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Showing posts from January, 2020

Godse’s Mediocrity

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Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on this day 72 years ago by a man who lacked the brains to understand profundity. The killer, Nathuram Godse, justified his pernicious deed in an eloquent speech in the court. I would like to pick out three of his prominent arguments and show why he was utterly wrong. 1. Folly of non-violence Godse’s first major argument is that the right answer to aggression is violence. “I would consider it a religious and moral duty to resist and, if possible, to overpower such an enemy [who uses force] by use of force.” He went on to argue that mankind is incapable of “scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles [of truth and non-violence] in its normal life from day to day.” Godse obviously failed to understand the very “loftiness” (to use his own term) of the Mahatma’s vision. Gandhi wished to elevate mankind to a higher level of consciousness. Gandhi’s was a messianic vision. He was not fighting merely for liberating India from the British but also

Bury the dead

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Image from shubhzquotes India is like a vehicle whose driver is always looking into the rear-view mirror. Our leaders and too many citizens are stuck in the past. They are always busy digging up gems from the past. It is nice to belong to a civilisation that has a great history. But to be buried in that history is quite insane. Either we are stuck with the glories of the past or we are picking the errors from the same place. Glories belong to the ancient past and the errors belong to rather recent past: that’s the only difference. The recent past stretches from Nehru and his ‘dynasty’ to the Mughals. While the ancient India knew everything from nuclear physics to the Internet, Nehru and his dynasty were an ignorant and vicious lot that ruined the great civilisation of the past. The degeneration began with the Mughals, of course. Whether the Mughals and his successors committed all the historical blunders is immaterial if progress is what we want. It’s no use looking back a

Happiness and India

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India has got a miserable 140 th place out of 156 nations surveyed by the World Happiness Report  for happiness levels. Finland continues to hold number one position, followed by Denmark, Norway and Iceland. The survey concludes that generosity and an environment which sustains mutual support keep people happy. The USA has the world’s highest GDP, the richest nation, but its rank in the happiness index is 19. Wealth doesn’t necessarily keep you happy. Happiness is a feeling created by people’s willingness to be of help to one another. The government plays a vital role too. People alone cannot determine the prevalent mood in the country. The Happiness Report suggests that countries which improve civic engagement by making their government more representative will be happier. India now has a government that has been promising us better days for about six years now. But the Report shows that we have dropped way behind Pakistan, China, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and even Bangla

Love and Compassion

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Love is a kaleidoscopic phenomenon. It has infinite hues which can form endless permutations and combinations. Admiration can turn into romantic love which can change into murderous love as it happens in the case of Othello and Desdemona. “She loved me for the dangers I had passed,” says Othello, “And I loved her that she did pity them.” Their love transcended their races. It offended quite a lot of people. But theirs was genuine love, a love that went out of oneself to the other, a love that embraced the other in an elevated realm. Such love makes the lovers grow further as individuals. But there’s always an Iago hiding somewhere just like the serpent in the primeval Eden. Othello is a soldier by profession. The soldier in him militates against the lover in him because of the games that Iago plays with him. If he was more romantic than belligerent he would have probed more into the allegations against his wife. But that precisely is one of the most difficult problems of love:

Celebrate the Diversity

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You won’t find too many women in the Northeast wearing sari. The tribal people have their own traditional dresses and they wear them. They look elegant in those dresses. Those are dresses they designed for their convenience. Those are dresses that add a unique charm to the people. The diversity of dresses in the northeast may astound you. There are over 220 ethnic groups in that one region of India alone and an equal number of dialects. All these groups have their own dresses, cuisines, festivals, and cultures. When I started my career as a teacher in Shillong in 1986, I used to have Khasi tribal food for my lunch from a small and only restaurant near my school. It was not easy to like the bland dishes with almost no spices in them. But soon I did grow to like them so much that I thought they were better than my own traditional foods. One thing was certain anyway: they were far better than the foods I cooked myself for breakfast and dinner. My culinary skills have not improved

The Menace called RSS

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Book Review Title: The RSS: A Menace to India Author: A G Noorani Publisher: LeftWord Books, Delhi, 2019 Pages: 547 India is passing through a painful phase, arguably the most challenging one in its post-Independence history. The nation’s very fabric is under threat of being ripped apart. It may no longer be what the Preamble to its Constitution claims: a secular republic among other things. India has one of the best Constitutions according to many experts. That Constitution is likely to be dumped soon. Slowly and not so clandestinely, many of its principles are being undermined by the present dispensation. That dispensation is controlled by an organisation which dons a cultural garment: the RSS. What is the RSS? Whose culture does it seek to uphold? Why does it claim to be a charitable organisation when it comes to paying the income tax? Why does it harbour so much hatred in its subterranean layers? How did it come to accrue so much political clout recently? A

Joys of fishing in a bathtub

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Illustration from 123Greetings Simple things can give me heights of joy. Small things can move me to depths of grief too. A draught of whisky with a fistful of cashew nuts can drive me crazy enough to hum a romantic song. A good book can enthral me till its last page. The little girl waiting at the door of her classroom in the morning with a smile and a greeting fills my heart with a vigour that sustains me for a long time of the day. Life is full of small delights. Life is full of bigger disappointments. The small delights are life’s compensations for the big disappointments. Can joys surpass sorrows in human life? My experience doesn’t vouch for an affirmative answer. One of the questions that someone raised rather casually and that gripped my fancy for quite a while was: Did Jesus ever smile? Later on, I replaced Jesus in that question with the Buddha and many others of the religious-saintly type. I could never imagine a smiling face of any of those religious personal

Lost Sheep

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Image from Pinterest  I mistook you for a black sheep Whereas you were just a helplessly lost sheep Caught amidst the naked thorns Of mangled brambles and briars In the desert with no oasis in sight  You bleated your heart out,  And no one heard you.  No one wanted to hear, perhaps.  Perhaps, your cries were smothered  By the defeaning slogans of furious men Whose hearts are stuffed with fossils,  Whose tongues are forked with biting words,  Whose breath carries the fumes of savage slogans.  Let me release you from this thorny mess.  Sit beside me for as long as you can.  We'll heal each other's wounds.  I'm as wounded as you are.  We are both victims of the same system.  I'm lost too.  Though they call me a black sheep.  Come, sit here, by my side.  Touch me.  Your pain will heal me.  Let mine heal you too. 

Dirty Saints

Fiction Tony left. There were only four members in the WhatsApp group. When Tony left, the group became 25% less. Less than what? 3/3 is 100%. Vijay texted. Isn’t it now ¾? Andrew asked. What the hell is happening to Dirty Saints? Husain wondered after a long silence and never wrote anything more in the group. Tony, Vijay, Andrew and Husain were the Dirty Saints, the renowned clique in the senior secondary school. After school, they all went their own ways. Tony took up computer engineering and joined Infosys, Vijay opted for medicine and became a doc, Andrew pursued literature and teaches at a university, and Husain joined his father’s business after graduating in commerce. Tony was showing signs of frustration from the time Narendra Modi was elected the Prime Minister for the second term. His posts in the group became increasingly vitriolic against the ruling party at the Centre and its blatant communalism. Ur Congy was the communal party, man. Vijay texted in

How history will remember Modi

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Faces of chicanery History belongs to the dead. History resurrects the dead from their graves again and again. With love sometimes and with vengeance more often. See how the present dispensation in India keeps resurrecting Jawaharlal Nehru and a few others with vengeance. The same dispensation goes out of the way to give a new history to Nathuram Godse and a few others. How will this dispensation be remembered when its time runs out sooner or later? Ashoka died 2250 years ago. History still recalls him as a great ruler who learnt some of the profoundest lessons of life from a huge mistake. His territorial ambitions cost more than 100,000 deaths and 150,000 deportations. His ambition melted in the furnace of the grief that he had set on flame. He learnt great lessons like “Dharma (means) having few faults and many good deeds, mercy, charity, truthfulness and purity” [Major Pillar Edict No 2]. Very few conquerors learn lessons like Ashoka. Conquerors are usually blind, blind

Country roads, take me home

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One of the favourite songs of my youth was ‘ Take me home country roads ’ by John Denver. I was a denizen of Shillong in those days. Shillong had uncanny knack for making people feel out of place. The place made me feel like a second-class citizen all through the 15 years of my subsistence there. [One of the chapters of my memoirs, Autumn Shadows , has that title: ‘Second-class citizen’.] It’s only natural that I yearned for a better place, one that made me feel at home. Why didn’t I leave the place sooner than I did? That is one of the mysteries of life. Destiny. Probably, I was scared of venturing out to a new place. Probably, I lacked the confidence that I would find a good job elsewhere. When I left Shillong finally, it was more out of a compulsion than my choice. I was ejected, so to say. I spent the next decade and a half in Delhi, the place which I didn’t want to leave until my retirement. I liked Delhi for various reasons. It left you alone, for one. Delhi was the leas

Love’s Victim

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Book Review “Nothing cripples a human being more than unrequited love,” says the narrator of An Orchestra of Minorities , the new novel from Chigozie Obioma. Unrequited love is the central theme of the novel. Chinonso, the protagonist, is “a small, lonely man whose only sin [is] that he was hungry for companionship.” Chinonso is a young chicken-farmer in a village in Nigeria. One night, as he is returning home with a few new chickens, he saves a young woman named Ndali from suicide. Ndali was ditched by the man whom she loved very much and helped to study. “Nothing, nothing should make someone fall inside the river and die. Nothing.” That’s what Chinonso tells Ndali. He meets Ndali again some time later at a petrol pump. Eventually they fall in love. But Ndali is the daughter of a chief who lives in a palatial house. Ndali and her family belong to an entirely different social and economic class. Her father and brother oppose her affair with Chinonso. They insult him afte

The New Year is a Prayer

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Image from jasonwahler.com A prayer that has fascinated me for decades is Dr Rheinhold Neibuhr’s Serenity Prayer that Alcoholics Anonymous teaches its members. I came across this prayer in late 1970s and it has remained in my heart until today. I don’t claim I have attained the serenity that the prayer offers. I have learnt to accept the things I cannot change. I keep changing the things I can. I hope I know the difference between what can be changed and what can’t. I don’t much seek to change the external reality. There’s very little that I can do about that. I’m just an ordinary mortal in a very complex and complicated country that is governed by people who are too powerful for anyone to influence. I wish I could change a lot of things around me. If God appeared and gave me a boon to change what I wanted, my list would be quite endless. But I know that even God is helpless in this regard. Does God weep over what people do in His name? Well, I don’t believe in any anthr