Thursday, June 30, 2016

Clichés

'I don't like meeting people,' I explained when a friend asked why I showed little interest in meeting him after a long period.

People are clichés wherever you go.  They keep repeating themselves.  The repetition may take slightly different avatars.  Some do it in the name of the Christ, some others in Krishna's. Or Allah's. Or some Baba or other fraud.

Fraud is a perpetual cliche from which mankind has no salvation, my friend said. Your problem is that you looked for salvation from them. Silly romantic dreamer! He laughed.

So I am a fraud too? I asked. Living in an illusion!

Aren't all people doing just that?  Living in one illusion or another? In perceived paradises?  Maybe paradise of wealth, power, positions, Babadom, kingdom of heaven... Clichés.  What else?

Solitude is my cliché, I said.

You are a cliché trying to run away from other clichés, he said.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Good and Evil

“There is no good and evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it.” 
― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Examine history and we will be amazed by enormity of the evil that man has inflicted upon his fellow creatures mostly in the name of gods and creeds.  A lot of good people perished being labelled as heretics and witches.  Thousands of innocent people have died and continue to do so to please the gods of fanatics and radicals.

The Pope has apologised for his Church's inhuman attitude towards homosexuals.  Pope John Paul II had made quite a number of apologies.  Most religions will have infinite sins to atone for if they are willing to undertake an honest introspection.

And yet religion is about goodness, compassion, and what not?  That's what we have been told at least.

The plain truth is that religion, like most other man-made institutions, is about power. If you have power, what you do is right and good!  Rather, it's not about good and evil; it's about who wants to be the boss.


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Monday, June 27, 2016

Plastic Perfume

'I hate plastic flowers,' said Raj.

'But they smell better than the original flowers,' said Mohan, the host.

'No smell at all.'

Mohan brought a canister and sprayed perfume on the flowers.

Plastic perfume suffused the air.

Then the priest came and blessed the perfume.

And everything was OK.

Gods and their priests make everything OK. Plastic.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Falling in Love

Sangeeta was heartbroken.  She peered into the coffee mug as if the dregs in it contained the perfect metaphor for her life.

"What happened, honey?" asked Rakesh.  "You've suddenly gone moody."

They were on their first date.  Sitting in the ethereal air of Cafe Coffee Day, they admired each other before the mutual assessment took off as naturally as the dessert followed the meal.  Facebook had brought them together and Whatsapp had sealed the bond firmly.

"Blue is NOT your favourite colour!" She asked as if her world had broken apart.

"No. Not at all. But what does that matter?"

"I thought blue was your favourite colour. I always wanted to marry a man whose favourite colour was blue."

"Oh, honey, but who told you blue was my favourite colour?"

"Your first profile pic on fb had a blue tee."

"Oh, yeah?"

"I always thought blue was your favourite colour."

"What does the colour matter, darling, in a universe that's always expanding into nothing that's something?"

He had borrowed that from Einstein. When Elsa, his wife, complained about the dress he was wearing for a party, the genius had made that response.

Unlike Elsa who was put off further by the philosophy of the scientist, Sangeeta found her spirits returning.

"I like what you said just now. It sounds coooool."

And with all the senses, she fell in love once again.

😄

PS. Written for Indispire edition 123: With all your senses, "Fall in Love - One more time". #FallingInLove


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Prisoners

"God!" I exclaimed just as he appeared before me as if from nowhere.  I didn't know who he was.  His demeanour carried such grace and aura that the exclamation was my spontaneous response.

"Do I look like a fraud?" He asked.

I didn't say fraud, I clarified. I said God.

I know, he smiled.  God, fraud... He played with the words for a while.

You look like a god, I said.

I don't want to.  He looked slightly helpless.  People will demand miracles. Nothing more.  The priests, godmen and the like will eliminate the real god and then recreate him in their own image.  With the waxen images shaped by them, they will conquer little kingdoms.  Kingdoms with fences around. Then they will teach their followers to shoot and kill those behind other fences, clutching at slightly different waxen images.  Worst of all, they will distort all that I shall ever utter.

I felt pity for him.  Can I help you?  I asked.

Deliver me from myself.  He said that looking into the infinite silence of the heavens.

Ah! I groaned.  I was searching for a god who could deliver me from myself.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Probe the godmen

The income tax department has discovered black money amounting to Rs 2300 crore in godman Asaram Bapu's  palaces.  The godman's followers have a lot of shady deals carried out in the name of religion and charity.

The government should investigate all the religious trusts and organisations.  Most of them, if not all, will be found to be serious financial offenders.

On the other hand, the people of India should ask themselves how long they will allow themselves to be defrauded by such satanic godmen and ammas. One simple truth is that there are thousands of people who are accomplices of the sanctimonious frauds merely because religion has become the easiest way to make illegal wealth in India.  It is very easy to get away with it too.

If the Modi government is serious about bringing achche din to the country, it should start with cleaning up the most pernicious places: the religious trusts.


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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Love in the time of war


“You are so capable of loving.  Yet why do you fight and kill men?”  Briseis asked.

“Fighting is not my choice,” said Achilles having planted a passionate kiss on the ruby lips below Brisei’s lilac eyes.  Her eyes resembled those of a gazelle, serene and pure.  “I inherited it from my father and his father and all the ancestors.  One cannot wish away one’s ancestral inheritance.”

“I wish you could,” said Briseis wistfully.  She had lost her husband, father, mother and three brothers in the war led by Achilles’ people.  She was delivered to Achilles for the nocturnal pleasures of the day’s warrior.

Achilles looked at her as the soldier dragged her along and threw her on Achilles’ bed in the tent.  The gaze and the grace of the gazelle charmed Achilles instantly.  He sat beside her on the bed and wiped away the blood from her ruby lips.  But the lips still shone like ruby.  He smelled her hair.

“You a royal?” he asked.

She refused to reply.  He took his towel, squeezed it in the water basin and wiped away the signs of masculine assault from her silky cheeks.  “You are as beautiful as Helen,” he murmured.

Helen was the cause of the war.  Her beauty was the cause.  Or was it?  Her husband, Menelaus, was a man incapable of love.  He knew only to fight and kill.  To conquer.  He too had inherited war in his veins.  Helen wanted love.  She wanted to grow old with her man and not live in the palace like a priestess in Apollo’s temple.

Women, mused Achilles.  Strange creatures.  They make us mad.  They make us love and they make us fight.  I killed this woman’s husband, her parents and brothers.  My men did.  What’s the difference?  And here I am now falling in love with her. 

Achilles killed the men of her kingdom during the days and made love to her in the nights.  He longed to stop the killing and return to his own kingdom with his love.

“This is what women do to men,” spat out Patroclus, Achilles’ cousin and his bosom friend.  Patroclus walked out with Achilles’ armour and helmet when the latter was in bed with his love.  The army followed him.  Achilles’ armour could not save Patroclus. 

“Please don’t kill Hector,” pleaded Briseis as the news of Patroclus’ killing by Hector transmuted the passion in Achilles’ veins.  “He is my cousin.”

“He killed my cousin,” Achilles gnashed his teeth.

“How many cousins, how many husbands, fathers and brothers have you killed?”

Achilles did not wait to answer.  He had answered that already.  Days ago.  “Kings fight for land, fame or the booty,” he had told her. 

“What do you fight for?”

“A thousand years from now,” he said, “people will speak about Achilles.”

“A thousand years from now even the dust of your bones won’t remain,” she reasoned.

“That’s why,” he said.  “That’s why.”

How much should the women sacrifice for satisfying the egos of men?  The question grew in her heart and became an unbearable burden.  It suffocated her.  We are the toys in the hands of men; they play with us to soothe their tired bodies and minds.

Achilles, her new husband, was fighting with Hector, her old cousin. 

The sun had set long ago.  Achilles had not returned.  Briseis went to the fortress.  She could already see flames engulfing it. 

Achilles lay dying waiting for the flames to approach him and become his funeral pyre.  Briseis took his head in her lap and held him close to her bosom. 

“We will meet again,” he murmured.  “In Elysium.”

Why couldn’t we create the Elysium on the earth?  The answer lay dead in her lap.



PS. I am resurrecting this story for Indispire's latest theme. This and 32 other stories of mine are available in book form: The Nomad Learns Morality.



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Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Conquest of Happiness

In his famous book, The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell argues that the most fundamental way to attain happiness is to take genuine interest in other people and things.  Happiness requires a movement away from oneself, from the ego and its gratifications.

We live in a world which encourages infinite ego gratifications.  More than half of the advertisements are for products that promise to boost one's ego.  No wonder a lot of people remain unhappy.  Too many people are drifting if not sunk deep in the ocean of their own egos.  Social networks and other such platforms are, far from being agents of genuine camaraderie, tools for self-promotion.

Even gods have been enlisted, more than they were in history ever, in the perpetual aswamedha being performed by the ego.  Thus people attain remarkable success, positions and wealth using gods and cults. And remain unhappy!  The more perverse ones go to the extent of detonating bombs upon perceived threats to their egos.  They think happiness unlimited is awaiting them in some other world.

Russell was an atheist and a very rational thinker. Maybe a few Russells are the need of the hour.  The world stands in need of liberation from egos and their gods.


Indian Bloggers

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Losing Innocence

Germaine Greer once defined the library as a place where you can lose your innocence without losing your virginity.  The implication is that knowledge or awareness deflowers your consciousness.  What Satan offered to Eve in Paradise was nothing other than the fruit of knowledge.  As a consequence of eating that fruit, Eve lost her virginity with double delight: physically as well as cognitively. According to the Bible, she along with Adam discovered shame after devouring the fruit of knowledge.

Awareness leads us to the discovery of shame, loss of innocence over and again. When the real criminals enjoy positions of power or relax in paradises abroad and petty thieves or even innocent people get life terms in prisons, we discover the shame of our race yet again.  People who are worshipped as godmen or ammas are crooks at the least and hardcore criminals most often.  Lies metamorphose into truths in the new gadgets. Truth dies in infancy. Expediency is new morality.

Awareness deflowers.  And the orgasm agonises the soul.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A friend in the darkness

Fiction

It was past midnight when something that rubbed against the window pane woke me up. Maybe a leaf carried by the gentle breeze that wafted occasionally in this village not far from the sea. I turned on my side and decided to fall asleep again. But the window whispered again in the unfathomable darkness.  I stared into the darkness. The breezy whisper became a creepy rap on the window pane.  Gentle rap, like a seductive woman's inviting smile.

'Let me in.'  I thought I heard someone say.

I started. Sitting up on the bed, I peered into the dark void outside the window.

'Why don't you let me in?' The voice asked and the window pane groaned.  Sweat trickled through every pore in my skin.

'You are alone,' the voice went on, 'and so am I.  Why not be company to each other?'

My heart was in my mouth and so I couldn't even cry out.

'Ah! You don't want me,' the voice sighed.

The sigh petered out into the void beyond the window.

I heard a sigh rise within me.



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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How gods incarnate


Donald Trump has become the latest addition to the overcrowded Indian pantheon. Hindu Sena celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday in Delhi and its leader, Vishnu Gupta, has declared Trump "the saviour of humanity"  and "Messiah against Islamic terror." Last month the Sena had organised a Havan for Trump's electoral victory.

It doesn't matter whether Trump hates Indians and holds them in contempt. It doesn't matter whether the Indian holy cow is part of his staple diet. Gods are above the rules for the common folk.

Jai Sri Donald Trump!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The hollowness of rhetoric

Delivering the concluding address at BJP's National Executive yesterday, Mr Modi presented seven mantras to his party workers.  Empathy and self-restraint are two of the seven resounding mantras.  The problem is that they only resounded like some hollow echoes in a wilderness because they were accompanied with Modi's abiding taunting of the Congress.  All those great mantras lost the wind in their wings because of the cognitive dissonance that accompanied the rhetoric. Empathy and taunting don't go hand in hand.  Mere rhetoric has never swayed any heart so far.  That's why Modi's speeches make no ripples in spite of his being an excellent orator.

Perhaps, the most pathetic fate that Modi is inflicting upon his party is the compulsive need to flog the Congress even after the latter has become as good as a carcass.  Modi should deliver himself and his party from all forms of hatred which has marked them right from the beginning.  The BJP has to take positive steps in the direction of the future ignoring the follies and blunders of the past.  The ghosts need be buried so that the future can be liberated from them.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Holy Murderers

The young man who perpetrated the mass murder in an Orlando nightclub is a typical symbol of the contemporary religious zealot.  He is not much different from some of the godmen and their cults in India. The cult that let loose its sanctimonious insanity on the Mathura police recently are also imagining itself as the Messiah of India.

Religious people who perceive themselves as holier than the others are the greatest threat to contemporary civilisation.  All sorts of terrorism - overt as well as covert - emerge from that infantile self-image.  The phenomenon is nothing new.  It has marked most religions right from the beginning of human history.

Can we not save ourselves from these holy murderers?  Can they be successful without our cooperation? 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016

Between the eyes

Mini story

"Shoot me between the eyes." Rajmohan asked anyone who spoke to him in metaphors.  Truth is as terse and straight as a mathematical equation or a scientific principle and it doesn't need the crutches of metaphors. That was his religion.

But he had never imagined anyone would take his own metaphor literally and fire a bullet directly into his forehead.

Mr Pandit and Mr Sharma had approached him for a donation.  The trust established by their godman was constructing the largest temple in the world. (On land grabbed from a reserved forest.)

"Why do we need temples?" Rajmohan asked them.  "Spend your money on a hospital or school for the poor people who can't afford good treatment or good education."

"God's glory requires temples, bhaiyya,"said Mr Pandit.

The Godman's men used all the poetry they knew to explain god and his glory. God became a flower in the valley or milk in the udder or even the slit in the padlock...

"Shoot me between the eyes," said Rajmohan when poetry sickened him. He demanded a mathematical formula for god.

Mr Pandit took out his pistol and obeyed Rajmohan's order.  His godman had taught him obedience.


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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Springs of Sorrow


Today (June 8) is the death anniversary of Gerard Manley Hopkins [1844-1889], a British poet whose greatness lay buried beneath the smokescreens of Victorian sensibilities.  Spring and Fall is one of his many exquisite poems.  It is addressed to a little girl, Margaret, who is sad seeing the leaves fall in the season of autumn. 

Are you crying over the falling leaves, Margaret?  The poet asks the girl.  A time will come when you won’t weep over the falling leaves because life will teach you about other much more significant falls.  Fall is the blight man was born for, says the poet. 

O little girl, how innocent you are!  Your innocence is the beauty of the spring season with its fresh life and enchanting beauty.  Spring is the promise of new life.  Dreams bloom on the twigs.  You are one of those numerous dreams. 

But you are destined to realise that autumn will follow soon.  The leaves and blooms will all fall.  That’s their inevitable destiny.  Life will teach you those inevitable lessons.  Whole worlds will collapse before you like the falling leaves.  Watching the world collapse, watching dreams wither, your heart will grow cold and you will learn not to weep over them anymore.  That’s also a destiny.  Inevitable destiny. 

Yes, Margaret, you are weeping over the falling leaves in Goldengrove.  Soon you will realise that it is you, yourself, that you are mourning for.  “Sorrow’s springs are the same,” the poet knows.  The human heart! Nay, the very human life!

PS.  The text of the poem:

Márgarét, áre you gríeving 
Over Goldengrove unleaving? 
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? 
Ah! ás the heart grows older 
It will come to such sights colder 
By and by, nor spare a sigh 
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; 
And yet you wíll weep and know why. 
Now no matter, child, the name: 
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same. 
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed 
What heart heard of, ghost guessed: 
It ís the blight man was born for, 
It is Margaret you mourn for. 



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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Godman Business


The easiest way to earn fabulous wealth in India today is religion.  There are quite a few godmen and ammas who have amassed more wealth than the Ambanis and Adanis by selling gods to people.

What happened in Mathura yesterday should open the eyes of both the people and the authorities.  The followers of one Baba Jai Gurudev illegally occupied 280 acres and used violence when the police tried to evict them.  The ‘religious’ people used swords, knives, guns, grenades and even automatic weapons.

Exemplary cooperation between
a Baba and his Government
The Baba who died in 2012 (at the age of 116 as claimed by his followers) started off his divine career making the fraudulent claim that he was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.  That was in 1975 when people were not as willing as they apparently are today to be hoodwinked.  The Baba’s fraud was greeted with a shower of slippers, rotten eggs and tomatoes.  But Babas being some of the most ingenious people, they always find a way of defrauding the people.  Soon Baba Jai Gurudev had land worth Rs4000 crore and cars worth Rs150 crore.  He had palatial ashrams.  According to an India Today report, “his followers make a donation of not less than Rs 12 lakh daily at his ashrams.”

Tell me, is there an easier way to make wealth?

I think the Indian government should encourage more and more people to become godmen and ammas.  The economy of the country, which is already one of the leading economies in the world, will witness miraculous booms under the divine leadership of god’s men and women. 



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Friday, June 3, 2016

The Earth - a love story


The earth was parched and it longed for love.  Nothing can heal the cracks in the soul as love can.  Everything that has life comes in pairs, reflected the earth.  Man has woman.  The animals have their mates.  Even the plants have their mates. Male and female.  And the love that binds them.  What’s life without that bond? 

The earth longed for a loving touch.  It had been violated for millennia.  Civilisations came and went violating her pristine innocence.  Violation has been her destiny ever since the ape descended from the tree and started walking on two legs. 

Did I not love you?  The rainclouds that gathered in the heavens asked her.  Did I not love you from the time you were born? 

The earth smiled.  Her smile was warped.  But she nodded her ascent.  The cracks in her soul were filled with longing. 

The clouds smiled.  When someone longs for you, you have reasons to smile.  What’s life without that longing?

The rain descended from the heavens consummating the earth’s longing.

Slush formed in the puddles.  What’s love without some slush?

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 120: #Love Challenge


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

When Love Trumps Tradition


We live in a world which continues to lay undue emphasis on certain traditions, especially those which have their roots in religion.  Religion being regressive by nature, its traditions will continue to be in force even when the world will have evolved far beyond them scientifically and technologically. Most religious traditions are like the gargoyles erected on magnificent edifices: they may serve some supposed purposes hideous as they appear.

A still from the movie
Tevye, the protagonist of the movie Fiddler on the Roof, faces the painful dilemma of having to make a choice between tradition and love.  Three of his nubile daughters break the sacred traditions of their religion by falling in love with men of their choice.  Tevye is shocked and infuriated each time.  He asks his God, Yahweh, what to do.  In doing so, he is breaking a sacred tradition himself: he is unseating the Rabbi from his sacred position as the mediator between Yahweh and his creature.

The hotline connection that Tevye has established with his God helps him understand his situation better.  Each time a daughter of his breaks a tradition and his heart, he learns the lesson that the heart is far more powerful than any tradition however holy the latter may be.  Love is more sacred than anything else.  It is those who never learn that great lesson that convert religion into a weapon against communities of people. 

The Jews were particularly targeted again and again by people who placed religion and its holy cows above people.  Fiddler on the Roof ends with another Jewish exodus.  The fleeing Tevye will ask the Fiddler on the Roof to join the refugees because metaphorically the plight of the Jews was no less precarious than that of the fiddler who balanced himself delicately on the sloping roof.

The movie was produced in 1971.  I watched it for the first time in the early 1980s.  I watched it again a number of times later and wouldn’t hesitate to watch it again if the opportunity turns up.

What fascinated me the most is Tevye’s childlike trust in his God even when he questions that God radically.  I lost my trust in gods long ago.  The protectors of holy cows today widen the chasm between God and me.  Tevye is one movie character who remains deeply entrenched in my consciousness, maybe because his trust in God has something Romantic about it. It is untouched by the usual contaminations of religion.  Love reigns supreme in Tevye’s understanding of God, in spite of the traditions of that religion which are deeply entrenched in his consciousness.

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 119: #Movies


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Illness and Man

Some illnesses can make us feel totally helpless.   You just can’t do anything except lie down and suffer.   The viral fever that ke...