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Showing posts from May, 2019

Hardbound and Paperbacks

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The last two books I ordered came as hardbound editions with prices slashed to half. I usually wait patiently for the economic paperback editions when books are published since I can’t afford to pay the hefty prices of hardbound editions. However, nowadays I keep getting hardbound editions at amazingly low prices. That’s fine. But the problem is that the hardbound books occupy too much space on the shelf and I’ll soon run out of that space. We live in a world of ebooks. I chose to publish my latest book as an ebook with no print version for many reasons, the first being a fear that it wouldn’t sell much in the print version. However, all the reviews I’ve got so far whether in public spaces or private have been very positive. Yet I don’t intend to bring out a print version. There are very few serious readers today. Mine is a serious book and a personal narrative too. If well-known writers can’t manage to sell their hardbound editions, what should I expect of my book? Tha

Post-truth India

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From The Economist ‘Post-truth’ is a relatively new phrase which means “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. About three years ago, The Economist published an article which defined post-truth politics as the “art of the lie”. India has internalised the art of the lie. The country’s Prime Minister himself peddles lies and half-truths as it suits him. Yesterday he spoke very emotionally to a teeming crowd that Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura are killing BJP workers. There are clashes between politicians belonging to different parties in these states as in any other, no doubt. But the BJP workers are not particularly at risk of being attacked more than any other party men.   The PM knows how to foist half-truths and full lies on a nation that has become uncharacteristically credulous these days. The truth is that people belonging to minority communities

Not my kind of book

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335 pages and over three weeks is quite uncharacteristic of me. It means the book didn’t appeal to me. Yet it’s a good novel, my heart tells me again and again. So I picked it up once more for a second reading before writing this post which is not really a review. How can you review a book unless it made you feel something in your heart? My attempt to give it a second reading floundered to a rather abrupt end when the book made me feel sleepy every time I picked it up. Yet I can guarantee that the book is good. A sexagenarian looks back at his life with much wistfulness and resignation. The loss of his mother when he was only nine years old redefined his life altogether. Later the father too abandoned him for a while. The mother ran away with a German when she realised that there was little in common between her and her husband. There was no connection between the mother and the son except some letters she wrote him initially. The mother vanishes from the boy’s conscious

Gandhi in Ayodhya

It is sheer coincidence that three Muslims are being beaten up at Seoni in Madhya Pradesh when I run into Gandhi on the bank of the Sarayu at no other place than Ayodhya, the birthplace of Gandhi’s beloved deity. I thrust my phone into my pocket and stare at Bapu. He smiles at me. The smile is warped as if it is prised out forcefully from a heart that actually wants to weep. “The Sarayu is a river of sorrows,” he says as he gestures to me to sit down beside him on a step of the ghat. The river reeks of filth more than sorrow. But I decide to say nothing. I wish to listen to the Mahatma. Or just sit beside him feeling his silence within my being. “Hey, Ram!” He says softly with a sigh. I wish to ask him if Ram is there in the same place as Bapu, wherever that is. Do they meet and talk? What about others like Krishna and Jesus and Muhammad? Do they all live in the same place or have they divided that place on religious lines? I can’t bring myself to ask anything of the

Why BJP needs enemies

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“People use politics not just to advance their interests but also to define their identity,” said Samuel P. Huntington whose book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order drew worldwide attention at the turn of the millennium. Identity is a major issue which the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] has played with producing remarkable effects at the hustings during the last five years.   The identity bequeathed to India by Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi when the country liberated itself from the British was essentially a Western product founded on secularism and liberalism. The quintessential Indian outlook was – and still is, to a large extent – antithetical to secularism and liberalism. India’s countless gods and the rigidly hierarchical caste system were incompatible with Nehru’s rational agnosticism and Gandhi’s mystical inclusiveness. The later leaders who led the Congress Party lacked the profundity of both Nehru and Gandhi. Most of them succumbe

Games Sawanites Played - Extract

An extract from my latest book , Autumn Shadows: Memoir S awan had a lot of Sharmas among the staff in various positions. In my first year at the school, I took a team of debaters to Punjab Public School at Nabha in Punjab whose principal made a flippant remark about my school being also known as Sharma Public School. Though I thought the humour was a little out of place, it drew my attention to the many Sharmas in Sawan whom I had not even come to know until I returned from Punjab Public School. The Sharmas played a major role in Sawan. They had a peculiar penchant for tugging history to themselves. They shaped the history and the destiny of Sawan to a great extent. I should have considered myself fortunate to be invited into their company. But unfortunately my personal proclivity was to keep a safe distance from people if not run away from them altogether. Thus my probable opportunity to be a more significant part of Sawan’s history and destiny was lost though my palate le

The Love Song of the Prime Sevak

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Let us go then, you and I, When the country is gasping for breath Like a patient who has been given the extreme unction; Let us go, to Kedarnath and Badrinath, The muttering retreats Of restless souls who have reached their wit’s end And comic costumes guarded by a royal retinue: Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of my sincerest intent To lead you to an overwhelming question … Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” Let us go and make our visit. In the yards Pappus come and go Talking of Sickularism. The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the Mandikini, The saffron that shrouds me as I withdraw to the cave, Camera flashes lick up images for Twitter and Facebook, And all other media that stand in drains. Wait, wait, there will be time For the yellow fog and saffron shroud to envelop you, Rubbing their backs upon your pygmy chests; There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that I choose to don; Th

Beyond the Psyche

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Image from gettyimages.in “Do you think inspirational books are really useful?” Varkita Goyal, blogger, asks at a blogger community. The first inspirational book I read was How to Win Friends and Influence People by the godfather of inspirational books, Dale Carnegie. I read it as a school boy. I found the book in my father’s library and was drawn by the very title. I wanted to win friends and influence people. The book had all the tricks and techniques, if I remember correctly. But I never won any friend, nor do I think I went on to influence anyone. As I look back I know that the problem was not with Carnegie or his strategies. The problem was with me. What I needed were not tricks and strategies but a lot of polishing. I had too many rough edges and I lacked the self-knowledge required to deal with them. Unless you possess a certain fundamental self-knowledge, inspirational books won’t do any miracle for you. Eventually I read a lot of inspirational books. All sor

Some Geniuses in Sports and Games

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Book Review Sitharaam Jayakumar’s third book is titled A to Z of Men and Women who Excelled in Sports . The 26 biographies were written for an A to Z challenge for bloggers organised by a blogger community. Jayakumar has compiled them into an elegant e-book. One of the best things about Jayakumar’s writing is its eminent readability. To be able to write without placing obstacles between the writer’s notions and the reader’s mind is a precious gift and Jayakumar possesses it. Most of the biographies in this book read like fascinating tales that keep you glued. Even those who are not interested in sportspersons – people like me, for instance – will be hooked to this book precisely because of the way the author presents the lives. During my childhood I was an admirer of Bobby Fischer because I learnt the subtleties of chess from a book written by him. I found the book in my father’s collection and spent quite much of my annual vacation on some of the challenging positions

Lucky Cat

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Image courtesy wonderslist.com Fiction Little Raju was sad, very sad. Tiny drops of iridescent tears clung to his plump, little cheeks like pearly dewdrops on a shimmering leaf edge yet to be kissed by the rising sun. His cute little cat, prettier than Teddy Bear and naughtier than Jerry’s Tom was killed by a speeding car. Raju had named him Tom. Raju was Tom’s Jerry. No, Tom was Raju’s Jerry, clever and cunning and always on the run. Until a speeding car ran over him. “Tom’s a lucky cat,” grandma said wiping away the pearly drops from Raju’s cheeks. Grandma always said that. Raju believed her too. Until now. Now that Tom is dead, grandma is wrong. Still she said, “Tom’s a lucky cat.” “Tom’s a dead cat,” Raju protested. “He died young,” grandma said, “only lucky cats die young.” Tom was a little kitten that was roaming outside the gate when Raju returned home from school one afternoon.   Little kitten. Cute little kitten with golden brown patches on h

Shahi Paneer and some memories

Maggie took all the trouble to cook Shahi Paneer because I mentioned some time ago that I missed the dish which used to be a weekly delicacy at the school where we taught in Delhi. Since it was a residential school, the teachers also had their meals with the students. More than 400 people would be seated in the cavernous dining hall, called Mess, and served by waiters attired in clean white livery. The food was delicious most of the time and Shahi Paneer was arguably the queen on the menu. As I relished chapattis with Shahi Paneer yesterday after a gap of a few years, I realised that it was not the culinary delicacy that I really missed but certain memories which they evoked. Sawan Pubic School in Delhi was the first place where I tasted Shahi Paneer and the dish would always remind me of that school, the institution where I enjoyed working more than anywhere else. The school was killed by a religious cult and the details are given in my latest book, Autumn Shadows .   Certa

More writers than readers?

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I met Ruskin Bond about two decades ago in a luxury hotel of ITC in Mumbai. He was the chief guest of a prize distribution function organised by ITC and one of my students was a winner whom I accompanied from school. The young students lost interest in the great writer as soon as they got the autographs. Eventually Mr Bond stood all alone in a corner of the dining hall where dinner was being arranged. Even the organisers were not in sight. I smiled at him and he reciprocated. I hesitated to start a conversation with him just because I had not read anything much of what he had written except a few articles in some newspapers. Anyway, Mr Bond didn’t have to stand there alone for long. The organisers arrived and took him to a prominent place in the hall which he deserved. Those students who received prizes from him that day were all winners of a national level short story competition conducted by ITC which had just launched a new brand called Classmates for students’ stationery.

Dying without a thought

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One of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, Bertrand Russell, said, “Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.” A lion’s share of the evils in the human world could be pre-empted if people started making use of their thinking faculty. When I returned home an hour ago after dropping Maggie at her workplace, Kittu, my cat, accompanied me from the car porch as he usually does and entered the house even before I did. He has inculcated a sense of entitlement, thanks to my pampering as Maggie alleges. He did something odd today. Instead of going to one of his usual places to sleep, he climbed on to the chair which I normally use for working with my laptop. He went to sleep within seconds. He usurped my place without a second thought.   Kittu: Self-contentment Well, there’s no first thought either for him. Like Walt Whitman , I always end up envying his thoughtless self-contentment. Whitman wished to be like the animals. “They are so placid,” he

Akshaya Tritiya

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Monica, a distant acquaintance of mine, was waiting for a bus at the junction as I happened to drive by. I stopped the car and she accepted the lift. “Today is Akshaya Tritiya,” she said when I asked her something to start a conversation.   She was going to buy a little gold, “just a few grams”, to ensure prosperity for her family at least for the coming year. “This is like Modi ji making the quadratic equation or the Fermi problem the main theme of his election campaign,” I said. “What’s the connection?” She wondered aloud. “I know that you are an inveterate Modi-baiter. But what’s the connection with Akshaya Tritiya?” “What’s the connection between Akshaya Tritiya and your family’s prosperity?” I threw a counter-question. “Don’t tell me you don’t watch the TV,” she said. “Haven’t you seen at least some of those ads about Akshaya Tritiya?” Just then a huge billboard appeared round the corner. “This prosperity is like the fifteen lakhs promised by