Saturday, March 30, 2019

India needs a good leader

The leader makes a world of a difference in any organisation or nation. It is the leader who gives direction to the organisation or nation by formulating policies and strategies. The people go where the leader takes them, leaving aside a few who will always have their own vision and opinions stemming from that vision.

Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 with a resounding victory. The majority his party enjoyed in the Lok Sabha could have been used to transform India into one of the best nations in the world: best in every way – economically, politically and morally. Instead the 5-year Modi reign has left India a caricature of what was promised in the powerful rhetoric of Modi which won him the popular votes.

Let us take just a few examples.

Modi promised to create 2 crore new jobs per year. The fact is that more jobs were lost in the country during Modi’s rule. In the first four years of Modi’s reign, a meagre 18 lakh jobs were created and most of these jobs belong to what the International Labour Organisation (ILO) classifies as vulnerable employment. The unemployment rose further to 6.10 per cent in Modi’s last year in power (so far). Contrast that figure with the 3.41 per cent in 2014 when Modi assumed office. Today India has more unemployed people than any country in the world. The Prime Minister’s solution was the mockery of asking the youth of India to sell pakodas in the streets.

One of the most popular promises of Modi was to contain inflation and bring down prices. But prices of most things skyrocketed during his reign. No Indian will ever forget how she paid record prices for her vehicle’s fuel when the international crude oil rates were the lowest.

Demonetisation may have become history by making its entry into school textbooks which are created by the Prime Minister’s own writers. But the thousands of people who lost their livelihood because of that dastardly act won’t accept textbook theories.

Modi’s promise of ache din bore fruit only for a few corporate giants who looted the country in various forms, bank frauds being the most popular. On 2 May 2018, The Times of India reported that during the four years of Modi’s rule there were 23,000 bank frauds amounting to Rs 1 lakh crore. Add to that the other scams like the Vyapam scandal in Madhya Pradesh, the PDS scam in Chattisgarh, GSPC scam in Gujarat and mining scam in Rajasthan. Which Indian will ever forget the Rafale scam?

A staggering 36,420 farmers committed suicide in the first two years of Modi’s rule. After that the Indian government refused to publish the statistics of farmer suicides. Suppression of harsh truths is the typical Modi way of solving problems. Propaganda is another.

In the first 4 years of Modi, a whopping sum of Rs 4,343 crore was spent on propaganda, just for advertisements and publicity. Forget the thousands of crores spent on the Sardar Patel statue (Rs 3,000 crore), Shivaji statue (Rs 2,500 crore) and the Lord Rama statue which is expected to swallow Rs 330 crore.

I can go on and on. I’m choosing to ignore the vitiated communal atmosphere in the country, the foreign policies that have put off all the neighbouring countries, and the umpteen slogans that Modi gave us which now echo agonisingly in the country’s toxic air.

One leader, just one leader, made all these differences. One leader, just one leader, can make an entire new difference. But such a leader is yet to emerge on the national scene. That is India’s current tragedy.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Aging Gracefully

My cat who is wiser than me

When I was a boy I used to think that anyone who hit the age of 30 was middle-aged and anyone whose hairline showed shades of grey was antique. Maybe that’s why I refused to grow up. When I hit 30 I continued to behave as if I was 18 and now that I have no black hair left on my pate I behave as if I was 30. 

My school closed today for the summer break. My students met me personally to wish me “Happy Holiday” and some of them threatened to visit me at my residence during the break. I felt like 18 once again.

What people call maturity is something I never learnt. I think I was incapable of learning it. I think the child in me is hyperactive. I love to play with my cat like a little boy until the cat gets bored of the game. I feel sad when he is bored. Even the cat thinks I’m too silly at times.

I cannot grow up, I’m pretty sure. I have always been immature, quite silly by the world’s normal standards. Do people change really as they grow up? I wondered. The behaviour of my students today, the last day of school, made me ask that question. The tear drops that welled up in the eyes of one student (an exceptional case, no doubt) made me shudder. Have I gone wrong somewhere, I wondered.

I failed to grow up, I consoled myself. Do people really grow up? Isn’t it rather about certain genetic makeup? Or is it about learning to play certain games?

Did Mark Antony grow up? Did Cleopatra? What about Othello or Hamlet? Tragedy is the grand finale for those who fail to grow up. And those who really grow up belong to fiction only, I think. Woody Allen's kind of fiction, not Shakespeare's. The real characters remain what they are. Some facades are added on the way to make the character look good, better than the original. Adding those facades is what growing up gracefully is about. Isn’t it?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Modiesque anti-climax

We are used to people taking credit for works done by others. Their tribe is larger than what one may normally expect. They generally belong to the rank and file of any social group. One won’t normally expect a leader of any worth to do that. All great leaders give due credit to what their followers do. They are generous with appreciation so that more work will get done without unnecessary hassles.  Credit-seeking is the business of the inefficient people. Those who cannot achieve anything great but want to appear great nevertheless take credit for the achievements of other people.

When a person who is occupying a very eminent position in any society creates a huge suspense and huger hype about his silly credit-taking, it becomes farcically hilarious. Just imagine the Prime Minister of a country like India which has a population equal to that of the entire Europe and North America put together creating a hype and suspense about an announcement he wants to make to the nation.

The social media went berserk with conjectures and predictions about what Narendra Modi’s announcement was going to be about today when he created the hype and suspense much before the announcement was made. People thought he was going to declare an Emergency. Or was it going to be another insane demonetisation (which is often and pithily abbreviated as DeMon – Demon)? Or a war with Pakistan or China? Or a proposal to evict all antinational people from India to various countries of perceived loyalty such as Pakistan and Rome or the Vatican?

Finally when the announcement came, it was a farcical anti-climax. Not because the achievement of the scientists who shot down a live satellite is a mean accomplishment but because the achievement did not deserve anything more than a front page three-column headline in the daily newspapers.

What was the Prime Minister trying to tell the nation anyway? That we have become a nation of satellite shooters? That we have entered the star wars club? That we are advanced warriors or sophisticated savages?

Well, if the announcement was about some way to shoot down poverty from the nation, it would have deserved all that hype. If it was about creation of jobs, implementation of Sbka Saath Sabka Vikas or something like that, the nation would applaud in appreciation. Couldn’t we concentrate more on shooting down mounting hatred, the rising prices, or the spreading corruption?

“In the journey of every nation there are moments that bring utmost pride and have a historic impact on generations to come,” said Modi in his historic announcement. Indeed there are. But he does not know what they are. What a pathetic leader he is! Worse still, how stupid to grab the credit for something that others have been working on for a decade or so?

Ah, we get the anti-climaxes  we deserve!

 P.S. I didn't want to write political posts until the elections were over. But this anticlimax was just irrrresistible. :)

Monday, March 25, 2019


I have never been a parent. But having been a teacher for more than three decades, I have had ample opportunities to interact with young students and their parents. One of the things I can say confidently is that by observing a student, I can make certain predictions about his or her parents which turn out to be pretty accurate when I personally meet the parents.

Children are what they are largely because their parents have made them that. The personality of every child is moulded in the first few years of its life and parents do that shaping. Teachers, the society and other entities add quite much to that personality, no doubt. But what these latter entities do is only to add certain dimensions to the edifice already constructed by the parents. In other words, parents play a very important role in the formation of a child’s personality.

I’m fully convinced now, having observed hundreds if not thousands of young students and their parents, that the first thing every child should get is an abundance of parental love. What gives the most fundamental feeling of security to a child is the affection it receives from its parents. Without that feeling of security, the child grows up with what psychologist Erik Erikson calls ‘fundamental mistrust’. I have observed that youngsters who exude self-confidence and cheerful spontaneity enjoy beautiful relationships with their parents. The parents are their best friends, so to say. 

If parents can be the best friends of their children, nothing more need be said. Everything else will fall in place quite naturally once such a relationship exists between parents and children.

I know this is not very easy. But I have seen parents and children who enjoy that sort of relationships which means it is possible. I have also observed that such children grow up into mature adulthood without much difficulty. They develop a healthy sense of autonomy, take initiatives without hesitation, work hard where that is required, have a clear self-image and worldview, and establish good relationships with others.

What we become depends on what our parents teach us at odd moments, as one of the characters of Umberto Eco says. It’s not what they teach us through their words; it is what percolates into the veins of the children through the ether of affection that flows between the parents and the children. Wisdom is not taught; it is experienced. And wisdom is a synonym of love.

PS. Written for

Sunday, March 24, 2019

When no one misses you

The last week and a half kept me so engaged that I couldn’t even find time for writing. Rather, the outstation duty enervated me so much that I couldn’t even care to switch on the laptop. When I got time today, being Sunday, I turned to my laptop. Quickheal antivirus was very prompt to warn me that my software had gone outdated. Just a week is enough for things to become outdated in our world where everyone is in a hurry.

Will I become obsolete or redundant if I stop writing? The question hit me with a pang. The hit counter of my blog showed readers coming though I was not writing anything for a week. However, no one except a good friend from Delhi bothered to ask why I was not writing. That friend was kind enough to text me that she “returned from the [blog] page slightly disappointed…”

Curiously, I got an unexpectedly large number of friend requests on Facebook during the week so much so I remarked in an FB update that “When I stopped writing I started getting a lot of friends.” I have no way of knowing whether the two – my not writing and the offer of friendship – are correlated. Most probably it’s just a coincidence.

However, one of my FB friends suggested that I should stop writing so that I will get more friends from all “categories”. My response was: “More doesn’t always mean better!” There’s no question of my stopping writing. Asking me to stop writing is as good as telling me to stop breathing. I’m glad that the hit counter of my blog kept ticking even when I didn’t write. It shows that there are people who take me seriously. Thank you, folks.

A former student of mine raised the question whether it is “really worth it” in response to my Facebook update. Maggie told me a couple of days back how she was confronted by a group of my present students, on her way back home from school, to enquire when I would be back in the classroom. “They said they miss you awfully,” Maggie teased me. I grinned. It’s nice to know that you are missed. I have no intention of becoming an ascetic with stoic detachment or indifference to people’s attention.

I missed the classroom even more than blogging. Retirement is going to be a problem, I think. There are some people whom I don’t want to miss.

Just one more day. After that I’ll be back to normal life. That awareness is a cool relief.

For the past 10 days my car was parked just near this tree at the place of my temporary assignment. I couldn't but notice the scars carried by the tree. I felt love for the tree. "I'm like you," I told the tree yesterday. "The only difference is I don't flaunt the scars like you."

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Writing is a sacred act

“Is nothing sacred?” Salman Rushdie raised this question in one of his essays with that title. He started off saying that he “grew up kissing books and bread.” Food and knowledge are arguably the most sacred things: one nourishes your body and the other your soul.

I would add writing to that list. I began writing in my youth in order to get people’s attention. I was an inveterate attention seeker. As I grew up, I realised the futility of public attention. In fact, Shillong, the place where I took my toddler steps as a writer, gave me so much unsavoury attention that I began to hate both the attention and the place. But the urge to write never left me.

Blogging became my passion eventually and I used the medium seriously to express my views on various topics ranging from literature to politics and psychology to religion. I have rather strong views on whatever affects the welfare of the species. Many of my views refuse to fall in line with conventions and social niceties. While I exercise rigorous constraint from expressing my views in personal encounters, I throw caution to the winds when I sit down to write. Writing is too sacred for me to be surrendered to diplomacy and blarney.

There were many bloggers until a couple of years ago who laid their cards on the table without hesitation. That species seems to have become almost extinct. Some of them just quit blogging altogether and the others capitulated to the charms of populism. I still go on. There are a few others too like me who strive to go on.

I am often told, especially by my students and relatives, that my writing has become too “difficult” to read. The truth is that I wish to have some serious readers who dare to think differently or at least raise questions where they should be raised. I wish there were more such bloggers as well as readers.

PS. Written for


Wednesday, March 13, 2019


The biblical god stopped his creative spree with the manufacture of Eve. Eve put an end to god’s creative imagination apparently. At any rate, Eve was quite a force to reckon with: she changed the history of the entire human species. She upset the entire divine apple cart.

It’s a different matter that men used this tale to control women for millennia. The fact remains that women were essentially superior to men. Probably one of the major purposes of the Bible was to rein in that superiority and set up man as the patriarch. Not only the Bible, but also lot many other scriptures elevate man to a higher pedestal and subjugate women to the missionary position.

When Nietzsche regarded Jesus and Buddha as effeminate in contradistinction to the macho conquerors in history, was the philosopher missing a point? I think so. The conquerors have lost the limelight and the effeminate Jesus and Buddha have ruled the hearts of the faithful for centuries.

Nietzsche’s great error was to associate the gentle virtues of love and compassion with women and ascribe the tougher ones like assertiveness and domination to men. That association was one of the many perverted creations of man. If the woman was given equal opportunities, if she was not relegated to the biblical labour room with the sole tasks of bringing up babies and pandering to men’s egos, Nietzsche’s Superman would as well be a Superwoman.

If Nietzsche lived today, he would surely create a female Zarathustra. Today’s women have proved that they are in no way inferior to men. On the contrary, some of them have proved to be superior by virtue of their better dedication and readiness to toil.

So there is really no need for dedicating any particular day to women. The women’s day – national or international – is as obsolete today as the gargoyle. Soon the world may need to dedicate a day to the men folk; the poor creatures seem to be fast losing out in the ratrace to capture the pies in the skies.

Even as a commercial opportunity, women’s day is quite redundant. Any day is woman’s day now. Any day is good for a tango and its tangible delights. Just order the goodies online and have the fling on the go, on your way to your own paradise – feminine or masculine. We are all supermen and superwomen now, all of us, if we want to be.

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 264: #takebackwomensday

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Yours Sportively

I never imagined sports and games as “a crypto-fascist plan for repressing (my) sex-drive” [Julian Barnes’s phrase in The Sense of an Ending] or any other particularly intriguing conspiracy. When I was a young boy, life was much simpler an affair because people didn’t play a fraction of the games they do today. At any rates, games and sports never caught my fancy.

As a school student, I didn’t even care to step into the playground. I idled away the games period standing on the side line and watching my spirited friends run after an inflated piece of rubber as if their whole life depended on kicking it in some particular direction.

The institution where I studied after school insisted on everyone playing one game or another. I remember standing with M in the corner of the football ground and chatting away while the others kicked the ball around frantically. M could drop names like Jean-Paul Sartre and Ludwig Wittgenstein which sounded game enough to me. If the ball ever reached near us by chance, we would pretend to run for it though we really didn’t need to take more than three steps before some of the genuine players would grab it and the game would go on with dead seriousness.

As years passed, M grew up into an attenuated saintly person with a sophisticated contempt for the world and its silly people who continued to run around inflated pieces of various materials. I became a little less attenuated but brawny cynic who found enough amusement in the various games people played.

One of the most amusing games I find today is people’s flights into history. Too many of my countrymen have become passionate about history quite suddenly and rather unnaturally. History was the most boring subject while I was at school and the only one in which I managed to fail on occasions. What does it matter today anyway whether Shahjahan changed Indraprastha into Shajahanabad or Bal Thackeray changed Bombay to Mumbai? Let them change Dilli now to Modilli if they wish. Who cares?

Name changing is quite the hobby of the Yogi ji in UP. First he changed his own name and then he changed the names of quite many places around him. That’s just what history is, I guess: games of the victors. And the disillusionments of the defeated too, perhaps. Disillusionments or self-delusions? Well, self-delusion is certainly not the prerogative of the defeated.

I have seen 56 inch wide self-delusions walking with proudly bared chests on the royal highway of the victors.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Social Media Monsters

An innocuous ad by Surf Excel stirred up unsavoury controversy the other day. Tens of thousands of Indians protested against the ad and demanded a boycott of the detergent. The ad seeks to promote communal harmony and the blood of too many Indians boiled! Why has India become such a place, a place full of hatred? It is a sad outcome of the ruling party’s policies and vision (lack of that, rather).

“[E]ntering the social media space in India has become like stepping into a mud-wrestling pit,” said Shashi Tharoor in his recent book, The Paradoxical Prime Minister. There are far too many Indians in the various social media who openly advocate violence against certain communities of people. The dominant political party in the country is spending millions of rupees to spew venom against certain people in these media portals.
By Amy Apollonian, a Facebook user
There are also people who question such spreading of hatred. There are a lot of Indians who still retain their sanity, who support love and cooperation instead of hatred and violence. The Surf Excel ad seeks to promote communal harmony. The massive protest against the ad reveals yet again the viciousness of the disease that has gripped the nation, thanks to the ruling party’s negligence in taking action against people who indulge in such activities. What should we expect when the ruler himself is an avatar of hatred?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Holy Love

“You are what your profession is. Your primary duty is what your profession demands.”

Joseph was stunned. His principal, Rev Fr Lawrence D’Souza, bluntly refused to grant him leave from job for a couple of days. Okay, more than a couple by three days. Round off and fuck off. Five days. And a Sunday in between. He was entitled to that much by all the laws in the world. A week. A week, man, is gonna make no difference to anyone in the college or anywhere.

Except to God. God can make a whole world in a week.

“This is the examinations time and how does your conscience permit you to take leave now when you should be preparing your students in their final moments?” Rev Fr Lawrence was relentless, indomitable… Joseph wished he knew more adjectives. In spite of being a lecturer in English in the premier institute of higher education in the city.  Town, not city, man. He reminded himself.

His wife’s pregnancy had gone into the eighth month and doctors suggested some rest and much care for her. It was her first pregnancy and Joseph was evidently not experienced with pregnancies and their demands. In his home state women took three months of precaution before the delivery. It was a tradition as old as Noah’s Ark. The tribal women of the hills around his workplace had no problem with their pregnancies and the deliveries. They got pregnant and they delivered without medical interventions and without too many leaves. Work till the evening, deliver the baby in the night, take a couple of days’ leave, and return to work with folded arms. “Jai Jeesu.” And all reverend fathers would reciprocate the greeting in the same words and with the same emotional warmth.

Joseph had the heat of passion. Not just some warmth. “I have to go,” he told his principal, Rev Fr Lawrence D’Souza. “I have to take her to her home. I’ll bring the medical certificate required.”

“Anybody can take her home, na?” Rev Fr asked. “Anybody cannot prepare your students for the exams.”

“I booked flight tickets, Father, so that I can come back as early as possible. I’ll manage the students and their exam preparations, I assure you.” Joseph’s brow wiped his sweat-drenched brow. He looked at the air-conditioner in the Reverend’s office. It showed 17 degrees Celsius.

“I’m sorry we won’t discuss this any further. Your choice is between your profession and your domestic affairs.” Rev Fr D’Souza went into the adjoining washroom.

Pilates have a way of washing off their hands, Joseph thought.

“Every child is a divine gift,” Rev Fr D’Souza preached from the parish church’s pulpit the next morning, a pleasant Sunday morning. “The Church is ashamed of those parents who decide to have only one child or two. Children are the greatest blessings of God. The Church is ready to reduce the school fees of those children who are the third or fourth of their parents. Have children, dear parents. Have God’s blessings in abundance and the Church is with you…”

Joseph’s stomach churned. He walked out of the church. And he vomited. Into the flower pot of Rev Fr D’Souza’s most beloved plant. He did not want to vomit on the sacred ground.

Friday, March 8, 2019

My Cashew Tree

My yard: a view

Cashew boughs overhang my front yard screening the morning sun’s intense rays. Summer in Kerala is not what it used to be. It penetrates the marrow of your bones and saps you dry. Nature metamorphoses into something like an obscene speech from a querulous politician who is obsessed with menstrual blood or murderous patriotism.

The cashew tree stands just outside the yard wall spreading its graceful foliage over the yard. The sight has a rare charm especially because some of the branches bend low, almost touching the ground, in unabashed humility; absolutely unlike our politicians.

It has not been easy to create the natural charm around home though the cashew tree did not ever demand my attention as did most of the smaller plants. As I stood admiring the cashew tree this morning, I realised how much time I spend every day with my plants. They require tender care particularly in summer. They need regular supply of water and protection from pests of all sorts. From the sun too, in some cases. I give them time. Being with them is much more rewarding than following contemporary politics.

The cashew tree doesn’t need any attention, though. It continues to put out new shoots and remains refreshingly green as ever irrespective of the weather. Shine or rain makes little difference to it. I wish to be as indifferently fresh, as cool, unmoved by the over-politicised contaminations in my country.

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Thursday, March 7, 2019



“Hey, aren’t you Karia?”

The question woke up Scaria from his reverie. He looked at the intruder for a while. “Hello, Jose.”

They were meeting after many, many years. Scaria had left the village half a century ago when his family migrated to North Kerala. He was a migrant ever since. As soon as he completed his plumber-electrician course, he left home to take up a job in the Gulf where he lived most part of his life. He married Cecily who was a nurse in the hospital where he worked as the plumber-electrician for a while. In the autumn of their life, they returned to live in Kerala. Their only daughter was married and Cecily spent most of her time with a Charismatic prayer group which was eminently active in the village and nearby towns.  Scaria was very religious too. Religion helped fill the emptiness which he experienced time and again in life. But God alone could not fill the void. That’s why he decided to visit his old village, the place of his childhood memories. Memories fill the void within. Can they also tear you apart?

“I was trying to recall the granite hill that was here,” Scaria said to his childhood friend.

“Stone mining. They made the hill vanish without a trace,” said Jose. 

“A lot of things have changed. That bridge over there, it used to be a three-foot wide wooden thing with some planks missing in between.”

“We used to run on it and jump over the gaping emptiness!”

“So much change!”

Jose invited his old friend home. “Have a cup of tea with us, at least.”

Scaria excused himself. He wished to spend a little time there looking at the emptiness that reigned where the favourite hill of his childhood had been. Climbing that hill up and down, up and down was his beloved game as a child. Sometimes one boy or another would chase him. He was not interested in the chase anyway. The climbing itself was his passion: up and down.

His life went through a lot of ups and downs after that. The usual ups and downs of life. Some estrangement with Cecily. His daughter’s love affair with someone whom she met on a Facebook chat. Her marriage and eventual fading away from his life.

This is life, he contemplated. Everything is so evanescent, even a granite hill.

He had come back to his childhood assuming that hills lasted beyond humans. Can a little faith bring back a mountain? A little dynamite can move a whole mountain!

Cecily must now be preaching to her prayer group about the power of faith to move mountains.

Can you move my mountain here, Cecily? Can you? Can you at least make the emptiness bearable?

Monday, March 4, 2019

Dear Boy

Dear Boy,

The first time I saw you was in the Kabir House of SPS. I was on my usual evening tutor [counsellor] duty and the House Assistant pointed you out to me. You were sitting on one of those few chairs in the small office and weeping like a child. You wanted to meet your mother. You were new to the residential school system.

I was quite surprised to see the tears flowing down your cheeks because you were quite a big boy. Physically too big for class 8. I understood soon from the little conversation which I had there that you had been pampered too much by your parents since you were their only child. You were their treasure. You took advantage of that and misbehaved so badly that your parents were forced to send you to a residential school.

I noticed the book in your hand, however. Harry Potter. Your personal copy. Your precious personal possession. Your identity mark in a residential school where most students didn’t bother to read even the textbooks for completing their homework. SPS had its own system of bullying. You just became a victim because of your innocence. And your intelligence. The world doesn’t love intelligence.

And then you grew up in that system. You grew up to become another bully. You stopped reading. You started fighting instead. In order to survive. You had to, because your parents refused to take you back from the school in spite of all the maudlin phone calls you gave them from the Kabir House cubicle whenever you got a chance to do so. Your parents were wise. You didn’t understand them, however, I think.

You could have been the best student in SPS. But you chose to fight with little things. You became a ruffian in the process. Even I became scared of you eventually. You don’t know perhaps that the whole school administration was worried about you. I still remember the day when you left the school after class 10 exams. You told me that you admired me. I was astounded. I didn’t believe you. Yet I thought there was something good inside you which made you say that. Your father once wrote to me to say that you had a lot of respect for me.

Two years later you gave me a call and said that you wanted to talk to me personally. You said that you were ready to travel all the way to Kerala just to meet me and talk to me. I put you on hold. In the meanwhile I learnt that you had become a drug addict.

I recommended professional counselling to you the next time you called me. I think you hated me because of that. Now you question everything that I write on Facebook against a particular political party. Questioning is fine. But I wish your questions came from the depths of your heart.

Probe your depths, dear. That’s the only way to save yourself. I’m not your bully. The world is not a bully if you know how to deal with it. If you don’t know that, keep yourself away from the world and pursue your own interests as I do. Read Harry Potter or whatever you like. Write in order to express yourself. Create your own meanings. There’s no other way ahead. Stop hating people at the very least.

You are fortunate to have parents who support you all through. But I would like you to go beyond that support. And be yourself. Discover yourself. Discover the beauty within you. Discover the divinity within you. Just try that at least. Please.

Is your god with you?

“Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads!” Rabindranath Tagore admonished the bhakts long ago. We seek god in wrong places. That’s what the poet implied. We look for him in some “lonely dark corner of a temple.” But God is “there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the path-maker is breaking stones.” The poet bluntly tells the bhakt to put off his “holy mantle”, “leave aside [his] flowers and incense” and meet god in the “toil and sweat of [his] brow.”

God is not an abstract entity waiting somewhere beyond galaxies to allot fortunes to us after measuring the flattery we send to him in the form of prayers and rituals. God is the sweat of your brows, the blood in your veins, the love in your heart. God is the work you do, work which adds to the beauty and goodness in the world around you. God is the soil beneath your feet and the air you breathe. God is the person next to you. God is you.

As long as you don’t rise to that level of religion, your god is likely to be a mass of granite or a Plaster of Paris figurine with a mind that you have imposed on it, a mind that you think you can manipulate with your prayers and rituals.

“Strike, strike at the root of penury in my heart,” Tagore prayed to his god in another poem. “When the heart is hard and parched up, come upon me with a shower of mercy,” he sang in yet another.  

Today, a century after Tagore’s collection of poems won the Nobel Prize, his country has become quite the opposite of what he dreamed particularly because of religion. Will Tagore bow his head in shame if he visits his country today and witness the religious frenzy that has gripped the nation like a malady?

PS. All the quotes above are from Tagore’s Gitanjali.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Anatomy of Terrorism

Terrorism is an attitude. It is a cognitive distortion. Every terrorist perceives reality inaccurately and hence behaves or acts deviantly. But the terrorist believes that he is doing the most right thing which has a divine sanction to boot.

Osama bin Laden believed that Islam was the only right religion and Sharia the only right way of living. The USA was the evil empire with its orgies of fornication and intoxication, gambling and usury. It had to be destroyed in order to create a better world. So his terrorists fought against it and went to the extent of ramming passenger airplanes into the World Trade Centre and a few other buildings.

Osama bin Laden is just a specimen of the vast species of terrorists. But he provides us with a rewarding anatomy of terrorism. Terrorism is , in very few words:

1.     A belief in certain absolutes like God, scriptures, etc;
2.     Intolerance of those who refuse to accept those absolutes as truths; and
3.     Violent struggle against perceived enemies.

Is Islam the only breeder of terrorism? Not at all. America was a terrorist country in the heyday of western capitalism. Christianity was a terrorist religion in the whole medieval era. Russia practised the leftist variety of terrorism particularly under Stalin.

Is India teetering on the edge of terrorism under the leadership of Narendra Modi? The violent attacks on people belonging to particular communities point to the possibility. Terrorism always begins with alienating certain communities of people from the mainstream, projecting them as evil, and then attacking them in various ways. India has been doing precisely that from 2014.

What can an individual do to prevent terrorism? This is the question raised by a fellow blogger at a blogging community. At the subjective level, we can question our own cognitive distortions. When people impose their truths as well as lies on us in the name of gods and traditions, we should always question them rationally and factually.

At the socio-political level, we should help our fellow beings to question their cognitive distortions which lead to terrorism eventually if the political ground is fertile for that to happen. At least we can stop propagating falsehood through social networks and other means.

If we are attacked from outside, as has been happening vis-a-vis Pakistan, we maybe helpless at our personal levels. We can support the effective measures taken by our armed forces and the government. There is always one thing that matters in the end, irrespective of the type of terrorism: our attitude.  

PS. Written for In(di)spire Edition 263: #WorkForBharat

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