Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Politician


Fiction

Dr Zachariah slowed the car. Someone was waving a hand standing on the road. The man looked wounded. It was dangerous to stop the car because it was almost midnight and the endless rain continued to pour down reducing visibility considerably. Moreover, he was exhausted after a very long day at hospital which culminated with a surgery. Nevertheless he stopped his car and lowered the glass a little.

Both the doctor and the wounded man on the road were stunned for a moment as they recognised each other.

“Doctor, please help me, I’m injured badly.” The man pleaded.

“Hmm, hop in.” Dr Zach opened the door and the man crept in with some difficulty. “Dry yourself,” said the doctor giving him a towel which he pulled out from somewhere in the car. “What happened?”

“I was attacked,” he said. “A masked gang. Must be the commies.”

The man who was known as Raghav ji was a local leader of the BJP. Fights between the BJP and the Left parties were not uncommon in the state.

“Where shall I take you?” Dr Zach asked. “Government hospital?”

“Please take me to your own hospital, doctor,” the man pleaded.

“And then you will organise a rally against my hospital?”

The doctor took a U-turn. “If you want I’ll drive you to the city where you’ll get better hospitals.” In their small town, Dr Zach’s Calvary was the only hospital apart from the government one.

“Please, doctor, I’m sorry about what happened that time. Please take me to your own hospital.”

Dr Zach looked at the figurine of Jesus on the dashboard as he used to do whenever a dilemma presented itself before him. Jesus winked at him.  “Hmm,” the doctor answered Jesus’ wink.

“Thank you, doctor,’” Raghav ji said assuming the Hmm meant Yes to his request.

Raghav ji’s wife was admitted at Calvary a few months back for delivery. An unforeseen complication called for a last-minute Caesarean which Raghav ji and his party workers interpreted as medical exploitation. As soon as the mother and child were discharged safely, Raghav ji’s party arrived at the hospital leading a rally. They shouted slogans against Calvary which in their view performed the surgery purely for making profits. The drama ended in a big chaos that brought the police and some prominent politicians to the hospital.

Raghav ji required a surgery because his arm was fractured. The doctor showed him the X-ray image of his arm and explained that he was free to seek counsel from another orthopaedic surgeon in the city if he wished.

“You are the best surgeon, doctor ji,” said Raghav.

Jesus winked in Dr Zach’s heart. “Hmm,” said the doc.

As Raghav ji lay in the hospital bed recuperating from the various wounds and bruises he had received apart from the fracture in the arm, he watched the news on the TV in the room.

Atal Behari Vajpayee passed away, the TV channels announced. Raghav ji was not saddened by the news. Vajpayee was too moderate a politician for Raghav ji. He had dared to teach Raj dharma to a great leader like Narendra Modi when the latter was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. “In the loss of Atal Behari Vajpayee, the metaphor for charisma, charm and moderation has forever been lost,” the news reader said.

“How foolish!” Raghav ji mumbled to himself. “We now have a much more charismatic and charming leader. And who wants moderation?”

The rains were battering the state mercilessly without any moderation. The Commie government’s estimate of the losses ran into thousands of crores of rupees. Foreign countries, especially those where large numbers of people from the state worked, extended generous financial assistance. But the strong leader at the Centre who knew no moderation dismissed foreign aids. “India is self-reliant,” he declared. “India will uphold its national pride,” he asserted.

The Republic TV called the people of the state “shameless” for looking forward to foreign assistance. National pride swelled in Raghav ji’s veins. He switched channels avidly. One channel declared that Lord Ayappa was punishing the people of the state because their Commie government had got the women the right to enter the Sabarimala temple. Another channel blamed the Christians for their sinful transgressions. This last explanation intoxicated Raghav ji’s national pride further. He knew what he would do as soon as he was discharged from the hospital.



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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The holiday is over


The school reopens tomorrow after the Onam holidays. There was no Onam, however. The historic deluge that washed Kerala mercilessly stole the joy out of Onam. There were no grand celebrations. People were busy returning home from their relief camps, cleaning up their houses and seeking where and how to begin anew. Even now thousands of people are living in relief camps because they have nowhere to go; their houses have been washed away entirely or they are not habitable.

While it has been heartening to see the way the people of Kerala cooperated with one another to bring life back to normalcy, it was extremely painful to watch the way certain sections fished in the troubled waters.

The attitude of Prime Minister Modi and his supporters has alienated the people of Kerala almost entirely from the dominant political narrative. The financial aid given by Modi to the state is a pittance against what is required. Mr Modi rubbed salt into the wound of insult by saying no to countries that extended generous financial assistance. Modi’s sycophants like Arnab Goswami went to the extent of implying that Keralites are a “shameless” lot of people for expecting monetary help from across the country’s borders. A lot of my former students from North India preached to me about the importance of “national pride”. One of them even went to the extent of writing on Facebook that I was on a wrong track for criticising Modi’s policies and it was the duty of my old students to bring me back to the right track.

Modi, Goswami and others of the same brood have been trolled mercilessly by Malayalis. The rating of Goswami’s TV channel was brought down to the lowest possible by the people of Kerala. Modi became a laughing stock in social media posts.

These activities kept the sorrows of the deluge under a veil of staid smiles. There was another group of people, however, who turned contemporary Cassandras. They prophesied doom. The eternal judgment is close at hand, they proclaimed. They brought in evidences from the Bible, mystical visions, Nostradamus, and all possible sources. I could never fathom their minds. Do they really believe what they say? Or do they seek to make people more religious and hence more benign? Does religion make people benign? Isn’t our Prime Minister a very religious person and does his kind of religion make people benign? My holidays gave me ample time to contemplate such things.

The best part was when people spoke and wrote about their own experiences in their own simple ways. Most of them were inspiring in their own simple ways. They accepted their tragedy with equanimity. There was a woman who posted her view on Whatsapp, for example. She said she had to stand in a queue for food wearing a pair of short trousers and a T-shirt, the kind of dress she would never have imagined of wearing. She had been used to wearing stylish dresses with matching ornaments. She said that the tragedy taught her the immateriality of such stylishness. She learnt that she needed so little to live. She learnt some great lessons about life. I loved her for that. She learnt much more than what the religious Cassandras were trying to teach. There were many people like her.

My school reopens tomorrow. I’ll be back with simple people, young minds, who learn the essential lessons of life easily if Cassandras don’t meddle with their minds. I’m happy to be there with them once again after a long gap.


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Monday, August 27, 2018

Modi's Truths



Truth is a fabrication. Barrows Dunham, American philosopher who was dismissed from the Temple University for his liberal views, wrote that “truth has been suffered to exist in the world just to the extent that it profited the rulers of society.” The rulers fabricate truths for their own benefits.

We are not speaking about scientific truths like water boils at 100 degree Celsius under normal temperature and pressure or the sum of the three angles of a triangle is 180 degrees. We are speaking about truths given to us by our political leaders. And religious leaders. And quite many other leaders. Leaders, in the final analysis. Leaders often soar on the wings of fabricated truths.

Kerala is passing through the most tragic catastrophe it ever witnessed since the creation of the state. The state government’s rough estimate is that ₹35,000 crore will be required to rebuild the state. The central government initially promised ₹100 crore which was eventually raised by ₹500 crore.

The Modi government has a natural disaffection with the Pinarayi government due to ideological conflicts. Right versus Left. But such considerations should not affect the efforts to survive catastrophes. It is the central government’s duty to look after the citizens whatever their political affiliations are. It is the right of every state to get required assistance from the Centre while dealing with calamities.

Modi and his supporters chose to give fabricated truths to the people of Kerala, instead of the much needed financial assistance. They called it national pride. India is capable of dealing with the calamity without any aid from outside. It is against India’s national pride to receive aid from other countries. They went to the extent of quoting a policy made by the previous UPA government. Seeking policy support from UPA was highly ironical since Modi’s NDA has always striven to prove that UPA was a national disaster. However, Modi has no qualms about quoting anyone, even Karl Marx, if it suits him.

The real truth is that the UPA government extended the required assistance to states from the central coffers. In spite of all the corruption that existed at various levels, financial aid was extended as required. Modi has not only refused to extend such help but also rejected offers from other sources. Kerala’s finance minister Thomas Isaac rightly called it a “dog in the manger policy.”

National pride is one of the many truths that Modi has fabricated in order to rouse up the rabble that shout passionate slogans for him. Modi is sustained by many such fabricated truths. Gau raksha, Vedic science, Sabka sath sabka vikas, job creation, presstitutes… it’s an endless list.  There is a whole army called IT Cell that is devoted to fabrication of truths for Modi’s sake. A whole lot of lies are propagated by them in the form of nationalist ideals. Modi is such an expert at this job of fabrication that social psychologist Ashish Nandy described him as a “classic, clinical case” of the “authoritarian personality” with its “mix of puritanical rigidity, narrowing emotional life” and “fantasies of violence.” To that list can be added messianic fantasies.

All the systems founded on such fabricated truths collapsed sooner than later. Fascism and Nazism are well-known examples. Will Modi’s version of Hindutva survive beyond him?

Evil succeeds for a while. It is only goodness that will make its permanent mark in history. Truth alone triumphs [Satyameva Jayate], as India’s national motto proclaims.

The mounting protests, presentations, satire, cartoons, etc against Modi in various media indicate that there is hope for real truth still. The following video presentation is an example. It has already clocked more than 38,000 views and 1000 shares on Facebook.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

How to make Religion meaningful



A 9 year-old boy was beaten to death by a 64 year-old Buddhist monk for being playful during a religious ceremony. The boy was a novice; i.e. a beginner in monkhood. It happened in Thailand yesterday.

Many monks in that Buddhist country are facing serious criminal charges such as cases of extortion, sex and drug abuse. A month back the infamous “jet-set monk” was sentenced to 114 years in prison for money-laundering and fraud. The abbot of the popular Golden Mount temple in Bangkok was caught in May with $4 million of unaccounted money.
 
From a monastery in Gangtok during a personal visit
How do they expect such little boys to be 'religiously' serious?
Notice the cane in the monk's hand.
Recently the Christian Churches in Kerala were rocked by many sex scandals involving priests and nuns. We are too familiar with the atrocities committed by godmen in various parts of India. I was personally associated by necessity with a cult run by a godman whose greed for land knows no limits.

Suuch evils are mounting because religion has lost its relevance in the traditional form. The world has changed so much that traditional religious practices fail to strike a chord with many if not most believers including priests and nuns. That is why there is so much aberration particularly among the clergy.

Rubrics and rituals make up religious practices usually. Do they mean anything to people anymore? Religion has to pass through the necessary aggiornamento to tune itself with the changing world and its requirements. For example, there’s no use preaching asceticism or austerity to people who have made wealth the ultimate goal of life. Wealth creation has become a virtue in today’s world. Even the priests and other religious leaders are not free from the diabolical clutches of wealth. Look at the ostentation of religious institutions. Look at the lifestyle of so-called ascetics.

Stop preaching virtues that don’t make sense anymore. Instead teach people how to be virtuous without repressing their own wishes and dreams. For example, teach people how wealth can be used to promote greater happiness of more people. The recent deluge in Kerala has revealed concretely that there is a lot of goodness within people and they are ready to share, care and be magnanimous. Why didn’t religions ever work on that goodness so far?

Religions should change their focus from ostentation and aggrandisement to discovering and enhancing the goodness that is innate in human beings. Then religion will be a source of inspiration as they should be. They will be the fountainheads of goodness, as they should be. The world can be a happy place for all of us if only religions undertake the process of aggiornamento.

 
From a monastery in Coorg, 2016
Notice the unhappy, hunched posture though he is carrying his lunch


Friday, August 24, 2018

Intimacy



Intimacy is rooted in understanding. It is impossible to live without at least one intimate relationship. As John Powell says in The Secret of Staying in Love, “No one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.” Intimacy is that mirror.

Understanding each other leads to the discovery of each other’s inner beauty. It heals the wounds that inevitably mar that beauty occasionally. It can remove scars too. Intimacy has the tenderness of a soothing balm. Intimacy is a melodious poem that keeps on composing itself endlessly. Its rhythm is like the flow of a mountain brook; there are occasional stumbles and rumbles too.  

“Is physical intimacy the only thing which matters in a relationship? Can you live without it and yet be happy?” Blogger Anushree Aggarwal raised the question. Why can’t one live without physical intimacy and yet be happy? There are plenty of people who do that; priests and nuns, for example. Real intimacy may have nothing to do with physicality.



If we consider ordinary relationships, physicality is not an issue at all. I have a few intimate friends with none of whom I have any physical relationship and won’t ever have.

The physical aspect is not a part of intimacy, in fact. That is a mere biological need which has certain emotional trappings. My hunch [since I have no experience in this matter] is that physical intimacy is undesirable in healthy friendships except with one person. Yes, that fidelity is crucial when it comes to physicality. Otherwise, relationships are likely to be shallow affairs. Moreover, does sex play any role in friendly relationships?

Real intimacy is a sacred experience, as John O’Donohue says. Intimacy belongs to the soul, not to the body.


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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Dear Maveli



Dear Maveli,

The sight of your beloved Kerala during this Onam will break your heart. There are no floral carpets to welcome you. The air does not resound with joyful songs. The charming thiruvathira dancers are not seen. Where are the tigers of the pulikali?

What you find all over your land is devastation. Hills collapsed in the fury of gushing waters. The waters carried away homes and roads. They carried away the flowers that used to bloom cheerfully for you. Whole townships like Cheruthoni are ruined entirely. Rivers have changed their courses and redrawn the map of your country. What is left is helpless gloom. And our determination to spring back to vitality.

We will bounce back. In spite of the hostility of our present king who calls himself our Pradhan Sevak just to mask his colossal narcissism. He has not only refused to help your country with the required assistance but also blocked the assistance coming from across the borders. So, you see, we have to fight not only the consequences of the deluge but also the hostility of our present king.

In such a tragic situation, you won’t expect floral carpets and nirapara, thiruvathira and pulikali, we know. Give us time. We are not only rebuilding ourselves but also learning some lessons. Lessons like the futility of communalism and aggrandisement. We are learning to cooperate. We are learning lessons of generosity. Maybe, we will rebuild ourselves into another Mavelinaadu. You will be proud of us when you come the next time.

Return to your Patalam in peace, dear Maveli. We shall deal with the new Vamana.




Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Floods and the Gods



The god I was given in my childhood was too eager to punish. His impatience with mankind is coeval with the species itself: he drove out the first couple from Paradise for eating the forbidden fruit. Why God planted that tree with the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden is one of the umpteen questions without answers when I confront my religion. Was it because God knew that Adam and Eve would break his rule and so he could punish them gleefully?

Soon after the first couple’s eviction from Paradise came the deluge, when Noah was 600 years 2 months and 17 days old [Genesis 7:11], which destroyed almost the entire creation because the biblical God lost his patience with his own creation. What a bad creator! And what a bad God to lose patience so promptly and so destructively!

He lost patience again and again. Fire and brimstone destroyed people whom he considered wicked. An incorrigible God!

When the disastrous deluge hit Kerala recently people of different religions and political affiliations invoked God once again to justify what happened. I came across a large number of religious people who explained the recent floods in Kerala as God’s punishment for man’s sins. A few of these religious people went to the extent of predicting bigger imminent disasters for the state.

I raised a question to one such holy man. Since god is omnipotent, can’t he alter the human nature so that god will have the kind of people he wants? A kind of genetic mutation which even human science can perform if it wants? Then there will be no evil. People will naturally choose goodness. Simple solution. Instead God keeps doing the same thing right from Adam’s time: punish. How foolish! [That holy man had no answer.]



I know the religious answers to this. They will immediately condemn my soul to hell. Who are you to question God’s wisdom and His ways? They ask me. I become a blasphemer. My place is the Hell, they decide.

I once told one such person who consigned me to Hell even before I died that the Hell would be a very boring place since all religious leaders will be there. But when a young student of mine raised a doubt about my stand, I asked her, “Do you really believe that your God is so cruel that He can only punish? And that too with eternal fire? Why don’t you discover something noble about your God? Why can’t your God be a loving entity, at least as loving as the people who do good to others?” That student is one of my fans today. I did something to her which her religion couldn’t do for years: make God meaningful.

I wish I could make God more meaningful to many more people. But I don’t believe in God and hence would find any discussion about that entity absolutely absurd. Students are a different matter, however. I can’t be cynical with them.

If anyone is ready to keep a student’s open mind, I can lead him/her to a better God. But Kerala doesn’t really have too much problem in this regard, I think. The people are cooperating with one another to bring life back to normalcy. I hope the people of Kerala will understand that it is not their god[s] who caused the flood. Maybe, the floods can make the people of Kerala introspect about what they have been doing to their own beautiful landscapes, rivers and lakes. In the process, they may discover a benign god too.


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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Education without distortions



One of the pedagogical models that fascinated me while doing B.Ed. was Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy. The model presents three domains all of which should get due attention from the education system. They are cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of learning and refer respectively to mental skills, development of right attitudes and creation of a value system, and physical skills.

The present education system in India is heavily loaded in favour of the first. A lot of knowledge is imparted to students. Certain skills are developed too in the laboratories and playgrounds. When it comes to the affective domain, a lot more remains to be done. This is the most major drawback of the system, I think.

If due attention is paid to the affective domain, our students will move out of the schools with a well-developed value system of their own. The way hatred is spread through the social media and other platforms is a clear indication of failure in this regard. Anyone with a clear value system of his own will not be swayed by the false information that is bombarding us from every corner today.

A well-developed affective domain enables one to discriminate between good and evil, to choose the good and act on it, and enhance the welfare of humanity in general.

India is passing through a historical phase when much of the past history is being rewritten with motives that are often suspect. There is a clear political agenda which attracts a sizeable section of the country’s population. The greatest irony, perhaps, is that such a large number of people – a very large number indeed – are supposedly feeling insecure in the country on account of considerably smaller communities.

Obviously there is something seriously wrong with the system if such large numbers of people are feeling insecure which in turn gives rise to violence and strife. We cannot expect the system to correct itself in the given environment because the very creators of the system are responsible for the distortions of truths as well as minds. I think teachers can play a vital role here. Let there be more noble teachers who will help form healthy attitudes and values in their students.

PS. Written for In(di)spire Edition 235: #EducationSystem


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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Why Franco Mulakkal should be a saint



Franco Mulakkal is the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of the Catholic Church. He has been accused of raping quite many nuns. Many nuns chose to leave their religious calling because they didn’t want to live the duplicitous life that their ‘good shepherd’ wanted them to live. It is too obvious that this bishop is nothing less than a rapist. But it is necessary to protect him and eventually declare him a saint.

Why?

I have been following the comments on many Whatsapp groups which I belong to by the necessity of wanting to belong somewhere. Yeah, we all want to belong. Imagine the millions of believers whose sense of belonging is threatened by the sins of a villain like Franco Mulakkal.

It’s terrible, if you can understand that threat. I am not a believer and hence not shaken in any way. But I’m concerned about the people who mean a lot to me and whose lives are shaken by Mulakkal’s sins.

It’s not possible, they tell me. The Fathers are holy. These simple, humble, loyal believers refuse to accept the naked truth that the priests and other religious leaders are as fallible as they are. They want role models. They want saints. They want meaning in life.

The Church is the meaning of life for a lot of believers. Our Father in Heaven and the Holy Mary by his side are the succour and sustenance for the faithful. Their priests are the mediators here on this miserable earth. Life is unbearable without the Father up there and the Reverend Father down here.

What the Church should do immediately is to get the best lawyers who will get Mulakkal acquitted of all his crimes. Sooner than later, the Church should start the process of Mulakkal’s canonisation. He should be another Sahanadasan, like that Reverend Father Benedict who killed a woman whom he was using for sexual gratification for years. No religion should have villains. Religions should only have saints. The faithful require that for keeping their lives going.

Just imagine the entire edifice of your life collapsing because you suddenly discover that all that you’ve been believing so far was utterly wrong. I was faced with that situation once. So I know what that means. I don’t want more people to face a similar situation. Let good things happen to people. That’s my wish. Hence the Catholic Church should start the canonisation process of Saint Mulakkal immediately.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Reliance Swindling Corporation



This Independence Day brought me a symbolic ‘gift’. The fact that it came from Reliance Life Insurance Corporation adds a peculiar irony to the ‘gift’.

Back in the heyday of my life in Delhi, I received a phone call offering me a “single premium life insurance policy” from Reliance. I had to pay ₹ 50,000 just once and would go on to enjoy a whole lot of “long term benefits”. I leaped at the opportunity as the promises were lucrative enough. The agent rushed to my residence and the paper works were completed hastily.

However, when I received the policy certificate I realised I was cheated. It was not a single premium policy at all. My subsequent personal conversations with the staff in the Reliance office (which kept shifting from place to place in Delhi almost every month like a fugitive) made me realise that the office and its agents played tricks on potential clients to foist misleading insurance policies on the latter. I was already trapped and had no choice but carry on paying the substantial premium for three years at least after which the policy would be considered “paid-up.” Then I could surrender it without loss after five years.

I did precisely that: paid the premium for 3 years consecutively. When the stipulated 5 years passed I went to surrender the policy only to be told that I would not get even ₹ 1 lakh back though I had paid ₹ 1.5 lakh to the company. I was advised to wait until the stock markets rose since the policy was linked to the market. Wait I did.

But the surrender value stubbornly hovered around ₹ 1 lakh. I continued to wait patiently. But the Reliance Corporation lost its patience and a few days back they sent me a cheque for ₹ 107583.55. Add the interest to the loss of my capital, and I have lost about ₹ 1 lakh to Reliance. That is my Independence Day ‘gift’ this time.

I sent the following mail to Reliance Insurance.



They promptly responded with the usual jargon, part of which is given below.



The reply is much, much longer than that, of course. The rest of it is merely infantile information like how I should fulfil KYC norms, etc by contacting their “nearest” branch. I did contact the nearest branch only to be told that my policy was “foreclosed” (jargon, again) and hence nothing more could be done about it. The case is closed, in short, and I have no more say in the matter unless I choose to challenge it in the court.

Their claim that they tried to contact is utter falsehood. My phone shows no missed calls. Everything is as false as that when it comes to Reliance, I'm convinced. 

Exactly a year after Mr Modi came to power at the Centre, I lost my job in Delhi as my school was shut down by a godman who bought the campus and converted it into parking space for his rich devotees. Ever since that tragedy, I witnessed various instances of chicanery perpetrated by the prevalent political system in the country. Eventually I got used to that chicanery. I have now got used to a whole assortment of evils and vices that have come to dominate the country’s political dispensation. Lynching, assaults, rapes and murders have ceased to shock me. Lies have begun to amuse me. The Rafale scam is just a tip of the humongous iceberg of corruption that is eating up the country at various levels including in the mass media.

I live in a new India. I know I should be prepared to lose a lot more.



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Monday, August 13, 2018

Death of the Text?



“In the beginning was the word,” says the Bible. Man is a word-making animal. One of the first things he did as he started walking on two legs must have been coining words for effective communication. Words continued to be coined enriching human languages from the time of the earliest cuneiform texts. Man cannot live without the texts.

“Is the written word doomed?” The latest In(di)spire forum questions. No, it isn’t. The vlog and the blog will coexist just as the TV and the print media do or the novel and the movies do. True, more people are taking to the TV and the visual media. Video blogging has become quite popular too similarly. Yet the power of the word, the primordial power of mankind, will never be lost.

Words create texts. And words will continue to exercise their charm on readers for ages to come. Even today there are plenty of people who enjoy reading the newspapers in spite of the fact that the TV brings the news more efficiently and attractively. Literature continues to fascinate readers in spite of the movies and other such entertainments.

The delight one gets from the written texts is quite different from that given by other media. Words are magic. Words are drugs. Words create music and stir the soul as nothing else can.

I stick to blogging and the written text.



Sunday, August 12, 2018

Politics need not be a bad word



It’s rather rarely one comes across an article that highlights the goodness of politicians. Today I stumbled upon one such article in Malayalam written by one Abdul Rasheed. He mentions how G. Sudhakaran got a bank to write off a loan in order to save an old, impoverished woman from losing her home. Just a few phone calls and some instructions: that’s all what it took for the minister to bring a new life to that woman.

The writer also appreciates the recent visit made by Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala to the flood affected regions of the state. They shared the same helicopter putting aside their political rivalry.
 
Image courtesy Yoyo daily
The article goes on to say that Pinarayi’s government has already extended financial help to 234899 people in the last two years of its governance. A sum of ₹ 423 crore reached those people from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Most of that money came from the state-run lotteries though there are also some contributions from generous and compassionate people.

The Pinarayi government has expedited the process of extending financial support to the needy by making the application process online. There’s no need now for the person to go to Thiruvananthapuram and run from pillar to post and bribe the bureaucrats. The application can be submitted online and if it is approved the money is transferred to the account of the person within 100 hours. When Pinarayi took charge as Chief Minister, there were 30,000 applications awaiting action. An exceptionally quick action was taken by the Left government in this regard.

Rasheed contrasts this with what’s happening in many other states. Middlemen steal much of the money from the relief funds in many states, he says.

The Chief Minister’s Relief Fund is functioning with enviable transparency in Kerala and the money is reaching the right people at the right time. Due to the present flood crisis faced by the state, a lot of people have made generous contributions to the Fund. ₹ 1.75 crore was donated from 26 July to 9 Aug. Those who wish to contribute can remit the amount to:
Account Number: 67319948232
Bank: SBI City Branch, Thiruvananthapuram
IFSC: SBIN0070028


Friday, August 10, 2018

പിന്നെ കുറെ തമാശകളും.

മീശക്കാരൻ കേശവന് ദോശ തിന്നാൻ ആശ തോന്നിയപ്പോൾ കീശ തപ്പിനോക്കി. കീശ  കാലി. മേശ പണ്ടേ കാലിയായതാണ്. പണ്ടേ എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞാൽ ഏതാണ്ട് demonitisatioന്റെ കാലം മുതൽ. രാവണന്റെ കാലം. Oh, that's doing injustice to Ravana, thought Kesavan. Ravana had some ethics. He didn't touch Sita because she didn't permit him to do that.

ചിന്ത കാട് കയറുകയാണ് അല്ലേട കേശവാ? ഇതാണ് മലയാളികളുടെ main പ്രശ്‍നം. മനസ് നിറയെ കാടാണ്. കാട് നിറയെ  മനസും. കാട്, കറുത്ത കാട്. മനുഷ്യനാദ്യം പിറന്ന വീട്. കൊടുംകാട്ടിൽ തളർന്ന ചിറകു വീശി തകർന്ന പൊന്മാൻ ഇരുന്ന വീട്.

"എന്ത് ചേട്ടാ?" ചായക്കടയിലെ ഭായിയുടെ ചോദ്യം കേട്ട് കേശവൻ was jolted. Bhai, aren't you a Bangladeshi? Kesavan wanted to ask him. ഈ ബെന്ഗാളികൾ എന്താ ഇങ്ങനെ പെരുകുന്നത്? ഇവർക്ക് വേറെ പണി ഇല്ലേ? എവിടെ നോക്കിയാലും ബംഗാളി മാത്രം. ചുമ്മാതാണോ മോഡി ഭായ് ഹിന്ദുത്വ പറഞ്ഞു  പെരുക്കുന്നത്?

ഇളിഭ്യനായി കീശയിലും മേശയിലും കാശില്ലാത്ത കേശവൻ വായ് നോക്കി ഇരുന്നപ്പോൾ local RSS leader ആ വഴിയേ  വന്നു."No work, man?" ഉണ്ണികൃഷ്ണൻ നേതാവ് ചോദിച്ചു. "എന്നാ പിന്നെ വാടോ. ഞങ്ങളുടെ കൂടെ കൂടു. കൊറേ നൊണയോക്കെ പറഞ്ഞാൽ  മതി.കീശ നിറയെ കാശു  കിട്ടും."

Kesavan was happy to get കീശ നിറയെ കാശ്.  He became very religious. വയറു നിറയെ ദോശയും. പിന്നെ കുറെ തമാശകളും.  

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Writer, think

Image from CNN Asia


My job keeps me in touch with young people. An alarmingly increasing number of these young people tell me that they wish to leave India and settle down in a liberal country. I encourage them. India is governed by a warlord whose mindset belongs to the medieval era of fanatic wars. As a result, mindless violence is spreading across the country like a terminal cancer.

If you surf the writings on social media such as Facebook, you will realise that there is a whole army of people who propagate violence as the need of the hour. What is the need of the hour specifically? Once again, it shocked me to realise that the projected need is the redemption of Hinduism from its enemies in India. Who are the enemies? The Muslims, of course, first and foremost. And then the Dalits, the Christians, and so on.

The very first premise of all that logic is wrong. Hinduism has never been in any danger in India. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been the religion of the majority and continue to be so without any rival worth a mention. Yet why do so many thousands, if not millions, of people assume that their religion is in danger? Why do they propagate blatant lies in its name? Why do they support violence for its sake?

I’m not going to give answers. The answers are too obvious to be written here. That’s why I request today’s writers to think. Eminent writer and thinker Susan Sontag was of the opinion that every writer worth the label has a moral responsibility to the society. How can one be a writer without thinking seriously about the moral problems that surround him/her?

A good writer evokes “our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify,” wrote Sontag. Good writing should stimulate the reader’s imagination, “enlarge and complicate – and, therefore, improve – our sympathies.” Good writers “educate our capacity for moral judgment.”

What ought writers to do? Sontag was asked in an interview once. Her reply was: “Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.” The problem with most writers of today is that they pay undue attention to themselves, their popularity, their material rewards, and such things. Truth is the first casualty in such writings. No wonder there is so much falsehood being peddled on too many platforms.

The only remedy is to start thinking seriously. Our world today stands in need of serious thinkers and serious writers.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Cynic and the Monk



They are the opposite poles of the continuum that stretches from cheerful despair to sad optimism.  The cynic is a sad man who laughs away his blues with the soothing belief that life won’t be any better than this. The monk is a happy man who wearies himself with the longing to make life holier by staying away from its inevitable pollutions and then preaching cleanliness to the miserable wretches who are condemned to wallow in the filth.

However, there is something common to both the cynic and the monk. Both reject the world. The cynic is afraid of the world and hence says No to it with masqueraded cheerfulness. His No is his shield held against the pains and dregs that life will inevitably bring if he dares to say Yes to it. The monk appears to say Yes to life but is in fact saying No to a lot of things. While dark humour is the natural tool of the cynic, rubrics are the monk’s knights in shining armours. While George Orwell’s donkey Benjamin is the cynic, the Biblical Moses on Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments is the typical monk.

Hitting a balanced equilibrium is the real art of living. Life pollutes necessarily. The rain is good; the soil is good; but when they unite slush is the offspring, as Kazantzakis’s Saint Francis says. Life is that slush. There’s no escape from that slush unless you stay in the cynic’s niche of cheerful contempt or the monk’s holier-than-thou Mount Sinai.

Both the cynic and the monk say No to life because of its inevitable slush. It is those who are miring themselves while grappling with that slush who are the real potential heroes. That is why the sleazy stories about priests and bishops and other religious people who creep into the frocks of nuns and housewives don’t interest me though the Malayalam TV channels discuss little else these days.

What I find disgusting, however, is the blatant refusal on the part of the priests and other ‘holy’ men to acknowledge their falls with the humility that well behoves them. Instead they are eager to project themselves as the incorruptible custodians of morality and heap slush on their hapless victims. The system is so male-dominated and male-friendly that even women support the priests with arguments such as why the girl/woman/nun didn’t stay away from the seductions of the holy men! Again and again, I hear such arguments from many of my female acquaintances and relatives. I’m both amused and disgusted.

The monk wouldn’t claim such moral high ground if he actually lived life like other men. He wouldn’t be so eager to bring down the tablets of commandment from the Mount Sinai.  More importantly, he wouldn’t be so unwilling to acknowledge his own frailties and falls. The real saint is the one who has the courage and humility to stand at the crossroads and beat his chest crying, “My sin, my sin, my most grievous sin.”

Instead, when they ascend their respective Mount Sinai and bring down more oppressive tablets on us, the irrepressible cynic in me bursts out with Orwell's Benjamin, “Donkeys live a long time.”


Monday, August 6, 2018

Friendship


Until someone from my Delhi days called me yesterday evening, I was not aware that it was friendship day (1st Sunday of August). I transferred the phone to Maggie as soon as he enquired after her. The call ended soon which was what I wanted. Friends – I’m scared of many them.

My experience with friends has been such that friendship is a nightmare for me with the exception of a few souls who don’t wait for friendship day to call. When a Catholic priest who was my teacher for a brief period extended friendship on Facebook recently, I accepted the offer with considerable hesitation. When he wrote on my page yesterday that he prayed for me I became really terrified and wrote in response that attention from religious people had always spelt disaster in my life.

I had my own perversions and idiosyncrasy which made me an outsider in any society. Most of those perversions were worked to their bizarre extremes by certain religious people who took it upon themselves to reform me. As a result of their missionary zeal and enterprise, I became a miserable wretch and quit the place altogether after enduring an ordeal that lasted half a decade. It was not just a place that I quit; I quit people. It was impossible for me to trust people anymore. In fact, the whole missionary enterprise damaged my personality so much that I couldn’t even sign my name without my hand shivering uncontrollably.

I have lived my life in relative solitude ever since though I have always greeted people at my workplace with the best possible smile on my lips. Beyond the greetings and smiles, friendships in general meant little for me.

Friendship is an attitude of openness and not the missionary zeal to reform people and mould them in your own image. As Fritz Perls said, “You are you, and I am I.” You and I have to live our own lives the way we deem it best. I may be wrong. Yet I have to live my life, not yours. I will learn my lessons through my wrongs. If you find my way unacceptable leave me and go your way. If we can meet on some mutually acceptable plane, that’s beautiful. Otherwise, it can’t be helped.

Once upon a time


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Blogging and Earning



Mediocrity encroaches on everything. That is a natural law. Religions become mere trade of illusions and delusions under mediocre priests and other leaders. Politics becomes trade of power. Writing becomes a similar trade too. The true worth of each of these is brought down to the quagmire of pedestrianism by mediocre people who always rule the roost, thanks to the natural human craze for power and wealth.

Blogging has not escaped this fate either. Much of what you get these days on blogs is just uninspired pettiness that masquerades as supernatural wisdom. Almost every blogger you meet these days is an expert on something like parenting, nutrition, or lifestyle. There are good writers among them, of course as there are good religious leaders and good politicians too.

“Is it correct to always convert a passion into a profession?” That is the question raised by an eminent blogger, Arvind Passey, at Indiblogger, a blogger’s community. “Does this destroy the essence of blogging?” He goes on to question. “Must earning money be the final aim of blogging?”

Earning money cannot be the final aim of anything except trade, I think. But I hasten to add that money is not a bad thing at all and there is nothing wrong in earning it through bona fide means. A writer is surely entitled to his material rewards, why not?

From Cartoonstock

But Passey is raising a relevant question. Money should not be the ultimate goal of writing or any profession. The nemesis that is haunting our civilisation today is, thanks to the spread of capitalism as the (only?) universal principle, commercialisation of everything from spirituality to health care, everything from the soul to the body.

As a result of that commercialisation, the hospitals have become killing places and religions have become comic perversions. I would wish writing to remain above that commercialisation. What is writing worth unless it is authentic? We live in difficult times. Genuine journalists are forced to leave their platforms or even profession because of political pressures in India today. There is threat to the very life of genuine writers. In spite of all that, I believe it is the duty of a writer to retain his authenticity. The real question is not about converting passion into profession; it is about the necessity of authenticity – whatever the profession is.


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Hope Springs Eternal

Image from videohive


Hope was the last item in Pandora’s Box. Pandora was the Greek predecessor of the biblical Eve. Like Eve, Pandora was the first woman of mankind and the sole purpose of her creation was to bring evils and misery into the world of men. She descended on mankind with a box that contained all the evils which were let loose as soon as she reached the earth. Hope was left behind in the box where it still remains like a mirage.

Was hope left behind in the box because it was another evil, the ultimate evil? Hope can be a terrible evil if it gives you false aspirations and destinations. Imagine the common man on the street or the adivasi in the jungle who hopes that one day a Messiah will come to deliver them from the exploiting and mendacious politicians.

Messianic hopes are quite asinine if you know the story of this donkey from the circus which was asked by a launderer’s donkey, “Why do you endure such painful and risky acts? Why don’t you run away and join us at the launderers where you’ll only have to carry linen and not ride bicycles or bray at lions?”

“Ah, but you don’t know what fortune is awaiting me here in the circus,” said our protagonist.

“Fortune?”

“Yup. The other day the master told that beautiful girl you see over there, practising on the tight rope, that if she fell down again he’d marry her to this donkey and I was the donkey he pointed at. I’m hoping and waiting for her fall.”

Hope has continued to sustain that donkey to this day, I hope.

Messiahs have come and gone and the world has continued to become worse and worse, but we still continue to hope. If we can still place our trust and hope in our politicians, then we have all the more reason to hope for our eternal reward somewhere up there in a place the Messiahs have pointed at again and again.

Hope is universal simply because without it life would be unbearable. The other day I learnt that chickens too have hopes. One of the chicks in my brood asked the mother hen, “The puppies drink their mother’s milk and so do the calves and the kittens. Why are we chicks condemned to eat worms?”

“Wait till the 2019 general elections, my darling,” Mama Hen said. “The dominant political party is very animal-friendly. The Murg Sena has submitted a supplication to them to provide nipples to chicken breasts.”

“And make the breasts meaningful,” muttered Papa Cock who was listening all the while. He hoped to demand a sacred status for cocks, if not for hens too, eventually.

“Hope springs eternal in chicken breasts,” Pope hummed. Alexander Pope, that is.