Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Black Money and Black Hearts


Thomas Jefferson who drafted the famous American Declaration of Independence which contains the oft-quoted phrase that “all men are created equal” owned about 200 slaves when he wrote that and never set them free even upon his death.  It doesn’t mean Jefferson was a fraud or even a hypocrite.  Rather it points to certain bizarre truths about social systems and the beliefs which create them.  The Americans during Jefferson’s time did not even consider Negroes as human beings.  Negroes were subhuman, according to the beliefs that upheld the American social system of the time.

All social systems are built upon certain beliefs most of which may not stand up to rational analysis.  The ancient Indian caste system or many other social practices such as Sati were not based on any objective truths.  Social systems are created by certain individuals in order to protect their interests by subordinating the interests of others. 

It was not mere selfishness either.  More than selfishness, it was an attempt to create a stable society.  The most famous Babylonian king was Hammurabi and he had created a rigid social system with a strict code of behaviour.  He said, “I know that superiors, commoners and slaves are not inherently different kinds of people.  But if we believe that they are, it will enable us to create a stable and prosperous society.” [Emphases added]

Beliefs make up social systems to a very large extent.  One such belief that is forging contemporary India is that black money is the root of all evils.  One truth is that the vast majority of Indians do not have any black money.  In fact, they don’t even have enough money to live comfortably.  A more significant truth is that black money is not the root of most evils in the county.  It is dishonesty that is the root cause.  It is the corruption that is engendered by dishonesty that is the root of most evils. 

The present war (euphemistically called surgical strike) on black money will achieve little in the end.  Like viruses that never die but find new avatars and keep on invading the human biological system perennially, black money will reincarnate more easily in the larger denominations of the new currency. 

What should be fought is the typical Indian mendacity.  Can we bring in a little honesty into our systems?  Into our hearts? 

When the Parliament under the present leader was more eager to double the wages of themselves than promote the welfare of the citizens most of whom can’t even dream of earning in a year what our MPs are earning in a month as salary, can we hope for radical surgical strikes?

Source
Instead of striking at the root of that evil of blatant dishonesty and selfishness, the new system that is being forged seeks to promote the interests of certain sections and put others in manacles.  The manacles are not just about the temporary hardships that we have to undergo.  They are the permanent restrictions that will be imposed gradually on certain sections (read the new low castes) of the country’s population.  The reports that the information about demonetisation was leaked to certain people are indicators of more bizarre surgical strikes that will follow.  It is neither black money nor its root cause that is being treated.  It is a new social system that is being forged. 


PS. This post was inspired by Jug Suraiya’s [The Times of India’s Groucho Marx] column today: Corrupt Climate: Black money is only a symptom of the disease of dishonesty. If I were to use Suraiya’s wit, black hearts would become blackguards.  But I am not Suraiya, you see.


Colorful Notions


Book Review

Colorful Notions: The Roadtrippers 1.0 by Mohit Goyal is a unique novel insofar as it combines masterfully travelogue with fiction.  The novel tells the story of three people in their twenties who give up plush jobs and secure life in order to embark on a three-month long journey across India covering 25 historic destinations.  Their personal stories are intertwined with the journey and present dramatic scenes making the novel a gripping read.  The reader also travels along with them from Delhi to places such as Ladakh, Kanyakumari and the Sundarbans. 

Abhay, Shashank and Unnati are the travellers.  Abhay hails from a broken family and there is little love lost between him and his parents.  He longs for relationships.  The massive Shashank is a businessman whose weakness is food.  Unnati is his fiancée and the journey offers her a few occasions to rethink her romantic attachment.

The personal stories of the three characters appear at relevant places and times in the narrative which mostly speaks about the journey which brings in its own characters such as Mutthuraman Swaminathan Unnikrishnan aka Unni who is shown as a shrewd swindler.  He is a tourist guide in the Corbett Park and can create a tiger where there actually is none.  He drinks all along though drinking is prohibited and gets out of the vehicle during the safari though that is prohibited too.  About a hundred pages later we’ll meet a few other South Indian characters in Mysore who are also slightly caricatured as lungi-wearing, non-Hindi and non-English speaking country bumpkins.  Does the author carry some prejudices against the South Indians?  The reader may wonder.  Mercifully, the stereotypes don’t last long and the journey continues.

The journey has its own adventures, risks as well as thrills.  There is romantic rivalry as Abhay gets infatuated with his friend’s fiancée and plays a nasty game to drive in a wedge between them.  But quarrels are soon made up and the characters prove to be people with sophisticated hearts and sentiments.  At  Bodhgaya the two men (Unnati has had to take leave of them due to an accident in the Sundarbans) encounter a Buddhist lama who teaches them the secret of happiness.  This part of the novel is at variance with the others as it turns mildly philosophical if not spiritual.  The author succeeds in giving his work certain required depth. 

In a novel which takes the characters from place to place, we can expect diverse experiences.  There is adventure in one place, horror in a place like the Bhangarh Fort or awe in another.  The author succeeds in creating those sensations in the reader while telling a credible and delightful story.

Young readers will find the book absolutely delightful while the older ones will find it amusing. 

Read more about the book and the author at http://www.theroadtrippers.in/

Buy the book from Amazon India

PS.  I received  a review copy from The Tales Pensieve http://thetalespensieve.com/ as part of Reviewers Programme.  Register at http://thetalespensieve.com/reviewers-sign-up/ for lots of book fun and activities.





Tuesday, November 29, 2016

English and Personality


“Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible; and don't sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.” Professor Higgins tells that to Eliza Doolittle in Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion.

“Does speaking well in English add a sparkle to one’s personality?” asks Indispire Edition 145. 


I have seen the foulest of souls speak the best of English.  And they came in the name of a religious cult and its sanctimonious morals and mores.  I have seen rustic people with no knowledge of English behave with poise and sagacity.  The opposite is true too.  All generalisations verge on falsehood and the assumption that speaking well in English can make one a sparkling personality is at best a pretty joke.  The theme is listed under “humour” at Indispire and so this post of mine is perhaps out of sync. 

Personally, I am a lover of English simply because it is the language of the world rather than that of The Bible.  More than that, it is the language which brought to me my favourite writers such as Dostoevsky and Kafka, Kazantzakis and Camus.  It is the language of the Internet and its ocean of knowledge. 



English has little to do with the sparkle of anyone’s personality.  The great secret of the sparkling personality, if I may paraphrase Shaw’s words in the same drama mentioned above, is not speaking in English or any particular language, but having the sparkle in your heart, having the same heart’s language for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in heaven where there are no third class carriages and one soul is as good as another.


Indian Bloggers


Monday, November 28, 2016

We are born to gossip


“Do you think that history professors chat about the reasons for the First World War when they meet for lunch, or that nuclear physicists spend their coffee breaks at scientific conferences talking about quarks?”  Yuval Noah Harari raises the question in his fascinating book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.  His answer: “Sometimes.  But more often, they gossip about the professor who caught her husband cheating, or the quarrel between the head of the department and the dean, or the rumours that a colleague used his research funds to buy a Lexus.”

Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar argues that human language evolved for gossip.  Harari says that “The new linguistic skills that modern Sapiens acquired about seventy millennia ago enabled them to gossip for hours on end.” 

There is no human life without plenty of gossiping.  Gossip, among other things, makes the human beings quite different from other animals.  When a monkey sees a lion, it can communicate the potential danger to its social group.  But when a man sees a lion chasing a herd of buffaloes, he can describe the entire scene vividly.  Moreover, he can make up stories about whether some buffaloes were mating when the lion fell on them, which buffalo was having an illicit affair with another buffalo’s mate, and so on. 

“Rumour-mongers are the original fourth estate,” says Harari.  Our newspapers carry a lot of gossip not just in the City Supplements but in the main sections too.  Today we have a lot of apps too to bring all sorts of gossips and propaganda.  Even our Prime Minister makes effective use of the human love for gossips: Mann ki Baat, for example.  [Modi bhakts are requested not to misconstrue this.  I’m not saying that the programme is mere gossip; just that it makes effective use of the psychology associated with gossip.]

Gossip is unavoidable.  In fact, it is quintessentially human.  It drives most of human communications and interactions.  If there are 50 individuals in a group, there can be 1225 one-on-one relationships, says Harari.  Those who are familiar with the mathematical theory of permutations and combinations will grasp that quickly.  Others can gossip about it as much as they like.  In addition to those 1225 relationships are the countless more complex social relationships. 

In that complexity, reputations can be made or broken.  Myths can be born.  Yesterday’s villain can become tomorrow’s hero.  Gods can be born.  We, human beings, are a peculiar lot.  We need all these: our heroes and myths.  We love our gossips.


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Thursday, November 24, 2016

I am a Palimpsest


Every narcissist loves to leave a mark wherever possible.  Writing is the easiest way to produce marks.  Ink is indelible.  That’s why democracy uses ink to brand every voter.  And now I have a ruler who uses the same ink to brand anyone who takes out her own money from the bank. 

Source
I have had so many rulers that I am not surprised by anything anymore.  They came from all sorts of places crossing oceans and mountains just for leaving their marks.  They left their marks in the wombs of my women too.  That’s also a kind of writing; a rewriting of history.  The deepest marks are made in history.  The Mughals did it best, I think. 

Long, long before them came somebody who wrote in Sanskrit.  They were the best, perhaps.  They wrote the Vedas.  Then they wrote the end of the Vedas and called them Upaniashads though Vedanta was a more logical name.  But the Vedas never ended.  The Vedas continue to live even today while the Upanishads died natural deaths.  Religious rituals don’t die, you see.  People need religion, not philosophy.  That’s why the Upanishads couldn’t live on.  Philosophy is dead; Long Live Religion. 

Philosophy was erased and written over.  By the Mughals, for example.  But the Brahmins did it much earlier in the subtlest of ways, in fact.  The Brahmins knew how to conquer without shedding blood.  Without soldiers.  They just created a system.  Very subtly.  Very religiously.

And now another such subtle system is being written on me.  By a man who belonged to the lowest caste of yore.  If the Brahmins rewrote religion, if the Mughals rewrote religion, this new man rewrote currency.  Ah, that’s the religion today, isn’t it?  So he has repeated history. 

That’s what I’ve seen all along.  They all come and make the same marks.  But they erase the old marks just to show that now it is their mark and not the old one. 

I will live on.  Just to see more narcissists come and leave another mark after erasing a very similar one.  They call it strategy.  I really don’t understand that term except that it’s a kind of deception.  But history is all about masqueraded deceptions.  Every winner worth his throne is a deceiver.  Bet?

A few more years.  That’s what I give to the present narcissist.  And another one will come along to erase what this one has written.  I will have yet another painful erasing and rewriting.  That’s how history is.  That’s what I am. 



Monday, November 21, 2016

Black Money and other Demons


Farmers' Protest in Surat
Source: The Indian Express
The farmers in PM Modi’s own state poured litres of milk and threw kilograms of food grains on the road two days back in protest against the non-availability of valid currency.  There are protests in other states too against the restrictions put on cooperative banks on which farmers and small traders rely heavily.

If we analyse the social media including blogs, we’ll discover that it is the middle class that supports Modi’s tilting at the windmills of black money.  The middle class has its own morality whose hypocrisy was exposed brilliantly by Bernard Shaw in the character of Alfred Doolittle.  The middle class pretends to be moral while it is far more immoral than any other class.  It will discover all the loopholes in any given system and use those loopholes for their most selfish purposes all the while assuming that they are the most patriotic, religious and righteous people in the world.

The middle class is the actual driving force of all social systems such as religion as well as most political systems.  It likes to believe so at least.  The fact is that religions have their own popes or godmen or ammas.  The fact is that politics in any country has its own Ambanis and Adanis. But the middle class loves its own illusions and delusions.

The latest delusion of the Indian middle class is that the demon of black money is being destroyed by the contemporary broad-chest avatar of Lord Vishnu.  Just as the middle class has its own religious rituals like immersions or confessions or whatever to cleanse the system of all evils, ritually at least, now it has this purification ceremony which has assumed religious proportions.

High denominations of currency were withdrawn many times in the past too.  Black will come back with more vigour sooner than later.  That’s how life is: substantially black. Learn from the cosmos, if you like: dark matter and dark energy are real and gods are sweet delusions.

OK, but we need to clean up the system once in a while.  No doubt.  Let the system be cleaned up.  But why should all cleansing processes be at the cost of the poor? 

Every time a reformation takes place the poor pay the price.  The farmers, the cattle growers, the petty traders, daily wage earners... they have been the most affected by the latest holy cow in the country. The previous holy cows attacked certain communities including Dalits who were also economically poor.  

Maybe this is the latest way of eliminating poverty: by eliminating the poor.  Maybe this is how evolution continues.  Let us not forget the simple truth that we belong to the species of homo sapiens which flourished by eliminating thousands of species from the planet including fellow species like homo rudolfensis and homo eragster.  

Let evolution continue; no one can stop natural processes.  Let evil be conquered; no one can limit human delusions.  But let us also learn to look within and check whether we are fighting the real demons.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Punishing the Innocent


Ten days are over after the Prime Minister’s overnight reform of demonetisation.  There’s no sign of adequate valid currency reaching the people.  On the contrary, works are held up, workers go without money to buy food, medical treatments are affected, farmers are unable to buy seeds and cultivate their lands, those who have agricultural produce at home cannot sell them because traders don’t have valid money to pay...  How long does the country want this situation to prolong?

The Supreme Court has already expressed its apprehensions about possible riots in the country if adequate valid currency is not made available.  The country can’t expect people to die of starvation when they have their hard-earned money lying in the banks.

Moreover, do Indians deserve this situation?  80% of Indians live on less than Rs10,000 per month. They don’t have any black money.  But it is they who actually suffer from the current situation.  The innocent are punished.  The really guilty know how to get along whatever the situation.

One of the worst faces of the Modi government that has become conspicuous is that of insensitivity.  The Prime Minister is an excellent orator with a penchant for histrionics.  He knows how to appeal to the emotions of people.  And he makes that appeal in the name of patriotism which has already been equated with Hindutva.  This volatile mix of patriotism and religion has made Modi a demigod so much so anyone who questions Modi today is likely to be labelled as antinational.  Modi knows this and uses it effectively in announcing his dictatorial decisions such as the current demonetisation.  When people find out loopholes in the new system, more rigorous rules are applied such as limiting the amount that can be exchanged or withdrawn or branding the citizen with indelible ink.  Once again, innocent people are the ones who are really affected by such decisions and rules.  The criminals know how to get on whatever the system.  Modi government has displayed a tremendous lack of sensitivity towards the majority of people who are struggling to earn their livelihood or take out their own money from their accounts.

Modi can play on patriotic feelings and go ahead for some more days.  But neither patriotism nor religion will prove to be more overwhelming than hunger or fundamental inconveniences.  It’s time that valid currency was made available.  It’s time that people are allowed to live normal lives after demonetisation of certain denominations.  



Indian Bloggers

PS. Written for Indispire: #Demonetization

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Labour


Fiction

“We can’t postpone the delivery anymore,” Shiv Kumar told his wife.

Lakshmi’s labour pain had started long ago.  A week ago, to be precise, the day after the Prime Minister had declared all high denomination currency of the country invalid.  There was only one private hospital in the small town near their home where delivery cases would be entertained.  That hospital flatly refused to admit patients who didn’t carry valid currency.

“We can pay by debit card,” pleaded Shiv Kumar.

“Sorry, we don’t have that facility yet.  Take your wife to the government hospital.  They will accept invalid currency.”

Lakshmi flatly refused to go to a government hospital.  “I won’t have my son born amidst filth and that too paid for by invalid currency.”

Son, yes, they knew it was a son and not a daughter they were going to beget.  Lakshmi had conceived after they had undergone the Divya-Putrasanjeevani treatment carried out by Gurudev Baba who had miraculous cures for everything including girl children, let alone ailments such as AIDS and jealousy.

“Let’s consult Baba,” Shiv Kumar was suddenly enlightened.  “He’ll have a remedy for this.”

Baba prescribed Divya-Sahanamritam which could prolong the delivery as long as they wanted provided Lakshmi was willing to bear the pain of the labour. “What’s this pain, after all?” asked Baba.  “Think of all the soldiers fighting at the borders.  They suffer protracted cold and hunger for the sake of the nation.  Can’t you suffer a little pain for the sake of your own son?  It’ll be a matter of a week at the most.” 

Lakshmi accepted Baba’s counsel and medicine with bowed head.  She endured the pain for a whole week when Shiv Kumar thought it was long enough. 

Banks could not give him valid currency, however.  “Can we print currency?”  The banks asked him when he approached them with suppressed tears.  The ATMs remained closed for days and days.  Friends were ready to help him, but with invalid currency or cheques.  What use were cheques when banks refused to cash them? 

Shiv Kumar learnt that you could become a beggar overnight even if you have a whole treasure lying in your bank account.

Finally he managed to convince his wife that it might not be safe for the baby to continue as an overdue foetus.  Not that he or his wife did not have faith in the Baba, but it was wise to respect nature’s ways too.

But how to reach the government hospital which was a little out of the way?  They couldn’t hire a taxi as taxi drivers would not accept invalid currency.  An autorickshaw would not be safe on that road which had too many potholes for a country that had just become corruption-free.  “All the jerks and shakes in the auto will make me deliver in that cubbyhole itself,” protested Lakshmi.  She didn’t want their prince to be born in an autorickshaw.

With some cajoling and an extra dose of Divya-Sahanamritam, Lakshmi agreed to take the chance.  And they reached the government hospital whose very air reeked of something like rotten cabbage.  “Couldn’t they clean up the government institutions before cleaning up black money?”  She asked covering her nostrils with the end of her dupatta.

“Don’t speak like this, darling.” Shiv Kumar did not hide his terror.  “They’ll arrest us for being antinational.”

Lakshmi lay on the bed with her legs spread out.  “Come on, push out.”  The doctor was telling her for the umpteenth time.

“I’m pushing and pushing. But the baby refuses to move.”  She said helplessly.  She had shut her nostrils to the smells around her.

Her labour continued baffling the doctors and nurses.  Outside her husband was sitting on a mouldy chair and in his snooze he dreamt that the ATM outside the hospital had opened and he could get a couple of hundred rupee notes.




Indian Bloggers


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Blood in the Paradise


Book Review

We live in a world in which “fair is foul and foul is fair” much more than in Shakespeare’s time.  Good people often become victims of foul systems or villainous individuals.  What if some good people are also shrewd enough to understand the hazards underlying the system and come forward to help the good but helpless people?

This is an interesting question raised by Madhav Mahidhar’s murder mystery, Blood in the Paradise – A tale of an impossible murder.  The book is a straightforward murder mystery, a suspense thriller and a tremendously gripping read.  It is literally unputdownable because the police questionings and the court trials are riveting. 

Madhumitha who has an unhappy married life as her husband Vikas Nandan became an alcoholic and womaniser decides to end her life along with those of their little twin daughters.  She survives, however, and the children have not been administered the poison yet.  But the husband dies absorbing the same poison which his wife had taken.  It is not a suicide.  It is a murder.  But who committed the murder?  And how? 

That’s the story.  There is an intelligent and honest police officer DCP Vishwaroop.  There also is Anupriya Gautam who is a well-known feminist as well as social worker with considerable influence in the society.  She is a close friend of Madhumita and stands by her friend throughout her ordeal with the police and the court. 

Vishwaroop and his team’s brains as well as sincere efforts cannot prove what they know to be right: that Vikas was killed by means of a very cunningly crafted plan.  They cannot get the necessary evidences.  Moreover, Anupriya mobilises the public against the police who detained Madhumita under custody for a long period in spite of the fact that she needed medical attention after the suicide attempt. 

The novel has all the ingredients required for a suspense thriller.  In fact, it brings in additional spice in the form of feminism and the influence of social movements and the media on legal cases. 

The story is narrated elegantly and rivetingly.  It’s all dialogue mostly apart from Madhumita’s diary entries and a few narrative passages.  The dialogues grip us because they are police questionings and court trials. However, the author could have paid a little more attention to character development although we don’t expect much of that in a suspense thriller.  Nevertheless, Vishwaroop and Anupriya offer much scope for that.  Even the SI Mallika does.  The author chose to stick to his murder mystery with absolute loyalty.  Only in the final pages does he turn his attention to certain other details in order to make the story convincing and also to throw a few intelligent questions to the reader.  The novel is highly subversive since it raises the question: should the good and the innocent suffer for the sake of justice which is often tilted in favour of the villain?

Those who love murder mysteries narrated at a lightning speed will love this novel.

You can buy it at here: Amazon.in

PS.
I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.


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Monday, November 14, 2016

Exhortations are good, but...


When the going is tough, exhortations are the cheapest. In the wake of the currency crisis, Baba Ramdev has asked us to starve for a week like the soldiers at the borders.  “When there is a war, soldiers face many hardships and starve for weeks. Can't we, for welfare of the nation, endure this hardship for a few days?" Ramdev asked.

The donation box
opened in a church
in Kerala
A church in Kerala opened up its donation box to the public.  People were allowed to take the change available so that they could meet their urgent needs.  That’s better than doling out exhortations.  What’s religion if it only preaches?  Ramdev is a man who owns a business empire whose assets run into thousands of crores of rupees.  Could he not set some examples by providing medicine and food free to some deserving people instead of merely dishing out an exhortation?  Every good deed spreads more positive vibrations than a million exhortations?

My personal experience with the demonetisation has been nothing like any war. First of all, I was fortunate to receive some changes from my workplace like the other employees of the institution. I live in a small village.  On Saturday, I went to the nearest town (4 km) to change eight 500 rupee notes, the maximum allowed.  All the three banks in the town refused to change my notes because they limited the transactions for their account holders citing “shortage of valid currency” as the reason.  So I went to the town where my account lies.  I was told that I could change only 2000 rupees.  Shortage of valid currency again.  I filled in the form and was told to enter the number of each note on the form.  Finally I received a 2000 rupee note blushing pink.  The next problem was where to change that.  I had money but too much for small retailers to accept!

I deposited in my account all the other 500 rupee notes I had.  I was not asked to write the numbers of those notes which were far more in number compared to the four which I exchanged for the pink note.  I couldn’t understand the logic behind why I was not asked to write the numbers of all those notes.

Anyway, I’m now without any “black money” or invalid currency.  What’s more my bank turned out to be a wonderful experience.  The staff looked terribly weary.  I was there at about 3.30 pm, towards the end of the working day.  In spite of the tough day they had endured most staff put on a smile.  That was a learning experience for me.  They were like the soldiers at the border fighting a war.  I salute them. They didn’t preach.  They offered no exhortations.  They worked tirelessly.  With a smile.  That smile inspired me infinite times more than Baba Ramdev’s exhortation.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Currency and Politics


Money is a game changer.  Is PM Modi playing a big game with the currency MODIfication?  West Bengal BJP deposited Rs 3 crore days before PM Modi declared high denominations as black money.  We can be quite sure that PM Modi’s friends such as Ambani and Adani were also informed about the deal earlier.  Ambani, for example, opened up Jio with a lot of freebies a few days prior to PM Modi’s announcement. Nothing comes free in this world.

Our Conqueror
Congress had too much money in the black.  It became the most corrupt party in India under the leadership Sonia Gandhi and her Amul Rahul.  Rahul goes around attracting media attention (media is a bunch of gossipers wearing the latest cut of the coat) posing in front of some crowded ATM counter and saying that he can’t change his 500 rupee notes.  His party’s assets were burned on the banks of Ganga and Yamuna, the most holy and most polluted rivers in the world.  That is the real game.  You burn the enemy in/on his/her own holy banks.  

Someone asked me yesterday why I became a fan of PM Modi.  My answer: “If I have a miniscule fraction of his brains I would rule the cosmos.” 

PM Modi is destined to rule the cosmos.  He knows how to kill and win.  My salutes to you PM Modi.  I know you have digitalised India.  Your conmen can track any Indian easily now.  Anybody can vanish like that student of JNU.  The whole JNU culture will vanish in a few days, I’m sure. I admire you, PM Modi.  India deserved you. 



Friday, November 11, 2016

The House on the Hill



Source
The house on the hill had always fascinated Rahul.  But he never dared to go there.  No one did.  Because they said it was haunted.  Haunted by fairies.

“Miss, aren’t fairies wicked?”  Rahul asked his teacher one day.  She, the English teacher, had just narrated a fairy tale in the class.  It was the story of a beautiful fairy that went around playing little mischievous tricks on people in order to teach them a lesson.  Her name was Pansy.  She also helped people when they were in need.

“Fairies are not wicked,” answered the teacher.  “They are just mischievous.  Like children.”

Rahul decided to visit the house on the hill and meet the fairy who lived in it.

His heart was pounding when he stood in front of the house.  The house looked like an old palace.  Old it was, yet clean too as if someone had been maintaining it regularly.  But the fountain in the front yard gave the impression of desolation.  It was not working.  Probably it never did in the last many years.  Twigs and dry leaves lay scattered covering the pool surface like a ragged blanket.

The door creaked a little when Rahul pushed it open.  As soon as he entered what looked like a hall of mirrors the door shut by itself.  Rahul saw infinite Rahuls around him.  Not even the door was visible.  There were only mirrors and Rahuls in mirrors.  When Rahul was scared, all the Rahuls were scared.  When Rahul made faces, all the Rahuls made faces back at him.  When he smiled they smiled too.

“Every action has an equal and similar reaction,” said Rahul softly, modifying Newton’s third law of motion which he had learnt a few days back.

Every action has an equal and similar reaction.

Who had said it?  His words had been repeated by someone.  He looked around.  All he could find were the infinite number of Rahuls turning around frantically in the mirrors.

He pushed one of the mirrors and it opened like a door.  He stepped into the passageway whose walls bore candle-like lamps.  He was not sure whether they were electric lamps or oil lamps.  They were different from all the lamps he had ever seen.

He walked through the passageway until he reached an arched doorway.  The arches and jambs of the door were golden in colour and they glittered.  The door was multicoloured with lots of paints of different colours splashed.  Like a piece of modern art, thought Rahul.  He looked at it more closely.  Did it resemble a bunch of flowers?

Rahul opened the door.  It was another hall.  There were no mirrors.  There was a sparkling throne in the centre of one side and equally beautiful chairs all along the side walls.  Rahul walked up and touched the throne. He caressed its soft curves.

“What are you doing here, Rahul?”

It was a woman’s voice.  Rahul turned around to see a small girl-like figure with wings hovering above him in the air.  She was like the fairies in Rahul’s English teacher’s tales.

“How do you know my name?” Rahul asked without showing his fear.

“I asked you a question and you must answer it first.  That’s part of the good manners we follow here.”

“We?” Rahul expressed surprise.  “Are there many like you here?”

The fairy smiled.  “Seems that you’re not a good student,” said she descending from the air and standing near Rahul.  She was quite as tall as Rahul.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Rahul said very politely. He understood what she meant.  “I came here to meet the fairy who lives here.”

“I’m Pansy, the queen of this palace.”

“Queen!  But you have no crown.”

“Crown?  Why do I need a crown?  I have no complex to hide.”

“What’s a complex?” Rahul was perplexed.

“Complex is thinking that you are what you are not.”

That sounded quite different from what Rahul had ever studied at school.  But he did not ask for clarification.  He thought he would understand better when he saw more of the fairyland.

Pansy agreed to take Rahul around and show him her queendom.  [If a queen was the ruler the country cannot be ‘kingdom’, thought Rahul, it must be queendom.]

“Just close your eyes and open them after three seconds.”

Rahul did as he was told.  In those three seconds he remembered that odd numbers were associated with mystery. His English teacher had told him that.  But when he asked his Maths teacher why odd numbers were associated with mystery, he said, “There are no mysteries in Maths.  Don’t talk rubbish.”

When he opened his eyes he was standing inside an indoor stadium.  There were many fairies in the stadium and they were playing cricket.  Soon Rahul noticed that there were no umpires or score keepers.

“Games are an entertainment by themselves,” explained Pansy when Rahul asked about umpires.  “So why should anyone break the rules?”

“What about the score?  How do you know who wins and who loses?”

“Win and lose?  What does that mean?  They are playing a game, and not trying to defeat anyone.”

“What’s the fun in a game if you don’t win it?”

“The game is the fun.  How can there be fun when you ... what did you say, win?”

“Yes, win.  That’s what we play for.  We want to win.”

“How do you win?”

“When the opponent loses.”

“Who is an opponent?”

“The other players.  The other team.”

“So, winning means showing that you are better than the others.  Is that right?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you want to win when you play a game?”

“Of course.”

“Then you are in need of a crown.”

Rahul looked at her questioningly.  This is indeed fairyland; there’s no logic here, he said to himself.

“Do you never wish to win?”  Rahul asked Pansy as they started walking to where she led him.

“Certainly, yes.  When we fight with the demons we fight to win.  But that’s a fight and not a game.  And we don’t call it winning.  We call it overcoming.”

“Demons?”

“Ah, demons.  They also live in our jungles.  And sometimes they want to fight with us.”

“Why do they fight with you?”

Pansy looked at him and smiled.  “Don’t you have wars in your world?”

“Yes, and there are reasons for them.”

“Tell me some of the reasons.”

“One country wants some land or oil or something else belonging to another, sometimes wars are fought because the people of the other country believe in some other religion, a country like America wants to be the only superpower in the world, or... oh, there are so many reasons for a war.”

“No, not so many reasons, but one reason: discontent.  It’s the same with the demons.  They are never satisfied with what they have.  They always want more and more.  So they attack us.”

Pansy had led him into a garden in which grew trees of various types bearing different kinds of fruits.

“Lovely fruits,” said Rahul looking at the fruits.  They were all new to him.

Pansy plucked one fruit from a tree and gave it to Rahul.

“Drink it.”  She opened a part of the fruit as if it were a soft drink can.

Rahul drank the content, a honey-like liquid.  He felt refreshed and more energetic.

“There’s something special about that fruit.  I feel different now,” said Rahul.

“You won’t feel hungry or thirsty for a long while now.  It’s an energy fruit,” explained Pansy.

“All foods provide energy, don’t they?” Rahul remembered his biology lessons.

“Of course, but some foods provide more energy than others.  It all depends on how much matter is compressed in the form of energy in a particular food.”

“Matter and energy,” reflected Rahul.  “We had a scientist,” he said, “Einstein, who discovered an equation between matter and energy. E = mc2. An object can give as much energy as the product of its mass with the square of the speed of light.”

Pansy looked at him quizzically.  “We don’t need so many meaningless words to understand simple things,” she said.

“What do you mean?  It’s no simple thing.  Einstein was a genius.”

“Even you may be a genius, Rahul.  A genius is one who observes carefully the reality around.  If you observe carefully the reality will reveal itself to you.  But foolish people need big words to understand simple things.  Perhaps, that’s why your Einstein used so many big words: to give his knowledge to others who are not as intelligent.”

“But how will I ever observe that matter is another form of energy?” Rahul was perplexed.

“Okay, watch what’s happening?” She made some motions with her hand and Rahul became invisible.

“Hey, what have you done to me?” He was astounded.  He felt totally weightless.  

“I have converted you into energy.  It doesn’t need any equation, you see.”

Rahul realised that he could fly now.  He made a circle in the air.

“How did you do it?”

“I will teach you.  But you have to learn many other simpler things first.”

“Such as?”

“All knowledge is responsibility,” said Pansy as she made some motions with her hand and Rahul became visible again.  “Those who don’t know that misuse knowledge.  That’s why there’s so much evil in the world.  Evil is misuse of knowledge.  Sometimes evil is done also out of ignorance.  Did you know that?”

“No,” admitted Rahul.

“You have to learn many such things before you learn bigger lessons.  Bigger lessons means bigger responsibilities, always remember that.”

“When will you start teaching me?”

“Now you have to go home.  Your mother is looking for you.  You will come to me again tomorrow.”

Rahul realised that what she said was a statement, a prediction, rather than an order or a question.  When you know something, you can predict.  It is when you don’t know enough that you have to ask questions or issue orders, he thought.

“You’re already becoming a good student,” said Pansy as if she had read his thoughts.

“Can you read my mind?”

She smiled, “Didn’t your scientist discover any equation for thoughts and words?”

Rahul understood what she meant.  He also knew that his mother had started looking for him.  Knowledge is responsibility, he recollected.

“I must go now,” he said.

“Good you realise it.”

“I’ll come tomorrow.”

“I know.”

Rahul’s heart pounded with joy as he ran down the hill.



PS. This was written some ten years ago when life had not permeated my being with cynicism.  Today I keep myself far away from little children lest I taint them with the cynicism I gathered from a lot of sanctimonious people who passed through my life.  That is to say, I won't be able to write a children's story now.  The latest Indispire theme #ChildrensDay prompted me to post this now.  


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