Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

Fiction

My fingers mistake these days the letters on the keyboard.  I’m growing old and I’m lovin it.  I make mistakes and I forgive myself since the keyboard cannot forgive. 

“But why the hell did you kiss the girl?” The keyboard asked.

“Because she is going to suffer,” I said.  “Suffer a lot.  Too sensitive, too rebellious, too confused.”

“You kissed her in public!”

“On the forehead.”

“In public?”

“In front of a few other students.  Is that public?”

“Isn’t it?”

“Where two or three people are gathered, is it public?”

“Isn’t it?”

“Ok, for argument’s sake.  What’s your problem now?”

“Isn’t your problem mine?  Your fingers slip and Windows has to keep autocorrecting your errors.  I hate it when Windows interferes.”

I laughed.  “Why do you love me so much?” I asked.

“Because I know all your secrets.”

“Really?”

“Hmm. Your touch carries all your secrets.”

I stopped typing.  I went to the dining room and poured a whisky on rocks.  I took a sip and kept the rest near my laptop.

And put my fingers on the keyboard.

“Upset with something?” asked the keyboard.

“Shit,” I said.

“No, just the opposite.”

I took another sip.

“Celebrating New Year?” asked Keyboard.

“Yup.”

“Got a greeting?”

I gasped.  Cnt keep dstnce as lng as u leave futprnts. Wll fllw u in new yr. Happy New Year.  I recalled the message.

“Yup,” I said again.

“Another girl who will have to be kissed on the forehead?”

“I don’t want. I’m tired.”

“You are not.  The public make you feel so.”

“I can’t bear it anymore.”

“What?”

“Innocent love.”

“Suffering?”

“The year is dying. Can we take leave?”

Keyboard laughed.  Like a madman.  I emptied my whisky on rocks.

“Happy New Year,” said Keyboard.

“Cheers!” I said. 

“Hey, stop!”  Keyboard said as I was about to shut down the laptop.

“Kya?” I asked.  Hindi comes to me when I’m irritated.

“Did you notice that lovin was not autocorrected in your opening para?”

“Para? Damn it!  Happy New Year to you.”




Saturday, December 30, 2017

Educating for life


Benjamin Bloom’s model (known as Bloom’s Taxonomy) is an ideal approach to the educational process.  It classifies educational learning objectives into three domains: cognitive, affective and psychomotor. 

While the cognitive domain is knowledge-based and deals with processes such as memorising, comprehending, applying, analysing, synthesising and evaluating, the affective domain deals with the child’s emotions and attitudes.  The psychomotor domain handles the practical side like making use of tools effectively.

The education process largely focuses on the cognitive domain and fills the students with theoretical knowledge.  Certain subjects like physics, chemistry and biology have practical classes which take care of the psychomotor domain to some extent, though in a very limited way. 

Acquisition of abstract knowledge for the sake of passing written examinations is almost the only purpose of education today.  Even that does not reach the higher levels proposed by Bloom.  A student should be able to make use of his knowledge in order to create something new, to “build abstract knowledge” of his own, at the highest level in the cognitive domain.  For example, learning a poem should lead to the composition of a new poem by the student.  Or a student should be able to take a mathematical theorem beyond comprehension to application: create a new theorem, for example, or apply the theorem to solving some new problem. 

The affective domain is ignored by and large in today’s educational system.  CBSE introduced something called Value Education in order to work on the affective domain.  But it has failed to achieve the purpose.  In fact, it has become just like the cognitive domain: a value based question is asked in the examination and that’s all.  There is no way of checking the values and principles, attitudes and outlooks of the student, let alone shaping them.  

If we can take care of the affective domain, our education system will become much more effective in creating better citizens. 

As Ivan Illich argued in his book, Deschooling Society, our education system creates psychological impotence.  Our schools create or seek to create professionals who will serve the existing socio-political system which revolves round wealth and little else.  You become a doctor or an engineer or anything else in order to earn a good income and attain a certain status in society, and not for serving the people with your skills.  Thus we have coaching centres in addition to schools for helping students gain admission to best institutions.  Or else parents can pay heavy capitation fees and buy admission in such institutions.  It’s mostly about buying the seat, buying the skills and then selling those skills.  This should change.  That calls for what Thomas Kuhn called ‘paradigm shift.’ 

Our educational system should change the focus from creating professionals to unfolding the unique individual in each student. 


PS. Written for IndiSpire Edition 202: #LearnNotEducate

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Great Indian Hero Awards


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Here we are at the close of 2017.  Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, the Bard declared some four centuries ago.  But we now live in a different world where heroes are the happiest people.  That’s all the more reason to celebrate them.  Welcome to The Great Indian Hero Show.

The Machiavelli Award of the year goes to

Yup, you guessed it right

to

None other than

Our Most Beloved, His Highness, the Gym Chested, the Bravado among the Bravest, the Star among Superstars, the Gulliver among Voyagers, the Chanakya of the 21st Century, our very own Prayan Mantri, Mr Narendra Modi.  Niccolo Machiavelli, the author of the classical handbook for rulers – The Prince – said: “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”  Mr Modi has successfully trapped foxes and frightened lions right from the year 2002 till date.  He has proved right the Machiavellian saying that it is much safer to be feared than loved.  Look at the way his enemies are cowering in fear when new rules are passed with the ease of snapping fingers and tapping feet.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, India is proud of this Superstar, this man who has visited more countries than any Prime Minister of India, who has more sent shivers down the spines of kingdoms than any king of any country, the man who can make your money black or white overnight, the man who can make you a king or a beggar with the snap of a finger, a man who can transmute the entire history of a nation, who can do plastic surgery on God Ganesha, yes, ladies and gentlemen, The Machiavelli Award of the year for the most penetrating ruler goes to



The Durvasa Award of the Year goes to

Yup

Who else but our very beloved Yogi who has cast the most diabolic curses on the enemies of the nation.  And has exculpated himself from the countless criminal charges against him with the mere stroke of a pen.  He has proved that the pen is mightier than the sword with the ease of throwing a dead body into the holy Ganga.  He has proved that his state is more literate than Kerala, more tolerant than Sikkim, more beef – sorry, cow-loving – than Nagaland, snowier than Kashmir, holier than Kedarnath, calmer than Kamarup, and ladies and gentlemen, Yogier than Yogi Adityanath, the Durvasa of deshdrohis, the nemesis of you-name-it…



The Veer Savarkar Award

Oh, you guessed it already,

okay then no intros,

goes to

our very contemporary Veer, the veerest of the veer, the unifier of the nation, the Hinduest of all Hindus, the nationalist of all nationalists, the queerest of all queers, the weirdest of all beardless yogis, the greatest moustache among the Sanghis

yes, to one and only Mohan Bhag – yes, bhag, clap your hands ladies and gentlemen, for our own Bhag-Bhag-Bhagwat. 




Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for being part of this Award Ceremony. 

Disclaimer: Why all Right wing people raise their left hand while delivering their pompous promises is still a mystery. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Religious Sins

Book Review
Order your copy Here

There are two types of religion: one which enables us to see the divine in others and the other which is about power, bullying, self-delusion, expediency and psychological consolations.  What we usually see around us is the latter type.  Such religion destroys the genuine religion.  M P Baby’s novel, The Snake Crucified, shows us both the types with a brilliant plot. 

Chacko is a Pulaya (low caste) Roman Catholic living in Karuvankode, a primitive village in Kerala.  Though he is Catholic officially, Chacko practises the ancient religion of his caste.  He is a sorcerer and there is a snake which helps him in sorcery.  The snake reveals the truths to him.  The snake is a kind of god for him.  He does not hesitate to give the Holy Communion (the sacred bread and wine from the church) to his snake.

It is Father Sebastian Maliyekkal who assists Chacko to give the Communion to the snake.  Father Sebastian is an “oversexed” priest who enjoys sexual relationships with nuns as well as lay women.  He has a motive in assisting Chacko to fulfil his desire to give the Communion to the snake.  He will get Chacko’s help in return when he needs it. 

Father Sebastian is a popular Charismatic preacher and counsellor too.  He has led hundreds of Charismatic retreats, healed the sick, performed miracles in the name of Jesus, and counselled hundreds of people to sound health of body and mind.  But there is a devil within him.  Chacko, on the other hand, is a more honest human being.  His religion may be primitive and serpentine but his spirituality is genuine: he won’t harm anyone, he won’t do what his conscience knows is wrong. 

Sister Ajitha cannot accept Chacko’s religion.  She asks Chacko to mend his ways and be a good Christian.  She will, however, come to know more shocking secrets about Father Sebastian soon which will cost her her very life.  The plot moves to a climax of many murders.

Davis Jacob, Chacko’s son who is also a prominent journalist, along with his fiancĂ©e Nisha, is on an investigation to find out who killed his father and what led to his mother’s death.  Davis and Nisha move in and out of the narrative seamlessly bringing the various elements and characters together into a gripping narrative.

The plot is immensely captivating.  However, the novel suffers from a very serious drawback.  The language is atrocious.  There are too many grammatical and spelling mistakes and occasionally the reader is left baffled by what the sentences mean.  There are many infelicitous expressions too.  Taste a sample:

But she (Sister Ajitha) used her step strong to Father Sebastian.  She decided to resist the bond of her orbit…. He bathed in an ocean of sweat…. Face went perfect grotesque. Eyes were pools death swam in.”

A good editor would have made the novel really brilliant.


PS. The novel was given to me for reading by a colleague of mine who is a friend of the author.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Books and 2017

My little library

2017 was a relatively bad year for me where books are concerned.  First of all, I couldn’t read as many as I wished.  Secondly, quite a few of the books I read don’t deserve a second read. 

Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness disappointed me.  “The socio-political activist in the author has superseded the literary artist,” as I wrote in my review.  I concede that we live a painfully fragmented world and writing fiction is a highly challenging job.  How does a writer fathom the depths where too much debris of fragmented things and people, fragmented gods and legends lie scattered in utter chaos?

PaulaHawkins’ The Girl on the Train is thelast book I reviewed in 2017.  “The Number One Bestseller” is a good entertainer and not serious literature.  Evil reeks heavily in every page of the book.  I was left gasping for fresh air by the time I reached the last page of the book.  Once again I was left longing for good literature.

Two of the best history books I read during the year are Christians, a Malayalam book and Sapiens:A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.  The former traces the history of Christianity in the world and in Kerala with the dispassionate authoritativeness of a historian.  The latter is a brilliant look at mankind, its evolution, follies, achievements, and possible future.

Jose Maliekal’s Standstill Utopias? is a book with a difference.  Written by a Catholic missionary priest, it questions the nature of much religious activity carried out in the country with a particular and academic focus on the Madiga people of Andhra.  Teesta Setalvad’s TheFoot Soldier of the Constitution: A Memoir could have been a much better work with a little more editing.

The best book I read in the year (end of 2016, in fact) is MyName is Red by Orhan Pamuk.  Uniquely crafted, intellectually challenging, imaginatively stimulating, the novel is wonderful though it won’t extract a second read from me. 

I look forward to a better year as far as reading is concerned.  I hope to discover some good works in 2018, works that explore the human dilemmas and agonies with breath-taking imaginativeness.   


PS. Written for IndiSpire Edition 201: #Books2017

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A mad man’s Christmas

Fiction

Atami was sick of the blood on his sword.  He wanted to vomit.  That’s why he walked into Helga’s brothel.

“Get me some water to wash first,” he ordered when Helga’s nose puckered involuntarily at the stench of blood.  Helga shuddered at the sight of the blood-drenched sword.  “Then send me your best girl,” Atami growled.  “With enough wine,” he added.

“Not me, please,” Naomi said when Helga asked her to carry the water.

“Why not?” Helga shot an angry glance.

“He is Herod’s soldier.”

“And he looks majestic,” added Helga.  “Maybe you can please him enough and he’ll marry you.  Think of your future girl.”

“I hate Herod and his beasts.”

Naomi had reasons to hate Herod and his soldiers.  She was a descendant of the Hasmonean family which was ruined by Herod.  On Cleopatra’s request, Mark Antony had decided to make Aristobulus Hasmonea the king of Judea.  Herod’s beasts killed Aristobulus and haunted Hasmoneans like a vampire.  Naomi escaped into Helga’s brothel. 

“I’ll kill him,” Naomi said to herself as she carried the water to the ablution. 

“Wash away that,” Atami ordered when Naomi reached with the water.  He was asking her to wash away his vomit. 

“Pour it on me,” Atami ordered when Naomi brought the next pitcher of water.

Water became wine-red as it flowed down Atami’s body.  “How can he bear this cold, cold water?” Naomi wondered. 

Atami dried himself with the linen brought by Naomi and put on the robe given generously by Helga.

“Kings are mad people,” said Atami as he sat in front of the fire lit by Helga who had taken possession of whatever the soldier possessed as she helped him strip himself.  “Herod wanted all infants to be killed because some other kings came from somewhere and said that they had seen a star somewhere….”

Herod’s soldiers went all over the country killing all male infants because three people who called themselves kings from the east visited him and said that a child was born in Judea who would be the king of the Jews. 

“The East is mad,” said Atami as he sipped the wine that Helga kept supplying copiously.  “They have given their madness to Herod now.”

“Wasn’t Herod always mad?” Naomi blurted out.

Helga threw an angry glance at Naomi.

“You’re right, girl,” said Atami.  “I’m sick of him now.  Sick of Herod.  Sick of Antony and his bitch Cleopatra.  Sick of all Caesars.  What are kings but dogs in perpetual heat?”

Naomi and Helga looked at each other.  Helga served more wine to the soldier.  Wine seemed to enlighten him.

“I’m thinking of god,” said Atami. 

“God?” Helga was amused.

“Yup.  Someone told me that God was born on the earth and that’s what set the fire to Herod’s ass.  Some dream or prophecy or whatever shit, you know, the religious people.”

Helga winked at Naomi.  Naomi planted a kiss on the soldier’s stubbly cheek.

Atami pushed her away.

“I’m thinking of god,” he said.  “How will god wash away his sin of killing thousands of infants?  Thousands of innocents!  Thousands of innocents butchered for god’s sake.”

Helga and Naomi stared at each other.  They wondered what they would do with a mad man.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

My Christmas


The only religious festival that buoyed up my spirit when I was a boy was Christmas.  The Holy Week with Good Friday dominating it was the antithesis of Christmas.  Easter didn’t really mean anything much to me except interruption of good sleep to attend the predawn church service.  Christmas too fractured the sleep with its midnight church rituals.  But that was fun too with the crib, the stars, the Christmas tree and the Santa. 

We would spend the entire Christmas Eve preparing the crib at home.  The festive mood that pervaded the entire atmosphere not only at home but also in the village was ebullient. 

My Christmas Tree

There was more to Christmas than all that ebullience, however.  There was romance in it: a feeling of mystery, excitement and otherworldliness.  The myth of Joseph travelling with pregnant Mary braving the winter’s chill through the wilderness of Bethlehem, their helpless search for a place to stay, Jesus’ birth in a cave in the company of cattle, the first carol sung by angels, the shepherds who responded to the heavenly music and the Magi from the east were all copious fodder for a child’s wild imagination.  

Even today, when I have learnt a lot more about Jesus than those childish myths and fables, Christmas has not lost its charm for me – not entirely, at least.  I love the stars and the illumination.  I love the light that accompanies Christmas. 

It doesn’t really matter whether Jesus was born on 25 Dec or some other day.  In all probability, history will never be able to tell us that precise date.  It doesn’t matter whether the angels sang the carol of peace and joy.  But the peace and joy matter much.  Christmas is essentially about peace and joy.  I would like to believe so, at least.

Was Jesus a joyful person?  I don’t think so.  In the novel I’m writing (facing writer’s block currently), Jesus appears as a man who was disillusioned with mankind, as one who embraces the cross in profound helplessness.  Whatever I have read about Jesus has not led me to make even the faintest of assumptions that Jesus ever smiled.  Jesus must have been acutely conscious of the profound absurdity of human existence.  He couldn’t have preached the Sermon on the Mount otherwise, especially what he said about the righteous: that they are sure to be persecuted but they will discover their heaven.  [I have my personal interpretations of Jesus’ teachings.]

No spiritual mystic can be a joyful being, I think.  William James (philosopher-psychologist) argued that insanity can hail from the same psychological source as genuine mysticism.  Melancholy is concomitant with that insanity.  Deepest spiritual truths often emerge from melancholy and some insanity.  Joyfulness is quite a different matter. 

Christmas is joyful.  I love that joyfulness.  I love smiles.  I love stars.  Let me extend joyful Christmas greetings to you whatever Christmas may mean to you.


Friday, December 22, 2017

When the shadow lengthens


When the shadow lengthens in front of me, I know that there is light behind me.  The longer the shadow, the farther the source of light.  Perhaps I need to pause a while or even walk back a little so that the light draws nearer. 

Perhaps there is no going back.  It’s a one way traffic, isn’t it?  The shadow will only grow longer.  We are but dust and shadow, as Horace declared.  What is needed is a discovery of the beauty of the shadow. 


Shadows on the Way
[Bhatti Mines, Delhi]
Not all the ways are smooth,
All shadows are not balmy
[Bhatti village, Delhi]
No shadows: blissful life?
[Najafgarh, Delhi]
An indelible shadow
[Erstwhile Sawan School, Delhi]

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mohan Bhagwat’s Baptism


In his famous novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D H Lawrence predicted the death of the human race where “vitality” is concerned.  He compared the human race to “a great uprooted tree, with its roots in the air” and suggested that “we must plant ourselves again in the universe.”

Hinduism is a religion which ardently believed in the cosmic roots of the human race.  The cosmos is a sacred place and we are its vital parts, according to Hindu scriptures like the Vedas and the Upanishads.  Philosophically Hinduism is one of the most profound views on the meaning of human existence.  It was never exclusive.  On the contrary, it could easily incorporate anything into its cosmic vision.  The Grand Canyon is as sacred as Mount Kailash in that vision.  The Thames is as holy as the Ganga philosophically. 


Mohan Bhagwat’s repeated assertion that all Indians are Hindus is right philosophically.  But then, why only Indians?  In fact, if we go by the logic of Hindu philosophy, all people in the world are Hindus – Tat Tvam Asi

The problem is that neither Bhagwat nor any advocate of Hindutva has understood the profundity of Hindu philosophy.  Hindutva has nothing to do with Hinduism.  Hindutva is born of plain hatred.  V D Savarkar who coined the term Hindutva defined a Hindu as one who was born of Hindu parents and regarded India as his motherland as well as holy land.  This definition narrowed down the cosmic vision of Hinduism to a small geographical area and a very limited religious identity. 

Savarkar’s contemporary M S Golwalkar made a religion out of xenophobia and hatred in general by advocating “race pride.”  He asserted that “The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture ... In a word they … may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizens' rights.” [We, or Our Nation Defined]

Thus the all-inclusive, all-sacred profound vision of Hinduism was subverted into an exclusive and hatred-based religion. 

Mohan Bhagwat is a high priest of that religion.  He has been trying to baptise all Indians into that religion. 

I wonder why anyone would like to migrate to a religion of hatred.  I would still stick to cosmic sanctity of the Vedas and the Upanishads.  Why not?  I would go to the extent of asserting that I am more Hindu than Bhagwat and his type.  Lady Chatterley is as divine as Kunti Devi in that vision.





Monday, December 18, 2017

Power of Solitude


“Hell is other people,” as Jean-Paul Sartre said. In his play, No Exit, three characters arrive in the drawing room of Hell.  There is no fire, no torture, no devils in Hell unlike what their religion had taught.  Soon they realise that hell is other people.  “All those eyes intent on me.  Devouring me.  What?  Only two of you?  I thought there were more; many more. So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the ‘burning marl’. Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE!”

Human beings, including me, are jealous, greedy, manipulative, crooked and wicked.  We make life hell for others.  We enjoy doing that.  In fact, most of life is precisely that: creating hell for others. 

A lot of people who posed themselves as my well-wishers created the hell of my youth.  I lived in perpetual depression for about five years because of my well-wishers most of whom were professionally religious people.  It took me years to gather the courage to say goodbye to such people for ever.  Rather it took me years to realise that my happiness was not dependent on their approval and appreciation; that happiness is my own creation, in the privacy of my home and hearth, in the solitude of my heart.

Religious people create hells both metaphorically and concretely.  Look at what’s happening in India in the last three years and you’ll realise how capable religion is of creating hells for other people.  There’s no escape from other people except the temporary relief you create in your solitude.

We are condemned to live with other people as Sartre argued.  And the other people insist on shaming us, making us feel like disgraceful insects.  I spent my youth fighting that shame. During my middle age I learnt to walk the tightrope between my private joys and the ineluctable public shame.  Now as old age is catching up, I have learnt to smile at that shame which is still a faithful companion. 

My solitude is my strength.  There is someone who loves me in my personal wilderness.  One person.  One who has endured with me the disgrace called life.  She is my strength too.


PS. Written for indiSpire Edition 200: #EmbraceLife

Friday, December 15, 2017

India and Rodomontade

My village: the rodomontade is on the way

Tapioca was a staple food in Kerala as potato was in Ireland.  It went out of fashion when the Malayali learnt not to trust politicians and decided to make his fortune outside the country.  The public school-educated young generation in Kerala today doesn’t appreciate the pristine tang of tapioca.  My grocer in the village sells a few kilograms of the starchy root every day and I am one of the frequent buyers. 

“The price has gone down very much but I am selling it at ₹20 a kg,” he told me as he was weighing one kg for me.  I was silent.  I usually don’t talk much except in the classroom.  “I can buy it for ₹7 a kg from the farmer.  But the poor man won’t even get his transporting charge let alone the cost of cultivating it.  So I bought it for ₹15 a kg.”

“You did the right thing,” I said.  “It’s a pity that the farmers have been reduced to this situation,” I added to myself.

“Shashi Tharoor’s latest contribution to the Indian cacophony is apt,” I said to my wife as we were back in our car having purchased all the grocery we needed.

“Rodomontade!” Maggie repeated Tharoor’s new addition to the nation’s upper class entertainment. 

“Isn’t that what the nation is today?” I asked.  “Just boastful, inflated talk and deeds learnt from a man who rodomontaded silly things like his 56 inch chest.  Where’s all the development he promised?  Instead we have hatred and violence.  And a whole lot of rodomontade about some millennia old civilisation …”

“Sir, give me something, a little help,” a handicapped man stood outside the car.  I had just strapped the seat belt and started the engine.

He was a handicapped man who used to smile at me every time I entered the grocery shop.  He used to stand at the entrance doing nothing but smile at people.  I gave him ₹20. 

“What will I get with this?” he asked.

“One kg of tapioca,” I said as I shifted the gear.

“Jesus will bless you.”  I heard the man’s blessing though an old Malayalam film song had automatically started on the music system of the car.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Girl on the Train

Book Review

Sheer evil perpetrated by a born criminal is not an interesting subject in literature.  But Paula Hawkins’ novel, The Girl on the Train, is not serious literature; it is serious suspense thriller.  The suspense keeps the reader hooked to the end.  The characters are eminently well portrayed too.

The story is primarily about two men and three women.  Rachel, the dominant character, is an alcoholic and divorced wife of Tom Watson who is now living with Anna, his present wife.  Scott Hipwell and his wife Megan are the other two characters.  Dr Kamal Abdic, a professional shrink, has a fairly important role too.

Megan’s disappearance and the eventual recovery of her dead body forms the crux of the suspense.  Megan was a “bored, mad, curious” woman with a past.  The boy with whom she fell in love at the age of 15 died in accident leaving a vacuum in her heart.  The next man whom she learnt to love abandoned her when their little child died due to Megan’s carelessness. 

Scott is a loving and caring husband though he has enough reasons to be suspicious of his wife.  Megan, after all, has her sexual adventures with other men though Scott is unable to discover any proof.  She is a good seducer.  Dr Abdic manages to save himself from her seductiveness.  But there are enough men in the world who will be too happy to embrace a beautiful blond woman who offers herself freely, wantonly.  She pays a heavy price for her nature.

Who is her killer?  The suspicion falls initially on Dr Abdic before it shifts to her husband Scott.  Real villains sometimes have the most suave personalities, however.  Even Rajesh Gujral, an Indian artist who exhibited his paintings in the gallery where Megan worked for a while, can be suspected. 

Rachel is the primary narrator of the novel.  She is an alcoholic whose memory cannot be relied upon.  She retains her husband’s surname even after their divorce because she genuinely loves him.  She continues to disturb Tom Watson’s new family life because of her inability to let bygone love be bygone.  Anna finds her a nuisance as well as a potential threat to her married life.  The novelist is eminently successful in portraying feminine jealousies and possessiveness. 

Megan had worked for a brief period for the Watsons as a child-minder.  Did she arouse Anna’s jealousy enough to invite murder?  Well, just anyone can be the murderer in this novel.  That’s what makes the novel an intoxicating read.

If you are looking for serious literature about evil, this book is not for you.  But if it is a gripping suspense thriller that you want, this is highly recommended.




Yours truly


I’m celebrating the occasion of my blog crossing a viewership of four lakh.   

First of all, thank you reader for being here.  Every writer loves to be read, I believe.  I’m glad you’re here and obliged to you too.  When I began blogging I had no more than a score or two of readers per day.  Today the daily view of the blog averages around 200.  That matters because it encourages me substantially.

Secondly, my blog is the place where I have placed all my hopes and despairs, joys and sorrows, thoughts and feelings quite unabashedly.  It is my alter ego, so to say.  It is the place where I have questioned myself as much as the world around me.  It is the place where I learnt some of the greatest lessons of life.

It is the place where I realised that I am no more than an insignificant speck in this vast cosmos of millions of galaxies.  It is the place that taught me to chip away my flatulent ego.  My blog enlarged my imagination beyond the constricted horizons gifted by gods of small things towards the endlessly expanding edges of infinity.  I grew wings.  I long to fly away.  Toward infinity.

My yearnings lie somewhere beyond there.  Beyond the one hundred billionth galaxy.  In the meanwhile, while I am on the way, I take a pause to say thank you.  Your presence here is an added feather on my wings.




Monday, December 11, 2017

Values

That trickling sweat has more value than all words, words, words

The greatest tragedy of evolution is that when the ape descended from the tree its heart refused to evolve.  The brain evolved and continues to do so giving us better and better technology.  The heart remains primitive giving us more and more violence and crimes.

Contradictory as it may seem, the solution lies in making people more rational.  The plain truth is that our thoughts determine our feelings and behaviour.  Irrational thoughts produce irrational behaviour.  If I think that my religion is the only correct religion and my god is the only true god, I’ll go around inflicting my religion and god on others.  The solution is to question my thinking.  Is my religion the only correct one?  Is my god the only true god?  That is rational thinking. 

Take it at a still more practical level.  My worth depends on the appreciation I receive for the works I do.  This is irrational thinking.  People will love me only if I am fair and lovely.  This is irrational thinking.  I have to be a winner wherever I am and whatever I’m doing.  This is irrational thinking.  Yet most people are driven by such thinking.  Hence we have unnecessary competition, rivalry, jealousy, greed, and all the sins that pollute the Ganga endlessly. 

Hence the first thing to do is to develop rational thinking.  Challenge your thoughts rationally and you begin to see a different world.  Life changes.  Magic descends into life.  The rainbow begins to glitter behind the clouds. 

The conflict between the heart and the brain begins to melt.  That leads to integrity, the second value (the first being rational thinking).  Integrity means wholeness.  Reason and emotion are synchronised to create a symphony.  Life becomes as sweet as mellifluous music.  Plain honesty becomes the habit.  Masks vanish.  You are what you are.  You don’t have to pretend.  You don’t have to go around exercising your oratorical skills to hoodwink people to vote for you.  People will vote for you.  You don’t have to spend crores on publicity.  People see through you.  People see your integrity.  They admire you.  You are the real hero. 

Real heroism is driven by compassion. The real hero understands the situation with clarity.  Genuine understanding leads to our obligation towards fellow beings, towards the planet, towards even the stone on which we tread. 

The genuine hero is not sarcastic.  The genuine hero is not cynical.  The genuine hero does not need oratory and histrionics.  Propaganda is out.  Advertisement is redundant.  Words are not required.  Actions speak.  Action.  Action that emerges from rational thinking, integrity and compassion.  A brave new world emerges. 

My dream.  My utopia.  My contribution to IndiSpire Edition 199: