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Showing posts from November, 2018

Kittu and I

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Kittu thinks he deserves the best. “Owners of dogs will have noticed that if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realise that if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.” I came across those words of Christopher Hitchens purely by coincidence and the very next thing I did was to search more about Hitchens. The titles of his books like God is not Great and The Portable Atheist found me logging on to Amazon India to search whether the books are available. Someone who makes that profound observation about cats and dogs has a heart in addition to a brain and hence tends to be worth reading. I know enough about cats and dogs now to stake that claim. My brother’s dogs love me more than my own cat. Kittu, my cat, was abandoned by someone at my doorstep when he was just old enough to walk on his own. He chose to

Who moved my Parathas?

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Towards the end of Sawan [my Delhi school] I love to try varieties of food though I am not a glutton. Not a gourmet, either. A philanderer with food, if you like. I can relish Khasi tribal foods as heartily as Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was a sheer pragmatic need that taught me to love whatever the man on the next table ate. Rather, woman, I should say. My experiments with food started when I was working as a teacher in a high school at a place called Jaiaw on the outskirts of Shillong. Jaiaw is just a kilometre, as the crow flies, from the main market (Bara Bazar) of Shillong. But it had no pretensions to being anywhere near the capital of the state. Jaiaw was like a small junction in a village for all the eight years I worked there. Nothing ever changed: the same narrow streets, the same houses on either side of them, the same small shops. There was just one small Khasi restaurant which looked more like a shed than a tea shop. I had my lunch there every day for quite som

Take a walk with me...

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Take a walk with me on these dusty lanes and be gracious enough to listen to the perverted music of my heartbeats. Perverted, yes, that’s how it has been described by many people for years and I have learnt to accept that description just because I’ve understood that I don’t belong to these lanes. But have you ever noticed that those who claim that they are evil are usually no worse than you? Has it ever occurred to you that most evils are perpetrated by people who claim to be good? Look at all those people who carry guns in hands and venom in hearts and persuade us to believe that they plunder and rape and kill for the sake of the greater common good. They have been doing it for centuries. It might have been the bow and the arrow instead of the gun in those good old days. It might have been the burning stakes or the gleaming swords. This evening when our shadows rise to meet us, you see terror in a handful of dust lying on this very same lane that we walk on. The lane has

Edakkal Caves

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“Those with heart problems should not climb,” warns a signboard at the threshold of the ascent to the Edakkal Caves in Wayanadu district of Kerala. My students whom I was accompanying pointed out the board to me. “My heart is good,” I told them. There are quite a few places on the way that try your heart’s strength. The climb is quite steep in those places. I did not pant a bit, however. “What is the secret of your health, sir?” asked one of the students who was struggling for breath. “My heart is good,” I answered. The half-hour ascent ends in a cave with quite a few charming slits in rocks, crevices that let in sunbeams that light up the cave delightfully. The history of the cave goes back to eight millennia, the official tourist guide there told us pointing at the pictorial writings on one of the granite walls. Some of the drawings have possible links with the Indus Valley Civilisation, says the guide. Later I checked Wikipedia which says: The caves contain drawings

This too will pass?

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The village where I live now I have passed through hells. Some of them were creations of my own immaturity and other personal drawbacks and quite many were generously awarded by people who decided that I deserved them. Religious people are particularly adept at creating hells for others who they regard as sinners. There were times when I thought that life was an endless pain. There were moments when I longed to put an end to it. I wished to hide myself in some fathomless cave on a wild mountain. A few individuals, hardly one or two, were kind enough to counsel me in those times: “This too will pass.” I was not at all certain that it would pass. On the contrary, I accepted my definition of life as an endless pain with certain Buddhist resignation and acquired stoicism.   When I left my lecturer’s job in Shillong at the age of 41, in utter despair and apparent disrepair, I had no hope of a bright future ahead. It was a risk that I decided to take before putting an end t

The Frog and the Nightingale

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Bingle Bog became silent instantly. All the animals and birds were stunned into silence by a strange music. They were all used to the croaking of the bullfrog so far. The frog croaked away day and night and called it ‘The Voice of the Heart’. The frog considered himself the King of the Bog. It was then that the nightingale appeared on the banyan tree and started singing. The nightingale soon became a sensation in the Bog. All the animals and birds gravitated towards the banyan tree to listen to the nightingale’s songs. “You sing quite well, you know,” the Frog said to the Nightingale when the singing stopped. “Oh, thank you so much,” said the Nightingale. “It’s so kind of you.” “You know me?” Frog was a little surprised in spite of himself. He had come wearing his latest suit gifted by a bhakt. His name was embossed in gold on the coat. “Oh, who doesn’t know you ji?” Nightingale said without concealing her admiration. “You are the great king of this Bog, the

Prakash Resigns

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Fiction This time Prakash Pande’s resignation was final. The metro train that rolled by parallel to his office on the second floor of a monstrous building in ITO was witness to it. “Are you sure you aren’t making a mistake?” His boss, Obhijit Choudhary, asked. He had asked the same question a couple of months back when Prakash had tendered his resignation saying that he couldn’t report lie after lie anymore. “See, Pande,” the Editor-in-Chief Choudhary advised him then, “your resignation is going to make no difference to the policies of the India Chronicle , let alone stir any fat asshole on Parliament Street to make the faintest of a fart. We are sold, man, lock, stock, and barrel.” Obhijit da counselled Prakash to stay on and understand the system thoroughly so that later when he got the chance he could write a book about it. “You are one of the best journos we have, man,” said Obhijit. Prakash stayed on. And he went on to foist propaganda in the name of news. W

Traditions

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Traditions are not sacrosanct. As time changes, as our understanding of the universe improves, as civilization grows, traditions may have to change. Many traditions have changed. For example, we got rid of the tradition of burning the widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Different states in India had various traditional measures to stigmatise the lower caste or untouchable people. Most of these traditions have vanished though some linger on in certain places. The less there is to justify a tradition, the harder it is to get rid of it, said Mark Twain. Tradition, more often than not, is an excuse to avoid thinking. Human civilisation would have remained in its primitive stages if everyone had remained stuck to traditions. Good traditions should be preserved, of course. What is good, however? One may argue that whatever is associated with religion is good. Is it? Don’t forget that religious traditions have been responsible for much of the exploitation of certain

My Sabarimala Visit

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With Maggie at Badrinath Hindu temples used to fascinate me. There is a unique aura of mystery exuded by their very architecture. When I was a little boy I wished to enter the temple premises in my village. But the bold writing on the wall of that temple, “Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter,” kept me out. That writing vanished some time after I actually entered that temple. The curiosity of a little boy was what drew me in one day while I passed by that temple, as I always did, while going for my evening bath in the nearby river. I stood in that dark chamber for hardly a minute when someone whispered in my ear to get out before I would stir up a communal riot in the village. I visited scores of Hindu temples later in various parts of the country including Badrinath in the Garhwal Himalayas, Kamakhya in Guwahati and Gaumukh in Mount Abu. All those temples fascinated me for reasons which I never tried to analyse. It was a kind of instinctual fascination, I think. It was a s

O Woman

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One purpose of religions is to keep certain sections of people under subjugation. The easiest way of subjugating people is to give them rules and regulations in the name of their god(s). The caste system in India is an example. Another example is the place of women in society. All major religions in the world have kept women under male domination. The Bible, for instance, begins with laying on the woman the whole onus for man’s sinfulness. Then came the various ‘fathers’ of the Church to reinforce that male domination with their divine revelations. Saint Paul, for example, was an incorrigible male chauvinist.  Perhaps, no other religion is as misogynistic as the Catholic Church whose holy Patriarchs have time and again denounced woman as the cause of all human evils. Thomas Aquinas, whose philosophy and theology play a major role even today in the formation houses of Catholic priests, viewed woman as a “defective and misbegotten” creature born out of the defective part o

Optimism

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A part of the staff quarters demolished partly by RSSB initially and left as such for months just to demoralise the staff I had a colleague in Delhi who fought two successive cases in the court of justice in order to get his job back. Let me call him Sachin. He won the first case and arrived at a compromise in the second. He went through veritable hells during his fights but never lost his optimism. Yesterday when I posited a question on Facebook whether the Karnataka by-election results were an indication of people’s disillusionment with the BJP, Sachin was one of the first to assert confidently, “Surely not.” Sachin was a math teacher in the senior secondary section which already had another math teacher. He was brought in because students were unhappy with the existing teacher. It is quite difficult to be a popular math teacher and Sachin too faced an uphill task which eventually became too daunting especially with the uncooperative attitude of the management and a sect

Vengeance

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“Vengeance is mine.” God claims in the Bible. [Deuteronomy 32:35, and many other places] “God is a mean-spirited, pugnacious bully bent on revenge against His children for failing to live up to His impossible standards.” Walt Whitman   Image courtesy Robert Hatfield I wish moral vengeance was a natural law like gravitation. The law of gravitation will wreak its revenge on you if you try to fly from the top of a building. Similarly if there was a natural law for immoral acts, there would be no evil in the world. For example, if you do evil to a person nature will punish you with a proportionate evil. But nature knows no such morality. On the contrary, nature has an unbalanced proportion of evil. Human civilisations have been relentless efforts to bring nature’s evil under man’s control. And morality is man’s effort to bring under control the evil within himself. Religions are supposed to assist man in the process of making himself virtuous. That they have failed in

The RSS and the End of Imagination

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Suresh 'Bhaiyyaji' Joshi V. S. Naipual, during his 2004 visit to India, described Ayodhya as “a sort of passion to be encouraged.” His argument was that passion leads to creativity and Indians are rather short of creativity. Indians seem to be better at demolitions, riots and destruction. Even when we speak about constructing a temple at Ayodhya, destructive malevolence seems to run at the bottom of the desire. For almost two centuries, Ayodhya has been a potent metanarrative in India, especially for the North Indian Hindus. Various people and political parties have used it effectively for rousing up the passions of large numbers of people. Finally when the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 under the pontificate of L. K. Advani, Ayodhya lost its emotional fervour at least for a while. Justifying the demolition Champat Rai, a joint general secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP], said that the Babri Masjid was a “signpost of slavery for over 450 years and the

My national pride swells

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Who is taller? Image courtesy Hindustan Times I feel proud to belong to the country that boasts of the tallest statue in the world. Silly countrymen tell me that the amount of money spent on that statue is far more than the entire annual tax revenue of many states in the country. They argue that while China is spending money on railroads across oceans, we are inane to spend it on a statue for vultures to ensconce themselves. I liked the metaphor of vultures though I think that it is quite antinational in the context. Was Shah Jahan a vulture when he built the Taj Mahal while a lion’s share of his population lived in leaky huts? Shah Jahan spent the country’s wealth on things like the Peacock Throne which was embedded with the most coveted diamonds and pearls. Though the throne vanished from history like many other things, the mausoleum remains. Through that mausoleum Shah Jahan remains. The tallest statue in the world is our own cultural emperor’s ingenious strategy to