Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My scepticism is still chaste



“Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily,” ordained American philosopher George Santayana.  Santayana being a Catholic atheist, his obsession with chastity is understandable.  I relinquished my chastity one evening with the ease with which I had the first taste of whisky.  But scepticism has continued to be a loyal companion till date. Not even litres of whisky could defrost my scepticism which is more deep-rooted than a contemporary right winger’s bhakti.

Source: Newsclick
Right from venerable Advani ji’s Ram Rath Yatra in 1990 to the present day clandestine yatras made by cash from Indian public sector banks to foreign countries, almost everything that the right wing of my country has achieved made my eyebrows arch though without drawing attention like Priya Prakash Varrier’s arches.

From the time the right wing ascended the throne in Indraprastha four years ago, my scepticism is longing for relinquishment.  Catholic atheists find it difficult to let certain things go, however. 

The amount of money that a few capable Indians looted from the nation’s public sector banks before finding their safe heavens abroad is beyond my understanding though I am quite good at mathematics.  How many zeroes are there, for example, in the amount that Nirav Modi alone looted?  I can’t count when you say ₹12700 crore.  Then there are the others like Vikram Kothari.  Who can ignore the classical Vijay Mallya who pioneered the way?

The non-performing assets (NPA) of the country’s public sector banks rose from ₹2.3 lakh crore in 2014 to ₹6.8 lakh crore in 2017 and it keeps rising.  Lakh crore.  Do you know how many zeroes are there?  I don’t. The figure is beyond my imagination.

All that money with countless zeroes was given to just a few individuals in the country.  The Ambanis, Adani and the Vedanta guy, whose plants and factories were set up by grabbing thousands of acres of land belonging to farmers and tribal people, were the chief beneficiaries.  The people whose names appear in the Forbes list of the richest persons of the world owe the largest amounts to Indian banks.  And what do the banks do to recover their debts?

The banks impose fine on the poorest people in the name of minimum balance, ATM charges, non-payment of agricultural loan instalments, and so on.  Then there are the ever escalating prices of essential commodities and the hydra-headed taxes.

Maybe, we will see more and more rich people leaving the country soon to settle down comfortably abroad.  I hope our politicians also will do the same.  Will the country be able to begin anew then from the scratch, even with ‘cleaned up’ banks, after all the vanishing acts perpetrated by our prestidigitators?

The questions keep rising irresistibly. That’s why I wish my scepticism had given way to bhakti.  Without blind bhakti you can’t survive tough times.




Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Leaves of Autumn



Of late the season of autumn has gripped my fancy like a haunting ghost.  I know I have entered the autumn of my life.  The leaves have begun to fall and the shadows have begun to lengthen.  Every leaf has a story to tell.  The darkness of the shadow is directly proportionate to the intensity of the light behind you.  Let the shadow darken and let the leaves tell their tales.

Source: Here
That’s why I decided to participate in an A2Z challenge offered by a blogging community.  My A2Z may begin with Abracadabra and end on a magical Zenith.  I’m inviting magic to enter my blogspace.  I want the magic to create new leaves in place of the fallen ones. 

I want to preserve the breeze that brings the leaves down.  The footprints cast by the rambling shadow should remain in spite of the breeze that spreads dust over them.  Before the horizon begins to be suffused with dusk’s darkness, I want to weave a magical carpet that will carry me away to a gentle world far, far away, my dream world.

There will be leaves in that world too.  Autumn has a strange beauty with its fallen leaves.  Autumn is “the blight man was born for,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins told his poetic persona, Margaret, in Spring and Fall.  The little girl, Margaret, is grieving over the falling leaves in Goldengrove.  “It is Margaret you mourn for,” says the poet.  That is the human condition.  But I am going to do the opposite.  I am going to celebrate the falling leaves by creating my own leaves, my A2Z posts.

I am taking the Challenge of April with Blogchatter, are you? 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Vanishing Acts


Book Review

Title: Vanishing Acts
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 978-0-340-83549-4

Memory is a very unreliable thing.  Most of us keep on recreating our memories to make ourselves feel comfortable and the illusions created in the process of those modifications are necessary to make life bearable.  In the words of Jodi Picoult, “… after a while, you believe the fiction you’ve told yourself so well that you cannot remember the fact upon which it was based.”

Vanishing Acts is about the role of memories in human life.  Andrew Hopkins is arrested at the age of 60 for kidnapping his own daughter 28 years ago.  Delia was just 4 then and her name was Bethany Matthews.  Andrew changed his name as well as his daughter’s as he took her to another place in order to avoid being caught.  He was divorced from his wife and she was given custody of their daughter.  Andrew was allowed to visit her and what he saw during one of those visits forced him to kidnap her.  Delia was just 4 years old then.  But she has certain dormant memories which are activated during Andrew’s trial.  How reliable are those memories, however?  That is an interesting question raised in the novel.

Delia now has a little daughter by Eric who is going to marry her.  Fitz, their childhood friend, is also in love with Delia.  All these four characters – Delia, her father and her lovers – present an interesting insight into human memories as well as motives.  Love is the dominant motive.  Eric is an alcoholic which works against him in winning over Delia totally.  Fitz is a friend and little more than that as far as Delia is concerned.  Fitz loves her so genuinely that he can give up anything for her sake including herself.  Putting it another way, “When you love someone, you want her to have everything she wants,” even if that everything includes another man.

That’s a saintly approach to life and such saints don’t make interesting characters in a novel.  Even Andrew turns out to be a feeble character when he is arrested, burdened by an unnecessary sense of guilt.  This could be a reason why this particular novel of Picoult’s didn’t attain the degree of success that the others did.  Nevertheless, the questions raised about the role of memory in human life are worth pondering about.

The novel has quite a few thought-provoking sentences such as: “Maybe Fate isn’t the pond you swim in but the fisherman floating on top of it, letting you run the line wild until you are weary enough to be reeled back in.”


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Aami – Movie Review



To be a poet is to suffer deeply.  The better a poet you are, the greater your inner agonies.  Aami surveys the inner turmoil that bilingual poet Kamala Das (Madhavikutty in Malayalam) went through for most part of her life.  Married at the age of 15 to man 20 years her senior, Kamala (Aami as she is called at home) did not receive the kind of affection she longed for from her husband.  As narrated in Kamala’s autobiography, My Story, her husband ‘raped’ her in the night of their marriage.  Kamala would have loved to get some affectionate fondling from him, at least to have him caress her face after that love-making, a touch on her belly, some expression of affection, instead of being treated like an object of sexual pleasure.


The longing for affection can create acute inner pains, especially when it is denied to a poet with intense passions.  Kamala said in her autobiography that she found an alternative in a man who made love to her passionately.  In the movie that man becomes Lord Krishna.  Kamala’s passionate love-making with a man who “was famous for lust, whose sexual gratification made me happier than the insane sexual urges he aroused in me” becomes her fantasies with Lord Krishna in the movie. Kamala Das had, in the autumn of her life, interpreted her own candid writing as her fantasies. 

Krishna appears as her solace throughout the movie.  Her husband appears as a man who is prosaically pragmatic. He also had a gay friend.  His homosexuality created a further gap between him and Kamala.  Though he overcomes that tendency eventually, Kamala is unable to love him passionately.  Even when she writes her candid autobiography, her husband is only happy to earn some money by selling the candidness.  But human relationships are never simple.  The director, Kamal, manages to portray the complexities that worked out between the passionate poet and her prosaic husband.

The movie also traces the attitude of the Hindu society toward widows when Kamala’s husband dies having acknowledged his wife’s love for him.  A Muslim admirer visits Kamala and arouses her passions once again.  He even manages to get her converted to Islam and change her name to Kamala Surayya.  But when her conversion leads to a communal riot-like situation, the man moves out saving himself.  He was no better than a wind that created some ripples in the water.  The attitude of the ordinary people to religion, both Hindus and Muslims, is shown vividly enough in the movie.  Individuals are of little importance in that struggle to prove the superiority of one’s own religion.  Who cares for your likes and dislikes, your personal freedoms?  What matters is the ascendancy of your religion.

Kamala Das died as Kamala Surayya, but as a terribly disillusioned person, disillusioned with religions.  The movie has successfully dramatized the dilemmas of a poet who struggles between her desire to be herself and her inability to do really so.  The only drawback is that quite often the movie gives us the feeling that we are watching a documentary.  Nevertheless I enjoyed watching it.  I loved the Krishna in the movie.  It is none other than Kamala’s personal god, the god that only each one of us can discover in the deepest core of our hearts in our own unique way, the only way of finding gods.



Saturday, February 24, 2018

Miracles



I developed a nagging backache which forced me to visit a doc.  The doc didn’t even bother to ask me any detail.  As soon as I said backache, he wrote the prescription.  I bought all those medicines simply because in this village where I live the hospital trusts you till the end.  Which means you can’t leave without paying the bill though they won’t ask for any payment until you leave.

The medicines remain untouched but the pain vanished. Miracle
I came home and checked the names of the medicines online.  Antibiotics and antacids and painkillers.  (And a bill of ₹449).  Any medical shop would have given me better ideas.  I didn’t take any of those medicines in spite of Maggie’s scolding.  I challenged the pain with carrying water for my garden.  I challenged the pain without singing alleluia to them.  No Praise the Lord.  No ear-splitting hymns.  Just a challenge to myself. 

Three days. The pain disappeared.  The medicines still remain on my side table in the dining room.  Just to remind me not to go to a hospital the next time if possible.

I wish the doc had at least asked me a question.  I wish the doc had touched my back just for the sake of it.  I wish the hospital didn’t belong to the religion to which my name belongs.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

Pakoda Eaters



I love pakodas.  My tryst with pakodas began when I joined the erstwhile Sawan Public School, Delhi (RIP) as a teacher nearly two decades back.  Most important staff meetings ended with delicious pakodas prepared by the resident cooks of the school. Onion pakodas, chilly pakodas, cauliflower pakodas, paneer pakodas… Oh boy, were they delicious!

Sawan was shut down in 2015 by Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) which razed the entire lot of structures – the school, hostels, staff quarters and hospital – to the ground in order to make parking space for the Baba’s affluent devotees (for the aam devotees, there was ample parking space at a little distance from the ashram).  I migrated to Kerala, to my native place, and missed Sawan’s pakodas along with quite a few other things.

Image from The Wire
One day, as I was returning home from the school where I work now, I saw a man selling pakodas on the roadside.  Nostalgia is a dominant sensation in me, like in many romantically inclined people.  Pakodas, called bhajis here, stirred my fervent sensation of nostalgia.  I guess Tamil people introduced pakodas to Kerala and hence the Tamil name, bhaji, stuck. I bought some bhajis, with nostalgia for Sawan welling up very loyally in my romantic heart, and went home.  But the bhajis didn’t taste like Sawan’s pakodas at all though it was more or less the same stuff.  I never bought bhajis after that.

Now our visionary Prime Minister ploughed up my buried nostalgia for pakodas when he advised the young men of the country to beat unemployment by making pakodas.  I don’t know if life will spring me a surprise by bringing one of those Sawan cooks to my village patriotically following the PM’s advice to make pakodas for the country.  According to available, reliable estimates there are 30-35 lakh migrant labourers in Kerala and many of them had started selling pakodas on roadsides even before the PM exhorted them to do so.

Pakoda should be declared the national snack, since khichdi has already been elevated to the stature of the national food by our Union minister of food.  Pakoda has already penetrated the hymens of the erstwhile unvanquished states.  I think we are on the way to becoming a nation of pakoda eaters who will obsequiously obey our loquacious Prime Minister’s grand unifying vision for the nation.  

My humble suggestion is that the state directorates of education should make it mandatory for schools to distribute pakodas to students while they listen to the PM’s Mann ki Baat.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Love’s Intoxications



“You are the master of vanishing acts,” Kartik told the magician. “Make me vanish.”

The magician smiled.  “What do you mean by make you vanish?”

“I want to disappear from the world. I’m sick of the world.”

“I can’t do that.”

“You make even a train vanish. You made the Taj Mahal vanish once. Why can’t you then make a small creature like me vanish?”

“Magic is just illusions, young man,” the magician continued with his unfading smile which had a magical charm.  “The train doesn’t vanish actually.  Nor does the Taj.”

“Then?”

“I merely divert the viewer’s attention to something else.”

Kartik looked at the magician incredulously.

“Have you ever seen a circus?” Magician asked.

Kartik nodded his head. “Yes.”

“Have you watched the trapeze artistes?”

Kartik nodded again.

“Sometimes the artiste on a trapeze vanishes temporarily from the attention of the audience.  The audience is sitting mesmerised by the artistes jumping from trapeze to another, like a juggler’s pieces flying crazily in the air. Then comes the clown wearing a skirt-like loose garment over his motley.  We expect the clown to catch the next trapeze or to be caught by the artiste on that trapeze, as it happens with the other artistes. But the artiste only catches the clown’s skirt. The clown comes falling down, falling down, with a shriek and with his little limbs flying all around. The audience gasps for a moment. But the clown lands in the safety net and jumps in it comically like only a clown can.  All the while, the trapeze artistes have vanished. It’s their brief rest period. Actually they have not vanished. They are there at their high stations. But the audience’s attention is diverted from them. That’s the vanishing trick.”

Kartik was listening intently. “I understand. Living without attracting attention is the vanishing trick.”

“That’s not going to be easy for you,” Magician said as Kartik was about to turn and leave.

“Why?” Kartik was surprised.

“You belong to the type that can’t vanish even if you want to. You belong to the type that draws people’s attention to themselves even if they don’t want to.”

“How do you know that?”

“I was watching you come in.  As you were walking in, a little girl out there in the yard fell down.  Immediately you bent down, picked her up, patted the dust off her little dress, rubbed her hurt knee, and noticing that she had tripped on her untied shoelace you knelt down before her and tied the lace.”

“So?”

“You are addicted to love. You love the intoxication of love. Anyone who knows such love will draw attention even if he doesn’t want to.”

Kartik stared at Magician blankly. Wistfully. Confused.

“That little girl to whom you gave your love,” Magician continued, “is my daughter.”

“Does that make any difference?” Kartik wondered.

“Not to you, but to me, yes, it does.  And every person you love is somebody’s son or daughter, brother or sister. That way, everybody is connected to you, to any person who is addicted to love.”

Kartik didn’t know what to say.

“Savour your intoxication, young man,” Magician continued. “It’s a good intoxication though it’s dangerous too. It’s good. Dangerous too. Like other intoxications, it can make you what you are not sometimes. Many times. But it’s good. Dangerous too. Live dangerously. Don’t vanish.”


Monday, February 19, 2018

Ivan’s Agony



Ivan Karamazov of Dostoevsky’s novel, The Karamazov Brothers, is a highly tortured character because he cannot accept the given reality.  “I don’t accept this world of God’s,” he tells his brother Alyosha who is a highly spiritual person.  “It’s not that I don’t accept God, you must understand, it’s the world created by Him I don’t accept and cannot accept.”

How can an omniscient and omnipotent God create a world with so much evil?  Ivan’s intellect cannot find a satisfactory answer to that problem.  Ivan wants a world of goodness.  If human beings make use of their rational faculty properly, the world can be a place of goodness.  Ivan is an intellectual who would love to see a coldly moral world, a world in which people’s actions are based on reason. 

Ivan’s father himself is a wicked man who lives by his passions.  His step-brother, Smerdyakov, becomes a murderer because of Ivan’s cold philosophy.  Ivan is shocked beyond endurance by the murder of his own father by his own step-brother.  He becomes frenzied by the realisation of what his philosophy can do to someone like Smerdyakov who is not an intellectual, who cannot think like Ivan simply because he is incapable of doing so. 

Most people are incapable of thinking rationally.  The Aristotelian definition of man as a rational being is simply wrong.  Ivan’s basic premise is wrong: man is not rational.  Man is a passionate creature, driven by the dark forces that lie deep down in his soul. 

If Ivan could accept those dark forces in man, he would not have needed the God foisted on him by his religion.  He would have been able to discover an acceptable meaning in life. Ivan remained an extremely tortured soul simply because of his failure to accept the dark side of human nature.

Evil is more potent in the human world.  There is no escape from it.  No God can save man from that truth.  God may be able to save man from evil, however.  That depends on each individual, how he or she wants God to act on him or her.  Personally, I have been unable to accept God, even like Ivan.  But unlike Ivan I accept evil as inevitable.  It hits me hard everyday.  I accept the hits. I try my best to retain my sanity in this evil, evil world.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Staying Young



A WhatsApp message beeped a few minutes back as I logged on to the Net. Write something in the blog; don't disappoint your readers, said the message with a couple of emoticons.  The message was from a student of mine.



Yesterday my school officially bid farewell to the class 12 students. One of the students mentioned that I helped her discover the poet in her and also that she was a regular reader of my blog.  Namrin, that student, is an amazing poet. I’m happy to present her blog here.  A class 12 student who can write lines such as:
I was the one you were afraid to have and lose.
Twisted, so is fate.
I want to own this record,
I want myself.
is not just an ordinary student.  Students like her are a blessing to a teacher like me.  They keep me young.

The other day a colleague of mine remarked that I belonged to New Gen though I was the oldest in the staffroom.  I said, “When I was about 20 years, I stopped growing.”  One of the reasons why I love teaching is that the profession keeps me always twenty-some.  Being with young people is the best way to keep you young.  Of course, you should learn to manoeuvre through the interplay of a wide variety of emotions. 

Sometimes the love of a student can become uncomfortably intense.  I once suggested a healthy distance to a student.  Her response dismayed me, “I won’t keep a distance as long as you keep leaving footprints for me to follow.”  Her response made me feel proud of her more than myself.

Not so long ago, a student wrote about the two drops of tears that fell from her eyes on to her English notebook after the class 12 English exam was over.  “I realise,” she wrote, “that in life, some things are like that. We don't know why or how, but we feel strangely connected to it. Be it a book, a smile or a person. These are real, but every connection gets broken at some point. It's like the golden rule of connections.”

One of my Delhi students of yesteryears warned me recently not to be too articulate with my political views.  When I said I’m living in Kerala which is quite safe, his instant response was: “We live in a connected world.” 

We are connected.

Relationships need not end, as I replied to one of them.  They don’t, in fact.  Not because I leave footprints, but because the tear drops and the smiles endure.  My students mean the world to me.  They keep me young.





Thursday, February 15, 2018

I don’t trust my government



I uninstalled from my phone the UMANG app which “allows you to access Indian Government services online through web and mobile (phone)”.  It was installed because I received a message that hereafter all notifications regarding my EPF would be sent only via this app.  But when I saw that the app was demanding too much from me, like access to my contact list, to the picture gallery in my phone, to my email contact list, to the files on my phone and so on, I put my foot down and said No.  I don’t trust my government so much, I’m sorry.

Source: Here
There are quite a few other apps that I use which also demand a few permissions which I have given.  But I’m willing to trust those service providers – willy-nilly, though – more than my government.  For example, I trust my bank whose app also demands quite a few peeps into my private affairs.  I trust Google which actually peeps too much.  Why don’t I trust my government?

My government has never given me satisfactory service at any time in my life.  It has only taken as much as it could whenever it could in various disguises.  It continues to suck my blood and I know the process will end only when my body is taken to the grave.  No, not even then.  One of my dearest ones will be sucked in the name of my death certificate even after I bid the final adieu to the government. 

Now Punjab National Bank has been asked to pay the “entire ₹11,360 crore to counterparty banks in the alleged fraud involving jeweller Nirav Modi.”  Where will PNB get the money from?  They will obviously charge it from their hapless customers in the name of various service charges as State Bank of India did.  By penalising accounts without minimum balance alone, SBI earned ₹1771 crore during April-Nov 2017, a sum that surpassed their net profit of ₹1,582 crore.  Those who could not save even the minimum balance, the underprivileged people of India, were penalised in order to pay for the offences of the richest defaulters in the country like Nirav Modi.  Now, PNB will ape SBI and the impecunious Indians will atone for Modi's sins.

Let us recall the fact that Nirav Modi was one of the Indian businessmen who accompanied Prime Minister Modi to the World Economic Forum in Davos recently.  Reports are also coming out about the Chhota Modi’s (as Congress named him instantly) associations with the Ambanis and Adanis who are the virtual rulers of the country today and whose huge debts to SBI were also indirectly put on the poor of the nation. 

How does such a government expect me to trust it and its apps which seek too many accesses into my private affairs?

If the government had fulfilled a fraction of its electoral and post-election promises, if the country’s best orator’s words carried a modicum of sincerity, I would have been tempted to retain my trust in the government.  Now when the best orator appears on the TV I hear myself chuckling; I hear others snickering.  The snickers give me hope, hope that stretches to the general elections in 2019.

Until then I shall go without the messages from the EPF department.







Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine and Valmiki



“Happy Valentine’s Day, darling,” Socrates came home earlier than usual to greet his wife on love’s own day.

Xanthippe frowned.  “What’s wrong with you?  First of all, you come home leaving your real Valentines behind, your beloved disciples, I mean, and then you forget that we’re now living in Hindu-satan where Valentine is a phoren demon.”

“What’s in a name?” Socrates asked.  “Hindu-satan is just a counterpart of Paki-satan, names, just names.  My Plato will tell you that names are illusions thrice removed from the essence.”

“Plato is your real Valentine, isn’t he?” Xanthippe threw a sidelong glance at her husband.

“Plato was amused when they said that Valentine was a corruption of Valmiki,” Socrates said ignoring his wife’s insinuation about his relationship with Plato. What does she know about Platonic love?

“Valmiki?” Xanthippe’s eyebrows rose to form two mighty arches on her broad forehead where the greying hairline had begun to recede.

Source: Ma Nishada
“Yup.  You know the story, don’t you, about the bird couple making love when the hunter shot down the male bird.”

“Ma Nishada something.”  She had not learnt the divine language of their new country.

“Maa Nishada Pratistham Tvamagamahsāsvati Samaa / Yat raunchamithunaadekam Avadhi Kaamamohitam,” Socrates quoted Vamiki’s very first sloka, the primordial love song, the alpha of romance.  “Even animals should not be hurt when they are making love, being kaamamohitam, driven by kaama.  Would Valentine of Isai-satan ever say such a thing?”

Xanthippe was dismayed.  “So what they say about everything having its origin in Hindu-satan is true?”

“Well, there is nothing in the universe that is not in the epics of this great country, it seems.  Valmiki and Vyasa are the originators of all wisdom and technology, all, nothing less.”

“Oh! We’re so privileged to live in such a great country, my beloved Valentine.” She moved closer to her husband.

“Valmiki,” Socrates corrected her as he stretched out his arms to embrace her on Valentine’s, sorry, Valmiki’s day.


 PS. Happy Valmiki - I mean, Valentine Day - to all who can love. 



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hornbill’s thirst

Great Hornbill [Image courtesy here]


The Great Hornbill is the state bird of Kerala.  It is called vezhambal [വേഴാമ്പൽ] in Malayalam.  Vezhambal appeared copiously in Malayalam literature though the present generation’s aversion to nature and its wealth has alienated the bird from literature too.  In Malayalam literary tradition, Vezhambal cannot drink water directly; it has to wait for the rains.  So vezhambal is a bird of longing in Malayalam literature.

The vezhambal longs for the rain.  People long for love. When vezhambal roamed freely in the Malayalam literary landscape, love was a forbidden fruit in the Eden of Kerala.  Youngsters were supposed to marry the partners discovered by parents in what was (and still is, to a large extent) known as ‘arranged marriages’.  ‘Love marriage’ was considered an abominable aberration.

I grew up in the 60s and early 70s listening to the plaintive love songs written by Vayalar Ramavarma and composed by Devarajan, arguably the most famous lyricist-composer duo in the Malayalam film industry.  Vayalar wrote about 2000 songs for 223 Malayalam movies and several plays. Quite a lot of them were about lost loves. 

One of my favourite songs was Premabhikshuki [പ്രേമഭിക്ഷുകി] in which a lover asks his beloved, who is addressed a “supplicant of love”, in which birth, which night, which place they met for the first time.  Generations came and went trampling upon the footprints left by them on the dusty paths.  The singer wishes he could forget his love.  If only they had not met again.  Their love that blossomed by the lamppost beside the wayside shelter was picked and hurled by destiny.  Once again, destiny came back with the same heartlessness to pick and hurl the singer’s love.

There were a lot of Malayalam films and songs about lost loves, forbidden loves.  No wonder vezhambal became the state’s official bird.  There was a lot of longing in Malayali hearts that destiny picked and hurled to dust.  Vezhambal continued to yearn for the rain.

One of the most memorable vezhambal songs is written by Vayalar’s successor in the industry, O N V Kurup.  The woman in that song, വേഴാമ്പൽ കേഴും വേനൽകുടീരം, is compared to a torrid wilderness  in which the vezhambal keeps moaning for reprieve.  The woman’s memories lie like shadows in that desolate place.  Winters came dressed in a bathing towel and folded their arms to her.  Springs decanted honey into floral chalices.  But memories moan now like illusory desires, like transient rainbows.  Life leaves teardrops behind.  Like the dewdrop at the edge of a flower petal, life still scintillates.  The petal will fall but memories will hum like the floating beetles in the garden.  You will continue to be the vezhambal.

Malayalam movies have changed a lot since the days of lost loves. The vezhambal has become history.  There is more joy in the plots now.  Apparently, at least. There is more hatred for sure. More crime too. 

Forbidden love was better in comparison.  Better than love jihad and counter jihad. I can still hear the vezhambal moaning in the summer landscapes of Kerala.  


Monday, February 12, 2018

Broken Things



I have always been attracted to broken things.  Not that I could ever mend them.  I am poor at that sort of jobs.  In fact, I’m bad at anything practical.  I can read books and at best teach them to impressionable young people.  Nothing more.  If there is a leaking tap at home, I have to depend on a plumber.  I won’t even be able to replace a punctured tyre of my car without somebody’s assistance.

But broken things enchant me. When I was 18 years old a classmate of mine quoted the catchphrase of Fevikwik in a speech: “Fixes everything except broken hearts.” I was stuck to that phrase for years.  [I think it was Fevikwik, I’m not sure.]

People came and went in my life breaking hearts. Not mine; I have no heart, they say.  They broke the hearts of each other.  I saw people sitting by the shore of a weeping river and gathering the fragments of their broken hearts.  I saw them piecing the fragments together. 

I broke somebody’s heart recently.  With just a statement.  It was a silly joke actually.  Hearts are extremely fragile, I learnt.  I learnt to guard my jokes.  A costly lesson.  I lost one of my best friends.

I wish I could heal hearts.  I wish I did not love broken things so much.



Sunday, February 11, 2018

Modiesque India



The great writer Franz Kafka contributed the word Kafkaesque to English.  The worlds in Kafka’s novels are a veritable nightmare which is a metaphorical extension of our real life.  I suggest a new word to English: Modiesque.  My definition will be: “adjective: characteristic of a system that is at once oppressive and supportive, oppressive to the majority and supportive to a chosen group of people, and in which the majority of the oppressed perceive themselves as beneficiaries because of false propaganda.  Synonym: post-truth.”


Renuka Chowdhury of Congress who dared to laugh at Modiesque India is an intelligent woman.  Like most intelligent Indians today, she is helpless in dealing with the Modiesque India.  So she chose to laugh.  Any intelligent Indian would love to laugh.  I think I am also intelligent though not as much as Arnab Gau-swami.  Renuka can afford to laugh because the Indians like me pay her salaries and perks.  Gau-swami can laugh - though he chooses to bawl and yelp instead for reasons known only to him - because he belongs to the same economic class as our MPs, enjoying post-truth luxuries.


I would like to laugh too.  Who does not?  So I watch Patanjali advertisements and laugh.  I watch our godmen’s homilies and laugh.  The news channels are the best entertainments nowadays because they bring before us the classical jokers of Modiesque India.

But I have lost my laughter somewhere down the Modiesque highway on which petrol pumps loot my last penny for owning a Maruti Alto.  The farmer next-door who tells me that suicide is the only option left for him because his branch of State Bank of India is going to confiscate his house and property for his inability to repay his agricultural loan steals my laughter.  The children who go hungry in the orphanage in my home town because they live in Modiesque India which puts restrictions on charity in the name of gods have stolen my smile. 

Dear Ms Renuka Chowdhury, I would love to laugh like you even if the laughter gets labelled as the laughter of a puranic raakshasa (राक्षस).  You and I are intelligent enough to know how labels are created especially in today’s India.  I know you don’t give a damn to those labels.  I too don’t.  But that doesn’t solve the problem.  I want to laugh.  Can you or anyone in power in our country today return to me my smile at least, let alone my laughter?