it and took upon the BJP mantle.

The Essence of Heroism

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Anyone who displays certain qualities which set him apart from the run of the mill may be broadly described as a hero.  For example, a man who has the courage or compassion to jump into a dangerous river in order to save a drowning person is a hero.  A person with certain talents may be considered as a hero by some.  Thus an actor or a sportsperson or a writer may be a hero for some.  Nowadays heroism has become so prosaic, thanks to the likes of Forbes magazine, that wealth can create heroes.  Maybe, the heroism of the wealthiest people lies in their ability to create wealth rather than in being wealthy per se. Philosophically, can we define certain essential qualities of a hero?  I think there’s no harm in making such a list. So here it goes. Heroes are usually on a quest .  The target of the quest may be anything ranging from conservation of the environment to fighting for human rights.  Aruna Roy who quit her prestigious job in the civil services in order to work for t

Evil and Man

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Platitudes and positive thoughts are like palliative drugs: they make us feel comfortable in a world full of evil and negativity.  Beyond the comforts of a drug, they provide little else.  Otherwise our world would have been a paradise by now because there is never a dearth of platitudes and positive thoughts thanks to the increasing number of religious activities, cults, gurus, and what not. The naked truth is that life is drenched in evil in spite of all the gurus and cults, motivational therapies and mass spiritual exercises.  Why? Social psychologist Philip Zimbardo proved experimentally that social situations affect individual personalities and stimulate behavioural patterns.  In simple words, we behave in certain ways because the society demands us to behave thus.  With little provocation, formerly good people will discard their values entirely, he showed.  It is easier to make people do bad things than good.  We are all susceptible to the lure of “the dark side,” h

Modi and Soft Power

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Joseph S Nye, American political scientist, mooted the concept of ‘soft power’ as a means of gaining ascendancy in the world.  Military and economy give a country its hard power.  Soft power is its ability to persuade other countries to want what it wants them to want. Mr Modi is getting the support of many countries against Pakistan using persuasive tactics as well as realpolitik.  He is relying more on soft power and rightly so.  No one but perverted minds would want a war especially between India and Pakistan because such a war is most likely to escalate into a world war. Soft power can be effective only when it rests solidly on the foundation of substantial hard power.  It is also related to culture and ideology.  The Western civilisation spread rapidly across the world because it was firmly established on a secure hard power foundation.  America was a practical El Dorado. Russia’s communism crumpled when its hard power hit the dust.  Soft power becomes impotent wit

How to end religious terror – one suggestion

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Yahweh by Michelangelo Recently I stumbled upon a quote from Robert G Ingersoll’s book, Some Mistakes of Moses .  The quote which puts the Jewish God on a dissection table is reproduced below: It is impossible to conceive of a more thoroughly despicable, hateful, and arrogant being, than the Jewish god. He is without a redeeming feature. In the mythology of the world he has no parallel. He, only, is never touched by agony and tears. He delights only in blood and pain. Human affections are naught to him. He cares neither for love nor music, beauty nor joy. A false friend, an unjust judge, a braggart, hypocrite, and tyrant, sincere in hatred, jealous, vain, and revengeful, false in promise, honest in curse, suspicious, ignorant, and changeable, infamous and hideous:—such is the God of the Pentateuch. There are people who believe in such a heartless, mirthless, starkly absurd God too.  It is then that I fell on the contemplation whether most gods aren’t similar one way or

Beautiful Monday Morning

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A view from my veranda this morning It’s a beautiful Monday morning.  The beginning of another working week.  I stood outside my house looking at the eastern sky where the morning sun was struggling to shine through the clouds.   Clouds make the sun more beautiful, more desirable.  What is the sky without both the sun and the clouds?  What is life without both joys and sorrows?  Without the  positive and the negative? It’s Monday morning and I should like to start the week with all the cheer I can muster.  The morning sky, however, warns me that cheer alone cannot make up life.  What would Shakespeare’s Othello be without Iago?  Imagine Milton’s Paradise Lost without Satan. Who doesn’t want to be positive, cheerful and good?  The problem is life won’t ever give those things alone.  There’s no light without darkness. I welcome this beautiful Monday morning with its sun and the clouds. I take Nietzsche along with me as I walk into the cloudy morning.  H

Bra Baba

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Fiction “A centipede is crawling across a road with a velocity of one foot per minute.    There are vehicles plying on the road at the rate of one per five minutes.    The vehicles are of various widths like bikes, cars and buses. What is the probability of the centipede crossing the road alive?” “Nil,” said Rohan without even thinking for a moment. Radhakrishna, the mathematics teacher, was stupefied.    He had expected the brilliant student to sit and apply some formulas.    What is mathematics without formulas?  Radhakrishna had given the problem to Rohan in order to keep him quiet in the class.    Rohan was an ADHD student according to the counsellor of the school.    He needed a lot of attention.    ADHD means that, hai na?    Attention Deficit?    So the loving and caring mathematics teacher gave him all the attention he could.    He gave him all the problems that his knowledge of mathematics could create.    He was particularly fond of algebra and Rohan turned

Atheist before God

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Fantasy Atheist died and found himself before God.  God smiled at him more affectionately than any human being had ever done while he was on the earth. “I never imagined you existed outside human illusions and delusions.”  Atheist said with his usual candour having overcome his surprise. “On the earth,” God said slowly as if he was pondering over each word he uttered, “I don’t exist much except in human illusions and delusions.” “Oh!”  God’s reply was another surprise for Atheist. “Do you think if I actually existed on the earth as I really am there would be so much evil perpetrated in my name?” “Evil,” said Atheist. “And that too in your name.  That is exactly what me lose faith in you.” “I know. Because you had no faith in me, you were a good human being.  What if you had also started fighting in my name?” “Where am I?”  Atheist looked around. God laughed.  “In the presence of God.” “Heaven?” “Call  it what you wish.  Names matter littl

Dancing Girl and Pakistan

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As part of the increasing give and take exchanges taking place these days between India and Pakistan, the latter has demanded that the Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro be returned to it .   Dancing Girl Dancing Girl is a bronze statuette excavated from the Mohenjo-Daro site before India and Pakistan became two separate nations.  It is just 10.5 centimetres high and is about 5000 years old.  The pubescent girl is stark naked except for a whole array of bangles and a necklace.  The posture looks like that of a dancer though she might have been confidently making a statement to her audience.  She holds her chin up and looks smug.  In short, she is a total contrast to what today’s Pakistan expects of a young girl. Let us visit her briefly at the National Museum in New Delhi to ask her what she thinks of her threatened extradition. “Oh, I think it would be horrible,” says DG losing all the panache that has graced her face for millennia.  “What will they do to me there?  Wil