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Showing posts from January, 2017

Gandhi still matters

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Mahatma Gandhi, whose death anniversary is commemorated today, is still relevant precisely because of the gulf between him and our contemporary leaders.  What sets Gandhi poles apart is the harmony or congruence that existed between his thought, word and deed.  He called that harmony ‘truth’.  He was a man of truth.  Since truth is not a fixed entity he experimented with it.  That is, he was constantly discovering truth.  His life was an ardent pursuit of truth.  He might have erred occasionally as any human being does however noble he or she may be.  But his pursuit was genuine.  He was genuine. The absolute lack of masks is what makes Gandhi as relevant as any genuinely spiritual leader would be at any time, even centuries after his or her death.  It is those who put on different masks to suit various occasions that need to separate religion from politics, public life from private life.  “My life is my message,” Gandhi asserted boldly because he never needed any mask at any

Padmavati

Fiction I am Rani Padmavati, the Queen of Chittor.  People call me the Queen of Beauty.  I have never understood why our men bother about beauty at all.  They are warriors and love fighting. Bravery, physical strength and honour are the values they really cherish and want all of us to possess.  We cherish beauty too.  But we’d prefer to keep beauty veiled behind the purdah.  If anyone other than the husband dares to raise the purdah, he will be killed.  Beauty is a private property among us.  We, the women, are our men’s private properties. Private.  So private that we, the women, can’t even go to the temple to worship our gods, let alone enjoy the public festivals.  We are like the precious stones and gold ornaments to be stored away in the darkness of secret chambers.  The King, my husband, Rawal Ratan Sing, braver and nobler than any Rajput, is also an admirer of beauty.  He loves me just as he loves music and the arts.  Music was the reason why this man Raghav Cheta

Messing up Messiahs

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Interfering with other people’s affairs seems to be a very common feature of the Indian culture.  The Sharmas cannot survive without finding out what is cooking in the Varmas’ kitchen and vice versa.  Worse, the Sharmas will not rest contented with poking their noses into the Varma tastes and flavours but insist on altering some of them. Meddling with other people’s affairs, imposing our truths and notions on them, chipping away at others’ preferences and proclivities, moulding them according to our fancies is the most sickening aspect of existence in my country.  I have been a victim of this for most part of my life.  There was a dedicated group of people who wished to reshape my personality.  They took an inordinate interest in my affairs and started the chipping.  I must have looked like a gargoyle to them and they insisted on converting the gargoyle into a Galatea.  Nothing good came of it.  My life became a protracted agony which I endured – that’s all and nothing more.  I

Friends

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This peacock was one of the few friends I had while I was in Delhi. It would make occasional visits to the staff quarters where I resided and perch atop the wall relieving itself from the burden of its brilliant plumage.  Our friendship went little beyond that: he found a place to relax in peace and I admired him from a distance.  We never disturbed each other.  In fact, my existence meant nothing to him in all probability.  He sought nothing from me.  He was not concerned with whatever I did so long as he was not disturbed.  Nothing of what I did scandalised him.  He had no morality to preach, no religion, no politics.  No sham. Just a few yards away from where he sat lay the sprawling grounds of a religious cult which used to attract thousands of devotees whenever the godman (Baba, they called him) condescended to make a public apparition. The peacock would never be seen on such days.  There was not even a distant screech.  Probably no one understood better than him t

Dying for light

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Source At the twilight hour they come in swarms.  Hundreds of them emerge from the soil with the vigour and wantonness of children liberated from tedious classrooms and fly.  Towards the nearest source of light.  The light scorches their wings and the wingless bodies looking more like worms than ants fall and die slow deaths on the ground.  Even if the light is gentle enough not to scorch the wings, they will eventually lose the wings, tired of flying round the light, weary of not being able to assimilate the light they are so much in love with, and fall.  Ants emerge from nowhere within seconds and carry away the dead bodies. Alates or flying termites, that’s what they are. I have watched their desperate love affair with the light time and again from the time I settled down in the village a couple of years ago.  They acquire wings only to mate and then die.  They mate in flight. The fertilised females will also lose their wings and go on to establish new colonies of ants w

Bulls and men

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Finally the bulls in Tamil Nadu ran for their lives.  The government had to pass an ordinance circumventing the apex court’s order.  The people won.  In the final analysis, only the bulls lost. There was a time when people were starved of entertainment.  The days before computers and internet, dish TVs and digital networks.  Even kings used to be bored in spite of the luxury in their palaces.  In spite of the choicest wine and women.  So they called their soldiers and went to fight a battle.  Battles are good entertainments for those who have no ideas about what to do with their time. Bull fights and cock fights and a whole lot of other fights like boxing and wrestling have provided much entertainment to a lot of people for centuries.  Also, the battle cries haven’t died down.  They won’t as long as the human species continues to dominate the planet.  Then we have also other entertainments like religious fundamentalism, terrorism, revanchism, and what not.  Personally, I

Trump’s Two Bibles

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Donald Trump is an exceptional man in many ways.  He proved that during his swearing in ceremony too.  He took the oath placing his palm on two bibles one of which was presented by his mother and the other was used by none other than Abraham Lincoln. I have always wondered what religion really means to people like Trump whose hearts are awash with hatred (in addition to greed, lust, and much else).  Trump has his own ‘amen corner’ in Paula White’s place of worship.  Ms White is one of the spiritual advisers of Trump.  In fact, no less than six such religious persons including Ms White prayed for Trump during his swearing in ceremony.  Two bibles and six preachers.  And a lot of allegations of the sleazy kind behind the backdrop.  Trump is indeed an exceptional man. The religious people who prayed over him are also exceptional.  Paula White uses religion as a commercial enterprise.  She is a Prosperity-gospel preacher.  God wants you to be rich: that’s their basic teachi

Stained Reality

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“Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, / Stains the white radiance of eternity...”  Like the other Romantic poets, P B Shelley was unhappy with the inevitable stains of life. One of the many stains or imperfections is our inability to perceive reality clearly. Reality comes into our consciousness through a lot of filters that have become a part of our very being.  Our past experiences, our prejudices, beliefs, convictions, desires, culture, religion, political affiliation... a whole range of things acts as the filters. For example, take ourselves, human beings.  “What a piece of work is a man,” exclaimed Hamlet in spite of himself.  Shakespeare’s Prince of Denmark saw human being as a paradoxical creature that is noble in reason, infinite in faculties, admirable in form, angelic in action and godlike in apprehension.  Yet the Prince ended up hating many human beings and killing quite a few.  Hamlet’s whole perception and understanding of reality was tainted thoroughly by on

Nationalism is Treason

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Professor Jie-Hyun Lim, Director of Research Institute of Comparative History and Culture (RICH) at Hanyang University in South Korea thinks that nationalism is “an act of treason.”  He also says it limits the capacity of imagination which is really why it is treason. The only real purpose of nationalism is to gain power , argues the Professor. Mussolini, Hitler, Fransisco Franco of Spain and all other dictators used nationalism in order to consolidate their political power.  All of them divided the country into an in-group and an out-group.  Mussolini used culture to divide people while Hitler relied on race.  For Franco, the out-group consisted of those who did not speak Spanish language, the non-Catholics and the communists.  The in-group was characterised by the members’ loyalty to the nation coupled with a marked hostility towards other nations as well as the out-group irrespective of their nationality. The in-group was used by the leader to consolidate his own power.  Is

The Capitalist Jungle

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Source Christopher McDougall told us the story of the lion and the gazelle in the African jungle.  Both the lion and the gazelle have to outrun the other in order to survive.  Unless the lion runs faster than the gazelle, it will starve to death.  Unless the gazelle outruns the lion, it will become the latter’s food. That is also the policy of capitalism.  The richest one percent of India’s population own 58% of the country’s total wealth, says Oxfam’s latest report .  In plain figures, just 57 Indians own as much wealth as about 875,000,000 other Indians.  India is a jungle of lions and gazelles where the latter may die under the wheels of Land Cruisers driven by the former while they sleep huddled together on the footpaths after the weary day in a sweatshop. There’s much wealth in India.  But the majority of people are poor.  You will find this majority sleeping on the footpaths if you take a walk in the cities at night.  You will see them struggling to earn a livelih

Arun Shourie on Narendra Modi

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People of my generation are very familiar with the name Arun Shourie.  As editor of the Indian Express , he did a tremendously bold job of questioning Indira Gandhi in the days of the dreaded Emergency.  Later he joined the BJP and became an MP in the Rajya Sabha.  He has written a number of books which are thought-provoking.  The 75 year-old intellectual spoke to Swati Chaturvedi , author of I am a Troll , a book which exposed the BJP’s digital army which abuses and harasses people online for questioning Narendra Modi and the party.  Let me highlight some interesting points from the interview.   In happier times Emergency-like situation in India Mr Shourie thinks that the Prime Minister has created a “decentralised emergency”.  The country is run by mafia groups who terrorise those who criticise Modi or his policies.  Gau rakshaks, for example, are not motivated by “love for the cow” but the need to dominate other people.  Mr Modi’s emergency is worse than Indira G

Dreams

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I dream a lot.  I mean the real dreams that visit us during our sleep.  Most of my dreams are neither sweet nor scary.  I don’t take them seriously either.  I don’t remember them in the morning.  Except very rarely when the dreams seem to be related to some problem I’m grappling with. I had a dream last night too.  In the normal course of events this one too should have met with the fate of the others and vanished from my memory before I woke up in the morning.  But I chose to remember it because I wanted to write this blog. Source Three men robed in white, looking more like the Arabs than Catholic priests, came to me.  The place was not at all clear.  The conversation was.  They said they came to take me away because my time on the earth was over.  I said it was a surprise since I didn’t believe in a life beyond the earth.  “That’s not a problem. You can come with us.”  And I went. I think that’s how it ended.  The end was really not so clear.  I got up as usual, d

Modi ejects Gandhi

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Narendra Modi has replaced Mahatma Gandhi with himself in the 2017 wall calendar and table diary brought out by the Khadi Village Industries Commission .  Everything else that the narcissistic prime minister has done so far dwindles into insignificance with this latest feat.  Picture Courtesy: JantaKaReporter The Mahatma and ‘the’ Modi are poles apart.  Where the former sowed love, the latter bred hatred.  The former stood for peace and tolerance while the latter has instigated strife and intolerance on many an occasion.  The Mahatma deserved the appellation conferred on him by none other than Rabindranath Tagore.  The Modi will have to be reborn at least a dozen times even to understand the profundity of that great soul whom he has replaced shamelessly on the calendar and the diary. I’ll be doing a tremendous injustice to the Mahatma if I go on elaborating the differences between him and his replacement.  There is not even a worthwhile contrast between a shining sta

Halley’s Fishes

Fiction Arjun was contemplating with considerable amusement on how Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica came to be rejected by its first patron, the Royal Society.  “You are under arrest.”  The steely voice jolted him out of his amusement.  “But why?  What have I done?”  Arjun asked as he extended his arms for receiving the handcuff without realising what he was doing.  Life was always a mechanical thing for him.  When his wife served the meals he ate them.  If she was not there, he wouldn’t eat.  It wouldn’t make any difference.  When he saw the handcuffs, his hands stretched themselves as naturally as the sunflower turns towards the sun. What was the action of mine which attracted this reaction?  He asked himself as he felt the steel of the handcuff scalding his skin. They were silent, the cops, as they led him out of the National Museum where he was looking at a copy of the cover page of The History of Fishes which jettisoned Sir Newton’s Principia .  T

Sakshi Maharaj and 40 Lies

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What is he? Sakshi Maharaj thinks that one particular religious community in the country is responsible for the population rise.  “The population has risen because of those who support the concept of four wives and 40 children,” he declared.  Our Prime Minister said much the same thing when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.  A few months after the notorious Gujarat riots, Mr Narendra Modi spoke to a jubilantly cheering crowd and said among other inflammatory things, “We want to firmly implement family planning.  Hum paanch, humare pachees [We five, our 25].  Who will benefit from this development?”  Mr Modi  has grown up since.  Sakshi Maharaj is not likely to grow up in the same way.  Who is the real Sakshi Maharaj? His original name is Sachchidanand Hari Sakshi.  He won the Lok Sabha elections in 1991, 1996 and 1998 on BJP tickets playing a caste and communal card.  He was involved in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition and seldom had the courage or integrity t