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Showing posts from February, 2020

If wishes were horses...

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If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. If turnips were watches, I'd wear one by my side. If "if's" and "and's" were pots and pans, There'd be no work for tinkers' hands. Wishes belong frightfully to nursery rhymes. The rhymist knows that wishes are granted only in fairy tales. Real life is about turnips and heartburns.  When I was young, I longed to be a writer. Not an ordinary one. A great writer. Another Shakespeare. Or a Bernard Shaw, at least. Life mocked at that and taught me great lessons and my wishes fell by the wayside and died with subdued whimpers. For some reason that's beyond my understanding, I never had simple wishes like good people. For example, the wish to become a doctor or an engineer never crossed the threshold of my ambition's horizon. The career which I pursued and has continued all my life descended on me rather accidentally, quite like a wayward meteor hitting an unsuspecting planet. I'm comp

The Shadow Lines of Nationalism

Blood is the inevitable price you pay to earn your place in your country. The narrator's grandmother in Amitav Ghosh's novel, The Shadow Lines , says that. Maybe you don't pay it yourself, your parents or grandparents or their uncles did. People draw their national borders with blood. That bloodshed is a religion for people.  India seems to be getting ready for another national sacrifice. If the freedom fighters of yesteryears paid that price for all Indians, today's nationalists are doing it in order to snatch the country from certain religious communities. "India belongs to Indians" was the old slogan. The new one is, "India belongs to Hindus." It's about territory anyway. This territory belongs to me and people I consider mine. Like the beasts in the forests, we mark out our frontiers. This is my den, keep out or else you're doomed. Nationalist slogans bear the tang of the wild growls in primitive enclosures.  National borders are s

Is this the India we want?

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A mosque under siege in Delhi If you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind. This is what Delhi is doing now. This has happened elsewhere too. Gujarat 2002 is a glaring example. The people who masterminded the riots then are in power now in Delhi. We know what their intentions are. We can’t expect them to work out solutions. When the leaders of a country don’t want solutions, the situation is catastrophic. Catastrophe is what awaits the nation. If you watch the videos that appear on the social media now, you will undoubtedly notice one thing: the hatred in the eyes of the perpetrators of violence. Hatred is what has driven our prominent leaders ever since they entered politics. Hatred can never do good to anyone, let alone a nation. So what’s the solution? We, the people, are the only solution. If we decide not to be fooled by the jargon that our leaders and their mindless followers dish out, if we decide to be sane and rational, if we opt for peace and development, the

Makers of History

Fiction When Sumit put up one of his old snaps on his Facebook timeline, he was only relishing nostalgia for a moment. Or maybe, he wanted a few likes from his virtual friends. Political writing was ignored by people these days like the plague. Politics in the  country had become kind of plague.  He tagged David to the pic. In fact, David had clicked that photo and Sumit wanted to give him the credit. Or maybe, Sumit wanted at least one person, the tagged one, to take note of the pic.  David was too quick to distance himself from the   tag .  "Did I click that picture? I don't remember. I was never so close to you," he texted in Whatsapp.  "Don't you remember?" Sumit asked in disbelief. How can he forget it? It was the day when Sharmila Chakraborty, their classmate, had spent a whole day in David's rented room whose door remained closed all the while they were together.  Sumit and David lived in nearby rooms both of which were rented from one

Sectarian Virus

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The latest statue in India Image from Orissa Diary “True religion is not talk, or doctrines, or theories, nor is it sectarianism. It is the relation between soul and God. Religion does not consist in erecting temples, or building churches, or attending public worship. It is not to be found in books, or in words, or in lectures, or in organizations. Religion consists in realization. We must realize God, feel God, see God, talk to God. That is religion. ” Swami Vivekananda said that long ago. Sectarianism was a virus that ate into the Indian psyche in those days too. We choose to call it communalism. Communalism is the wrong word. The word ‘communal’ does not have a negative meaning in English except in India. What Indians mean by the word is actually ‘sectarian’, dividing people into factions, while ‘communal’ is about sharing and caring among members of a community. “Class divide, Chauvinism, Social media validation, Alarming increase of criminals in politics, Lack of civi

Celestial Bodies: Review

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Book Review “Do you love me, Mayya?” Abdallah asks his wife. “She was startled.... She said nothing and then she laughed. She laughed out loud, and the tone of it irritated me.” Mayya thinks that such words as love belong to TV shows. In real life, no one talks about love. Abdallah remembers that on their wedding day Mayya had not laughed. She did not even smile. Mayya didn’t want to marry Abdallah. Ali was her man. Ali had returned from London though without securing a diploma. The diploma didn’t matter really, London mattered. Mayya wanted to escape from her village and go and live in the city of Muscat. Ali was a symbol of that aspiration. Eventually she names her daughter London. She will have her London one way or another in spite of the fact that she belongs to a patriarchal Islamic system. Most of the characters of Jokha Alharthi’s novel, Celestial Bodies , which won the Man Booker International Prize 2019, belong to rural Oman. Love is their quintessential longing

The Elephant’s Religion

Fiction “How can a Muslim elephant enter a Hindu temple?” Surendran fulminated. An elephant named Ibrahim Koya was part of the parade of elephants that was held as a traditional part of the temple festival. Ibrahim Koya belonged to Mohamad Koya who had named the elephant after one of his legendary ancestors who was said to have brought to control a mammoth tusker that was in heat just by standing in front of it and holding its trunk with one of his hands. The other hand gestured to the elephant to kneel down obediently. The elephant in heat obeyed very faithfully. Mohamad Koya bought an elephant in honour of that legendary ancestor and named it after him too. “What’s wrong with this fellow?” Murali wondered to Sukumaran. Yesterday only the three of them were sitting in the restaurant eating paratha with beef roast. How did Surendran become such a fervent Hindu today? “Maybe, he wants to become the Governor of Mizoram or something,” said Sukumaran. Surendran had joined th

Offspring of the Jungle

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Source: Skeptical Science Charles Darwin didn’t coin the phrase ‘Survival of the fittest’. It was coined by the British philosopher Herbert Spencer who was a contemporary of Darwin. But Spencer owed to Darwin for the phrase. “This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Darwin has called natural selection or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.” That’s what Spencer wrote in his book, Principles of Biology . Spencer rephrased Darwin. The meaning is the same: survival of the fittest = natural selection. Nature selects the best and abandons the rest. Life is a struggle in which the fittest win and the others lose. That’s quite the law of the jungle. In the jungle every creature is born to run, as Christopher McDougall put it in his book, Born to Run . “Every morning in Africa,” he wrote, “a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a

Two Sins

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Fiction   The roar of the waves shattered the silence of the midnight. The tide was high. The full moon shone brightly in the cloudless sky.  Joel sat down on the evasive sand trying to immerse the rage within his heart in the rage of the Arabian Ocean. It didn't take much long for him to notice the figure that was lying at a little distance. It was a man. He was lying on his back. Curiosity made Joel get up, walk towards the figure and sit near him after watching him for a while. Was he sleeping?  Excuse me, said Joel.  The man opened his eyes. He considered Joel for a moment and then sat up.  I'm a traveller, said Joel introducing himself, staying in that hotel. He pointed towards a large  building a stone's throw away.  I'm Amit, the man said listlessly. Usually no one comes to the beach at this time, he said after a while as if he was annoyed with Joel's presence. I didn't mean to disturb you, Joel said. I couldn't sleep. So I took a walk

A Requiem for my cat

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I buried him yesterday morning. His body was found lying dead and cold on the roadside. A speeding vehicle had killed him in the night.  He walked into our life as a little kitten five months ago. Someone had abandoned him on the roadside when the autumn sky was turning dark. He walked towards the only light he saw, the one outside our house. Maggie and I were baffled a bit. He was too small, would he survive? That was our worry. We had no choice anyway but adopt him. Thus he became our Kunju, the Little One.  He stole our hearts with his playfulness. He would climb into our laps and make himself comfortable there for as long as it pleased him. When Maggie worked in the kitchen he would jump up behind her and untie her apron knot. He thought we were his playmates. We allowed him to use us as such. We loved the game as much as he did.  We miss him immensely. Memories don't die. Even a cat refuses to die from memories. "Kunju has made you a different man," my f

Lopsided scales of Justice

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Three centuries ago, Jonathan Swift compared the law to a cobweb. The small insects will be trapped, but the bigger creatures will rupture the web and get away. Justice, like truth, is an elusive ideal. American philosopher, Barrows Dunham, wrote in his controversial book Man Against Myth that “truth has been suffered to exist in the world just to the extent that it profited the rulers of the society.” Justice also has been similarly loyal to the powerful people. Look at what is happening in India these days to understand this. Students of classes 4, 5 and 6 are charged with sedition because they staged a drama which questioned the prime minister. The headmistress and the mother of one of the students are arrested on serious charges. On the other hand, we have eminent political leaders of the ruling party who keep on delivering hate speeches day after day with impunity. Which is a greater crime: criticising the prime minister or spewing venom against whole communities of citi

Wrong, Mr Javadekar

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BJP minister Prakash Javadekar thinks that there is no difference between an anarchist and a terrorist . You are patently wrong, Mr Minister, as most your counterparts are these days. Is Prof Noam Chomsky a terrorist? Was Leo Tolstoy a terrorist? Both of them are self-proclaimed anarchists. There are a lot more like them who either declared themselves to be anarchists or are/were anarchists at heart. I am one too, though I belong to the humble sidelines.   An anarchist is one who upholds individual freedom. Anarchists have a vital role to play when governments become oppressive as is the case in India now. India now has a government whose ministers and prominent leaders keep on shooting their mouths off whenever they see a microphone or camera. They spew venom against certain sections of citizens. Their ulterior motive is to oppress certain communities or groups and render them impotent. Anarchists have the guts to question the oppression and the falsehood that upholds the opp

Ignorance and Prejudice

Prejudice is a universal human vice. Indispire Edition 310 raises the question whether ignorance is the mother of prejudice. To a large extent, ignorance is the mother of prejudice. Or father, let us say. When we use the word mother here, isn’t there a bias? Psychology defines prejudice as a negative attitude towards people based on their membership in a group. Prejudice prejudges people particularly on the basis of the group(s) to which they belong. For example, Muslims are communal: this is a very common prejudice today in many countries. Prejudice can often lead to violent conflicts, hate crimes and unfair treatment of people. Ignorance is the chief cause of prejudices. Ignorance makes us categorise people too easily. Categorisation is inevitable as it helps us to organise and simplify our world. I lived in North India and the Northeast for most part of my adult life and I was labelled as ‘Madrasi’ quite often. The fact is I had nothing to do with the city that was calle

Divine Silence

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Yesterday Maggie said, "Let's go to Arthunkal." Arthunkal is a Christian pilgrimage centre in Kerala, about 65 km from my home. "Okay," I said. It's quite some time since Maggie and I went on a long drive. That was the only reason as far as I was concerned. For Maggie, the visit meant much more than that.  Outside the church When we reached, the 9 o'clock Mass had just begun. Maggie chose to attend the Mass. Since that sort of prayer doesn't make sense to me, I decided to explore the church whose history goes back to the 16th century. It's then the Perpetual Adoration Chapel caught my attention. The chapel is a semicircular building whose door, the only one it has, remains closed. You enter and the door closes behind you. The atmosphere inside is cool and calm. When I entered there were just 4 or 5 devotees inside who were all praying silently. I sat down on a pew and closed my eyes.  The church Serenity surrounded me. Soon I was bathe