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Showing posts from February, 2019

Why I am opposed to Mr Modi

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I have been asked again and again why I hate Mr Narendra Modi. The most basic answer is I don’t hate him. I don’t hate anybody because I know that hatred will corrode my goodness. I’m opposed to Mr Modi’s worldview. That’s not hatred; I’m sure people will understand or try to understand that essential difference. India has now become a country where even that difference is not quite understood. Anyone who questions Modi is portrayed as antinational if not a traitor by an incredibly large number of people among whom I’m quite surprised to find highly educated and very intelligent people too. Modi has created that situation. That’s part of his personality disorder ; he is a narcissist and he knows how to veil that narcissism efficiently beneath the veneer of religious nationalism (a very dangerous though potent concoction). His worldview is highly tainted by the same disorder. In a healthier political system Modi would have been a struggler on the sideline. India’s polit

Melon City’s Entertainments

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People want a different entertainment once in a while. The King knew it. That’s why he constructed the arch across the Raj Path. He also made sure that a marble slab was affixed at the foot of the arch with his name emblazoned on it so that posterity would remember him as the builder of the arch. It was a monumental arch, the biggest and tallest of its kind so far. When its construction was over, the King announced its grand inauguration on all TV channels controlled by him. There were very few channels that were not under his control and such channels were breathing their last anyway. The offices of those channels were raided frequently for one reason or another. On the day of opening the grand arch to the public officially, the King rode on the Raj Path standing on an elevated platform in an open jeep waving at his admirers who stood on both sides of the Path. The ride and the inaugural address were telecasted live to the entire admiring nation. The arch was decorate

Why I stay away

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When I look back at my life, there’s plenty to be ashamed of. So many mistakes were made because of my immaturity, my obstinate refusal to grow up. It’s only in the autumn of your life you realise that so many blunders of youth could have been avoided. In Tagore’s words, clouds now come floating into your life, no longer to carry rain or usher a storm, but to add colour to your sunset sky. The metaphorical rains and storms belong to a different phase.   The hues of the sunset sky remain now. Those hues may look resplendent but each has a sad story to tell. That’s how life is, I believe: more tears than laughter. Or is it more folly than wisdom? Wisdom comes through the tears, perhaps. The wisdom does not make you perfect, however. The truth is that none of us grows absolutely. We grow in certain dimensions and remain clumsily retarded in certain others. I have at least grown wise enough to know where I’m likely to make a fool of myself. That’s why I stay away from societ

Tradition, tradition

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Tradition The vey mention of the word ‘tradition’ brings to my mind the above song from one of my all-time favourite movies, Fiddler on the Roof . The song says that the Jews have a tradition for everything from how to eat to how to work. Tradition governs everything that they do. Without traditions their life would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof, the character says. The fiddler who plays his fiddle standing on a slopped roof is in a precarious situation. The Jews were in a similar precarious situation. Perhaps we are all in such a situation all the time. Human life is never possible without some precariousness. Look at India’s situation now, for example. Aren’t we standing on a slopped rooftop and playing a fiddle? Traditions give them the balance required in life’s precarious situations, says the character. Traditions teach each Jew who he is and what god expects of him. The Jews continue to follow their ancient traditions with canine and clannish loyalty. Muslims

My own devil

Young Jesus goes to join a monastery. A monk who is the ‘guest master’ meets him at the gate and asks him to go back thinking he was just a crazy young boy. “God commanded me to come,” says Jesus who is visibly worried. The monk cackled. He had seen a good deal in his lifetime and had no confidence in God . “God is the Lord,” says the monk. “So he does whatever comes into his head. If he wasn’t able to inflict injustice, what kind of an Omnipotent would he be?” The above scene is from The Last Temptation of Christ , a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. [The lines in italics are quoted from the novel.] The predominant theme of the novel is the conflict between the good and the evil, between the flesh and the spirit. Right at the beginning of the novel we find Jesus wondering whether God and the devil are different entities at all. “ Who can tell them apart? They exchange faces,” Jesus reflects. Both god and devil are within us. Both good and evil are within us. What

Prayer

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Devotees at Chottanikkaram Makam Image from Mathrubhumi Today’s newspapers in Kerala carried images of devotees at the Chottanikkara Temple. The best image was the one in Malayala Manorama in which a young girl was shown praying to the deity with tears streaming down her cheeks. I couldn’t get that image online because of Manorama’s copyright possessiveness.   The intensity of the fervour in the eyes of that devotee struck a chord with me. I am not a devotee of any deity and I can’t stand crowds even in places of worship. But the image made me question the meaning of prayer. I guess prayer means a whole range of different things to different people. Most devotees must be praying in order to influence the deity, to make the deity change his/her mind, to alter the existing unpleasant reality. Most devotees expect miracles, I’m quite sure, though the degree of the miracle may vary widely from getting a good spouse to curing someone’s incurable ailment. Can we really in

Diogenes and the Prostitute

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Image from Wikipedia Diogenes was on his usual quest, Holding a lantern up in his hand, Searching for goodness In the species called human beings. The most right place should be Where else but places of worship? Where man meets his gods There should of course be goodness. The priests wore habits of different colours, They spoke truths of different colours, Only the hatred in their eyes had the same colour. In god’s house, muttered Diogenes to himself, There’s no place to spit but the priest’s face. The offices of political parties with elegant slogans and proud flags must be the place where goodness resides. Kill, kill, is all that he heard in each office, Kill the ones holding the other flags. Kill the ones mouthing other slogans. Those who are not with us are against us. Kill them for the sake of the nation. Why not whip the politician, the leader, when the citizen is led astray? Diogenes’s lantern flickered. In the cott

Winning Hearts and more

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The strength of your opinions is directly proportional to the strength of your convictions. Convictions are an integral part of strong characters. But expressing them in the form of opinions may not always be the best thing to do especially if you seek to win hearts. If you seek to be popular, rather. All the people who matter in history had strong convictions and hence strong opinions. From the Buddha to the Mahatma, from Socrates to Bertrand Russell, they all expressed their opinions boldly because popularity was not their primary concern. As Bernard Shaw pointed out, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” is a snivelling modern invention because the Jesus of the gospels went to the extent of calling the dominant religious leaders of his time “a brood of vipers” and he did not hesitate to use the whip against some of them. The brood of vipers put him on the cross, of course. Strong opinions can be lethal. Only those who have nothing to lose can afford them. We have much to lose tod

Sexy Apocalypse

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Some of Rael's female followers Image from here Religion can be quite funny and occasionally weird if you are a sceptic or non-believer watching it from the periphery.   Believers pour hundreds of litres of milk on a mass of granite while thousands of children go hungry in the vicinity. Buxom ladies sweep littered floors of temples with much hardship while they won’t even dust the furniture at home. I can understand the ritualistic fulfilment that the believer derives from such practices because I was a similar believer myself once. There was a period in my life when I flagellated myself with my belt believing that would rein in my carnal addictions. Today such practices bring a wry smile to my lips. That’s why, perhaps, the very title of the book Intelligent Design: Message from the Designers by Rael caught my fancy. The author-publisher advertised it as a kind of Bible inspired by the “intelligent designers” of life on earth. Curiosity egged me on and I read the en

For those special friends

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Many people on Facebook have advised me to go to Pakistan though I have time and again stated clearly that what I dislike about present India is that it is becoming increasingly like Pakistan. The Sangh Parivar has more or less succeeded in creating what Dr Shashi Tharoor has tersely named ‘Hindu Pakistan’. This morning broke with someone dispatching me to Israel. If the “Indian Hindu culture” was not as “tolerant” as it was, I “would have been born in Israel” – that’s what the Facebook pundit wrote sounding rather ominous. I don’t know why this person wishes to consign me to Israel. There is tremendous irony in the suggestion since Israel was created for a people who were victimised by Fascism which seems to sustain the ideology of the Sangh Parivar. I’m writing this to make one thing clear to these Facebook champions of the “Indian Hindu culture” who assume that I am an enemy of that culture. I am NOT. I have great respect for the profundity of the Upanishads. I am con

The journey matters

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The company mattes on the way If destination is all that mattered, the graveyard would be the happiest place. What really matters is what happens between the cradle and the grave. That is true about leisurely travels too. Some of my happiest journeys were the treks in the Garhwal Himalayas which were all made with students while I taught in Delhi. My first trek was to Hemkund which is at 4633 metres (15,200 feet) above sea level. Dr S C Biala, the principal of the school, was a passionate mountaineer and he introduced mountaineering to the school. Though I was initially hesitant about my physical ability for a trek of that sort, I fell in love with trekking after that first experience. In the next few years, I trekked to quite a few peaks in the Garwhal Himalayas with my students and loved all of them. The destination is not what really matters when you go trekking. Most of the places like Hemkund or Gaumukh have nothing much to offer for sight-seeing or anything. It i

Salesman

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Fiction Image courtesy: Pexels “Mother died,” Lily said without any introduction as soon as her sister answered the call. “Good for her,” Rose said after a sigh. “When was it?” “Last night. Pop saw her in the morning lying dead in her bed.” “How did you know?” “Daisy rang up.” Daisy was their younger sister. She still has connections with some people in their hometown in the fishing coasts of Kochi. They were four sisters: Lily, Rose, Daisy and Zinnia, in that order, the last two being twins and the youngest. When their mother was pregnant with the twins, father was very certain that it was going to be a boy. “Big tummy. Means boy,” he said looking at Ma’s belly. Ma told them later about it when they were grown up enough to understand the dark underbelly of relationships. When father was told that it was twins, and that too girls, he refused to see them. He walked out, spat out angrily and contemptuously on the way to the local joint where he got drunk on illic

Mountains and Conquests

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Mountains look formidable from a distance. When you start ascending them, a slow realisation hits you that they are more seductive than formidable. You conquer heights and your vision expands. Finally you are there, at the zenith, with a whole world lying stretched before you. What was it that I dreaded before I began the ascent? You wonder. And you look at the higher peak that catches your eyes. It beckons you like a seductress. Why don’t you surrender to that seduction? It’s so much better to be there on a peak, breathing in the smell of the pines, looking at a wider horizon, and wishing you were a bird that could stretch out the wings and fly, fly away, rather than be down here listening to quotidian slogans shouted by faceless mouths. What’s more: you realise that you have just conquered a peak but that you have conquered yourself.   From Richard Bach You have conquered yourself. That’s the real ascent. Now you see things differently as a result of that conquest

Sunday in the village

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This was the village road until two years ago Sunday is the best day in the village not because it is a holiday for me as for others too but because the village road becomes desolate. It doesn’t look like a village at all on weekdays because of the heavy traffic on the road. Sunday is a holiday for the road too, mercifully. I have walked on this road for years and years during my childhood. There were hardly any vehicles those days except a rare, rickety bus and a few bicycles. People walked kilometres in those days, most of them barefoot, with the sky above their head and small dreams at the feet. Hardly anyone walks these days and the dreams have gone abroad.   The village river has not changed much except for increased pollution When I decided to leave Delhi and opted for a rural life, many well-wishers advised me against it. “You won’t survive there more than a year,” one told me with the certainly of a prophet. “You give me a year!” I retorted. “I give mysel