Thursday, May 26, 2016

For a world of thinking people


After reading a blog post of mine (Legal Lawbreakers), an ex-colleague of mine sent me a message yesterday that the criminals would be punished by God.  She has absolute faith in her God, she wrote. 

Is there any justification for such faith?  Nowhere in the history of mankind do we get any reason to believe that divine intervention has awarded justice to any people at any time.  On the contrary, we have infinite examples to show how the wicked flourish and the naive perish. 

It is easy to delude ourselves with such beliefs as divine justice after death.  Hell and heaven, the Judgment Day, Karmic consequences, and other such religious carrots-and-sticks don’t serve any purpose to make human life more equitable on the planet.  Religions also offer believers ways to circumvent the stick and secure the carrot: a confession or a bath in the Ganga or some other ritual can wash away your sins. 

If religion were indeed effective in helping people resist evil with the carrot-and-stick eschatology, the world would have been a holy place long, long ago.  For centuries, religions brought terrifying notions about life after death.  But the evil in the world has only increased by diabolic leaps and bounds. The situation is as hilarious today as it is alarming because it is the religious people themselves who are the biggest swindlers.  Examine the assets of some of the religious institutions in India, for example, and one will be astounded by their enormity.  Even the Ambanis and Adanis would want to rethink about their entrepreneurial strategies!

That’s why I always recommend the cultivation of rational skills.  People should be taught to use their rational faculties in order to understand why evil is undesirable and how goodness can be cultivated if we all choose to leave gods and demons to themselves and exercise our reason and imagination. 

Have you ever wondered why religions never encourage people to think?



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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

To blog or not to blog?


“Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living,” said Flaubert. A meticulous writer whose novels became classics though he was, Flaubert died penniless.  Many great writers lived rather miserable lives because writing was not a very remunerative job in those days.  There were many artists too who lived in utter poverty though after their death their paintings were sold for sums which they could never have imagined in life. 

Is it because they never worked for money that their works had such profundity?  Does money contaminate everything it touches?

There is no money in blogging anyway.  At least, not anything significant.  Flaubert and Dostoevsky could accept the agony of pennilessness because they were in search of something much more meaningful than money.  It is their search for meaning that made their writing profound.  And that search, the search for meaning, is an endless search.

Why don’t we find such deep writing today?  The best writers of our times take shelter in the intrigues of history and/or the chiaroscuro of language.  V. S. Naipaul had even gone to the extent of proclaiming the death of the novel.  Contemporary society cannot inspire profound works.  The human species has become too shallow intellectually and emotionally.  Spiritually too, of course.  Godmen have taken the place of gods.  Mammon has taken the place of gods.  Money cannot stir the depths within.  But who wants depths anyway?

As a blogger I too would be happy to make some money out of the hobby if possible.  But there’s nothing in it.  And yet I continue to blog.  As Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear...”  I know that blogging for me is more than just an addiction.  That’s why I cannot but blog. 



Saturday, May 21, 2016

Two Values and a Dream



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This post is written for Indispire Edition 118: #Values.  It is specifically about three “immensely necessary skilful values” that the emerging generation should possess.

1. Thinking Skills

Serious thinking seems to have gone to some shopping mall and got lost there.  It must be fiddling with the keypad of some smartphone trying to send its selfie picture to everybody in the contact list on half a dozen social network sites where egos go on rollercoaster rides at breakneck speeds.

Let it come back home and sit down coolly with a copy of Will Durant’s Story of Philosophy or  Jennifer Michael Hecht’s Doubt: a history.  Let it hobnob with the insane Nietzsche and the statesmanly Jefferson.  Let it discover the bloom that blushes in the desert for no one in particular.  Let it bathe in the springs of classical literature.  Let it learn to listen to the symphony of the planets. 

2. Scientific Temper

There are a lot of scientists all around.  IT professionals and docs and engineers of all sorts.  Yet why is there a preponderance of superstitious practices?  Why do we still look for rocket technology is Ravana’s Pushpak Vimana and the link to it in some underwater limestone shoals? 

Science should not remain confined to the classroom and the profession.  It should pervade our entire life.  If it does, the world won’t be spending a lion’s share of its wealth manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.  The world will be a beautiful place.  No hate speeches, no jingoism, no terrorism of any sort.

3. Integrity 

Why are there so many frauds in the world?  Does the world create them or do they create the world?  Look at our godmen and other people in religion.  Can we find one percent among them who possess basic honesty?  What about our political leaders? 

Integrity is a skilful value that we can dream about, I guess. 


Friday, May 20, 2016

Kerala Elections – Random Thoughts


Kerala does not have the tradition of re-electing a government.  So yesterday’s poll results would not have surprised anybody.  Moreover, the UDF government was steeped in corruption charges. 

Kerala Results in a nutshell
Yet the Pala constituency re-elected K. M. Mani who faced serious allegations related to the bar scam.  The people of Pala are neither ignorant politically nor blind in their allegiance to Mr Mani.  Mani has done much for the people of his constituency.  He has intimate relationships with the Catholic church which is a strong force in Pala.  People benefit one way or another if Mani is in power.  That is the secret of Mani’s success.  It has nothing to do with any ideology.

P. C. George who rebelled furiously against Mani’s corruption and became an enemy of both the UDF and the LDF because of his undiplomatic forthrightness and bravado won as an independent candidate from Poonjar, Mani’s neighbouring constituency.  George’s victory indicates that what people really care for is not the Party but the Person.  George is a person with strong mass support because he is a man of the people.  Nobody who approaches him with a grievance will leave his office disappointed.

UDF’s P. J. Joseph won with the largest margin (45,587 votes) from Thodupuzha, a town which has witnessed much development because of him.  His victory shows again that even the people of Kerala will re-elect you if you do something worthwhile for them.

Eldhose Kunnapilly of UDF makes his debut entry to the Kerala Assembly because he has made a mark as a social worker while he served his term as the District Panchayat President.  People voted for service. 

In short, it is not really the party that matters in Kerala; it is what the leader does for the people. 

Jayalalithaa’s victory in Kerala’s neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu also illustrates the same principle.  Amma is certainly not above taint.  Yet she won comfortably because she had extended a lot of support to the poor people in various ways some of which may be scoffed at by the affluent as cheap gimmicks or mere populism.  For the starving man, a cheap meal at a low-cost canteen is as good as god.  Amma became a goddess in the state which still has a sizeable section of the population grappling with poverty.

Nationwide, the BJP is buoyant because of its landslide victory in Assam, “opening its account” in Kerala, and, above all, because of the rout of Congress everywhere.  The Congress deserves its present fate because it had lost touch with people.  It’s not enough to visit the poor in their huts and have tea with them, as Rahul Gandhi did for some time.  People must benefit in concrete terms.  As pointed out above, those leaders who really did something concrete for the people won in Kerala and such people can win anywhere.  So the lesson that Congress has to learn is clear.

Source: The Hindu
The Left atop a 'Right' building
The NDA fared miserably in Kerala whatever the statistics may say.  Vellapally Natesan, whom the BJP espoused in the state, is a crook and swindler who played the most cynical communal card by forming a political party for the Dalits whom he had only exploited throughout his political career.  Even the helicopter given him by the BJP for the election campaign could not take him to any height whatever.  His party did not win even a single seat.  Cynical communalism has no place in Kerala yet though clandestine communalism triumphs!  Mr Modi and his cohorts can learn some subtlety from Kerala.

The BJP won one seat through O. Rajagopal who made it finally after losing 15 times in elections to the Assembly as well as the Parliament!  His tenacity and grit must be admired, if nothing else.

 If the secular parties in Kerala really deliver what they are supposed to, then a party like the BJP will not fare any better than Vellapally’s BDJS in Kerala.  I hope Pinarayi Vijayan will become the Chief Minister and the politics in the state will undergo a radical change.  I hope the party workers of Pinarayi will allow him to do his job.

Post Script

The Cannes Film Festival is showing a number of movies which underscore the revenge of the poor.  Andrea Arnold’s American Honey features people who earn their living by selling magazine subscriptions but augment that meagre income by robbing jewellery from the affluent.  Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake shows the plight of a disabled man who lets out his fury by spraying paint on a job centre with onlookers applauding him.  Joe who lost his farm because he followed the advice of some financial expert on the TV takes revenge by holding the expert hostage in his own studio in the movie, Money Monster.  The French farce, Ma Loute, goes to the extent of featuring characters who murder and eat the rich. 

When the richest one percent owns more than the bottom 90 (in the USA, for example), it is time for revolutionary changes.  Revolutions usually started with literature.  Now it can start at the Cannes too. 

Or in an election in India!


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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Rewriting our own life story


Derry is an adolescent boy who sees himself as a failure in life because of a huge scar on his face.  He looks hideous to himself whenever he looks in a mirror.  He thinks that he is unlovable.    People stare at him because of the scar.  He has heard people make remarks about the scar.  “Only a mother can love such a face,” he heard a woman say once.  But even his mother cannot apparently accept the scar; she kisses him on the side of his face which is normal.  Derry hides himself from people because of that hideous scar. 

Courtesy:
NCERT English textbook, class 12
One day he meets an elderly man called Lamb.  Mr Lamb tells him to rewrite his life story.  You have everything that a normal person has: two legs, two hands, etc.  Mr Lamb tells Derry.  Just like any other normal person, you can be a success if you change your perspective: the way you view the scar.  Accept the scar on your face and learn to ignore other people’s remarks about it.  And go about doing your job.  When you focus on accomplishments, other people will turn their attention from the scar to your accomplishments.  Rewrite your story.  Give a magical kiss to yourself.

Such kisses belong to fairy tales, Derry protests. 

If you think the kiss will remove the scar from your cheek and make you a handsome prince, yes, the miracle will belong to a fairy tale.  Mr Lamb clarifies.  The kiss is a change of attitude.  The scar will remain.  But your attitude to it will change.  Then your life will change.  That’s the miracle. 

Miracles are nothing but attitudinal changes. 

When the cancer patient begins to view his illness as an opportunity to look at life from a different angle, a miracle takes place.  Healing takes place.  All healing is a miracle, a change of attitude or perspective.  You may lose a leg in an accident and yet become a graceful dancer if you have the right attitude. 

Derry’s story is borrowed from Susan Hill.

What Mr Lamb did was to employ the Narrative Therapy (NT), a recent concept in psychology.  The motto of NT is: The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.  It seeks to empower the person to confront the problem by looking at it from a different angle, a different perspective. 

The scar is not Derry’s real problem.  What he thinks about how people view his scar is the real problem.  Derry can rewrite his story if he wants.  He can write a story in which people talk about things other than his scar.  “Look at that boy, Derry, he is such a wonderful footballer.”  Derry can write new dialogues in his story.  And the new dialogues will materialise into reality.  We are the story we tell ourselves. 


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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How Religion Kills Innocence


In Amitav Ghosh’s novel, Sea of Poppies (which I reviewed yesterday), there is a very interesting character named Paulette Lambert.  Her father is a scientist who does not believe in God and religion.  He brought up his daughter “in the innocent tranquillity of the Botanical Gardens.”  He did not allow her soul to be corrupted by religion and God.  The only altar at which she worshipped was that of Nature.  The trees were her scripture and the earth her revelation.  “She has not known anything but Love, Equality and Freedom,” her dying father tells another character from whom he seeks the favour of taking her out of the British colony.  “If she remains here, in the colonies,” he says, “most particularly in a city like this (Calcutta), where Europe hides its shame and its greed, all that awaits her is degradation: the whites of this town will tear her apart, like vultures and foxes, fighting over a corpse.  She will be an innocent thrown before the money-changers who pass themselves off as men of God...”

Mr Lambert had understood clearly that religion, god and the moral systems created by them are nothing more than structures invented by shrewd men for keeping the not-so-shrewd masses under control and also for exploiting them.  Right now in independent India, we have certain political and religious organisations which work hand in hand employing gods and religion with the same shrewd motives of manipulating people and exploiting them.  Criminals wear the garb of ascetics and organise mass murders.  They are exonerated in the courts of justice for want of evidence.  Evidences are suppressed.  Truths are fabricated.  History is rewritten.  This is what religion and gods have always been doing. 

Mr Lambert’s prediction comes true.  After his death, the nubile Paulette is adopted by Benjamin Burnham who is a crook donning religious garbs.  Mr Burnham decides to teach her the scriptures of his religion (which is the only civilised religion, according to him and the other colonisers).  But controlling his lustful desires for her becomes a bitter struggle within him.  Lust is not his only sin.  He is greedy, cruel and dishonest.  Yet he thinks he is closer to god than Paulette who is actually innocent in every way.

Mr Kendalbushe, the judge who decides to send Paulette to the Burnhams, is another person who thinks of religion as a socio-political tool.  He is shocked by Paulette’s ignorance of the scriptures.  “Miss Lambert,” he declares to the hapless girl, “your godlessness is a disgrace to the ruling race: there is many a Gentoo (Hindu) and Mom’den in this city (Calcutta), who is better informed than yourself.  You are but a step away from chanting like a Sammy and shrieking like a Sheer.”  Soon Mr Kendalbushe will propose to her though he is old enough to be her father. 

Eventually Paulette has to run away in order to save herself from such religious people.  But her innocence cannot be sustained anywhere because religion is all-pervasive.  God is omnipresent.  How can anyone save herself from such omnipotence?  She has to lose her innocence and discover the potential within her that will help her cope with various gods and their earthly demons. 

The situation never changes.  The players change.  The white man left the country.  His place is taken today by people who have replaced his God with new gods and goddesses.  But the game goes on. 

As another character in the novel says, the rulers are all the same from time of the Pharaohs and the Mongols.  It’s the same game of wielding power over others.  The only difference is that the Pharaohs and the Mongols were not hypocrites.  They didn’t pretend that they were marauding and killing for any noble cause such as god or religion.  Our leaders pretend that they are working for gods.  “It is this pretence of virtue ... that will never be forgiven by history,” says Captain Chillingworth in the novel. 

If only we understand what religions have actually done in human history... would we be able to bring back the innocence that mankind possessed before gods were invented?


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Monday, May 16, 2016

Sea of Poppies

Book Review

“The truth is, sir, that men do what their power permits them to do. We are no different from the Pharaohs or the Mongols: the difference is only that when we kill people we feel compelled to pretend that it is for some higher cause.  It is this pretence of virtue, I promise you, that will never be forgiven by history.”

Captain Chillingworth of the ship Ibis utters those words in Amitav Ghosh’s novel, Sea of Poppies.  The novel is about power and how different people wield it over others as much as it is about the powerless who are destined to suffer the oppressions. 

The novel presents a part of the India in the 1830s.  The British have become very powerful in India and they control the trade too.   As Benjamin Burnham, one of the traders in the novel, says, trade indicates the “march of human freedom.”  Even slave trade is part of that glorious march.  According to Burnham, the white man gave freedom to the African slaves from “the rule of some dark tyrant.”  He brings in Jesus Christ too to justify free trade.  “Jesus Christ is Free Trade and Free Trade is Jesus Christ,” he asserts.  There are missionaries who assist the traders.  Burnham became a successful trader with the help of some missionaries.  His first bid is to transport indentured labourers from India to Mauritius. 

Ghosh brings together some charming characters from various parts of India to the Ibis.  One of them is Deeti, a young widow who is saved from becoming a Sati by her low caste friend, Kalua.  Deeti’s husband was an impotent man and so she is impregnated by her brother-in-law with the assistance of her mother-in-law and an uncle.  It is the duty of every Indian mother to give birth to as many children as possible.  She can be a Draupadi for that.  Being a Draupadi is more honourable than being the wife of a single man.  But Deeti will save herself from that fate by killing her mother-in-law with slow and steady doses of opium.  After the death of her impotent husband, her brother-in-law wants to keep her as his second wife, his sex object.  When she protests he wields whatever power he has in order to make her a Sati.  He will be able to earn much money by building a temple in her honour after she is burnt in the funeral pyre of her husband.  Religion is also about power and wealth.  The missionaries help in transporting slaves.  The ordinary man creates goddesses by burning widows.

The Raja of Raskhali also ends up in the Ibis, as a prisoner rather than an indentured labourer the latter of whom are much better off in comparison.  One of the masters on the ship is none other than Deeti’s uncle who had held her legs open in her wedding night so that her brother-in-law could sow his seed in her.  Deeti’s attempts to hide herself from the uncle fail and both she and Kalua will be punished for breaking the sacred caste rules.  The white man will support the uncle.

Captain Chillingworth justifies the cruelty in the name of caste system.  “... there is an unspoken pact between the white man and the natives who sustain his power in Hindoosthan,” he explains.  It is important that the power structures in Hindoosthan are honoured.  Otherwise the white man’s power structures will not be honoured.  That is his logic.  “The day the natives lose faith in us, as the guarantors of the order of castes – that will be the day, gentlemen, that will doom our rule.  This is the inviolable principle on which our authority is based...”

Sea of Poppies is about such authority and power.  It is about the ruthlessness and cruelty that has sustained such authority and power throughout history.  It is about how religion is a handmaid of that authority and power.  It is a brilliant novel with some very fascinating characters taken from the British India.  It shows us the hypocrisy of religion and moral systems. 

Excellent as the novel is, it presents a lot of difficulties to a normal reader because of the polyglot lingo it uses.  The ship is a place where all sorts of people mingle.  And their language is a terrible pidgin which is a mixture of many languages.  Here is an excerpt as an example:

   ‘Why for Malum Zikri wanchi pay for jiggy-pijjin?’ said the serang.  ‘Oc-to-puss no have see?  Is too muchi happy fish.’

   This had Zachary foundering.  ‘Octopus?’ he said.  ‘What’s that got to do with anything?’

   ‘No hab see?’ said Serang Ali.  ‘Mistoh Oc-toh-pus eight hand hab got.  Make herself too muchi happy inside.  Allo time smile.  Why Malum not so-fashion do?  Ten finger no hab got?’

That is Ali, the master of the indenture company, teaching Zachary, the second mate on the ship, how he should grab with all his ten fingers the opportunity to enjoy sex with the girls available. 

Ghosh has done much research to make the lingo as authentic as possible.  But it makes the novel difficult to read.  Apart from that, the novel is an exquisite work.  I am looking forward to reading its sequels though the pidgin in this book is quite a deterrent for me. 


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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Language and Grammar


I’m not a fan of grammar books.  In fact, they confuse me no end with all those technical terms such as inchoative verbs and protasis.  As a teacher of English, I’ve always advised my students to hone their linguistic skills by listening, speaking, reading and writing.  We can learn another language just as we learnt our mother tongue: by using the language rather than learning its grammar. 

However, I have had to teach grammar sometimes as part of the academic courses.  I’ve tried my best to make the grammar teaching sound as light and interesting as possible by avoiding jargon as far as possible and focusing on exercises that are relevant to the students’ day-to-day life.  Traditional grammar teaching would be the most boring part of language learning for most students.  And yet, having said all this, I must add that some knowledge of basic grammar always helps us to master the language.

During my recent visit to Delhi, one of my ex-colleagues presented me a set of grammar books she authored.  They belong to a series titled English Skills, Grammar and Composition published by Vishv Books, Delhi.  The books for classes 6 to 8 are written by S. K. Manimekalai, English teacher in one of the reputed schools in NCR. 

A lot of sincere hard work has gone behind the production of these books.  Each topic is covered extensively and systematically.  For example, the chapter on Determiners in the class 8 book covers articles, possessive determiners, demonstrative determiners, distributive determiners, numeral and quantitative determiners and interrogative determiners.  Each category is explained very lucidly with appropriate examples and even illustrations where necessary.  Then there are exercises which will reinforce the student’s learning. 

The books are well designed and the layout is very appealing.  The level gradation for each class is planned very carefully too so that whatever a student learns in class 6, say, is reinforced with more knowledge and skills in the next class, while some new topics are added too. 

In spite of my inborn rebellion against canons and rubrics, I found the books interesting.  They are eminently useful for young students who wish to gain mastery over English.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Assholes


Three years ago, Aaron James published a book titled Assholes: A Theory according to which “A person counts as an asshole when, and only when, he systematically allows himself to enjoy special advantages in interpersonal relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people.”  In simple words, an asshole is a person who takes every advantage, thinks himself superior to all others, and is immune to criticism. 

Most of our politicians belong to that category, in case you are looking for examples. 

Now James has come up with a new book: Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump.

Aaron James is not a popular writer who seeks to entertain the readers with hackneyed humour.  He is a professor of philosophy.  The first book in which he explains his theory of assholes is an erudite work drawing heavily on philosophers such as Plato, Kant, Rousseau and Hobbes.   

Politics creates assholes necessarily.  Politics is about power and no one but an asshole can be interested in imposing himself on others (which is what power means in practical terms).  

Since I haven’t read the book yet, I can’t speak more about it.  But I am amused by the entire concept.

The books are available at Amazon.in.  [Check out in the top right corner of this blog.]



Friday, May 13, 2016

Positive Thinking


Source
The concept of positive thinking gained undue popularity in the last few decades.  It does help us much in dealing with certain problems and obstacles that life brings inevitably.  But does it have some drawbacks too?

Psychology tells us that we are already programmed for over-optimism.  ‘Optimism bias’ is what psychology calls it, according to which we have a natural tendency to think that bad things will happen to us less often than they will happen to other people.  Earthquakes and floods and other such disasters won’t occur where we live.  The airplane which is carrying us won’t crash.  The train on the other track may derail but not ours. 

There is actually a part of the brain that sustains this sort of optimism which is a kind of inbuilt defence mechanism.  The problem with this defence-shield is that it can make us over-optimistic.  It can make us blind to certain potential hazards and threats.  It can blunt our caution.
Source

It can also make us blind to our real situation.  It can make us believe that we are making progress when we are actually standing still.  Positive thinking can be disastrous for a student who may be tempted to overestimate his efforts and hence the results.  It can be equally disastrous for anyone, in fact.   It can make us dreamers.  Positive thinking can delude us.

Positive thinking can make us incapable of learning the necessary lessons from our failures.  Let’s say I fail to understand the motives of the new management that takes over the institution where I am just an ordinary staff.  I understand the situation only when I am thrown on the road one fine morning.  Fine, because I’m a positive thinker.  I keep telling myself that whatever happens is for the good because I’m a positive thinker. 

Nothing good turns out, however.  Things move from the road to the alleys and byways which become increasingly dark and murky.  Depression descends.  Antidepressant tablets buoy me up.  Floating on the waves of the positive feeling given by those drugs, I manage to find some light at the end of the murky byway.  My positive thinking returns.  Now I look back at the terrible experience and begin to give it a different colouring.  The new colours make me feel better.  They make me feel more positive about myself and life in general.  I become a hero or a victim or whatever suits my need and nature in the hindsight. 

Source
This positive refabrication of the past makes me forget the lessons I should have learnt.  Positive thinking makes me feel that I have been in control over myself.  I need that delusion. 

Much positive thinking may indeed be a delusion, a feeling of wellbeing when many things are not quite well.  We live in a world which gives a lot of importance to positive thinking.  There are pop psychology speakers and writers, cult gurus, art of living maestros, religious leaders and all sorts of people preaching positive thinking.  But the world is becoming more and more negative.  More vicious and violent.  All the positive thinking that is being dished out in numerous forms is not seen in practice in the actual life.  That’s because we have created only a feeling of wellbeing and not the real wellbeing itself.  We have created the delusion of positivity and not positivity itself. 

Positive thinking that does not create positive action is mere delusion. 


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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why I admire Mr Modi


Hairstyle

Style is the man.  I like Mr Modi’s cascading mane which is being groomed with much care.  I was always a fan of his beard especially since it helped me to justify my own bristles for which I am yet to find an admirer.  Now, having fallen in love with the PM’s mane, I’m thinking of letting my hair down especially behind my neck.  It may help me to keep quiet where I should speak up and blah-blah where I should shut up.

Leadership

Mr Modi doesn’t need any script.  He can speak to the audience any time anywhere without a script written by some political advisor.  Speak effectively too.  He is a born orator.  He knows the power of words and rhetoric.  He can sway his audience with those powers.  That’s the sign of a real leader.  Mr Modi is THE leader.  We deserve him. 

Discovery of India

I am about to complete a year of living in Kerala.  I’m yet to find any ragpicker in the state – whom I used to encounter every day in Delhi in dozens of places.  In fact, I have had to depend on people who can’t even understand a word of Malayalam for most of the works related to the house I’m building in a small village in Kerala.  Kerala pays high wages to the migrant labourers for doing hard jobs while it entertains itself with some political scams and scandals.  Kerala is God’s own country where the gods are dying of laughter.  But Mr Modi found one boy trying to gather food from some garbage heap in Kerala.  That’s the real genius of Mr Modi.  He knows what to find.  Even Einstein would have been a failure before Mr Modi’s genius.   He is rediscovering India. 

I salute this great leader.  India deserves no less a genius.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Politics of Allegations


The most sacred duty of our political leaders seems to have become hurling allegations against one another.  Turn to any news channel on the TV at any time and you will hear some politician accusing another one of some crime.  The Prime Minister accuses the Leader of the Opposition of chicanery.  The Chief Minister of Delhi accuses the Prime Minister of possessing fraudulent academic degrees.  In Kerala which is going to the polls next week, every candidate’s speeches are spiced with aspersions cast on the integrity of his opponents.  In addition to all the domestic laundry washing carried out in the public places, the Keralite is condemned to endure much laundry brought from Delhi by all the significant leaders including the Prime Minister.

Moulding Kerala in the Modi way
A Dalit student was raped and killed brutally (or killed and then raped, as reports have it) recently in Kerala.  The police carried out the mandatory investigation in the most perfunctory manner because the woman was a penniless student belonging to a low caste, without any political clout or social support of any sort.  Unexpectedly, however, the case shot to limelight when the Prime Minister himself took a personal interest in it.  The Prime Minister took the politics of allegations to a new height (or depth, if you prefer) by politicising the murder of a woman who was a symbol of the helplessness of the poor people in the country. 

As a helpless observer, I am left wondering why our leaders do nothing more than accusing one another of some crime of commission or omission?  Why not do something for the people instead?

The plain truth is that nobody would have bothered about that Dalit student who was killed brutally had it not been the election time in Kerala.  The painful truth is that the killed student is being killed again and again by the politicians by being converted into a political football that is kicked around in the playground of allegation-game. 

We need leaders who have some creative vision.  Leaders who can envisage what is good for the people and who can implement that vision in practical ways.  The tragedy of India is that it has no such leader today.  Instead it has powerful orators who can entertain us with jibes and rhetoric.


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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Personalising Success


Three men were marooned on an uninhabited island.  As they sat desperate and disheartened, unable to find a way out of the dreadful place, the spirit of the island appeared to them.  Having had no association with human beings hitherto, the spirit was untouched by malice or evil.  “Make a wish and I can grant it,” offered the spirit genially.  “Get me back to my people,” wished the first man and his wish was granted instantly.  The second man too wished the same and he too joined his people back home.  “What about you?” the spirit asked the third man.  “I’m feeling so lonely here without those two friends.  I wish they were back here.”

A good friend of mine made a couple of comments on one of my recent blog posts.  In one of the comments she suggested that I should learn to personalise success when I had argued that living in a world run by crooks and sharks good people would find success too elusive a thing.  A few minutes back she sent me a whatsapp message which implied that my problem was my credulousness.  I trust people who don’t deserve my trust, she wrote. 

Her message reminded me of the joke about the three marooned men. 

My friend is right, of course.  I never learnt how to live in a society.  I won’t ever.  That’s one of my many shortcomings.  Ego, my benefactors have labelled it.  And I have always thought of my benefactors as that third man on the island. 

The friend who made the comments and the message has always been much kinder than my self-anointed benefactors.  She is not as unimaginative as the third man on the island. 

Suppose I was the third man on the island.  Would I have asked for blissful solitude on the island?  Is that the only way I know of personalising success? 

The genial spirit smiles at me and asks, “Why do you want to ruin my blissful solitude?” 



Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mutineers’ Descendants


Pitcairn Islands is a country whose history reads like a thriller.  It consists of four volcanic islands out of which only Pitcairn is inhabited.  The total population is 42.  That is, Pitcairn Islands is a country with 42 people: as big as an Indian joint family.

The people of Pitcairn are the descendants of the Bounty mutineers as well as the Tahitians who accompanied the mutineers.

ByRobert Dodd - National Maritime Museum
The Bounty was a ship that was commissioned to collect and transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the British colonies in the West Indies.  During the five-month layover in Tahiti, indiscipline crept into the marrow of the sailors.  The idle mind is the devil’s workshop. 

Back in the ship after a long and frolicsome sojourn on the Polynesian island, the crew met with serious disciplinary measures from Captain Lieutenant William Bigh.  However, it was the captain who ended up being punished.  The crew rebelled against him.  There was a mutiny on the ship led by Fletcher Christian.  The mutineers seized control of the ship.  They put Capt Bligh and 18 others in a launch and set them adrift in the Pacific Ocean on 28 April 1789. 

Capt Bligh was both fortunate and skilful enough to save himself and his companions.  One year after being cast into the ocean, Bligh and his companions reached England in April 1790.  Retaliatory action started.  HMS Pandora was despatched to apprehend the mutineers, 14 of whom were captured in Tahiti.  But Christian was intelligent enough not to stay in Tahiti.  He and others who had settled down on the Pitcairn Island escaped the retaliation.  It is their descendants who live on the island today.

The country was recently in the news because of its former Mayor who was sentenced for sexual abuse of children.  The Mayor faced 25 charges.  Child abuse is very common on the Island.  One-third of the men on the Island (that is, seven in number) are guilty of the crime.  The Island has become so notorious that no child can enter it without first getting an “entry clearance application” sanctioned. 

England is spending three million pounds every year to attract new settlers on the Pitcairn.  The climate is good.  The British government is subsidising a lot of things.  And yet there are no takers for the migratory offer.

It is not easy to reach the island, of course.  It takes a 36-hour voyage by a 12-berth boat which sails once in three months.  The return ticket costs $5000 from Mangareva in the French Polynesia. 

For a detailed account of the mutiny, Caroline Alexander's The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty (2004) is ideal. 

Here are some pictures from Pitcairn Islands from the National Geographic site.

The Island is just 3.6 km long








PS. Written for Indispire Edition 116: #DiscoverACountry

Thursday, May 5, 2016

NOTA on my ballot


Courtesy: Lawlex
Just ten days from the elections in Kerala, I’m left wondering who to vote for.  The UDF government that ruled the state for the last five years has almost ruined the state.  Scams and scandals haunted the government throughout its reign.  It appears that every Congressman in the state is either a money-guzzler or an accomplice of some swindler.  When the Opposition leader, nonagenarian V S Achuthanandan, alleged that there were many charges against the Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy filed a defamation case for a damage of Rs 1 lakh.  Mr Chandy’s reputation cannot be very precious when the wily man had refused to file any defamation charge against Saritha Nair who went on hurling all sorts of allegations against him.  There seem to be very few Congressmen left in Kerala whose otherwise immaculately white, perfectly starched, khadi shirts are not tainted with variegated stains of corruption.  There are a few who are not corrupt in the traditional sense.  But they are guilty of breeding factionalism in the party. 

I can’t vote for the UDF.  My finger will recoil if it tries to press the UDF button on the electronic ballot box.  

The LDF is still not sure who their leader is.  Achuthanandan is 92, thinks he is 22 and behaves occasionally like a 12 year-old adolescent out of parental control.  Most prominent leaders in the Front can never see Achuthanandan eye to eye.  But when the election comes, they will project him as the supreme leader of the Front.  Achuthanandan is honest but anachronistic.  Not only his honesty but particularly his socialist idealism is out of sync with the contemporary world.  They, his honesty and idealism, are great vote-catchers.  His party knows that and is using the man effectively.  But once the elections are over, the game will change.  Honesty and idealism will be shunned. 

At any rate, it’s time for Achuthanandan to retire from active politics.

Pinarayi Vijayan is an efficient leader.  He won’t mind dumping some of the obsolete leftist policies if the party comes to power.  He won’t hesitate to call a spade a spade.  But he is not entirely untouched by corruption charges.  There is no reason to assume that he is going to a lead an efficient government which can effectively yoke socialist plough with the capitalist bulldozer.  Most party workers still labour under socialist illusions.  Even if Vijayan wants to revolutionise socialism by adapting it to the given reality, his party cadres won’t let him do it. 

If the UDF swallowed the state’s coffers, the LDF will take the state back by a few years.  My finger is likely to recoil at the sight of the LDF candidate’s name too, it seems.

There is a third front on the ascent.  About a dozen small parties have come together under the banner of the NDA.  I detest right wing politics.  My whole being rebels against the antique outlook of the right wingers.  Theirs is a vision that should be relegated to the museum as curious exhibits.  Vellapally Natesan who is a prominent leader of the NDA front in Kerala is a mere opportunist and has a reputation for swindling his own people.  There is not a single leader with any worthwhile vision in the Right front.  So my finger won’t even move in that direction.

NOTA seems to be the option left.  But is NOTA a responsible choice.  It is found that NOTA has been extensively used in reserved constituencies by upper class people to declare their opposition to the reservation of the seat.  I am against reservations.  But is the polling booth the right platform for registering my protest?  Do I want anarchy in the country?  Is a corrupt leader better than no leader?

I’m still thinking.  I have ten days more to think.



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rituals



The word became flesh
And the flesh was nailed to the cross
In a religious ritual
On a mount called Calvary.
Crucifixion became a ritual. 

“Hey Ram!” Called out
the flesh that was nailed
again and again
by owners of The Truth.
The cry became the ritual. 

“Shed the skin like a snake
And regain your new self,”
said the Buddha.
Becoming snake became a ritual.




 PS. Written for Indispire Edition 115 which had already extracted a post from me: Matching Heartbeats.  I'm obliged to write one more post on the theme by the latest posts at Indiblogger.  This is my response to some of the posts which I did not endorse at Indiblogger. #rituals