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Showing posts from July, 2018

Failed Hartal in Kerala

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Devotees at Sabarimala Image from Indian Express Hartals are usually like festivals in Kerala. People prepare themselves well ahead of the holiday by stocking things needed for personal entertainments on the holiday. Students are happy to get a day off from schools and colleges. Government employees are happy to relax at home instead of in their offices. The political parties that call the hartal are generally magnanimous enough to exempt “essential services like hospitals, newspapers and milk supply” from the imposed strike. No one seems to complain. In spite of all that the hartal called today in the state by certain right wing groups such as Ram Sena, Hanuman Sena, Ayyappa Dharma Sena and Vishal Vishwakarma Aikya Vedi was a failure. Personally, I was not aware of the presence of these groups in the state. Given the turn of events in the country’s political sphere in the last few years, mushrooming of right wing organisations is not a surprise, however. These mushroo

Talking of Depression

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“A whole society soon metamorphosed into my benefactors. They soon drove me to illicit liquor joints where I sat all alone at a slimy table and drank cheap brandy, peg after peg. The drinks drenched my soul in shame. I felt utterly worthless. I felt unworthy of life. I longed for death.” That is quoted from my forthcoming book, Autumn Shadows . I experienced a protracted period of depression that lasted a few years in my late thirties. Depression makes you feel totally worthless. Worse, the whole world appeared to exist for the singular purpose of decimating me. I refused to trust anyone. My experience is that a depressive does not want to talk to anyone. How can he talk when everyone is his perceived enemy? At best, like poet Shelley, he can cry to the wind in the air to lift him like a dead leaf and carry him away to the emptiness in the skies. “I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!” Shelley lamented to the West Wind. I used to sit on the parapet wall of a culvert

Humayun’s Last Cough

Preface According to Rajasthan BJP President Madan Lal Saini, Humayun was the father of Babur. "When Humayun was dying, he called Babur and told him - if you want to rule Hindustan, you must keep three things in mind: respect cows, Brahmins and women," said Mr Saini . What follows is a spoof of the history according to BJP. Humayun, Babur and other Emperors While Humayun was imparting his dying wisdom to his son Babur, Bal Narender rambled in with a platter of ladoos specially prepared by his father who was a royal chef brought to the Palace after Babur had enjoyed an exotic dinner at the Taj Hotel where Papa Narender was the chief chef. “I have graduated from the Jio Institute of Eminence,” said the ten year-old Bal Narender. Babur was particularly fond of Bal Narender and hence the boy was granted many liberties in the Palace.   Bal Narender was a child prodigy and what he heard as he came in caught his attention. “If you want to rule Hindustan, yo

Travel

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Whenever I think of travel, Tennyson’s Ulysses will spring to my mind. “Much have I seen and know – cities of men / And manners, climates, councils, governments,” says Ulysses. That’s just what travel does: make us see and know cities, manners, climates, etc. I loved travels. My years in Delhi were filled with much travel. I accompanied students on the annual educational tours and treks and during holidays my wife and I visited quite a few places like Darjeelinng, Gangtok and Shimla. I enjoyed both kinds of travels: with students and with my wife. Travel broadens our perspectives by opening our eyes and souls to new realities. Though I was very much aware of the Gorkhaland struggle in Darjeeling even before I visited the place, the visit filled me with sympathy for the Gorkhas. I listened to their views and watched their hardships. I wondered why political leaders failed to understand their people’s woes and find relevant solutions. Why should the genuine aspirations of th

Company in Hell

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Kittu  Sardines were hardly my choice at any time in my life. When Maggie suggested yesterday to buy sardines, I was a little taken aback. “The price has gone up to Rs200 a kg,” she said. “That’s a record price for sardines,” I said with genuine surprise. Sardines were considered the poor man’s fish because they were the cheapest in the market usually. Prices of anything hitting the ceiling is not news in contemporary India. Except human beings, everything seems to have become very dear. This is the achhe din promised by our Prime Minister who asked us to eat pakodas as Marie-Antoinette asked the French people to eat cake when they cried that they had no bread. Pakodas are okay for snacks. You can’t eat them all the time even if you can afford to have the best chefs from the Taj Group to cook for you like our Prime Minister has when he goes abroad . So I decided to play along and make my wife happy. When sardines cost as much as what you used to pay for pomfret unt

Pilgrimage

Fiction The day Elizabeth retired from job she placed a demand: “Let’s go on a pilgrimage.” “Why not?” said Paulo, her husband, who had retired half a decade earlier. When he retired as a banker, Liz wanted to retire too. “Anyway, my job doesn’t pay much,” she said. She was a teacher in a CBSE school. “It’s not the pay, darling,” he told her. “It’s about how we spend the time. Life will be terribly boring without work to do.” So she continued to work till the ripe age of 60. The two of them were alone at home. Their son had chosen to settle down in Canada with a Pakistani wife, after completing his graduation in mechanical engineering. Their daughter married one Sharma who lived in Fiji after falling in love with him on Facebook. “When children grow up and become adults, they should be granted the liberty to choose their destiny,” Paulo told his wife as their son and then daughter moved out of their life almost entirely. “We’ll go to Ponmala for our pilgrimag

Truth and Faith in the age of Facebook and Whatsapp

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Retaining respect for people is a tough job, especially in the age of Facebook and Whatsapp. Just a few minutes back I came across two Facebook status updates from two of my acquaintances and I found it impossible to suppress contempt. One was from a Christian who maintained that there was no truth other than what his religion taught. The other was from a Hindu who asserted that whatever the Judiciary might decide, no woman from his family between the age of 10 and 50 would ever visit the Sabarimala temple. While arrogation of truth to itself is one of Christianity’s congenital diseases, the Sabarimala issue came up now because the Supreme Court recently defended all women’s right to pray in that temple which has hitherto prohibited entry to menstruating women. Both my acquaintances are ‘true’ believers in their respective religion. Their faith is staunch. It is blind. Such blindness is becoming a serious problem in today’s India. There are millions of Indians who have sudd

Terrible Beauty

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Photo by Tomichan Matheikal at Jim Corbett National Park (some years ago) “A terrible beauty is born,” lamented poet W. B. Yeats when the Irish rebellion against the British in 1916 was suppressed brutally by the Empire. Though Yeats supported the independence movement, like all enlightened souls he was against violence. When the fighters insisted on using violence, Yeats could only pass by “with a nod of the head / Or polite meaningless words.” Many people including me in Modi’s India find themselves in Yeats’ position: incapacitated by mindless violence and hatred. In spite of the totally vitiated atmosphere, a formidably sizeable section of the country seem to be labouring under a monstrous delusion that they are living in a beautiful period of the country’s history. It is a terrible beauty indeed! Someone like Shashi Tharoor cannot even express his opinion by making a metaphorical comparison about that terrible beauty. His office was attacked a criminal case was ch

My Lime Tree

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My lime tree Lime has multiple uses. You can make a rejuvenating drink with a little bit of its juice. A few drops of the juice can flavour your tea delightfully and ease your belly too. Even the otherwise bland dishes or the daal curry can undergo a miraculous metamorphosis with a touch of lime. You can use a slice of the fruit to deodorise your plate or your hands.    When the hybrid plant seller came last year with a variety of saplings, I picked up a few including a lime. The lime was a little slow to get to like me. I watered it regularly and fed it with liberal scoops of cow dung and occasional pinches of Ammonium Phosphate Sulphate.    “Hybrid plants take their sweet time to get used to new soil and environment,” my friend consoled me. “But once they do, they flourish.”    He was right. After months of my patient waiting and tender care, my lime tree began to grow. But the main stem grew up aslant at an angle of 45 o . It looked nice to see but I was worried

Love’s complexion and complexity

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Book Review Anshu Bhojnagarwala’s Tara is a fast-paced novella which deals with the themes of love and self-actualisation. Tara is a scrawny, dark-complexioned creature of just 2.2 kg when she is born. In spite of having affectionate and supportive parents, Tara grows up to inherit a complex about her dark skin, thanks to a society that sets much store by fairness creams. She faces some rejection from individuals whom she tries to befriend. As a young woman, Tara wants to marry and be a mother but is not able to find a suitor, again, due to her complexion. Then she gives up the chase and becomes a teacher. Himanshu walks into her life as the guardian of a student. Love happens. Tara discovers romance but only to be soon disappointed. Himanshu disappears. Eventually she discovers that he has reached the dream world of London where he forges a new alliance. That is an unnerving rejection for Tara. Tara is practical enough to get on with life. She agrees to the arranged

Me-time

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One of the parents who met me today during the Parent-Teacher Meeting at school told me, “My daughter is your fan. She often wonders how a teacher can be so innocent like you.” I was too stunned to respond. Just yesterday I mentioned in another class that I was blessed to have such innocent students. My initial fear when I came from Delhi three years ago and perceived such innocent students in my present school in a small town in Kerala was whether I would corrupt them with the craftiness that Delhi had taught me as an integral part of the survival game we played normally in Delhi. One of the lessons I learnt even before I took up my teaching job in Delhi in 2001 was to stay away from people as far as possible. Shillong taught me that lesson, in fact. That’s the only place where I ventured out into the society at least to some extent. I turned out to be an utter failure. Shillong was my undoing. It was inevitable, perhaps. I needed to learn the lessons that the little hill

I support Shashi Tharoor

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Sambit Patra is the best comic entertainer in contemporary Indian politics after Narendra Modi. He is like a clown on the trapeze while Modi behaves like the ringmaster. I love both of them for the entertainment they provide to the nation. But they do a lot of disservice to the nation. Arrey bhai, the people elected you to serve them. Do you know that we are still a democracy? The ultimate power is with the people. They can throw you out next year if you still keep barking and biting like stray dogs. All that religious stuff you’re peddling won’t do any good. What does Ram Mandir or Patel Statue mean to the man on the street who is struggling to earn his daily bread? Sambit Patra is a joy to watch on the TV when you have nothing else to do. He is the re-avatar of Gau-Swami who shouted at all of us for a long time on sell-out Times Now. Like the Cow-Swami, Sam-bit will get his boot soon. I’ll miss his trapeze art then. Like his demand to the Congress to dismiss Dr Shashi

Beauty and Youth

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Beauty is young - always! One of my favourite writers, Franz Kafka, said that the young people are happy because they have the ability to see beauty. “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old,” he added. I was always an admirer of beauty. The only problem was that some self-appointed custodians of morality, during my youth, thought that my concept of beauty was too gynocentric and hence sinful. Like most members of their species, these custodians were very religious people. Moreover, in my case, they happened to be all Christians. Woman is a perversion, according to Christian theology. She was the cause of mankind’s eviction from the biblical Paradise. Even centuries could not wash away her guilt and so Saint Paul would advise Timothy (2:12) never to let a woman teach or have authority over a man. “She must be silent.” Nothing less. My admiration of feminine beauty was associated with my own perversions by the moralists in my life. I don’t deny th

Religion and Cruelty

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Pillar in Vellore Fort commemorating the Revolt Image from Wikipedia Today is the anniversary of the Vellore Mutiny which took place on 10 July 1806 when the Indian soldiers ( sepoys ) revolted against the East India Company for imposing certain rules that the Hindus as well as Muslims did not like. The Hindus were prohibited from wearing religious marks on their foreheads and Muslims were required to shave their beards and trim their moustaches. The turban was replaced with a hat which the soldiers identified with Christianity. The soldiers would certainly have looked smart and trim with the changes, which indeed was the purpose. But religion, like popular condoms, is extra-sensitive, and tickles too many tissues and issues. Half a century later, a bigger revolt of the same nature would be triggered by very similar reasons in Meerut. Mindless violence followed the revolt in Vellore. The rebels killed 14 of their own officers and 115 men of their regiment. The revolt