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Showing posts from August, 2019

A peep into my pride

Humility is not in my DNA. I was hopelessly vain until some benevolent people in Shillong decided to hammer my ego on the anvil of humiliation. The Mastermind [the name I gave in my memoir, Autumn Shadows , to the person who masterminded the whole strategy] made me a personification of shame. I became so ashamed of myself, my ego was so much pulverised, that I had to leave the place just out of the survival instinct that keeps organisms keep going even when they know they are worthless in the larger picture that really matters. [Matters to whom? That’s a question I’ll take up in subsequent blogs.] I left Shillong with a fragmented soul. Nearly two decades have passed after that flight and life has taught me a lot of lessons in those decades. Unfortunately humility has not been one of those lessons, it seems. Somebody in one of the many WhatsApp groups to which I belong more by necessity than choice was generous enough to tell me that in that group to which I never wanted to belo

Be a Master rather than a follower

I asked a group of students to submit the topics of their speeches for a programme that the school was organising. One of the students asked me if she could choose the topic ‘Don’t be a follower’. I looked at her in surprise and she was baffled. “What a coincidence!” I said. I was at that time reading the first chapter of the book titled Mastery by Robert Greene. The page I was reading was about the social pressures on every individual to conform, to be a follower. This social pressure is a counterforce to the vital force within each individual which urges him to nurture his uniqueness to fruition so that he will be the master that he was born to be. Greene’s thesis is worth paying attention to. Each one of us is preciously unique. There is no other individual like you; there never was and never will be. Your Life’s Task is to discover that uniqueness, nurture it and bring it to fruition. It’s as natural a process as a seed growing up into a plant and then producing flowers an

The Archangel’s Sword

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Archangel Michael In Christian mythology, Archangel Michael is usually portrayed with a sword. He is the Commander of God’s security forces. I was under the impression that the warfare in the Christian divine milieu was over long ago when God and Satan agreed to draw the Line of Control between Heaven and Hell and each arrogated to himself his territory. Myths are interesting particularly because they tell us how our forefathers understood good and evil. God is good and Satan is evil. Heaven is the abode of goodness and hell is the place where people like me will reach. One of the WhatsApp groups which I quit yesterday condemned me to hell because I question the evils perpetrated in the name of myths called god and satan. One member in that group invoked the archangel Michael to come with his sword and chop off my head. Not as bluntly as that. The honourable member posted a prayer to Michael to eliminate the enemies of the church. I am one of the enemies. The Catholic Churc

Compassion and Conversion

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Mr S K Sharma with Sawan students at Premdaan Photo courtesy: Mr S K Sharma My evening walks in Delhi invariably took me by the gate of Premdaan, an institution run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Premdaan stood just a kilometre from Sawan Public School where I worked as a teacher for 14 years. Both the school and the missionary institution stood on the side of the only road that connected the metropolis of Delhi with the rural outskirts of Bhatti Mines. I met Krishnan during one of those walks. He was the gatekeeper of Premdaan. He looked a tough person caught in a fragile body: he was less than 5 feet in height and extremely attenuated. Many encounters and casual conversations during my regular evening walks created an unusual bond between Krishnan and me. “How did you reach here?” I asked him once in Malayalam, the language that both us spoke fluently. He grinned showing me his irregular teeth many of which were missing. “It’s a long story,” he said. He ha

The Art of Reviewing

I rely heavily on reviews before buying certain things especially books. I also make sure that the reviewer is credible enough. Popular newspapers and other publications usually provide reliable reviews. There are some bloggers too who can be counted on for balanced reviews. Reviewing anything is an art. Let me confine to books here. I have reviewed umpteen books a few of which were written by my friends and acquaintances. Let me confess that I am more objective and balanced when I review books written by people who have no personal connections with me. Friendship does tend to make me more lenient in my judgments. I try my best to be fair and balanced even in such cases; diplomacy helps. I give an overview of the book without letting out the essential secrets. If you’re reviewing a novel, you need to stop after arousing the enthusiasm of the potential reader. In the case of non-fiction, the review can go all out and summarise the book if need be. I look at the theme(s)

My ignorance better than your knowledge

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There are facts and there are opinions. Facts can be verified while opinions can be disputed. That water boils at 100 degrees Celsius under normal temperature and pressure is a fact. Water will boil at that particular temperature whether it is in Hindu India or Muslim Pakistan, Trump’s America or Kim’s Korea. No sane person will bother to question such facts. If I say that Narendra Modi is the best Prime Minister India has had so far, that’s just an opinion which cannot be verified the way water’s boiling point can be. There are still a lot of Indians who will argue that Nehru was the best Prime Minister India has had. Which other Prime Minister of India possessed his kind of knowledge and intellectual acumen? There are those who pitch for his daughter who after all bifurcated Pakistan into two nations and sent shivers down the spines of both with the nuclear explosions in Pokhran. You can bring in a lot of facts to defend your opinion. Facts are not enough to convince pe

Photos and Memories

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Today is World Photography Day. I wish to celebrate it by posting a few old pics which carry many memories. One of my first students, Shillong, late 1980s During a clasd trip to Cherrapunjee My first colleagues, St Joseph's School, Shillong 1986 A Khasi tribal house in a Meghalaya village bordering Bangladesh [1988] A friend in Shillong with his daughters who were my little friends Staff quarters of Sawan Public School, Delhi Monkeys were regular visitors This one chose to make the dish antenna his throne Beautiful peacocks too visited the staff quarters occasionally In the hills of Gangtok, 2010 One of the post offices in the Gangtok hills At Badrinath, 2005 A view from the Edakkal Caves of Wayanadu, 2018 A part of my backyard, yesterday

I am not a nationalist

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I am not a nationalist. That does not make me antinational. Rather, it makes me more human; it makes me a person who is open to other cultures and languages, religions and lifestyles. I often imagine myself as a bird to which borders and fences mean nothing. The bird can fly across the Line of Control to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and further to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan and beyond, without a passport and visa. But I am not a bird, alas. I am a man without wings except in my imagination. So I need to respect what other men respect: borders and fences. Hence I have acquired a passport which shows my nationality indubitably. Yes, I belong to a nation. Does that make me a nationalist? Should it? Nation-states are human creations for the convenience of administration. People need to erect fences and say this is our area and you can’t transgress. That’s fine. I have no issues with that. But why should that make me hate the fellow on the other side of the fence? Natio

A few quotes from myself

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I wish to present a few quotes from my own book, Autumn Shadows . The purpose, obviously, is to tempt you to buy a copy of the book. Let me caution you that it is an e-book and it has no print version.  Quotes: Guilt is the very foundation of Christianity.   Man is a fallen creature, according to its theology.   The Bible begins with the Fall of Adam and Eve from divine grace.   The biblical history of mankind begins with an irate God who hurls curses on the first man and the first woman.   Having subordinated the woman to the man, God gifts her the severe pain of childbearing as a punishment for her sins.   He curses the whole ground on which Adam was to walk and work. Guilt is the very foundation of Christianity.   Man is a fallen creature, according to its theology.   The Bible begins with the Fall of Adam and Eve from divine grace.   The biblical history of mankind begins with an irate God who hurls curses on the first man and the first woman.   Having subordinated the woman

Independent, are we?

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Image from Outlook , 10 April 2018 That article is worth reading; click here to read. I don’t want to be a spoilsport on a great occasion like the Independence of my country. Wish you a Happy Independence Day. Are we independent, however? I belong to the old generation most among whom believe with Mahatma Gandhi that independence is not just a political matter. Independence is much more than liberation from colonial rule. Have we really come a great way from those days when the British treated us as just goods and chattel? I doubt. Of course, quite many things have improved. The country’s statisticians tell me so. For example, India was food deficient when the country became independent in 1947. Today we have excess of food. Yet today thousands of Indians go hungry! Tons of food just go waste in our warehouses. As long as there is even one citizen who goes hungry in a country, that country cannot be considered independent. It is enslaved by poverty or injus

Freedom at Midnight

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I wanted to celebrate this Independence by rereading the classic work, Freedom at Midnight . The exercise which began a month back is over today. A book which sold millions of copies and found thousands of fans need no review now. However, I’m writing this piece just to remind the younger generation that there is a work like this which is worth spending time on if they wish to understand India better. The massive book which runs into several hundred pages covers just one year in India’s painful history: 1947. It begins with the arrival of the Mountbattens in India at the turn of the New Year and ends with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi a year later. We meet a lot of Indians between the Mountbattens’ reluctant flight to Delhi and the mournful cremation of the Mahatma in Raj Ghat. Nehru and Patel, Jinnah and Savarkar, and a whole lot of average Indians come vividly alive in these pages. The book was written after a protracted research by the authors, Dominique Lapier

Beyond Article 370

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Article 370 had to go long ago. Most of the special statuses given to various states at the time of India’s Independence became redundant as time passed. They should have, at least. If they persisted for decades, it means they were not effective and not serving their purpose. So better alternatives were required. Kashmir was a mistake right from the beginning. Just because the king there happened to be a Hindu, the state became a part of India. Of course, Nehru had a role in that too. It was not, however, “rank hypocrisy” that prompted Nehru to accede Kashmir to India, as suggested by eminent columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar in today’s [11 Aug 2019] Times of India [in his column pertinently titled Next Step: A West Bank in Kashmir? ]. Nehru was essentially romantic, and the roots of his romanticism lay in the miscegenated culture of Kashmir. Who but a romantic would describe a place as “supremely beautiful woman whose beauty is almost impersonal and above desire”?

I surrender my voting right

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The first time I voted in a political election was when I was 43. It was for the Delhi assembly election. I had migrated to Delhi just two years prior that election. Before that I lived in Shillong for 15 long years without ever getting an opportunity to vote since I was a dkhar (outsider) there. [Read more about all that in my memoir: Autumn Shadows .] I have been a responsible voter ever since Delhi gave me the citizen’s right. However, my voting right makes no sense to me now. So I’m seriously considering giving up that right. Do I live in a democracy at all? Indian democracy today is not unlike the scenario of two wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for dinner. You know who the two wolves are. You may be yet to realise that you are the sheep. Two citizens, just two, decide what 1340 million people want or should want. That’s present India. The 1340 million are just one sheep. The wolves tell us that they have been given the mandate to impose their wil

Love's Pain

Unless you're willing to be hurt, do not start loving  another person. Love hurts. There's no escape. Love is an ocean of  feelings. And feelings are brittle. People throw all sorts of things into that ocean. Their bottles of frustration, the effluent of their sorrows, and all the bilge water in their boats, all are hurled into the ocean.  They  think the ocean is the right place for all that. They think the ocean is an infinite receptacle, a crucible that melts anything and everything.  Humans love to leave their marks wherever they can. They would have left them on the pages of history if they could. Normally, however, they leave it in your heart. "The marks humans leave are too often scars," as John Green said.  That's okay, but. What's life without those scars? It is those scars that make life worthwhile. Happiness leaves no marks. Happiness teaches no lessons. Happiness is not human; it belongs to angelic realms, too ethereal, as unreal as the fairie

The Little Girl

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The Little Girl is a short story by Katherine Mansfield given in the class 9 English course of NCERT. Maggie gave an assignment to her students based on the story and one of her students, Athena Baby Sabu, presented a brilliant job. She converted the story into a delightful comic strip. Mansfield tells the story of Kezia who is the eponymous little girl. Kezia is scared of her father who wields a lot of control on the entire family. She is punished severely for an unwitting mistake which makes her even more scared of her father. Her grandmother is fond of her and is her emotional succour. The grandmother is away from home one day with Kezia's mother who is hospitalised. Kezia gets her usual nightmare and is terrified. There is no one at home to console her except her father from whom she does not expect any consolation. But the father rises to the occasion and lets the little girl sleep beside him that night. She rests her head on her father's chest and can feel his heart

Prayer

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'What's prayer?' I asked in a class today. One of the students said rather hesitantly, 'A wish for the welfare of everyone.' I was not sure I heard her right. So I asked her to repeat the answer. She became more hesitant. So I rendered my assistance. "A wish for the welfare of …?' 'Everyone,' She completed it. 'Fantastic,' I said. 'What else is prayer but a wish for the welfare of everyone?'

The greatest tragedy

Death is not the greatest tragedy, not even if it comes too early. The greatest tragedy is dying without having loved. Rather, the greatest tragedy is living without loving. The essence of life is love. All the rest is peripheral. Achievements and conquests can add colours to life. Nationalism and other isms can add intoxication to life. But unless you have love in your heart, none of those things matter really. What kind of patriotism is it that prompts people to hate certain sections of people in the country? What kind of religion is it that motivates people to take up arms in its name against whole sections of humanity? I have been surprised again and again by people who are intellectually gifted but emotionally sterile, people who write wonderful blogs but nurture hatred in their hearts. Some of these people even think that those who advocate love without borders are antinational! Why should my love have national borders? Why should my love have a religion?