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Showing posts from September, 2018

Make them feel good

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Add caption “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” said Maya Angelou. Making people feel good is an art. I confess I don’t possess it. Not that I didn’t try to learn it. It just doesn’t come to me naturally. So I chose the next best option: stay silent when you don’t know what to say and just give as sweet a smile as you can. A smile makes people feel good. My Christian upbringing and the Malayali cultural background have much to do with my inability to make people feel good. Neither Christianity [the version I was taught or learnt] nor the memes I was condemned with congenitally ever made anyone feel good about anything. Life is evil, according to Christianity. We are born evil with the original sin. And then came the typical Malayali cynicism which added colours and nuances to the original sin. Wait. It’s not all that negative. Don’t judge yet. My best friends are my s

Success without Character

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In the former half of 2000s I suggested a topic for an inter-school declamation competition. I was teaching at Sawan Public School, Delhi at that time and the competition was an annual event. More than 30 schools from different states of North India participated. My suggestion was: “Success without character is hollow.” It was an adaptation of a quote from Albert Einstein: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” My suggestion elicited a few dissenting murmurs. “Is success possible without some compromises?” A senior faculty member asked me. The others desisted from articulating their dissent. For some reason the Principal nodded his assent and as was the practice the topic was displayed on the stage of the auditorium where the competition was to be held. You can see it in the picture below. It was an interesting competition with more than 30 brilliant young speakers from some elite schools of the region trying to enlighten a few

Beef Janata Party

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One of the communities I like and follow on Facebook is Beef Janata Party . Though its sidebar proclaims “Just for Fun”, it isn’t fun at all. It is a consistent, devoted and knowledgeable resistance to what the Right wing in India is doing. It has a good share of friends and followers: 270,149 people like the community and 273,606 follow it. The comments that appear below their posts show that there is a sizeable section of people in India who are frustrated with Narendra Modi’s governance. Beef Janata Party does not launch cheap attacks on anyone. They are serious about their mission which ostensibly is to make people aware of the mendacity and duplicity of the Right wing in the country. It questions all forms of falsehood, chicanery and assaults on citizens. It mocks silly claims made by the so-called Modi bhakts. Beef Janata Party has a mission and a vision. It is a concerted effort to cleanse the political atmosphere in the country of hatred and malice. It exposes falseh

Love Marriage

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The latest victims of bigotry “If we had a daughter and she came home with a boyfriend, how would you react?” Maggie asked me a few years ago. The context was a love marriage that had taken place rather too privately. We knew the girl whose parents were staff of the residential school where Maggie and I worked. The parents were opposed to their daughter’s affair and rightly so. That girl was found dead in her husband’s house a couple of months back. “I would be amused,” I answered Maggie’s question. I explained that love was the most natural feeling between a young boy and a young girl. It should not, however, divert their attention from their career aspirations and life’s goals. On the contrary, love should invigorate their goals and aspirations. Maggie sighed. The sigh probably meant how naively idealistic I was. But she persisted with her questioning. “Suppose the boy belongs to a different cultural, linguistic and religious background?” She asked. “None of those

Mark Twain’s God

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Mark Twain Mark Twain had a quaint sense of humour. Someone who says things like “Go to heaven for the climate, Hell for the company” and writes stuff like Huckleberry Finn cannot but be freakishly funny. When it came to God, however, he was more incisive than humorous. Much of his writings on God were not published because he knew that even his heirs would be burnt alive if they published if “this side of 2016 AD.” He wrote that in 1906 and those writings were published before the century wore itself out with the kinds of irreverence even a Mark Twain could not imagine. He believed in God, a heartless one whom he called The Great Criminal. Even an ordinary human being is a far more benign entity than God, according to Twain. If you came across a suffering being and you had the power to cure him of his suffering what would you do? Obviously you would cure him. You will remove all evil from the world if you have the power to do so. God is omnipotent. Then why is there so mu

Metaphysics of the Masses

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Image from Cartoonstock Philosopher Schopenhauer called religion the metaphysics of the masses. Schopenhauer did not believe in God. He did not set much store by science either. Art is a better way to understand truth, according to him. Religion, science, art and philosophy are all ways to understand reality and communicate that understanding to others for their benefit. Science understands reality in a very rigid system which is of not much interest to the average man. It makes no difference to the ordinary man whether there are 8 electrons in an oxygen atom or how hydrogen and oxygen can combine to form water. The waters in the rivers of Babylon which set the psalmist crying nostalgically for their lost Zion continue to interest the ordinary man though centuries have passed since the Captivity which created the biblical poem. Philosophy is the ideal way to understand life and reality. But how many people are capable of thinking philosophically. Very few. A few more wi

Love Matters

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Lover, Prince, Dictator Love makes the world of a difference to the way we see others, even animals. Kittu walked into my life a few months ago. He was a little kitten at that time. He appeared in the rubber farm behind my house on a morning. I thought he had wandered into my farm by mistake and ignored it. When I returned from school in the evening and went to the farm for filling some grow bags with soil for planting some spinach saplings, the kitten sleeping in the shade of the rubber trees touched a soft corner in my heart. I guessed that someone had abandoned him in the farm at night. He looked famished and baffled. “Come,” I said as I took up the first bag I had filled with soil. He had been watching me gingerly all the while and I had thrown a few furtive glances at him which had not escaped his attention.   He arrests my movement! As soon as I said ‘come’ he got up and followed me. I asked Maggie to give him some food which he ate ravenously. Maggie was amu

Writer’s Dilemma

I don’t feel like writing these days. No, it’s not the writer’s block. It’s a kind of disgust I’m beginning to feel towards what’s happening in my country. Honest people are being arrested and put behind the bars. Or they are harassed in different ways like raids or political repression. Goodness has no place in this country anymore, it looks like. An Empire of Evil has established itself firmly and unassailably. Such things have happened in the past too in many countries. But what is alarming in India is the majority support to the Empire of Evil. Quite a lot of people are convinced that this is the right way of governing the country. They think that certain sections of the population deserve to be eliminated. They are convinced that the end justifies the means.   Worse, they think that it’s not at all evil; they are convinced that this is a holy war, a crusade, on ‘evils’ such as secularism and freedom of expression. They justify everything from the marauding hikes of pe

Satanic Netas

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Image from Scoopwhoop In Dostoevsky’s novel, The Karamazov Brothers , Ivan Karamazov tells the story of Jesus returning to the 16 th century Spain where the Catholic Church ruled the roost with the cruel diktats of Inquisitors. Jesus heals the wounds of the people while the Inquisitors seek to eliminate the perceived enemies of their religion. He is arrested soon, however, by the Grand Inquisitor’s guards. The Cardinal who is the Grand Inquisitor tells Jesus to leave the earth since it is the Satan that guides the Church and not the teachings of Jesus. People wouldn’t be able to put Jesus’ teachings into practice. People need their daily bread, occasional miracles and a readymade conscience. These are what Satan had offered to Jesus during his temptations described in the Bible . Satan was right and the Church has been performing the work of Satan ever since it took over the Roman Empire, not because the Church is evil but because it seeks the best and most secure order for m

My Teacher’s Days

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My first colleauges in the profession When I took up my first teaching job in Shillong, it was more because I needed a job than because I wanted to be a teacher. I had already attempted a career in hoteliering and failed. My first days at St Joseph’s School in Shillong didn’t turn out to be very promising either. The people were good but I wasn’t quite sure whether I was on the right turf. The people were too good, in fact. The headmistress was a nun who went out of her way to make me feel comfortable at the school. She even took the trouble of finding me an accommodation. The colleagues were the unassuming Khasi tribal people whose geniality was very disarming. St Joseph’s was a convent school and my students were all girls which made the job all too easy. I don’t think I was good at the job initially though I had some experience in it earlier as a tutor at an institution in Ernakulam where I did my graduation. The truth is that I didn’t like the job really. My first T

Sins of Omission

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India's Sin There are sins of commission and sins of omission, my catechism teacher taught me when I was young. Theft and murder are sins you commit. There are infinite sins of commission from feeling jealous of your neighbour’s possessions to worshipping a god other than the one your religion gave you. I was more fascinated by the sins of omission. When you omit doing the good that you should do, that’s a sin too: the sin of omission. A grave sin. Our world would have been a much better place if we all did what we could do. We can do so many good things and yet we don’t do them just because we are afraid. Afraid of our boss at the workplace. Afraid of our religion and its god[s]. Afraid of the dominant political ideology. Cowardice is the gravest vice. Fear withholds us from achieving what we want to achieve. Bullies rule today’s world merely because most of us are cowards who don’t dare to stand up to bullying. Contrast today’s political leaders with those of a ge