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Showing posts from March, 2020

God’s Penis

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Ficition The Covid-19 lockdown in the country had reached the fifth day and the day was drawing sluggishly to an Eliotean twilight that was spread out like a patient etherised upon a surgery desk. Days were horrors now. Eat and sleep, and watch the TV during the intervals. There was nothing else to do. He couldn’t even sleep now. He realised that he was no incarnation of Kumbhakarna or Rip Van Winkle. He was Martin, English teacher at a CBSE school. John and Tom were also feeling equally restless in their own homes which were not far from Martin’s. They used to have weekend flings together over a bottle of McDowell brandy. John had given up his lucrative job as the branch manager of a Dubai firm and taken to tapping rubber in his village. Tom’s furniture shop in the city was closed due to what he called the ‘Coronation of China’. “Hey, there’s a bottle of JD available,” Tom said on phone. “What’s JD?” Martin wondered. “Jack Daniel’s, man. Top class whiskey. Aren’t

What makes Kerala different

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Malankara Dam's reservoir [in Kerala, a few km from my house] Kerala is quite different from the other states in India. The difference is not just about literacy or economic development or health infrastructure. There is much else that marks out Kerala as unique. Kerala’s religious demography comes to mind first. According to the 2011 census, 55% of people in Kerala are Hindus, 27% are Muslims and 18% are Christians. Yet Kerala is seen by a lot of Indians as a Christian state if only because the state consistently opposed the kind of communal politics played by the BJP. Even Mr Modi’s histrionics failed to move the Malayali hearts. Mr Modi took his own revenge on the state too. Kerala was hit by severe floods in 2018 and 2019. The Modi government pretended not to see the devastation. Even the state government’s pleas for deserved assistance in a federal system fell on deaf ears. Let alone that, Mr Modi went to the extent of denying the help that came from foreign n

God is not a ferryman

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All my friends – with one exception or two – seem to be very God-fearing people. My WhatsApp space is replete with religious messages every time I open it. Some messages are prayers or spiritual messages related to COVID19. Some are warnings and threats issued on behalf of none other than God. Quite a few are prophesies made on the basis of certain scriptural verses or the visions that certain preachers claim to receive from God directly. I rarely open any of these. I opened one this afternoon because it happened to be a very large file, the video of a prolonged speech by a Catholic priest. The speech went on for an hour or so. I listened to half of it. The message that accompanied the video was that the priest was making an accurate prediction about the present happenings and the future of the earth. It turned out that the priest was opposed to all such predictions, miracles and other misuses of religion. So why did the sender of that message mislead people by giving a false intr

Great Books for Great Thoughts

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My personal library: a view Great thoughts come from great minds. We live in a time that seems to have sacrificed thinking at the altar of expediency. There is too much superficiality around because of lack of thinking on the part of human beings. Our religions have become mere rituals and some of those rituals have degenerated enough to be murderous. Our literature is increasingly becoming cerebral puzzles that at best tickle the brains. What we call culture today is nothing more than a shop-ware peddled thoughtlessly at social media platforms. Thoughtlessness is a serious problem. Thinking has to be brought back to our lives. Perhaps the old masters can help us. That’s what I think. Hence I have taken up the A2Z Challenge thrown by the Blogchatter team. The theme I have chosen for the challenge is ‘Great Books for Great Thoughts’. I intend to present 26 books to you starting from 1 April. We’ll have a sweet look at books from Arms and the Man to Zorba the Greek . W

Lockdown Day 1

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It was not a bad day at all. I read a lot, gathered my unpublished short stories into an e-book titled Love in the Time of Corona [which will soon be available at Amazon] and ended the day with the usual gardening. I had ordered two books from Amazon which were to be delivered one of these days. My premonition about the lockdown went wrong by a day or two.   Hence my new books are stuck somewhere on the road and I went back to my existing collection and read [reread, rather] The Ugly Duckling by A A Milne, The Jest of Hahalaba by Lord Dunsany, and Cathleen ni Houlihan by W B Yeats. They are all one-act plays and hence short. Then someone sent me a few Malayalam novels via WhatsApp. I read one of them too: Balyakala Sakhi [ Childhood Friend ] by Vaikom Muhamad Basheer. All of these, the English plays as well as the Malayalam novella, belong to the old gen literary tradition. They have the regular plots, familiar settings and palpable joys and sorrows. Even the fairy tal

Autumn Shadows in Print

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It's been almost a year since my memoir, Autumn Shadows , was published as an e-book at Amazon . Quite a few people asked me for a print version of the book. It took me a while to get the print version ready. Here it is.  You can order your copies here .  Here is an extract from the book: “Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being,” as Camus wrote. The disquieting ruggedness of my ascents with the Sisyphean rocks through years has not depleted my nostalgia for innocence.   Rather I have rediscovered it in the autumn of my existence on the earth, the only existence that I will ever have.   Like Camus’s quintessential rebel, I have said No to certain systems and realities and Yes to certain others so that my life has acquired a unique meaning for me.   This book is about that meaning and about my journey toward it. I have come a long way from Meursault through Sisyphus to Dr Rieux.   Dr Rieux is the protagonist of Ca

Lessons from Corona

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The veranda of an ancient church in Kerala We are essentially vulnerable creatures. All that medical insurance and the elite treatment promised by it may suddenly abandon us on the wayside like unwanted orphans. All that security we built in concrete in the form of walled mansions may mock us. There is apparently no refuge even in religious rituals. There is no escape from certain inescapable frailty. Covid-19 places us face to face with our susceptibility to sudden death. This is the quintessential absurdity of human life to which philosophers like Albert Camus drew our attention again and again. We live as if we are conquering Alexanders or Genghis Khans. There is no end to conquests in our dreams. One conquest urges us on to the next. Even our gods become our tools in the process. We forget the real purpose of our religions and their rituals and use them for personal aggrandisement. Our fellow human beings become our stepping stones to what we perceive as success.

Corona and God

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God is one of the topics of discussion these days because the Corona disease makes people aware of their inevitable vulnerability. God is a safety valve for most people. However, a lot of religious centres which claimed to work miracles in the name of God(s) have shut down and I expressed my amusement over that in certain places like Facebook. One of my friends, who is otherwise very sensible and humorous, objected to my amusement arguing that if there is no God there would be utter chaos in the human world. Some people would even become cannibals, he said. Though I have written much about my views on god and related affairs, I’m going to discuss some points once again for the sake of my friend. 1 . I live a life of morality. I follow a very personal code of ethics which has a lot in common with socially and religiously accepted codes of ethics. But I don’t need a god to uphold it. I am good not because I am afraid of punishments from god. I am good not because I want th

The Beach

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A very short story The waves roared. It looked as if they were angry with someone. Or maybe with a lot of things or people or both. The beach was deserted. Silent. Still. Just the opposite of the raging ocean. The rage of the ocean contained a hunger that the beach did not seem to understand. Was the beach the cause of that hunger, all that anger? The tall coconut trees stood indifferently off the beach. The roads beyond those lanky trees were frighteningly abandoned. The sun lashed the tarmac mercilessly. Move on the road, a few kilometres, and you will come across the woods. The lovely, dark and green woods. A virus laughs in those woods.  I prefer the rage of the waves. 

Lingering goodness

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The entrance to the Refineries School I was under the impression that goodness had vanished from the human world altogether. We have majestic leaders now who openly advocate hatred and violence, and the number of their followers is mounting by the moment. Even religions are more about donations and palatial buildings than love and compassion. Worse than the lusting after power and wealth is the mendacity of the people in high positions. They propagate a lot of falsehood among the gullible people of the country. Falsehood has replaced truths in a country whose motto is Satyameva Jayate. The situation has made me so cynical that I turn and look around for a coffin the moment I smell roses.   That’s why what happened on Saturday last made a lasting impression on me. I was at Cochin Refineries School near Ernakulam for over a week on a duty assigned by CBSE. Saturday was my eighth and last day of duty there. Many people on the campus like the security guard at the gate had alr

Life is imitation

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Jim Jarmusch In his book, The Seven Basic Plots , Christopher Booker says that most works of literature are repetitions of one of seven basic plots. Those seven plots are: 1. Overcoming the Monster, 2. Rags to Riches, 3. The Quest, 4. Voyage and Return, 5. Rebirth, 6. Comedy and 7. Tragedy. Thus David Copperfield is an imitation of The Ugly Duckling and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws has more in common with the ancient Beowulf than you might imagine. Nothing is really original. Can’t be. Long ago, Plato said that art is an imitation of life. The philosopher was not quite happy about that either. The imitation takes you away from the ideal reality, he thought. You become like a cave dweller who mistakes a moving shadow for the reality. Plato’s disciple, Aristotle, was kinder towards writers and story tellers. Imitation is an essential aspect of human nature, he accepted. We can’t help being story tellers. We are all story tellers. And we take our stories from out there. We copy

Love in the time of Corona

When the schools and colleges in the state were closed to prevent the spread of the Covid virus and Corona disease, Abdullah’s question was: “Isn’t Kovind our President?” “It’s Covid, not Kovind, Covid-19,” said Adil, Abdullah’s son. Adil was an undergrad, the first in the family of butchers to cross the threshold of a college. For that reason alone, he was the hero of the family. Everyone from father Abdullah at home to the remotest aunt somewhere in a Malappuram wilderness believed that Adil was a genius because he was going to be a commerce graduate in another couple of years. Adil would be the first graduate in his family. He was going to be the progenitor of a new family history. It was important these days, a new history. This creator of the new family history had suddenly turned melancholy. Mother Aisha noticed Adil’s face losing its colour the moment the announcement came about the holidays. Abdullah had not noticed that, however. When he did notice the melanch

Tinkers of Emotions

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Image from The Daily Star I wept bitterly like a child when my cat died . He was killed on the road by a vehicle. It took me quite a while to accept the loss. “I never knew that I was such an emotional person,” I told a friend later. Even now, a month after the cat’s death, his memories bring tears to my eyes. I used to think that I had no emotions, that I was just a robot who went about doing a lot of things mechanically. True that I used to reflect a lot about many things. The reflections were of an intellectual nature; emotions seldom came into play. Really? When I introspect now, I realise that Mr Modi and his kind of politics make me emotional. I have written quite a lot about Modi and his politics and, as someone told me the other day, much of that writing is driven by “passion”. Yes, Modi makes me emotional. The kind of emotions that Modi arouses in my heart are diametrically opposite of what my cat’s death aroused. The cat arouses feelings of tenderness in my h