Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Mona Lisa


What is it that you’re hiding
Sweet Mona Lisa
Behind the pale sadness
Of your veiled naughtiness?

Did the one whom you loved
Eject you conveniently?
With an excuse like:
“Oh, I didn’t mean that at all!
Never meant that!”

Do you still carry love in your heart
For that silly, shallow flirt?
Do memories refuse to wean themselves
And feed your heart with sweetness
Whose delusion garbles
The contours of your lips?
And the glitter of your eyes?

Is it pain deep within
That makes you smile
Pregnant with meanings?


Sunday, October 29, 2017

വില്ലന്റെ സുവിശേഷം - movie review



"There is a hero in every villain and there is a villain in every hero."  വില്ലൻ എന്ന പുതിയ സിനിമയുടെ സാരോപദേശം അതാണ്.  സിനിമയുടെ ഒടുവിൽ ആവർത്തിച്ചാവർത്തിച്ചു നമ്മെ പഠിപ്പിക്കാൻ വേണ്ടി മാത്രം ഉണ്ടാക്കിയ ഒരു ഡയലോഗ് ആണത്.  കാണികളെ എന്തൊക്കെയോ പഠിപ്പിക്കാൻ വേണ്ടി മാത്രം ഉണ്ടാക്കിയ ഒരു സിനിമയാണ് മോഹൻ ലാലിന്റെ വില്ലൻ എന്ന് തോന്നിപ്പോയി അത് കണ്ടുകൊണ്ടിരുന്നപ്പോൾ. New Gen movieയും ക്‌ളാസിക്കൽ സിനിമയും ഇണ ചേരുന്ന ഒരു പ്രതീതിയാണ് ഈ സിനിമ കണ്ടപ്പോൾ എനിക്കുണ്ടായത്.

തമിഴും ഹിന്ദിയും ഇന്ഗ്ലീഷും ഒക്കെ മലയാളവുമായി ഇണ ചേർന്ന്, വില്ലനും ഹീറോയും ഇണ ചേർന്ന്, New Genഉം ക്ലസ്സിസിസവും ഇണ ചേർന്ന്, ഒരുപാട് പഴകിയ പ്രതികാര ഇതിവൃത്തം പുനരാവിഷ്‌ക്കരിക്കുകയാണ് മോഹൻ ലാലിന്റെ വില്ലൻ. കാണികളുടെ ഭാവനയെ ഈ സിനിമ ഒരിടത്തും തൊടുന്നില്ല എന്നതാണ് പ്രശനം. ആരോ കൊണ്ടുവന്നേൽപിച്ച ഒരു boring jigsaw puzzle കൂട്ടിവയ്ക്കാൻ ശ്രമിക്കുന്ന ആളിന്റെ വികാരമാണ് കാണിക്ക് ഈ സിനിമ കണ്ടുകൊണ്ടിരിക്കുമ്പോൾ ഉണ്ടാകുക.

ഇത്രയൂം cliched ഡയലോഗ് ഞാൻ അടുത്ത കാലത്ത് ഒരു സിനിമയിലോ പുസ്‌തകത്തിലോ സഹിക്കേണ്ടി വന്നിട്ടില്ല എന്നത് എന്റെ സ്വകാര്യഭാഗ്യം. 'സ്നേഹം ഒരു വഞ്ചനയാണ്. പുരുഷൻ സ്ത്രീയെ വഞ്ചിക്കും. അല്ലെങ്കിൽ സ്ത്രീ പൃരുഷനെ വഞ്ചിക്കും. അതുമല്ലെങ്കിൽ രണ്ടുപേരും ചേർന്നു സ്നേഹത്തെ വഞ്ചിക്കും.'  വില്ലനിലെ ഡയലോഗ് ആണ് കേട്ടോ. ഇത്തിരി stuff  ഇഷ്ടമാണെങ്കിൽ ഈ  സിനിമ  നിങ്ങള്ക്ക് സഹിക്കാനാകും.

ഒരുപാട് സ്ഥലത്ത് quotable dialogues ഏതോ മത പ്രഭാഷകർ പ്രസംഗിക്കുന്നതുപോലെ ഈ സിനിമയിലെ കഥാപാത്രങ്ങൾ തട്ടിവിടുന്നുണ്ട്.  പണ്ട് പണ്ട് സെനേക്ക മുതൽ ഷേക്‌സ്‌പിയർ വരെ ഒരുപാട് വലിയ എഴുത്തുകാർ വളരെ സമർത്ഥമായി കൈകാര്യം ചെയ്ത പ്രതികാര ഇതിവൃത്തം തന്നെയാണ് വില്ലൻ കൈകാര്യം ചെയുന്നത്. പക്ഷെ ഒരു ദയനീയമായ hybrid ആയിപ്പോയി ഇത്. കലയും അല്ല, മതപ്രഭാഷണവും അല്ല. A big bore. Yawn.

മോഹൻ ലാലിന്റെ അഭിനയം നന്നായിട്ടുണ്ട് എന്ന് പറയാതെ വയ്യ.  അതിൽ അതിശയം ഇല്ലല്ലോ? 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

My Vegetarianism


I can relish a chicken biryani or a KFC salver when I am hungry enough.  But nothing entices me as much as a good vegetarian spread.  Vegetarian food is like a gentle breeze that tickles your entrails as it moves on to enliven your soul while its meaty counterparts are like a whirlwind that shakes up your neurons into a wild frenzy.  Frenzy is a welcome relief once in a while.

Given a choice, I would opt for the leaves, roots and grains rather than the flesh and tissues.  But I am not at all fussy when it comes to food which I require in a small quantity.  Moreover, some of the finest human beings I have come across are omnivorous people.  The so-called “pure vegetarians” were sheer boors in my personal experience.  They have unwarranted feelings of superiority and tend to impose their views on others.  Most of the compassionate people I have come across in my personal life are all omnivorous.  All the people with whom I enjoyed convivial moments over a drink, while in Delhi, were all omnivorous though they were Brahmins by caste as well as attitudes. 

I’m pretty sure that most of the people who perpetrate atrocities of all sorts on certain sections of the country’s population in the name of holy cows are all “pure” vegetarians.  Quite many of the people who peddle hatred in the name of gods and idols are “pure” vegetarians too.  This has often made me wonder whether the saying that “You are what you eat” is true at all.  The vast majority of people with whom I share my existence now in Kerala are omnivorous and I find them far nobler than the “pure” vegetarians I came across in my former place of existence. 

I am tempted to extend this analogy to religion too.  Some of the finest human beings I know are not at all religious.  And the converse is true too!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Saint

St Rita of Casia: Patron of abused wives and widows

I grew up hearing stories about Jesus and his saints.  They were usually fantastic exaggerations like Saint Francis talking to birds or Saint George saving an innocent girl from a monstrous dragon.  So when I read about Saint Rita of Casia in Marquez’s autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale, I burst into laughter.  Marquez says that his mother used to narrate the story to the children.

Rita of Casia had an alcoholic husband.  He returned home one night maddened by alcohol.  Rita’s hen had just left her droppings on the dining table.  Rita didn’t get the time to clean the immaculate tablecloth as the husband staggered in.  She managed to place an inverted plate over the hen’s droppings before asking her drunk husband, “What would you like to eat?”

The man growled, “Shit.”

Rita just lifted the plate and said with her saintly sweetness, “Here you are.”

The husband was amazed by the miracle.  He was convinced by his wife’s holiness and became a devout follower of Christ.

Wikipedia tells me that the husband was killed in a family feud.  But Marquez’s mother was not teaching history to her children.  She was teaching religion.  So the twisting of history is justified, I guess.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Scent of Incense


I love the scent of smouldering incense sticks.  At some indeterminate point of time, quite many years back, I started keeping incense sticks in my living room.  I cannot recall what prompted me to do it.  But it became a habit, almost a ritual.  I fell in love with the scent.  The habit continues to this day when I’m living in Kerala where windows are normally kept open and fresh, uncontaminated, arboreal air circulates in the rooms.

The habit was born while I lived in Delhi where windows were practically useless except for sticking up water-based coolers in scorching summer.  Windows remain closed in Delhi irrespective of the season.  Delhi air is dense with exhaust fumes and suffocating dust.  Delhiites breathe the same air that they exhale when they are inside their house unless it is air-conditioned.  Air-conditioners are for the bosses and the affluent.  Some of the others like me purified the air in their rooms with smouldering incense sticks. 

A friend from Kerala who visited me in Delhi once suggested that the incense sticks might symbolise my death wish.  Incense sticks are usually burnt at the head of corpses in Kerala.  I kept the friend’s suggestion as a possible peep into my Freudian inner demons though my incense sticks never succeeded in bringing home to me the aroma of death.  When I attended a funeral ceremony in Kerala later, I realised that death smelled far more vulgar than my incense vapours.  The incense sticks bought from hypermarkets don’t carry the flavours of death, I’m convinced.

I seem to have discovered the roots of my love affair with incense aroma recently.  I discovered a correlation between my urge to light incense sticks and the rise of cooking flavours from the kitchen.  Is it the tang of food that I’m drowning in the scent of incense?  It seems so.  My friend who correlated incense with death may be right, after all.
    



Monday, October 23, 2017

I have no nostalgias


Nostalgia wipes away bad memories and magnifies good ones, says Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale.  [I have modified his words a little and hence no quotation marks.]  Now I know why I have no nostalgias.  It’s very amusing when I come to think about it. 

I lived in quite a few places in South India, and then in Shillong and Delhi.  I lived with all sorts of people in these places, people belonging to different religions, castes, tribes, and cultures.  These places and people have given me a lot of memories but no nostalgia whatever.  

There were so many funny people who provided a whole lot of entertainment to me all along the way.  However, those experiences become entertainment only when I look back from the distance of today.  Standing on “a heap of broken images” of an Eliotean Waste Land, I have little to long for from those days which are lost permanently (and mercifully?) anyway.   

My fears and desires, joys and sorrows were all real.  Did my fears and sorrows outweigh my joys and fulfilments?  I’m not even sure.  I have reached a stage when the answer to the question doesn’t matter at all.  Was it all worthwhile?  That’s a question which arises in the core of my being more frequently than I would like it to.  Could I have helped it anyway whether it was worthwhile or not?

If I could walk the same paths once again, I would do the whole trekking in a different manner.  But the funniest thing about life, I think, is that by the time you learn the lessons that really matter you are too old to need those lessons.  

I have no regrets, however.  Regrets are futile burdens on the soul, quite as futile as nostalgias perhaps. Decisions make the difference.  Decisions belong to the present.  They shape the present.  Where else can we live but in the present?



Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Taj Mahal and Sir Isaac Newton

My wife and the Taj - Romance in 2011

“The Taj Mahal rises above the banks of the river like a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time,” wrote Rabindranath Tagore.  The amazing monument has stirred the imagination of many poets, novelists as well as simple travellers like me.  The very image of the Taj conjures up a melange of feelings and fantasies in me.  I have visited it twice and would love to visit many more times if people like Sangeet Som don’t bring it down before I go down. 

I have no great regard for Shahjahan.  He appears as a villain in one of my stories.  His wife, Mumtaz Mahal, for whom the white marble monument was constructed, was not monumentally great either.  But the Taj Mahal – that’s a marvel, a poem, a romance, a dream, a fantasy.  No, Sangeet Som, I can’t agree an iota with you.  You are a rioter and hence cannot appreciate poetry and romance.  Your heart is filled with black hatred. I feel sorry for you.

Around the time the Taj was constructed on the bank of the Yamuna, Sir Christopher Wren created a similar wonder on Ludgate Hill in London: St Paul’s Cathedral.  I don’t think I will ever be rich enough to visit that architectural marvel, much as I would love to.  It is not any religious impulse that draws me to St Paul’s.  The Cathedral has other charms for me like the Taj Mahal.  It is a symbol of sophistication, an affluence of an elevated sort that I would love to feel and admire. 

When Shahjahan and Christopher Wren were presiding over the construction of their respective architectural marvels, another genius was writing a monumental work which would revolutionise science soon: Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica.  [This too became a subject of one of my short stories: Halley’s Fishes.]  While Christopher Wren found a match in India in the person of Shahjahan, Isaac Newton failed to do so. 

Years have passed.  Shahjahan and Mumtaz merged into the dust of the earth.  But the Taj stands reminding us about the immortality of romance.  If people like Sangeet Som succeed in razing it to dust, it will be because Sir Isaac Newton failed to find his counterpart in India. 

How long will the Yamuna continue to carry the shadow of the Taj?



Friday, October 20, 2017

The Insanity of the Artist


“All artists are crazy.  That’s the best thing about them…. ‘No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness!’  Do you know who said that?  Aristotle, that’s who.”  One of the characters in Irving Stone’s novel, Lust for Life, makes that observation.

Lust for Life is a fictionalised version of Vincent van Gogh’s life.  Van Gogh was as insane as – if not more so than – his contemporary artists like Paul Gaugin.  Van Gogh was so abnormal that women thought him despicable.  None of his family members, except his brother Theo, could bring themselves to like him.

All genuine artists including creative writers possess a degree of insanity.  Normal people follow the norms made by the society.  Normal people believe that life is all about eating, copulating, and conquering.  The horrendous ugliness of that normal existence is what triggers the artist.  The artist is in search of something beyond food, sex and wealth.  That is his insanity.

The normal person knows that there is little beyond food, sex and wealth.  The artist goes out to create a world beyond those parameters.  He repaints the world he sees.  He re-creates the reality he sees around him.  That re-creation is his art.  How the society receives that art is not an issue for him.  He has to re-create the reality or else there is no existence for him. 

I think the tragedy of today’s society is that there are not enough insane people in it.  Too many sane people.  Sane people who destroy the sanctity of art, destroy the sanctity of writing especially.  Trolls, that’s what we have now.  I love the insanity of the genuine masters. 


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Seller of Dreams

Fiction

“You sell dreams, don’t you?” I asked.  The lottery man looked at me rather bewildered.

I knew him for many years.  He used to sell Kerala government’s lottery tickets in the small town a few kilometres from my village.  Whenever he met me in the town he would come to me with a lottery ticket which I normally purchased in order not to disappoint him.  I never won any prize.

The lottery man smiled at me having overcome his bewilderment.  “What will life be without dreams?” he asked.

“Has anyone who bought tickets from you ever won a prize?” I was curious.

He hesitated a moment.  “Yes, up to ₹5000.” 

The chance of winning a bigger prize would be something like 0.000001.  I looked at the ticket he had handed me.  Its number was a six digit figure.  There would be 5 or 6 series of such 6-digit numbers.  No wonder the lottery man could not produce even a single winner of a sizeable prize though he was in the profession for over many years.

“Even winning the last prize of ₹100 triggers bigger dreams, I guess,” I said.  “How much do you earn a day?”

“Two to three hundred.”  He didn’t look quite pleased with my question.  But he couldn’t afford to displease even an occasional customer.

A man walked up to the lottery man with a smile that indicated close familiarity.  “I couldn’t meet you yesterday,” he said.

“But I kept your ticket,” The lottery man told him.

“So ₹30 gone!” he smiled.  “Anyway give me one of today’s.”

“Not gone,” said the lottery man.  “Your ticket won ₹5000.”

“What?”

“Yup.  Take your ticket and encash it from any agent.  I don’t have such an amount to give you.”  The lottery man fished out the ticket from his bag and gave it to the client.  

“After so many months,” the man gasped.  “I won something at least after so many months.”  He bought another ticket and placed a ₹100-rupee note in the lottery man’s hand.  “Keep the balance.”

“You could have taken the winning ticket yourself,” I said after the man had left.

“Haven’t I sold him a bigger dream now?”  He smiled impishly.  “Anyway he has given me more than that amount in the last many years.  He deserves that much at least.”

His question as well as the explanation lingered on in my mind as I walked away with the ticket he had sold me.  A dream was rising in my being, I realised.  It was not about a prize amount.  It was something I couldn’t interpret yet.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

So easy to hurt you


It’s so easy to hurt you
Words are knives
Sometimes silence cuts deeper
I wonder whether my gaze hurts too

That’s why I suggest
the safety of distance
in spite of its terror
whether we’ll miss each other
or forget each other

The consolation shall be mine
that I’m not the one who extracts
bleeding lines from your heart



Monday, October 16, 2017

God's Love Song


I willed my being into an extension
And the cosmos was born in a Bang:
Every birth is a terror and a joy,
Every creation an extension of a core.
I live, move, and have my being
In all that is, and that shall be,
Much as in the core that sits here.

Hypothesis is what the creation was
When I let myself go in a bang:
An overflow of love infinite.
Experiment is what the creation is
When I add patterns in the mosaic:
A sporting game of love unremitting.
Abel was I, much as Cain was.

I am the turbulence of the rolling waters,
The rage of blasting bombs and fleeting bullets,
The hunger in the eyes of widows and babies,
The roar of the clouds, and the grace of the rainbow.
And the nailed wail on the crucifix.
Evolution is what the creation is, of
The hell and the heaven that I am.

PS. I wrote this poem about 20 years ago. Bringing it back for Indispire Edition 191#Poem

Friday, October 13, 2017

India’s Hunger


When the BJP government took over governance in 2014, India stood at rank 55 in the Global Hunger Index.  The country slipped down to rank 80 the very next year, to 97 last year, and stands at disgraceful 100 this year.  Times Now says that “India ranks lower than all its neighbouring countries – Nepal (72), Myanmar (77), Bangladesh (88), Sri Lanka (84) and China (29) - except Pakistan, which has been placed at 106th in the global hunger list.”


The gap between BJP’s promises in its election manifesto as well as the Prime Minister’s endless rhetoric and the actual reality is starkly glaring.  It’s no wonder the Prime Minister is being elevated to the stature of a god.  Temples are being constructed with Mr Narendra Modi as the presiding deity.  Only a god can be as heartless as Mr Modi.

Mr Modi has successfully manipulated religious and nationalist sentiments in order to achieve the divine stature that is being attributed to him in the cow belt of the country.  Both religion and nationalism can blind people.  A sizeable section of India’s population are blind.  अंधेर नगरी चौपट राजा [Dark is the nation and insane the King] has become the reality. 

How long will religion or nationalism keep people blind, however?  Actual hunger is more potent than भक्ती [devotion].  History has dethroned many kings for lesser crimes than the ones being perpetrated in contemporary India in the name of culture and religion. 

Contemporary India is hungry.  There are millions of starving children.  In 2016, 97 million children of the country were underweight and the figure was the global highest.  While the Global Hunger Index focuses on children, the condition of the adults in the country is no better.  Insane exercises such as Demonetisation threw thousands of people out of employment.  Slogans like Make in India remained poster-dreams.  People are being given nursery rhyme heroes when they ask for means of livelihood.

On the other hand, the affluent in India are doing well.  Their wealth keeps increasing fabulously without the promised trickle-down effect.  The government has failed utterly in bringing development to the masses.  What we now have is plutocracy masquerading as nationalism which in turn is sustained by gods, demigods, and villains-turned-gods.


No government can go on for long ignoring a large section of the country’s population.  If the Modi government does not start addressing the issues of poverty, starvation, and unemployment, it will face disastrous consequences sooner than later. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pride and Love



They can destroy me, my boy,
but not defeat me.
The surge of pride in my veins is what keeps me alive.

They mocked me when I returned from the sea
day after day
without fish.
Unlucky fisherman.
Santiago the doomed.
Santiago the accursed.
Santiago the beaten.

No, Manolin, no,
I could embrace bad luck
I could swallow damnation.
But defeat?
No, Manolin, no.
I am Santiago, masterful fisherman.
I am Santiago, more man than I am.
Old man who wakes up early in order to have one longer day.
Beaten I cannot be; destroyed yes if need be.

Mine is the turtle’s heart, boy,
It beats for hours after it has been cut up.
The marlin I hooked had such a heart too.
We were brothers, the marlin and I,
each one with a heart whose beats
matched each other’s.
The marlin was my friend and foe at once,
my strength and my weakness,
my pride and my humility,
my master and my victim.

I love you, Marlin,
That’s why I have to kill you.
Else you will kill me.
You have to.
We are in it together.

PS. Santiago is the protagonist of Ernest Hemingway’s novel Old Man and the Sea. Manolin is a boy who is devoted to him.




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

You are you and I am I


The only quote that graced my study table for years was from Fritz Perls:
“I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped.”

I picked up those lines in my early twenties when I was no more social or sociable than I am today.  I typed it out neatly on a piece of paper which remained on my study table for years.  One guy who befriended me for years and tried his best to make me both social and sociable was quite upset when I refused to dump that inscription.  Not that I didn’t oblige him by making sincere efforts to become more human by joining certain social circles.  But I was a failure.  Rather I made a fool of myself in any group I chose to join. 

The realisation that I couldn’t be part of a social group without making a fool of myself prompted me to embrace solitude.  Though Fritz Perls’ lines yellowed and the paper on which they were typed died a natural death, the quote continued to live on in my memory as one of my favourites.  I have repeated it time and again in various classroom situations. 

Now that the Nobel prize for economics goes to someone who maintains that human beings are essentially cranky, I’m fully convinced that my choice of solitude was absolutely right.  After all, why would I set my crankiness against the gargantuan crankiness of the world out there?  Let me live with my crankiness and you live with yours.  Hasn’t that been my stand for years and years? 

Let me, then, paraphrase Perls thus:
I live with my crankiness and you live with yours.
I am not in this world to live according to your cranky demands and sentiments,
and you are not in this world to live according to mine.
Live out your crankiness and leave me to my own.
If, by chance, your crankiness matches mine in some way,
let us tango.  Otherwise let us ta-ta.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Throw me out, man

A Song
[I don't know the tune]

A thousand times
did my mind scream
Throw me out
Throw me out, man
Throw me out
I don’t belong to you

Where do I belong?
Who do I belong to?
Not to you,
never to you.
Never to your lies.

Dinna I try to belong?
Dinna I try my best?
And what you did?
You screwed me
Screwed me all over.

Where do I belong?
Who do I belong to?
Not to you,
never to you.
Never to your lies.

Bloodsucking vampire
is what you are
Preaching
sucking
politics
religion
Sucked ma trust
Ma trust
Ma trust

Where do I belong?
Who do I belong to?
Not to you,
never to you.
Never to your lies.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Chicanery – Learn English: Lesson 1


 Example 1

Addressing a rally in Kerala yesterday, BJP’s high priest Amit Shah accused Kerala of being a killing field.  “More than 120 BJP workers have been martyred,” he declared. 
The fact: “Police records with details of every political murder between 2000 and 2017 accessed exclusively by NDTV impugn both the political fronts in Kerala. In the last 17 years, 85 CPM workers, 65 RSS or BJP workers, 11 workers of Congress and IUML each have been killed - mostly by their political rivals including CPM and RSS or BJP.”  [Source: NDTV]

Example 2

Today the assistant high priest Yogi Adityanath addressed the same yatra flagged off yesterday by the Supreme High Priest and said that Kerala should learn how to run hospitals from UP.
The fact: Kerala has the best medical care system in the country.  It has efficiently run hospitals in every town and health centres in most villages.  Almost all the villages except in some tribal areas have primary health centres with a variety of medical streams such as Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Unani.  There is an exemplary palliative care system in the state.  Kerala has the lowest infant mortality rate in the country and the best child care systems.  Who has forgotten the death of numerous children in UP recently due to sheer neglect?  Yet this man, a Yogi and a chief minister to boot, dares to utter such blatant lies in no other place than Kerala.

Exercise
Use the word chicanery to make meaningful sentences.

1.     BJP’s chicanery has crossed all limits. 
2.     While colonial America looked upon lawyers as mere traders who earned a questionable living by chicanery, contemporary India makes use of some questionable traders to perpetuate chicanery as the ruling party’s official political tool.
3.     “Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society.”  John Adams
4.     When hundreds of people are being killed in the cow belt India in the name of cow protection, the Jan Raksha Yatra organised in Kerala by the BJP is sheer political chicanery.









Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Life as an expression of oneself


In one of the scenes in Irving Stone’s novel, Lust for Life, Vincent van Gogh walks past the synagogue which excommunicated Baruch Spinoza.  A few blocks away was Rembrandt’s old home.  “He died in poverty and disgrace,” said Van Gogh’s fellow walker, Mendez, about Rembrandt.   

Rembrandt died in poverty and disgrace.  Today his paintings are worth millions of dollars.  His masterpiece is valued by art dealers “in excess of $150 million.” 

“He didn’t die unhappy, though,” said Van Gogh in response to Mendez.

“No,” replied Mendez, “he had expressed himself fully and he knew the worth of what he had done.  He was the only one in his time who did.”

Van Gogh – self portrait

Source: Wikipedia
Some people are like that.  They don’t care what the world thinks of them and of the worth of their work.  Painting is what held Rembrandt together as a man.  It mattered little to him what others thought about his work.  He had to be himself.  There was no other way.  He couldn’t live with masks.  He couldn’t be anything but himself. 

Eventually Van Gogh would face the same dilemma.  He underwent tremendous mental torture in order to hold himself together as a man.  He had to paint in order to be human.  He had to express himself in order to be.  He too lived in poverty and died in disgrace.  Eventually his paintings too went on to sell for millions of dollars.

No one may understand your worth in your lifetime.  Your loyalty to yourself and your perseverance matter more than anything else.  Very few people may understand this.  Most people don’t face this dilemma.  Most people choose a profession for what it pays.  There are some, however, who need to express themselves, who cannot be but an expression of their very being.  Even if life means misery and disgrace, they persist.  They are that persistence.  They are just what they are. 

Rembrandt could not but be Rembrandt.  The excommunication meant little to Baruch Spinoza.  Rembrandt’s paintings justified his life.  Spinoza’s philosophy justified his life.  Van Gogh would have gone to pieces without the activity of painting which he did relentlessly. He killed himself at the age of 37.  In just over a decade he had created about 2100 artworks.  

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Did that lament rise again and again in the souls of these rare men?  It must have.  Van Gogh shot himself in his chest.  The bullet was deflected by a rib and death came very slowly, hitting him 30 hours later.  He was in good spirits as he awaited his end.  “The sadness will last forever,” he is reported to have said in the end.  Was life that sadness? 

“Ah … my work,” says Irving Stone’s Van Gogh at the end of the novel, “I risked my life for it.” 



Monday, October 2, 2017

ക്രിസ്ത്യാനികൾ - book review

മാനവ ചരിത്രത്തിന്റെ അവിഭാജ്യമായ ഒരു ഘടകമാണ് മതങ്ങൾ.  ചരിത്രത്തെ രൂപീകരിക്കുന്നതിലും, അതിന്റെ ദിശ മാറ്റുന്നതിലും മതങ്ങൾ വഹിച്ചിട്ടുള്ള പങ്കു വളരെ വലുതാണ്. ഇന്നിനെ മനസിലാക്കാൻ ഇന്നലെകളുടെ ചരിത്രം നാം അറിഞ്ഞേ പറ്റൂ. ഭാവിയിലേക്കുള്ള യാത്രയിൽ ഈ അറിവ് ഏറെ സഹായിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യും.

ബോബി തോമസിന്റെ 'ക്രിസ്ത്യാനികൾ - ക്രിസ്തുമതത്തിനൊരു കൈപ്പുസ്‌തകം' എന്ന ഗ്രൻഥം ലോകമെമ്പാടും പടർന്നു വികസിച്ചു കിടക്കുന്ന ക്രിസ്തുമതത്തിന്റെ ഒരു ലഘു ചരിത്രമാണ്. സാധാരണ വിശ്വാസികൾ അവരുടെ മതത്തെ അടുത്തറിയാൻ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നു എങ്കിൽ ഈ പുസ്‌തകം വളരെ സഹായകമാകും.

പുസ്‌തകം 4 ഭാഗങ്ങളായി തിരിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നു. 'മരുഭൂമിയിൽ വഴി കാട്ടിയവൻ' എന്ന ഒന്നാം ഭാഗം പഴയ നിയമ ചരിത്രത്തിലൂടെ നമ്മെ കൊണ്ടുപോകുന്നു. മൂന്നു സെമിറ്റിക് മതങ്ങളുടെ പിതാവായ എബ്രഹാം "ചരിത്രപുരുഷനായിരുന്നു എന്ന് വിശ്വസിക്കാൻ കാര്യമായ ന്യായങ്ങളൊന്നുമില്ല" എന്ന് ഗ്രന്‌ഥകർത്താവ് പറയുമ്പോൾ കരളുറപ്പില്ലാത്ത വിശ്വാസിയുടെ സിരകളിൽ ഭക്തിയുടെ നുര പതയാൻ തുടങ്ങിയേക്കാം. പക്ഷെ വായിക്കുന്നതു ചരിത്രം ആണ്, മത ഗ്രൻഥം അല്ല എന്നോർക്കണം.

അടിമത്തവും മൃഗബലിയും നിലവിലിരുന്ന ഒരു കാലഘട്ടത്തിന്റെ ദേവനായിരുന്നു യഹോവ. "കണ്ണിനു കണ്ണും പല്ലിനു പല്ലും എന്ന നീതിശാസ്ത്രമുള്ള ഒരു സമൂഹത്തിന്റെ ദൈവം."  പഴയ നിയമത്തിന്റെ ഒടുവിൽ എത്തുമ്പോൾ ആ ദൈവം "ക്ഷീണിതനും ദുർബലനും" ആകുന്നു എന്ന് തത്ത്വചിന്തകനായ നീഷെയെ ഉദ്ധരിച്ചുകൊണ്ട് ബോബി തോമസ് എഴുതുന്നു. ക്ഷീണിതനും ദുർബലനുമായ ആ ദൈവമാണ് ക്രിസ്ത്യൻ മൂല്യബോധമെന്ന ദുരന്തത്തെ സൃഷ്ടിച്ചത് എന്ന് കൂടി നീഷേ പറഞ്ഞു.

ഗ്രനഥത്തിന്റെ രണ്ടാംഭാഗം യേശുഭാവനയുടെ ഭൂപടങ്ങൾ നമ്മെ കാട്ടിത്തരുന്നു. അന്നത്തെ യഹൂദചരിത്രത്തിലോ റോമാചരിത്രത്തിലോ യേശുവിനെക്കുറിച്ചുള്ള പ്രതിപാദ്യങ്ങൾ വളരെ തുച്ഛമാണ്. പുതിയ നിയമം ചരിത്രഗ്രൻഥങ്ങളല്ല.  യേശുവിന്റെ മരണത്തിനു വര്ഷങ്ങള്ക്കു ശേഷം എഴുതപെട്ട ഈ ഗ്രൻഥങ്ങളിൽ ഉള്ള പരസ്പര വൈരുദ്ധ്യവും അതിശയോക്‌തിയും ബോബി തോമസ് ലഭ്യമായിട്ടുള്ള ചരിത്ര അറിവുകളുടെ പശ്ചാത്തലത്തിൽ വിശദമായി പരിശോധിക്കുന്നു.

"കാല്പനിക ഭാവനക്ക് ഊർജജമായി മാറിയ" മഗ്ദലന മറിയത്തെയും, ഗ്രീക്ക് തത്ത്വശാസ്ത്രത്തെ ക്രിസ്തുമതവുമായി അനായാസം സമന്വയിപ്പിച്ച പൗലോസിനെയും , മറ്റനവധി ബിബ്ലിക്കൽ കഥാപാത്രങ്ങളെയും നാം ചരിത്രത്തിന്റെ കണ്ണടയിലൂടെ  കാണുന്നു.

മൂന്ന് നൂറ്റ്റാണ്ടുകൾ അടിച്ചമർത്തപ്പെട്ട ക്രിസ്തുമതം പിന്നീട് കോൺസ്റ്റന്റൈൻ ചക്രവർത്തിയുടെ കീഴിൽ ലോകമതമായി ഉയിർത്തെഴുന്നേറ്റതിന്റെ ചരിത്രമാണ് പുസ്‌തകത്തിന്റെ 'കുരിശും വാളും' എന്ന  മൂന്നാം ഭാഗം പറയുന്നത്. സ്നേഹത്തിന്റെയെയും സാഹോദര്യത്തിന്റെയും മതം അടിച്ചമർത്തലിന്റെയും വിശുദ്ധ യുദ്ധങ്ങളുടെയും മതമായി മാറി. മനുഷ്യനെ പച്ചയോടെ കത്തിക്കുന്നതടക്കം ഒരുപാട് നിഷ്ടൂര കർമ്മങ്ങളിലൂടെ സഭ തന്റെ ആധിപത്യം ലോകത്തിനുമേൽ അടിച്ച് ഏല്പിച്ചു. രക്തം മണക്കുന്ന വീഥികളിലൂടെ മാത്രമേ നമുക്ക് ഈ ചരിത്രം പഠിക്കണമെങ്കിൽ നടക്കാനാവു.

രക്തക്കറയും പാപകറയും ഒരുപാട് പേറി കത്തോലിക്കാ സഭ ഏറെ വളർന്നു പന്തലിച്ചു ഒരു ലോകാത്ഭുതമായി.  "മഹാവിസ്ഫോടനസാധ്യതയുള്ള വൈരുദ്ധ്യങ്ങളെ ഉള്ളിൽ വഹിച്ചു, ഭൂതകാലത്തോടും ഭാവികാലത്തോടും ഒരേ സമയം പടവെട്ടി, മഹാമേരു പോലെ അത് തലയുയർത്തിത്തന്നെ നിൽക്കുന്നു."

'നസ്രാണികളുടെ ലോകം' എന്ന നാലാം ഭാഗം കേരളത്തിലെ ക്രൈസ്തവസഭയുടെ ചരിത്രം ആഖ്യാനിക്കുന്നു. യേശുശിഷ്യനായ തോമസ് നമ്പൂതിരിമാരെ ക്രിസ്ത്യാനികളാക്കി എന്ന കെട്ടുകഥയെ ബോബി തോമസ് ഖണ്ഡിക്കുന്നു .  "ഒന്നാം നൂറ്റാണ്ടിൽ ... ഇവിടെ (കേരളത്തിൽ) നമ്പൂതിരിമാരുണ്ടായിരുന്നില്ലെന്നും ഏതെങ്കിലും ബ്രാഹ്മണർ ഈ കാലത്ത് ഉണ്ടാകാമെങ്കിലും അവർക്കു സാമൂഹ്യജീവിതത്തിൽ ഒരു പ്രാധാന്യവും ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നില്ലെന്നും ഇപ്പോൾ വ്യക്തമാണ്.  ബ്രാഹ്മണ കുടിയേറ്റങ്ങൾ കേരളത്തിൽ വ്യാപകമാകുന്നത് 6-8 നൂറ്റാണ്ടുകളോടെയാണെന്നും, 10-12 നൂറ്റാണ്ടുകളോടെയാണ്‌ നമ്പൂതിരിമേധാവിത്വം കേരളീയ സാമൂഹ്യ ജീവിതത്തിൽ ഉണ്ടാകുന്നതെന്നും ചരിത്രകാരന്മാർ വ്യക്തമാക്കുന്നു."

റോമിലെ സഭയും അന്തിയോക്യയിലെ സഭയും അവരുടെ അധികാരം കേരളസഭയിൽ ഉറപ്പിക്കാൻ നടത്തിയ  ശ്രമങ്ങളും, കേരളസഭയിൽ കാലാകാലങ്ങളിൽ വന്ന പിളർപ്പുകളും അവയുടെ എല്ലാം പിന്നിൽ വ്യവഹരിക്കുന്ന പ്രേരകശക്തികളും മതം എന്ന 'വിശിഷ്ട' വിഗ്രഹത്തിന്റെ കളിമൺ പാദങ്ങളെ തുറന്നുകാട്ടുന്നു.

അനേകം ക്രിസ്തുമതങ്ങളുടെ  സംഗഭൂമിയാണ് ഇന്ന് കേരളം. "ലോകത്തുള്ള ഒട്ടുമിക്ക സഭാവിഭാഗങ്ങളും ഇവിടെയുണ്ടാകും. ദേവാലയങ്ങുളടെയും ബിഷപ്പുമാരുടെയും എണ്ണത്തിന്റെ കാര്യത്തിലും ലോകത്തുള്ള മറ്റേതൊരു ക്രിസ്തുമത പ്രദേശത്തെയും കേരളം പിന്നിലാക്കും."

ബൈബിളിലെ ഉല്പത്തയിൽ തുടങ്ങി കേരളത്തിലെ എണ്ണമറ്റ ക്രിസ്തുമതങ്ങളിൽ തീരുന്ന ഒരു വൻചരിത്രമാണ് ബോബി തോമസ് ഏകദേശം 400 പേജുകളിലായി പറഞ്ഞുവക്കുന്നത്. ലളിതമായ ശൈലിയിൽ വായനക്കാരന്റെ മനസിനെ തൊടുന്ന രീതിയിൽ എഴുതിയിരിക്കുന്ന ഈ പുസ്‌തകം ക്രിസ്തുമതത്തിന്റെ ചരിത്രം അറിയാൻ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്ന ആർക്കും ഒരു മുതൽക്കൂട്ടാണ്.  ഇടയ്ക്കിടെ കയറിവരുന്ന സൗമ്യപരിഹാസവും ഈ ഗ്രന്ഥത്തിന്റെ ആസ്വാദ്യത വർധ്ദിപ്പിക്കുന്നു. ഉദാഹരണം: പോർച്ചുഗീസ്‌കാരുടെ വരവോടെ ഗോവയിൽ "മദ്യം ഒരു പ്രധാന വിഭവമായി മാറ്റപ്പെട്ടു.അതുവരെ ഗോവൻ തീന്മേശകളിൽനിന്നു അകറ്റിനിർത്തപ്പെട്ട പന്നിയിറച്ചിയും മാട്ടിറച്ചിയും ഭക്ഷണത്തിന്റെ  അവിഭാജ്യഭാഗമാക്കപ്പെട്ടു. മദ്യവും ഇറച്ചിയും ദൈവത്തിനു വളരെ പ്രിയപ്പെട്ട വിഭവങ്ങളാണല്ലോ."

ബോബി തോമസിന്റെ പുസ്‌തകം വായനക്കാരന് വളരെ ഇഷ്ടപെട്ട ഒരു വിഭവമാകാനാണ് സാധ്യത.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Why Gandhi is relevant today



When asked whether he was a Hindu, Mahatma Gandhi’s answer was, “I am a Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew.”  Gandhi’s vision transcended the narrow boundaries defined by religions though he was deeply religious.  One of the primary functions of religion is to make one a better human being.  A genuinely religious person cannot see other human beings as enemies whatever religion they may belong to, whatever language they may speak, and whatever ideology they may believe in.  Religion is pointless if it does not make the believer compassionate towards his fellow beings.

The greatness of Gandhi lies in the inclusiveness of his vision.  He could not hate anyone, not even the British whom he fought until his country won independence from them.  “It is my constant prayer,” Gandhi said, “that I may never have a feeling of anger against my traducers…”  His religion enabled him to overcome such vices as anger and hatred.

Religion has a very pragmatic duty to fulfil in Gandhi’s vision,” as I wrote seven years ago on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti. Religion should help people to see the divinity within each human being.  It should help us to foster that divinity.  It should make each person a god, in short.   Gandhi used scriptures, religious practices, prayers and self-disciplinary measures for that very purpose: to become a god.  That is why he could confidently say, “My life is my message.”  His life was indeed as divine as it could be for a human being.

We live in a time when religion has been converted by the political system into a highly divisive force.  Indians have become acutely conscious of their religious identity.  Too many people are using that identity and the political situation in the country to create hatred within human hearts in the name of religion.  I’m quite optimistic that the situation will change with the next general election.  There is so much discontent among the people that the present situation cannot go on for long.  Even religious sentiments won’t work beyond a limit.

But the ideal solution is not reaching the breaking point of the limits of patience.  The ideal solution is what Gandhi taught long ago: compassion, tolerance, understanding, and so on.  Gandhi will remain relevant at any time because of the profundity of his vision.