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Showing posts from September, 2019

What makes Gandhi a Mahatma

The 150 th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is round the corner. Gandhi was undoubtedly one of the greatest souls that ever walked on the earth. Albert Einstein was of the opinion that “Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time.” Indeed Gandhi was an enlightened man. What made Gandhi an enlightened soul, a Mahatma, was the universalism of his vision. His vision embraced everyone and everything. It was not restricted by language, religion, nationality, or any such narrow human constructs. Gandhi would never accept the kind of narrow nationalism that is being peddled in India today by the dominant political party that has vowed to rewrite the country’s history . In its narrow meaning, nationalism seeks to glorify one’s nation at the cost of certain sections of population. Gandhi would not accept such nationalism though he wouldn’t deny the need of self-sacrifice for the sake of the nation. Self-sacrifice, not sacrifice of other people.

At the threshold of beauty

  With my Remington Rand in 1996 or so A Remington Rand portable typewriter was my beloved companion for over a decade of my youth which was mostly wasted in the flighty hills of Shillong. Since I have already told the story of the waste in my memoir, Autumn Shadows , I shall not repeat it here. I sold the typewriter a day before I left Shillong without dreams. I sold it with the same self-loathing that Salinger’s Holden Caulfield had when he sold his typewriter just before running away from his school. Delhi gave me dreams again, however. One of the first things I did in Delhi, as soon as I had enough money, was to buy a desktop computer. That was in 2001. One of the first poems I typed on it was about the WTC meltdown. The Gujarat riots would rattle my nerves a few months later. My desktop which had a storage space of just 20 GB, much less than a common smartphone today, was meant to motivate me to continue writing which I used to do with my Remington Rand. The computer

Media in a dystopia

Image from The Hindu Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World shows how a utopian vision of an inferior leader can create a dystopia. An all-powerful state which controls the behaviours and actions of its people in order to preserve its own stability and power ends up becoming a terrible dystopia. Technology is used and misused by the government to exercise its absolute powers over the citizens who are apparently happy. They fail to understand that they are nothing more than puppets dangling from strings stretched by their government. They live without dignity, morals, values and emotions. History is divided as After Ford (AF) and Before Ford in that dystopia. Similarly in India today, history is being divided as After Modi and Before Modi. India won’t ever be the same anymore. Furthermore, India is divided right now into people who are with Modi or against him. So is the case with the media too. The number of people questioning Modi and his politics is dwindling as more and

One nation, one religion, one language

Source: Here A weekly Christian newspaper reaches my home every Sunday. It's not free, of course. I conceded to the request of an acquaintance and paid the annual subscription. The paper usually goes directly to the newspaper stack unread. Today as I was about to shelve it, a report caught my eyes.  The front page report was about a Catholic priest who was arrested in Jharkhand on charges of forced conversions and encroachment of tribal lands. The report also mentions the earlier arrest of a Missionaries of Charity [Mother Teresa's congregation] nun for allegedly selling the child of a young unwed mother. Arrests of Christian missionaries on fabricated charges are becoming a routine affair in many North Indian states, adds the report.  Religion doesn't interest me at all and I usually don't care about such affairs. I don't think converting anyone from his/her religion is necessary in order to do charitable services. However, if anyone wishes to adopt anoth

Taxes and Rules

“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him,” said   Robert A. Heinlein. All governments have taxed their citizens for everything from the needle in the haystack to the breasts that grew in the due course on a woman. I'm not exaggerating. India taxes sewing needles. The princely state of Travancore taxed the low caste women if they wanted to cover their breasts.  If you want to buy a vehicle in India today, you'll end up paying more money than the price of the vehicle in the form of various taxes and fees. There's a tax on the vehicle (the highest slab in the country), on your use of the roads (which were constructed with your tax money in the first place), on insurance of all imaginable sorts, on your license, and what not.  You pay all that and more, but the roads will continue to gape at you with their potholes that can kill you. Everything in this country seems to be designed t

Love: the ultimate meaning

'Eternal Love' by Carmen Guedez Love is the ultimate assertion of life. Nothing says ‘yes’ to life more genially than love and nothing renders life more meaningful than a firm ‘yes’ to it. Love is a benign acceptance of the given reality. Once the reality is accepted, it can be transmuted too. Love is a miracle. It can change arid deserts into breath-taking oases. Love is the fairy kiss that transforms the monster into beauty. Meaning of life is inextricably related to our attitudes. Meaning is an attitude to the given reality. Reality always demands a response from us. Within my given reality, I must take a stand. I have to live and act within the position I take. I can take the stand of the follower or the leader, optimist or pessimist, sceptic or cynic, whatever. Reality demands a stand. My stand shapes and colours my experiences, behaviour and action. Those who reached the heights of understanding knew that love was the ultimate response to reality. Love is a d

Meaning of Suffering

Pain by Donatella Marraoni (2018) Suffering is either manmade or beyond man’s control. The concentration camps of Hitler and refugee camps engendered by wars are all manmade suffering. Natural calamities and epidemic outbreaks are largely beyond human control. There is also much suffering we bring upon ourselves by our actions or attitudes. Whatever the type, suffering can never be a sanguine thing. No sane person would want to embrace suffering for any reason. The most natural tendency for normal human beings is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Yet pain is an integral part of life. There is no likelihood of your ever encountering a person who has not experienced pain of some sort. The Buddha went to the extreme of defining life as pain. The Buddha’s solution is to put an end to our desires. Desires are the causes of pain. The Buddha is speaking about one kind of pain only, the pain we bring upon ourselves through our passions and pursuits. And his solution is neither practi

Meaning of Meaninglessness

In his classical essay on meaning of life, The Myth of Sisyphus , Albert Camus cracks a joke. A madman is sitting beside a bathtub holding a fishing rod. The hook is in the bathtub. Seeing this, his psychiatrist asks him, “Hey chap, are they biting?” The madman answers, “No, you fool, this is only a bathtub.” We are not unlike that mad man in our search for the meaning of life. We know that there’s nothing to fish for when it comes to meaning in life. Yet we need meaning. Without it, life will be quite unbearable. Emptiness is what you feel unless you discover a meaning for your life. As we saw in the first part of this series, meaning is something we create rather than discover. Was the madman creating his meaning by sitting with a fishing rod knowing that he was not going to get any fish? Well, Camus argued that life was as absurd as that. His contemporary, Jean-Paul Sartre experienced the nausea of the meaningless human existence and went on to tell us why we need to cre

Literature and Meaning

Most people, almost all normal ones, live their lives by the stories they tell about themselves and those others tell about them. As psychologist Gerald Corey says, “These stories actually shape reality in that they construct and constitute what we see, feel, and do.” Your personality is not a static entity which took shape at your birth once and for all. As you grew up physically, you encountered a lot of other people, situations, and forces that contributed into the ongoing shaping of your personality even if you didn’t want all that shaping. Your life is a story that continues to be written till your death. You are the ultimate writer of your own story though a whole lot of others make significant contributions which you can’t ignore. Every Othello has to meet his Iago. But the plot need not necessitate the murder of Desdemona. Every Hamlet has to deal with the demons of fraudulence. Mark Antony has a choice to not “let Rome in Tiber melt” and thus rewrite his story. Your

Science and Meaning

Protons and electrons won’t ever become gods though they are the fundamental truths of existence. Atoms and molecules don’t stir human emotions. Hence it is hard for science to offer transcendent meanings to man. Science is usually seen as knowledge rather than wisdom. Science helps us to understand the physical reality around us. It helps us to manage all that reality for our welfare and progress. Without science, mankind would not have conquered the great peaks of excellence. All our skyscrapers and flyovers, submarines and space capsules, smartphones that carry whole universes in them, are gifts of science. Without science, we would have been little better than the savage that descended from the tree and started walking erect on two legs instead of four millennia ago. Science keeps the world moving ahead, at breakneck speed. Science is the lifeblood of progress and development. Yet science fails to satisfy the human soul. The soul does not live by facts alone. The soul need

Career and Meaning

If your job is your passion, there is no better meaning you can discover in your life. If your job is something you love doing, life is as breezy as a delightful song. For many people, work is a burden from which they need to relax in the evenings with some leisurely activities. Weekend pastimes and annual holiday trips are required for such people to recharge the batteries of their lives. Leisure, hobbies and holidays are all good and required too even for people whose career is their passion. But if such activities are necessitated by the stress of your regular job, then your career cannot offer you the meaning of your life. We live in a world which cannot offer everyone the jobs of their dreams or a profession that suits their genes. We are forced to take up certain jobs out of the sheer necessity of a regular income. However, we can convert that job into something we enjoy doing. Otherwise, life can be a misery; if not for ourselves, for our clients or whoever we are suppo

Religion and Meaning

Maggie [my wife] and a friend at Badrinath In the post-graduate course in psychology I did a decade ago, there were dozens of theories and corresponding practical approaches for dealing with psychological problems. Religion was not mentioned anywhere in those theories or their practical approaches. Yet religion remains the most common refuge of people from their day-to-day trials and tribulations. Millions of people rely on religion for making sense of their life. Moreover, religion has been coeval with homo sapiens. We cannot obviously ignore religion when we discuss people’s search for life’s meaning. My mother was an example of a typical religious believer. Hers was a simple faith which accepted the given dogmas and rituals without a question. The Bible was the ultimate source of truth for her though she never cared to study it systematically. In fact, she knew nothing more of the Bible than what the priests preached from various pulpits. If anyone pointed out the contrad