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Showing posts from October, 2019

The ant at the edge of a leaf blade

Fiction Image from Amazon ‘I often feel I’m an ant,’ Samuel said. ‘An ant?’ Meenakshi frowned in spite of herself. As a psychiatrist she had trained herself to accept any fancy, however farfetched, from a client without any visible reaction. ‘The ant climbs up a tree and moves to the end of a branch,’ Samuel continued. ‘It creeps on and on until it reaches the last leaf of the branch, the most jutting-out leaf.’ ‘Then?’ Meenakshi was genuinely interested now. ‘It reaches the tip of the blade,’ Samuel stopped. Meenakshi could sense the angst that throbbed in his vocal cords. She kept looking intently into his eyes. ‘It bites the edge of the blade tightly with its jaws and hangs there. Hangs, not sits.’ ‘What is it doing there? Just hanging?’ Meenakshi wondered. ‘Waiting.’ ‘Waiting for what?’ ‘For a passing crow.’ ‘Why?’ ‘To be eaten by the crow.’ Samuel was passing through acute depression. He was a lecturer of English at St Edmund’s college. He was 35 t

Heart of Darkness

Watching the recently released Malayalam movie, Jallikattu , was a painful experience much as the movie was hilarious. The film has nothing to do with the savage entertainment by the same name indulged in by some people in Tamil Nadu. The film is about the savagery that lies deep inside the human heart. Man is a beast, far more evil than the wildest beast in the forest. The movie tears apart the facade of sophistication that we have put up to conceal our intrinsic savagery. A buffalo escapes from the butcher's sledge hammer and runs amok. How the people of the village react to the situation is what the movie is all about. Violence reeks right from the beginning to the last scene. The killing of a buffalo by a butcher who cuts up the flesh into lumps that are suspended on hooks in the meat shop is the revolting scene that ushers you into the terrifying and simultaneously hilarious darkness that follows. Soon you are made to realise that the darkness actually lies within you

Cats and Man

Kittu established his place at home too soon The great philosopher Immanuel Kant said, "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." I was seldom overwhelmed by love for animals. At best I would admire them from a distance. I loved watching certain animals for their ferocity and majesty. My heart would resonate with William Blake's admiration for the "fearful symmetry" of the tiger. I have often wondered with Blake whether the same creator made both the lamb and the tiger. But I could never bring myself to domesticate any animal. I never dreamt of keeping animal pets.  Nevertheless, a cat whom I named Kittu walked into my heart two years ago. He had been abandoned on the roadside near my house by someone who obviously had not cultivated the sensibility that the great philosopher suggested. Even before I realised what was happening, I fell in love with Kittu. When I had to be away from home overnight, I worried about Kittu's well-being


Kittu in the sit-out Maggie and I feel sad when Kittu, our cat,  is not at home to welcome us as we return home after the day's work. Most evenings he's there. He escorts us from the car to the door and enters ahead of us. It's his home. He belongs there. We like it that way. What makes home really beautiful is someone waiting there for us. What makes any place beautiful is someone waiting there for us. There was a little girl of UKG who waited for Maggie and me at the door of her classroom in the morning as we walked from the parking lot to the office. She would greet us with a smile and beam with joy as we patted her cheek. Occasionally she would beckon Maggie to bend so that she could plant kiss on Maggie's cheek. When the year ended and her classroom changed, she disappeared from our routine way. I wished she was still there. I'm sure Maggie did too. Some people create a tender space for themselves in our hearts. Some disappear after that, they grow


Leonardo da Vinci Image from rfi Leonardo da Vinci was an illegitimate child. However, his father was considerate enough to let him grow up in the Vinci mansion though he was not entitled to get any formal education. He had minimal schooling. His boyhood was spent on the Vinci estate and surrounding landscapes watching birds and animals, cliffs and waterfalls. One day the little Leonardo grabbed some sheets of paper (not easily available in those days) from his father’s office in order to sketch the beautiful things he saw around. He had no teachers, no paintings to learn from; he was his own master. Eventually his talent came to the attention of his father. Leonardo was sent at the age of 14 to be an apprentice of the Florentine artist Andrea del Verrocchio. Verrocchio taught much more than art to his disciples. Leonardo too learnt engineering, mechanics, chemistry and metallurgy from the master. In 1481, at the age of 29, Leonardo was a master himself. The Pope was loo

The comedy called Savarkar

The self-proclaimed Veer The BJP leadership seems to be determined to confer a posthumous Bharat Ratna on V.D. [no pun intended] Savarkar, if not elevate him as an interim Rashtra Pita while the original Pita is being assassinated again and again by the currently fashionable febrile nationalism. Was he indeed a Veer or a Bheeru? Who conferred the title of Veer on a man who tendered four apologies one after another to the British colonial oppressors and two to the Indian government? India is determined to rewrite its history. Amit Shah has articulated that intent too clearly. Narendra Modi is shrewd enough to play it safer. In the original history, it is Savarkar who wanted to divide India along communal lines before even the atheistic Mohammad Ali Jinnah put on the robe of the Muslim Messiah.   Interestingly, Savarkar was an atheist too. Savarkar propounded the two-nation theory in 1923 in his essay on Hindutva and later, in 1937, elaborated on it in his presidential addre

The Goddess of Koodathai

Jolly before her arrest A serial killer named Jolly took the state of Kerala by storm ever since the police took her into custody a few days ago. She had fooled too many people for a decade and a half during which she killed at least six persons including a little child. She pretended to be a lecturer at NIT Calicut when in reality she had not even completed her undergraduate studies. She was apparently a very devout practitioner of religion in her parish. People regarded her as an exemplary woman in many ways. How can someone fool so many people for so long? Obviously the social, electronic and print media in Kerala celebrated Jolly in predictable ways. There have been endless TV debates on her, newspaper articles, and relentless posts on the social media. The jokes and trolls that descended like incessant bombardment on the social media revealed the average Malayali’s taste for the insipid as well as his latent cynicism. The Catholic Church in Kerala was too quick to

BSNL on deathbed

In a lecture delivered at the closing rally of the World Social Forum in Brazil in 2003, Arundhati Roy said, “The two arms of the Indian government have evolved the perfect pincer action. While one arm is busy selling India off in chunks, the other, to divert attention, is orchestrating a howling, baying chorus of Hindu nationalism and religious fascism. It is conducting nuclear tests, rewriting history books, burning churches, and demolishing mosques. Censorship, surveillance, the suspension of civil liberties and human rights, the questioning of who is an Indian citizen and who is not, particularly with regard to religious minorities, are all becoming common practice now.” Vajpayee was the prime minister then. He was quite benign in comparison with his successor who strutted up the Rajpath a decade later. Today, that successor has almost sold the entire country to his cronies. The sales are going on. And nationalism is also marching royally all over the country with quixotic

The Sanity of Insanity

Socrates accepts the poison Image from masshumanities Today [10 Oct] is the world mental health day. Who is mentally healthy and who is not? It’s not very easy to determine anyone’s sanity. Men and women who were considered insane by significant numbers of people eventually turned out to be geniuses or saints or something similarly eminent. Mahatma Gandhi’s thoughts and views were quite insane by the world’s normal standards. Joan of Arc was considered an insane woman and bunt at the stake for her alleged collusion with the devil before being canonised as a saint by the same Church that burnt her as a witch. Geniuses and saints are insane by the world’s average standards. Psychologist-philosopher William James wrote candidly that religious experiences can have “morbid origins” in brain pathology. Religious experiences are often irrational but nevertheless are largely positive by their outcomes. Geniuses are initially perceived by people as lunatics. A genius sees reality d

The menace of social media

Social media has become a powerful tool today in the hands of ordinary people. It gives opportunities to anyone to propagate whatever he wants. As a result, a lot of falsehood gets peddled as truths, reputations are more marred than made, and relationships may be ruptured. I happened to watch a new Malayalam movie today on the theme of the menace of social media. I went to watch another movie in fact, but its timing didn’t suit me and hence I bought tickets for Vikruthi , Mischief. The plot is based on a real incident that took place in Kochi recently. A man named Eldho who has a speech impairment suddenly finds himself in the centre of a whirlpool because of a picture of his that was taken while utter weariness had made him fall asleep lying supine on a row of empty seats in the Kochi Metro train. Eldho had spent the whole night in the hospital where his daughter was being treated in the Intensive Care Unit for pneumonia. But the social media picture lampooned him as a drun


Book Review Robert Greene’s best-selling book, The 48 Laws of Power , fascinated me no end when I read it about two decades ago. I found the book in the capacious library of the erstwhile Sawan Public School, Delhi. Greene struck me as a ruthlessly pragmatic person who knew exactly what he was dealing with. I was never interested in power, but the book taught me all I wanted to know how people acquire power and how power works. Greene brings us real examples, and a whole of lot of them from all over history, to teach us the intricacies of power. When I stumbled on another book of his, Mastery , I ordered it without a second thought. The book is sheer delight. Once again, Greene gives us the lessons of mastery through real examples. We meet in this book Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and V S Ramachandran, and a score of other persons who were masters in their fields. We learn profound lessons from these masters. Each one of us is unique and has a unique r

Monument to Romance

The Taj Mahal is more a monument to romance than a mausoleum of royalty. What is life without romance? Romance makes life worth living. Romance adds colours to dark clouds. Clouds without colours are like religious preachers without eloquence. I visited the Taj for the first time before my hairs turned grey. Romance had not died in my heart in spite of the religious people around me with Modieqsue eloquence. It was the winter of 2000, almost four centuries after Shah Jahan planted his first kiss on the ruby lips of Mumtaz. The sweetness of the first kiss determines the lifespan of the wedlock. Kiss is a lock that needs no key. The Taj beckoned me again and again. I don’t think it was the architecture that lured me. I am no architect. Buildings don’t fascinate me. Poetry enchants me. The Taj is a poem. The Taj is the kiss of the infinite lover on eternity.   The poem of my life ten years after the photo above PS. Written for IndiSpire Edition 294: #Heritage .

Coping with Envy

Image from Psychology Today Envy is arguably the most universal human vice. There is hardly anyone who is not unhappy with the relative success of the next person. The tendency to compare ourselves with others is as natural to human beings as imitation is to apes. Do I look better than my colleague? Is my house more attractive than my neighbour’s? Does a colleague enjoy more reputation than me at workplace? Envy is a wide-ranging feeling. At the simplest or innocuous level, it can be a trigger for self-improvement. At the other extreme, it can destroy ourselves and others. If the success of another person makes you feel uncomfortable, you have a problem. If it prompts you to ascribe the success to sheer luck, political connections, or anything other than the person’s merit, then you have a serious problem. If it drives you to hate that person and do things that can damage him in any way, then your problem is hazardous and you need psychiatric treatment. Envy is universal

Hypocrisy is a virtue

Do not sit up when others are lying down unless it is to keep their feet in your lap [Sorry, boys, this is just an illustration.] “You’re a hypocrite,” an old mate of mine told me a few months back when I criticised certain practices of a religious community in a WhatsApp group of hostel mates. “You criticise the community and yet work in an institution run by the community.” He was right. I left the WhatsApp group soon after that when I realised that there was an unbridgeable gap between most members there and me. But I didn’t leave my job. “I won’t be able to live without that much hypocrisy,” I explained to another friend who raised the same question this morning when he called me up to invite me to his daughter’s wedding. “Even a hospital in Kerala has a religion,” I said. There is no escape from certain facts and factors of the society. Hypocrisy is essential if you want to live in peace in any society. “ Think of the workplace as a kind of theatre in which you are al

Beat Writer’s Block

I wanted to write a blog post today just to beat my blues. Words refused to rise in my veins. When words don’t flow out of your veins, they will sound hollow. So I shut down the laptop and moved out to the garden. The weeds had overgrown and they were smothering my garden plants, thanks to the recent rains. Weeds are like your blues: they love to smother whatever is good around them. I pulled up my jeans, put on the garden boots, picked up a knife and a pair of gloves, and stepped into the garden. An hour or so, and the weeds lay dead in green heaps that exuded their heady tang. I stood back and looked at the garden. My blues had vanished long ago. Despondence is a form of energy and I had unleashed it mercilessly on the weeds. The garden looked thankful. I relaxed a while breathing in the cool air that accompanied the setting sun. After a detailed shower, I switched on the laptop again. No. Words rebelled against my veins again. I wanted to continue the book which I have been