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Showing posts from November, 2019

Grow beyond religion

One of the many posters that appeared in my village asking people to support the Church Act In spite of its recent capitulation to the venal central government, the Supreme Court of India has upheld women’s right to enter places of worship like Sabarimala. But certain religious fundamentalists in Kerala are determined not to let women anywhere near the presiding deity on that hilltop. Ayyappan, the deity, is a bachelor whose chastity is so fragile that it will be shattered by the mere presence of worshipping women, according to these fundamentalists.   Umpteen questions can be raised against this and other infantile views of religious fundamentalists. None of the fundamentalist views stands to reason. Yet these views get popular support. One obvious reason is that most believers, not merely the fundamentalists, feel insecure about changing age-old beliefs and customs, however absurd and puerile they may be. It was quite heartening to see the Christians of the state of Ker

Nationalist Parrot

The parrot had lived in a cage for a very, very long time. Finally, one day, the master decided to set it free. “Go. The sky is your limit,” said the master as he opened the cage. The parrot was baffled. It didn’t know what to do. The master took the parrot out and liberated it into the air. The parrot flapped its wings and realised it could fly. It flew away. The parrot returned in a while to the cage. “This cage is my country,” it said. “I love my country. My country is the greatest, the best. My county’s culture is very, very ancient. All sciences and arts have their roots in my country.” The master who was a Harvard Business School graduate was happy. He knew how to convert any situation into a new business opportunity. Soon all parrots in the neighbourhood became nationalists that repeated the same slogans.

Interpretations matter

In Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classical book, The Little Prince , a fox shares a secret with the eponymous prince in return for a favour from the prince. “And now here is my secret,” says the fox, “a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye .” The favour that the fox wanted from the prince was to be tamed. “Tame me,” the fox requested. The prince didn’t know what taming was. Taming means “to establish ties,” explains the fox. It is relationships that make any entity unique. There are flowers and flowers, for example. But all those flowers mean nothing to you unless you establish a “tie” with one or more of them. “ It is the time you wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important ,” the fox counsels. The fox doesn’t like the system he has to follow. He has to hunt chickens of human beings, and human beings hunt him. That is the fact. He would like to reinterpret that fact. He would like to create

King of slogans

Fiction The unrivalled Prime Minister metamorphosed into a king over the years in a kind of Darwinian mutation. Many years ago, when he became the Prime Minister, the citizens of his country were interested in such democratic processes as elections. Those were days of bewitching slogans. Sabka saath sabka vikas. Swachh Bharat. Make in India. The slogans were as endless as they were enchanting. The Prime Minister was a wizard of slogans. Abracadabra, he would say on something like Mann ki Baath, and miracles would materialise from nowhere like Ambanis or Adanis. The mutton in a Khan’s refrigerator would change miraculously into beef after the said Khan was lynched in public by a mob that called themselves gau-rakshaks. Lynching became the national entertainment. Kaun banega crorepati and Bigg Boss lost their TRP rating to wayside lynching. Khan banega shikar became a new nationalist slogan. Khans thought it was their kismet. At least until, inshallah, some bloody bin-Laden

Beauty is Truth

“I’m losing interest in writing,” I told Kittu. Kittu is my cat. He loves to sit in my lap when I relax on a chair on the veranda in the evenings. “There’s no rule or order that you should write, is there?” Kittu asked. “Writing is my way of adding meaning to life.” Kittu snickered. “I’m contemplating the meaning of my lying in your lap.” “Your lying in my lap makes my life beautiful,” I said. “Beautiful,” Kittu seemed to ponder that word. “Not meaningful?” He asked. “I’m not Keats,” I said. “What did Keats do?” “ Beauty is truth, truth beauty , he said.” “Was he a poet?” “Of course. You know what he said after that?” Kittu purred. “ That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know . That’s what he said.” “He’s right, I think,” Kittu said after a brief silence. “Really?” “My lying in your lap is beautiful, you said. Doesn’t that beauty add some meaning to your life?” “Modesty is not your virtue, eh?” “As humble as you please, not modest. Mo


I am educated enough to talk myself out of any work. Why write when there are more writers today than readers? I ask myself when I feel lethargic to write. Or I’ll invent other excuses. Like: you’ve grown old, man, you’re out of touch with new trends. Sometimes I feel like Santiago of The Old Man and the Sea : “Bed is my friend. Just bed…. Bed will be a great thing.” One of the movie maestros of Kerala, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, complained the other day that the digital camera has made almost everyone a movie director. He lamented the death of movie as an art. Sometimes I feel like Adoor and lament the death of standard in blogging. Have we created an art out of mediocrity? I think we have. Look at the best sellers today. But that’s no excuse for avoiding your duty. You have to do your job whatever the outcome. Didn’t Krishna say something like that to Arjuna? According to the religion I inherited at birth, lethargy is one of the seven deadly sins. Diligence is prescribed as its


Kunju, the new addition to my family, is a great teacher too I didn’t want to be born. By the time I grew up old enough to accept the terrifying and inevitable absurdity of life, I had longed for death too many times. Now I’m old enough to know that gratitude is a great virtue. Where do I begin? There’s one person who has endured my insanity without complaint. My wife. She loved me and continues to love me in spite of myself. In spite of the maxima and minima of my unpredictable mood swings. She taught me that I was not entirely abominable. Rather she taught me that I was lovable. She mellowed my intrinsic ruthlessness. The process took time. Years. Years of endurance with me. Forbearance, perhaps. Then there’s a whole society called Shillong that taught me the greatest lesson of my life. St Edmund’s college, its principal, my colleagues there and one student named Nicholas all deserve infinite gratitude from me. They went out of their way to teach me that I was not as gre

When lightning struck

A popular goddess in India Fire chose to dance in my front yard on Sunday. The sky grew ominously dark in the late afternoon making it look like night. Then came a thundershower. The heavens rumbled furiously. The lightning turned into a dance of fires and the accompanying thunder deafened our ears. Maggie and I were watching it from inside our house. When the orgy of the heavens relented, I stepped out to take stock of the damage. A few of the tiles outside the house lay shattered to smithereens. The fury of the lightning had dug two deep holes in the wall. A flowerpot lay broken and the schefflera in it was thrown aside. Soon I would discover that the damage was much more than all that. Quite a few of my electric appliances were damaged irreparably. I took leave from school on Monday in order to bring a semblance of normalcy to my home. I learnt that a few houses of my neighbourhood were similarly affected by the disaster. Then came people’s reactions and comments. Most

Festivals and I

Diwali in 2008 at the staff quarters of Sawan Public School, Delhi I don’t celebrate festivals now. I never celebrated them after I lost my childhood. Onam and Christmas were my favourite childhood festivals. Both were colourful and joyful. Onam called my attention to the variety of flora available in my village. Children used to come to pluck flowers from our land in order to make the floral carpet for Maveli. It is then I became aware of the very existence of some of those flowers. The cutest attraction of Christmas was the crib we made at home. Father led the exercise. The children’s duty was to collect the raw materials from the farm. We collected palm leaves and a particular variety of grass that grew abundantly in December. This grass was called Infant Jesus grass ( ഉണ്ണീശോ പുല്ല്). Then there were the stars and illumination. Today both Onam and Christmas have lost their innocence. Flowers are bought from the market. Cribs are readymade. When I lived in Delhi (un