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Showing posts from May, 2020

Belong somewhere

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Source: Dreamstime What makes Narendra Modi a hero is that he belongs, or claims to belong, to a particular culture or religion or history that a lot of other people too belong to or claim to belong to. People in general can be divided into two groups: the geniuses who belong to the stars and the commoners who belong to the soil. Albert Einstein and Salvador Dali would not have bothered themselves with Facebook or Instagram (let alone Tick Tock) and the absurdly noisy 8 pm debates on news channels. Geniuses do and silly mortals follow. Bhakti is the ordinary soul’s shakti. Bhakti makes you belong somewhere. You belong to a god or many gods. You belong to a political party. You belong somewhere. Life looks like a rainbow when you belong somewhere if you are commoner: very charming and nothing less than infinity. Our gods are infinite. And we belong to them. How nice! Creating your own space because you know you don’t belong is the job of the genius. Let the genius a

Power of Authenticity

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Book Review What makes any personal discourse enchanting is the authenticity it exudes. Darshana Suresh’s book, An Ode to the Self , is suffused with authenticity that delights and disarms the reader at once. As the title indicates, the book is a result of the author’s self-exploration. Self-exploration is a slippery slope for any writer, particularly one who is just entering the adult world from the much cosier student’s world. Darshana who describes herself as “a lover of dreams, rains and words” is a “computer science engineer in the making” who is “pretty close to entering the corporate world.” Her book carries more wisdom than one would normally expect of a writer of her age. She has learnt a lot from life. She has been open to the inevitable experiences that life hurls fortuitously before anyone. The first thing that strikes any observant reader is the spontaneity of her style. Words flow elegantly and naturally from her pen. No, from her heart. There is poetry b

From beyond the grave to beyond galaxies

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Book Review Sitharaam Jayakumar This is a collection of short stories numbering to over thirty. They are divided into five categories: Horror/thriller; Sci-fi/humour; Sci-fi/public welfare; Sci-fi/miscellaneous; and General. Sitharaam Jayakumar, the author, is an accomplished storyteller who has published a couple of short novels. The first section in this collection is likely to remind the reader of Somerset Maugham with a hangman’s noose. The stories in this section reek of cynicism as they narrate stories of human wickedness. Betrayal and fraudulence are the themes of these stories. The wife is unfaithful to the husband or vice-versa and then one goes to the extent of murdering the other. In a few stories the ghost of the murdered person returns to take revenge. Jai (as the author is known among his friends) builds up the whole plot so adeptly that the conclusion lands on our face like an unexpected slap. He is also an expert at creating the apt environment. There is

Thinking beyond horizons

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The human world has never been quite pleasant. There is much misery in it, some of which is our own creation. Natural calamities and pandemics may be beyond our control. But what we create should be within our control. Our thinking should change first of all if our world is to change. That is why a title like Unconventional Thoughts catches our attention. The first thing I noticed about this book by fellow blogger Sreevas Munnoolam is its title: Ten Unconventional Pieces of Thoughts . This is a short book of just ten chapters and 30-odd pages. The ten topics are disparate with probably only one thing in common between them: the author’s intent to be unconventional. The first topic to be discussed is alchemy. Though a lot of genuine scientists and researchers devoted much time and energy to alchemy, nothing much came of it. Worse, charlatans used alchemy for swindling gullible people by promising to give them gold in place of baser metals. Sreevas takes a look at some of

NOTA is not the Answer

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Thousands of migrant labourers have been walking hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes from their workplaces for two months now in India. Outlook reports that the labourers have decided to vote NOTA [None of the Above] in the next election. No, dear friends, NOTA is not a wise option. NOTA is nobody. Even if that option gets the maximum votes, you will still get some real vampire as your MLA or MP according to the rules. The one who gets the highest votes after NOTA will get to suck your blood. You have another option, a wise and practical option. I will tell you in a moment. Why did you become migrant labourers in the first place? Think for a moment. One of your vampires has now declared that the states should get his permission to hire workers hereafter. “If any state wants manpower, the state government will have to guarantee social security and insurance of the workers. Without our permission they will not be able to take our people…because of the way th

Two Months of Lockdown

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One of the roads in my village which I discovered during the lockdown It has been two months now since most of us were shut in at home. When it started I thought the medical science would bring the coronavirus to its knees. After all, our science took us to the infinite interstellar spaces and also to the microscopic spaces between electrons. This science gave us so much that we grew up trusting its omnipotence. I did, at least. Well, almost. On 23 March, when the Prime Minister put the country under a lockdown in his characteristic magisterial style, I did hope that science would invent a remedy on the 22 nd day – a day after the lockdown was to end. My Prime Minister’s aplomb elicited that hope from me.   I marked the count-down on my calendar. When the lockdown entered the second week, my hope and trust both flagged. I stopped marking countdown on the calendar. I knew the world was going to kneel down before a microscopic virus. I chose to read and write all the ti

Truth: who wants it?

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Truth is the handmaid of power. As American philosopher Barrows Dunham put it in his book Man Against Myth , “Generally speaking, truth has been suffered to exist in the world just to the extent that it profited the rulers of society.” If the truths in our scriptures came from the gods, then our gods were also in collusion with those people who wielded the power. Who decided, for instance, that Sanskrit was the language of the gods and the men of the gods, and that the lower caste people should not even hear it spoken? Which gods would have benefited by having molten lead poured into the ears of the lower caste people if they happened to hear the Sanskrit shlokas even inadvertently? Who created the hierarchy of the caste system in the first place? Why did the Bible make the Serpent tempt Eve rather than Adam? The man who created the myth was creating the ‘truth’ that the woman is a dangerous creature and should always be kept subservient to the male of the species.

The Hindus: An Alternative History

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Book Review History is a myth whose meaning depends on from whose point of view you look at it. India has been witnessing an unprecedented rewriting of its history ever since Narendra Modi became its Prime Minister. Erstwhile heroes are turning villains and vice-versa. History belongs to those who wield the power. But we are not living in the days of landlords and vassals anymore. Anyone can make her views available to the whole world today without any difficulty making use of the various media available. Hence history is no more a potent tool in the hands of the power-wielders and their brokers. Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus: An Alternative History , is an example of how history can be seen from yet another angle. Doniger is an American Indologist who is turning 80. She is a scholar of Sanskrit and Hinduism. She has written many books on Hinduism, its sacred books and gods apart from translating the Rig Veda , The Laws of Manu , and the Kamasutra into English from

The World After COVID

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Migrant workers returning home in India The world won’t be much different after the coronavirus has done with its yomp. Quite a lot of people would have vanished from the face of the earth altogether. There may not even be a tomb to mark their final rest. Those who are fortunate to be left behind may wonder what life is all about. Is it anything more than Shakespeare’s tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? A walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more? What happened to all those multi-speciality hospitals, surgical expertise, billion-dollar machinery? The wireless brain sensors and the robotic surgeons buckled. Precision medicines and Virtual Reality devices capitulated. Will the global telemedicine market be worth the prophesied $113.1 billion by 2025? Will CRISPR [Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats] be the new God with its advanced gene-editing technology? M

Anomaly

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When I officially turned a senior citizen last month, one of the birthday greetings that came on Facebook described me as “the kindest man born in the cruellest month”. The greeting was from an old friend who had long ago referred to me as a paradox. Paradox sounds too elite and I know that I am not any kinder than April is cruel. So I choose to describe me as an ‘anomaly’ for my young friend, Aditya Narayan Mohanty , who is asking fellow bloggers to "Define your life in a single word and tell me the story behind that"   #SingleWordThatCanDefineMe . An anomaly is something or someone that deviates from the standard, normal, or the expected. That is quite an apt description of me in a single word, Aditya, when aptness has to coexist with brevity. A deviation, an aberration, a wart that might as well be excised. I’m sure you’re familiar with Swift’s Gulliver. I often feel like Gulliver. Whether in Lilliput of miniature people or Brobdingnag of giants, Gulliver is

Religion of Romance

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A page from my book, English Poetry A few months before the coronavirus started holding mankind hostage, I attended a wedding some 80 km from my home. When I was about to leave for home after the dinner, the host who was a close relative of mine asked me, “Can you take Father X with you. His seminary is on the way to your home. Just drop him there on your way.” “Is he the priest who delivered the sermon today?” I asked. Yes, my host said. I’d be glad to take him, I said. I loved his sermon. The sermon is a part of the usual Catholic religious ritual called Mass. It is nothing more than a plebeian elaboration on a biblical passage delivered by a priest for the mediocre believer. I have listened to hundreds of wedding sermons all of which were slight variations on the qualities of ideal Christian couples. But Fr X’s sermon caught my attention. The comatose romantic in me was resurrected right away as he started with the example of the honeymoon of Adam and Eve in the