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Showing posts from June, 2020

Pandey ji, Paplu, and Godman

Fiction Pandey ji had become old enough to lose sleep over small things as well as very small things. As a younger man he knew how to make his students lose sleep. He was a teacher, a very strict one. Woe to any student who did not submit Pandey ji’s assignments on time. You could manage all other teachers somehow: an apology or a sprinkle of flattery or a “token of affection” – this last was a gift like a pen or something. “Ma’am, when I saw this in the shop I remembered you.” And ma’am forgives your lapse with the assignment. But Pandey ji was above all such temptations. Students trembled at the very sight of Pandey ji. It is said that some students even passed urine in their trousers out of sheer fright if Pandey ji caught them for some error or mischief or negligence. If Pandey ji was the invigilator, no examinee would ever dream of indulging in any malpractice. Pandey ji kept an eagle eye on every student in the room. It was said that he had an X-ray vision that could s

Herd Mentality

Slogans can kill. They often do. A simple slogan like Ek dhaka aur do, Jama Masjid tod do killed a few thousand people in addition to demolishing a five-century-old architectural heritage in the year 1992 under the pontificate of luminaries like L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. No less than 150,000 people who called themselves kar sevaks metamorphosed into a cloud of frenzied hornets, mesmerised by a slogan. A mob has no brain. A mob only has a libido. A mob is an emotional surge, a monstrous unconscious, a mindless leviathan. Any pied piper can get that monster to plunder and flatten, rape and kill. The mob will commit atrocities that the individuals in it will shy away from with visible horror. Fellow blogger Amit Pattnaik raises a question at a bloggers’ platform : Why is the herd mentality phenomenon so rampant in India? So many just blindly follow what others are doing! Or they mindlessly do what others tell them to, without questioning it. Is it the Bandwagon E

Does God Exist?

Book Overview Title: Does God Exist? Author: Hans Kung Translated from German by Edward Quinn Publisher: Collins Fount Paperbacks, 1978 Pages: 839 This is the most scholarly book I have ever read. It was a birthday gift I received in 1986 from a Catholic priest who taught me philosophy for two years. I had abandoned religion as well as God though it might be truer to say that God had given me up. I was a student of religion. I had ample faith in God. I used to pray half a dozen times a day. I wrote love poems to Jesus. “You took the brush and colours danced in my heart.” The ‘you’ in lines that smacked explicitly of romance in my poems was Jesus. I wrote those love poems when I was a student of philosophy. The only teacher to whom I dared to show those poems was the one who gifted me Hans Kung’s magnum opus on my 26 th birthday when I had already proclaimed my atheism loudly enough. [The details are in my memoir, Autumn Shadows .] Hans Kung is one of the most

Everyone, not just the few

How India treated its migrant labourers: humiliation on top of hunger Image from National Herald The problem with the human world is not lack of resources but the wickedness that is intrinsic to the human soul. In 1943 when Hitler’s racial pride was eliminating millions of people from the face of the earth for their ‘crime’ of belonging to a particular religion, 3 million people died in India’s Calcutta due to starvation. In one instance pride killed millions and in the other greed did. In his essay Poverty and Famines , Amartya Sen calls the Bengal Famine “boom famine”. There was sufficient rice to feed all those people who died of starvation. In 1943 Bengal had the largest rice crop in recent history, says Sen. The powerful and the rich together amassed all that rice out of sheer greed. Even the government looted the people, says Sen . The rich and powerful landlords too looted the poor. These landlords condescended to give rice to the poor but in return for their lands

Emotional Education

Book Review Title: The School of Life Author: Alain de Botton and 18 others Publisher: Penguin Pages: 310 Price in India: Rs 699 Human evolution has been one-sided. The brain continues to evolve while the heart remains savage. While we are able to construct skyscrapers and flyovers, explore stars that lie zillions of kilometres away, and work with the minutest subatomic particles, the ancient savage feelings of hatred and vindictiveness, envy and greed, egotism and lust, refuse to leave our hearts. The heart stands in need of effective education. Here is a book that attempts to provide that education. Interestingly, it is a book written by a group of writers numbering to 19 in all counting the one who wrote the introduction. These writers are philosophers and psychologists who call themselves The School of Life which is also the title of this book. The objective of this organisation of writers is to promote emotional education and global well-being. If you

The Sublime Answer to Suffering

The following is an extract from Chapter 10 of my e-book: Coping with Suffering Suffering will not vanish. We will learn how to cope with it better. The sublime opens our eyes and hearts. In plain words, it makes us understand the reality better and deal with it lovingly. This understanding and love are the ultimate remedies for unavoidable suffering. This relationship with the sublime is a spiritual condition. You need not be religious for experiencing it. Atheists experience it in their own diverse ways. Artists experience it through their arts. When Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious; it is the source of all true art and science,” he was referring to the experience of the sublime. When Mozart said that love – and not intelligence or imagination – is the real soul of genius, he meant nothing else. Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince put it most elegantly: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what i

Pineapple’s Divinity

From an earlier Pineapple Fest - Image from Outlook I live in Pineapple City . It is a small town which officially is a village. The tang of ripe pineapple suffuses the very air of the town whose real name is Vazhakulam. Trucks filled with pineapples leave Vazhakulam market every day to different parts of India. The annual Pineapple Fest, which used to be a grand affair, was thwarted by Covid this summer. But pineapples have remained ubiquitously visible in Vazhakulam like in the past many decades. You can see hundreds of acres of land cultivated with pineapple if you travel in the neighbourhood of this place. The local people will tell you proudly that the particular variety of pineapple which grows here has a unique succulence. The boast is not an empty one, I think. I am not a connoisseur of any food though I can distinguish good taste from the bad like normal people. I think the Vazhakulam pineapples do have a difference. No wonder they have been given a Geographical I

Animals and I

Kunju's longing was mine too I had an attitude of profound indifference to animals. I neither loved them nor hated them. I wouldn’t pet them, nor would I hate them. They didn’t ever draw my attention enough to extract from me even the esoteric attitude of Fritz Perls: “I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped.” That was until a cat, which I named Kittu eventually, came along. Kittu was an abandoned cat. Abandoning cats is quite common in the village where I live. When people cannot afford to look after all the kittens that are born to their cats, they abandon the kittens on roadsides. I espied Kittu in the backyard one morning and ignored it assuming that it would go away by evening. When I returned from school in the evening, the cat was still there in the backyard

Death of a star

Sushant Singh Rajput apparently had everything: wealth, fame, talents, intellect, and a noble heart. The ingredients for a happy and contented life were complete. What went wrong then? We don’t know yet. Like a lot of other people, I’m left wondering why a man of Rajput’s stature should have put a wretched end to his life? He was doing well not only for himself but also for the world and there was so much more that he could contribute. He was generous to a fault. He contributed generously when disasters struck. He helped Kerala with a contribution of no less than one crore rupees during the 2018 floods. In the same year, he donated Rs 1.25 crore to the Nagaland Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, again to help flood victims there. He went out of his way to help women-led start-ups and children’s education. In short, he wanted to create a better world. He had great dreams. What a noble soul! Did that nobility kill him? This is my conjecture. I don’t know why he chose to

Salam Alaykum

The following is an extract from my new e-book Coping with Suffering . Sabr is an Arabic word that means ‘perseverance’ and ‘persistence’. The believer should exercise sabr in order to remain spiritually steadfast and to keep doing good actions in the personal as well as social domains. Sabr is all the more significant while dealing with problems and setbacks. Sabr is essential for the alleviation of suffering. The Quran promises a double reward to those who practise sabr in the face of difficulties and challenges. Nothing happens without Allah’s knowledge. If you are going through a phase of suffering Allah knows that and He has willed it thus. You should not question His will. Everything that is happening is part of His divine plan. You may not understand it. Even the prophets did not have it easy. They endured trials and tribulations. Prophet Yusuf (biblical Joseph) was thrown into a well as a boy by his brothers. Prophet Yunus (biblical Jonah) had to live in the belly of