Monday, January 30, 2017

Gandhi still matters


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 time, any place.

If Gandhi insisted on keeping India undivided, it is because he believed unconditionally in the essential unity of human beings in spite of the superficial differences such as religion or caste or language or whatever.  You can be a Hindu or a Muslim or atheist and still be a good human being living in harmony with other human beings.  For Gandhi, Independence actually meant that liberation from narrow selfish considerations such as religion-based love.

Independence is not just political liberation.  Independence is liberation of the soul (or consciousness for those who can’t accept the concept of soul) from parochialism, narrow nationalism, linguistic jingoism, or any such consideration which divides one section of the country against another.

Gandhi wept when Jawaharlal Nehru celebrated the fulfilment of India’s tryst with destiny because the nation stood pathetically divided into Hindus and Muslims who were killing one another especially in the borderlands.  Such Independence meant nothing to him. 

Those who could not grasp the magnanimous vision that the Mahatma taught were filled with hatred.  Religious hatred, the most pernicious evil in Gandhian vision.  They fired bullets into the Mahatma’s heart. 

Their spirit continued to flourish in the country and today that spirit has become more dominant than any other.  That is why Gandhi is ever more relevant today.  If only the peddlers of hatred sat down for a few weeks to study and understand what Gandhi stood for, our country would be a guiding beacon to the world.  

Related posts:


Sunday, January 29, 2017

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 Chetan gained entry into the Palace.  Raghav was a musician par excellence.  He knew magic too.  Using his magic he gained entry to my dark, secret chamber.  I invited him to teach me magic. 

He taught me to listen to the music of the stars.  His magic took me to worlds beyond, far beyond, the dark chamber where I lived like a prisoner.  Music and magic – they intoxicate the soul.  The intoxication stripped me of my inhibitions and I made passionate love with my husband the King.  The King enjoyed the love making.  But his soul was caught in a dilemma.  How did this Rajput woman lose the inhibitions that her culture had put on her like inflexible chains of steel?

The suspicion cost Raghav Chetan his job. 

“Paint his face black,” the King ordered to the soldiers who had brought Raghav Chetan bound with steel chains. “Then put him on a donkey’s back and take him through the city streets.  Let the people jeer him for defiling sacred music with black magic.”

Raghav Chetan’s magic failed to save him.  My magic died the moment I peered through the veils to see my magic man in chains.  Magic is the music of the soul.  Veiled souls cannot produce magic.

Raghav Chetan was exiled after the humiliation.  He went to Delhi and made friends with the Sultan Alauddin Khilji.

“Is she really as beautiful as you describe?”  The Sultan asked Raghav Chetan.  I heard it in the magic of my soul whose veils were lifted by the post-coital stupor when the King my husband lay beside me exhausted unlike a Rajput warrior. 

“She is the finest mist that descends from the highest heaven, my Lord,” crooned Raghav Chetan.  “She is the moonbeam that can elevate you to the seventh heaven.  She is the queen of the houris in Paradise...”

Raghav Chetan’s black magic transmuted the Sultan’s soul.  The soul acquired a veil.  The veiled soul drove the Sultan to Mewar.  He entered the Chittor Palace with his veiled soul. 

“I want to see Queen Padmavati,” he demanded imperiously. As if I was his Queen.

Rawal Ratan Singh trembled.  In spite of the bravery and nobility fed into his veins by the Rajput tradition, Rawal Ratan Singh trembled.  My soul could sense the stirrings in Rawal Ratan Singh’s veins. 

“He is too powerful for us,” my husband pleaded with me in the dark secret chamber where we used to make love night after night, unveiling my soul.

“He can see me,” I said to my husband’s visible relief.  “But on a condition.”

My husband looked at me anxiously.

“He can see my reflection in a mirror.  That too with you standing near him and a hundred of my maids standing around me in a semicircle.”

My husband, the Rajput warrior, mustered the courage to convince the Sultan. 

My soul sensed the terror that was to come soon.

“I want her,” pronounced the Sultan.  “For myself.”

Private property.  His private property.  That’s what I would be unless my present owner killed him in a war.

The horses neighed.  Swords clashed.  Brave and noble Rajput warriors gave up their lives for the honour of their Beauty Queen. 

How could the Queen ignore those sacrifices?  Thousands of men sacrificed themselves for my honour?  I had no other way but defend that same honour.  The honour of the most beautiful property of the kingdom. 

“Maids,” I called.  “Let the flames guard the Rajput honour.”

Raghav Chetan’s music descended like the finest mist on my soul, that would put on no more veils, as the flames rose all around me and my maids.



Friday, January 27, 2017

Messing up Messiahs


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 repeat, absolutely nothing good came of all the chipping they did. 

Wanting to be the Messiah in somebody’s life may be a noble wish in religions.  In actual life the cross is the best place for the Messiah.  If you are not happy with others save yourself from them by embracing your own cross.  Let others be.  There are thousands of religions in the world.  Millions of religious preachers.  Billions of prayers rise to the heavens every moment.  But the world has not become any better a place.  And it’s not going to be any better with all the gods and their chipping Messiahs. 

You can at best be an example by living your life as well as you please.  One good deed from you may inspire a gargoyle to smile instead of smirk. One good word can do far more than a thousand chisels when it comes to walking gargoyles. 

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 154. #LessonOfLife

 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Friends



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 the importance of the distance between oneself and such religions. 

Today the place belongs to neither him nor me.  The Baba encroached upon it, cut down every single tree, demolished the buildings and converted the entire area into parking space for his devotees’ vehicles.  A lot of morality is preached on those arid grounds these days.  Thousands of people listen to the sermons.  They greet each other with a formula.  They utter formulas and call them prayers.  They belong to a community.

The peacock and I don’t have communities.  We don’t use formulas to greet each other.  We don’t sermonise or moralise.  We don’t sing alleluias to godmen and their cronies. As a result, today we live in two different worlds rendered apart by a few thousand kilometres.  He must have found a new perch just as I have found a nest far away from holy people.  I miss him sometimes, though. 




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Dying for light


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 which will eventually acquire wings and die after the ritual mating.  

And another generation of alates will be born somewhere in the darkness of the soil.  They too will be weary of the darkness.  Longing for light, they will acquire wings.  They will find the light. And the light will kill them.

They have taught me why men are afraid of the light.







Monday, January 23, 2017

Bulls and men


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 find it all rather obnoxious. But my personal feelings should not stand in the way of the world’s entertainments.  Let me entertain myself with words.  Words are the best drugs in a world of sanctimonious insanity.

Those days are gone when the world was starved of entertainments.  Yet why do we need these cruel games?  Probably, it’s not so much about entertainments as something else.  Is it about letting out the steam in our psyches?  Catharsis, as Aristotle put it.  A releasing of our inner terror?  An exorcism for the devils within.  Catharsis is required.  So is exorcism.  Inner terrors and devils are real.

The Supreme Court and the governments must have realised that their powers are not absolute.  You can’t take us for granted, the people of Tamil Nadu have taught them.  India is going through a time when so many decisions are imposed from the top by the Prime Minister as well as the Supreme Court.  The Jallikattu protestors have made it clear that too much of this top-down style won’t work.  There’s a limit to what the country will take.  We are not in the days of kings who could entertain themselves at the cost of the people to any extent.  We can clap for one or two surgical strikes and other histrionics.  But you can’t take us for a ride every day. 

The bulls are the scapegoats in the end.  What to do?  Kuch pane ke liye kuch khona padta hai, hai na?  Dear bulls, your loss is our gain.  Take pride in your sacrifice. You are an integral part of our heroic sagas.  You assimilate our insanity as well as our bullshit.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Trump’s Two Bibles



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 teaching.  She uses religion to become richer.  You become rich and help us also to become rich by giving us a share of your income in the name of God.  Her religion is quite as simple as that.  “The richer you are, the more God loves you,” she preaches.  God is listening to her prayers if her wealth is any indication.  No wonder Trump loves her. 

Samuel Rodriguez is another right wing preacher who yokes wealth with his god and was invited to pray on the occasion of the swearing-in.  In addition to his abiding faith in wealth, he believes that the religious freedom of Christians is under threat in America and Trump will be the Messiah of the Christians.  Interestingly, in his first Presidential address, Trump proclaimed himself as the leader of the “lost” people.  Should we hear it as the “lost sheep” of the Bible?

Franklin Graham, son of America’s most renowned evangelist Billy Graham, also blessed Trump on the swearing-in occasion with his physical presence.  Graham Jr sees devils everywhere: in LGBT people and their supporters, Muslims, “the progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton,” and secularism, to name a few.  One of his professed goals is to place the American school education system in the hands of evangelical Christians.

With so much of religious fervour for company, Trump did well with two bibles beneath his palm.  

The tragedy is that most people who display their religious fervour so conspicuously end up creating hells for others.  If people are willing to donate their money in order to make Paula White richer, it’s their problem and we need not concern ourselves with it.  But when those who refuse to make the donations or accept the hate-filled teachings of these preachers as gospel truths are labelled as the lost sheep (or “anti-national” as it happens in India), there is bound to be a problem.  That’s why Trump’s double-bible-swearing is portentous.




Friday, January 20, 2017

Stained Reality


“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 one awareness: about his mother’s marital infidelity and his uncle’s role in it.  The awareness turned Hamlet’s world upside down.  The mental filters were transmuted and the sensitive poet became an impulsive killer.


Reality is not something fixed once and for all.  Reality is what you and I perceive and comprehend. Science tells me that my modest body (modest in physical size) is the equivalent of 30 very large hydrogen bombs.  Yeah, an ordinary human body contains no less than 7x1018 joules of potential energy which is what 30 big hydrogen bombs release on explosion. So am I just a bundle of atoms?

It depends on which filter you are looking through.  For the nuclear scientist I am a huge reservoir of protons, electrons and neutrons.  For my religious friends, I am a soul in dire need of redemption.  Are souls made up of protons and electrons?  The scientist may laugh at the question.  Souls are too ethereal to be caught in the scientific filter.

Reality is what the filters of your mind catch.  The cow may be potential steak or kinetic gaumata depending on your mental filters.  Jallikettu is a cultural fest or brutality to oxen depending on your mental filters. 

So what is reality?  Reality is what you see and understand.  Blessed are those who can see from many angles and comprehend different perspectives; a whole world of entertainment, if not Shelley’s white radiance of eternity, is theirs.


PS. Written for Indispire Edition 153: #RealityMyPerspective

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Nationalism is Treason


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.  Isn’t this happening in India now?

Nationalism is treason because it cannot solve any real problem.  It puts the nation on the back foot by diverting attention from practical solutions to abstract loyalty to the nation and its symbols.  For example, when the people of India struggle to extract their own money from the ATMs or their banks, they are told to suffer the agony comparing themselves with the soldiers fighting on the borders.  Nationalism becomes an excuse, a lame one, instead of finding solutions to the problem at hand.  This is a betrayal of the country if you look at it from the progress or development angle.  You want your countrymen to have better services.  Instead of addressing the problems related to the lack of services, the government machinery sells you nationalism.  Is it pro-nation?  Not at all.  On the contrary, it is anti-national in the sense that it is against the interests of the nation.  Yet, ironically, the one who is demanding what is in the interests of the nation gets portrayed and punished as anti-national!

Nationalism breeds narrow-mindedness.  It makes us think that our country, its culture or religion or language or whatever, is the best and others are detestable.  It makes us hate others without valid reasons.  It shrinks our vision and imagination.  It narrows down truths and the avenues to truths. 

We live in a world where cooperation has become more necessary than ever.  If the hole in the ozone layer above India is a result of what America is doing with its craze for the most sophisticated technology, it becomes the duty of America to cooperate with India to solve the problem.  Neither country can afford to rest conceitedly on its spirit of nationalism.

Our love for our country need not limit our love for others.  More importantly, it is silly to imagine that our culture or language or whatever is the best.  It is even more stupid to hate others on account of their culture and other contingent features.

Nationalism is on the rise in India these days.  A lot of people get branded as anti-national.  The simple truth is that these people who are branded as anti-national are far better human beings than the nationalists.  The simple truth is that nationalism does not serve any useful purpose in a country which is not dominated by any external force.  The simple truth is that India today does not need nationalism; it needs solutions to the manifold problems it faces.


Sadhvi Deva Thakur, one of our ideal Nationalists

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Capitalist Jungle


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 livelihood working in subhuman conditions.  You will find them using the railway tracks as their toilets though they may have a mobile phone in hand by which they may be arranging the day’s work as you pass them by in the train on the other track. 

Capitalism is about wealth creation at any cost.  At the cost of your fellow human beings.  At the cost of environment.  At the cost of anything.  Is that really different from the law of the jungle?

Capitalism is about winning.  We are all born to win, tell the gurus paid for by capitalists.  The gurus are also lions who feed on the gullible gazelles. 

Going by the theory of evolution, capitalism and the gurus are both right.  There is no equality among human beings if we look from the viewpoint of evolution.  We are all differently abled.  [That euphemism comes in handy here.]  Some are abler than others in various ways.  Equality is an ideological construct.  It is a concept we created in order to promote the welfare of all the members of the species in spite of the weaknesses and liabilities of certain sections or individual members.  It means that every member of the species has an equal right to certain things like legal protection, food and water, shelter, and so on. 

Capitalism, however, denies that idea.  It says that you compete for whatever is available there.  You compete for the 4G spectrum, for example.  There is an auction and the highest bidder gets it. 

Rights to belong to the highest bidder in capitalism.  The highest bidder can monopolise anything in such a system.  Even drinking water.  Even the air we breathe.  Those who cannot bid for clean air and clean water can suffocate to death, die of thirst.  Or die slowly breathing the polluted air and drinking the contaminated water.

Won’t there be a problem in the future then?  Can the lions survive without the gazelles?  Will the lions start eating one another once the gazelles become extinct?  Well, monopoly is about swallowing the same kind, isn’t it?  In the jungle, however, the animals don’t stoop so low.  Usually.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Arun Shourie on Narendra Modi


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 Gandhi’s because the latter relied on the law machinery for imposing her will on the people while Mr Modi supports people who “act outside the law”.  People’s rights are being choked to death.  “... the Right to Information (RTI) is being choked, the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is being denigrated unless it’s in your favour. The judiciary is being denigrated...”

Mr Modi is a bully

Mr Shourie says that like all bullies Mr Modi gets easily frightened.  When something wrong, he immediately panics and announces some populist schemes.  Like bullies, he resorts to intimidation and abuse when that suits him.  “Anybody who opposes Modi is immediately embroiled in cases – like Pradeep Sharma, the [IAS] official in Gujarat, and Teesta Setalvad. A third instrument towards the same end is all Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to be put in the dock and then to be intimidated and troubled.”

Mr Modi and antinationals

India has been divided into them versus us by Modi and Amit Shah.  “... if you look at Modi versus the cabinet, there is nobody, Modi and the party, there is no party – only Modi and Shah. Look at the choice of chief ministers – [Vijay] Rupani [of Gujarat], [Devendra] Fadnavis [of Maharashtra], [Manohar Lal] Khattar [in Haryana] – persons who do not have any base at all.”  Anyone who questions them is antinational and may be asked to go to Pakistan.   They might even face death threats.  Arvind Kejriwal’s allegation that Mr Modi wants to kill him is not false because Mr Modi supports those who act as his hounds and will do the hunting for him. 

You can read the whole interview HERE.



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dreams


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, drank some water from the bottle always kept near the bed and went back to sleep.  Peacefully.  The dream belongs to my category of ‘neither sweet nor scary’.

Dreams are closely associated with the deeper layers of our minds.  They may reflect our fears and anxieties, longings and aspirations, emotional conflicts, etc.  I don’t believe in life after death.  But I consider death as the inevitable end which is a welcome relief once you think you have had enough on the earth. 

There are billions of galaxies in the universe and each galaxy has billions of stars and their planets.  They are all held together by certain laws such as gravity.  They all came from the same origin in the beginning.  A singularity.  A point of extremely compressed matter with tremendous energy.  Unable to contain the energy any further, it exploded one day. And spread out forming stars and planets.  Not heavens and hells.  Any such place as heaven and hell would make the universe impossible.  The universe has its own laws which are contrary to the arbitrariness of a God, say, who will appear gloriously on a cloud one day and set us all (human beings) on his left and right and condemn us either to hell or to heaven according to his judgment of our lives.  The hell must have its own hilarious share of arbitrariness since it is inhabited by anarchists and iconoclasts.  No, the universe is too complex a system to be sustained by such arbitrariness.  Even the black hole has the decency to stick to the laws that sustain the universe unlike the gods and spirits in our myths and creeds.

Those three spirits in my dream came from my mind which was shaped partly by Christianity with its Arab-looking angels, Catholic priests who wear the same Arab robes (for reasons I have never understood) and later by my own experiences and understanding of life which found more meaning in stars and black holes than gods and devils.  The dream may point to some death wish which has caught my fancy recently.  It may also point to a lot of jokes which keep rising and falling in my conscious mind as I revisit in my reflections the innumerable ghosts that haunted my life.


PS. Written for Indispire Edition 152: #Dreams

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Modi ejects Gandhi


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 star and a neutron star. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

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.  The cover showed a flying fish.  The book was written by the scientist Francis Willughby and sponsored by the Royal Society.  The Society went broke after publishing the book.  There were no takers for a book of ichthyology, study of fishes, that is.

It was then that Edmond Halley – yeah, that very same man after whom the comet is named – suggested the publication of Sir Newton’s masterpiece.  If fish cannot sell, how can mathematics?  The Royal Society put its foot down heavily on Halley’s recommendation of Newton. 

Halley sponsored the publication himself.  Sir Newton didn’t bother a bit to help.  He was as cool as when he inserted a bodkin into the space between his eyeball and the frontal bone and turned it there a number of times just to know what would happen.  It mattered little to him whether his book was published or not. 

“So, Mr Husain, you are antinational,” said the Inspector of Police as soon as Arjun was brought before him.  The Inspector’s face strangely reminded Arjun of a shark.

Arjun turned back to see the anti-national Husain.

“What the f**k are you turning back for?”  The inspector roared and implicitly accused Arjun of doing unimaginable things to his mother and sister.

“Answer my question, you BC MC,” demanded the Inspector.

“But I’m not Husain. I am Arjun.”

“What do you think this is?  Melon City?  To change your identity as you please?  We’ve got clear reports from our nationalist wing that you refused to stand up while the national anthem was played in the cinema hall.”

“I never visit a cinema hall.”  Arjun was flabbergasted.

None of the police tricks could establish beyond doubt that Arjun was Husain. 

“Do you have an ID card with you?” asked the Inspector finally.

“I have an Aadhar card, a ration card, a PAN card...”

“I see.  Then why the f**k don’t you show us one of them?”

“They are at home.  Even my cow is going to get an Aadhar soon.”  Arjun thought that the mention of a cow would prove his nationalism beyond doubt.

The Inspector glowered at him.

“Sir!” ventured one of the constables.

“What?”

“There’s one way of proving that he is not Husain.”

“What’s that?”

“Check his dick.”

The other constable giggled.

“Hey, I think you’re right.”  The Inspector turned to Arjun and ordered, “Come on, open up.”

Arjun stared blankly at the Inspector.

“Didn’t you hear, you BC MC, what I told you?  Open your zip and show us your dick.”

Arjun’s hands wanted to move to the zip but he was handcuffed.  Mahatma Gandhi winked from the faded portrait nailed behind the Inspector.

The Inspector motioned to a constable to open the handcuff.

Arjun stood with his trousers lying in a mocking curlicue around his ankles.  One of the constables tapped on his organ with his baton before raising it and staring at it. 

“This thing has that thing, Sir,” said the constable.  “He can’t be Husain.”

“Come and show us your Aadhar card tomorrow.”  The Inspector ordered as Arjun walked out of the police station.

Halley was working also as the Royal Society’s clerk.  Arjun continued recollecting the story from where he had stopped when the cops took on him.  Having run out of money after publishing Sir Newton’s Principia, when he demanded his pay, the Soceity gave him the unsold copies of The History of Fishes

Newton’s laws are wrong, chuckled Arjun, in the world of human affairs. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sakshi Maharaj and 40 Lies


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 to face the trial so much so the court had to issue an arrest warrant against him just to bring him to the trial.

In 1999, he defected from BJP to Samajawadi Party simply because he was denied a ticket by the former.  That’s for his ideology.  At that time he declared that the BJP’s policies were not favourable to the poor and backward people.  In fact, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had denied him the ticket because he was an accused in the murder of Brahm Dutt Dwivedi who was a senior BJP leader and cabinet minister in UP.  

An antisocial element who took active part in the demolition of a place of worship and an accused murderer.  What else is Sakshi Maharaj?

In 2000, a college principal in UP filed a complaint against this Maharaj of gang-raping her along with his two nephews.  The Maharaj spent a month in Tihar jail cooling his heels.  As with most high profile cases, this one too “lacked evidence” and the Maharaj continued to reign.

An antisocial criminal, a murderer and rapist “without evidence”, the Maharaj soon proved to be a downright opportunist.  He started ditching his new party and hitched his wagon to BJP once again which was happy to welcome the renegade back home.  Ghar Wapsi.

Murderer, Rapist, Opportunist.  With all the necessary escape routes cut out by a system that is now trying to eradicate black money from the country.  “Laws are like cobwebs which may catch small flies...”  Jonathan Swift smiles in his grave.

A sting operation conducted by STAR TV in 2005 caught the Maharaj misusing the MPLADS funds allotted to his constituency.  The Rajya Sabha to which he belonged then sought his expulsion.

In 2009, the Maharaj was accused of misappropriating Rs 2,500,000 from the funds of a college owned by him.  The inquiry named Sujata Verma, Principal of the college.  She was soon found murdered and the Maharaj absconded but was caught soon.  An eyewitness confessed that the Maharaj’s brother pulled the trigger on the lady.  The Maharaj went underground.

He emerged later as a BJP MP.  He is also an educationist with 17 institutions under his care.  God save his students.  He runs several ashrams in the country.  God save his devotees.

 And God save us from such leaders.




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