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Showing posts from October, 2020

Reshaping memories

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  How reliable are our memories? Not much, as a source of objective truths. Memories do play a vital role in our lives for various reasons. But if you think your memories are the true records of what really happened in the past, you are mistaken. “Remembering is not a passionate or dispassionate retelling of a reality that is no more, but a new birth of the past,” says Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich in her book, The Unwomanly Face of War . Memory doesn’t merely remember what actually happened but re-creates it. The narrator of Julian Barnes’s novel, The Sense of an Ending , says rightly that what we end up remembering isn’t always the same as what we have witnessed. We add colours and patterns in order to make painful realities more acceptable. We “adjust, embellish, make sly cuts,” as Barnes puts it. We don’t do it consciously. We are not being villains by adjusting, embellishing, and making those sly cuts. On the contrary, we are doing our best to make sense of what has happe

Teacher from another galaxy

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"Crumbling is not an instant's act": Emily Dickinson If I were given a choice to order something from the cosmos, I would want an intelligent entity from another galaxy to come and teach certain essential lessons to my fellow creatures on earth. I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of intelligent entities out there in the infinite spaces. Like Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince, for example. Just imagine Little Prince standing before Amit Shah and telling him in all innocence that “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Imagine the Yogi of UP being told, “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.” The Little Prince isn’t an intellectual giant. He is a child. But he has a far more advanced consciousness than anyone on our earth. That consciousness sets him on a pedestal high above the greatest of people on earth. Come and teach us that level of conscio

Let yourself bloom

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  Book Review Title: You are Blooming Author: Swarnali Nath Amazon E-book, 2020   “Let noble thoughts come to us from every side,” Rig Veda exhorts. We live in rather ignoble times. A global pandemic has revealed more potently than anything else our vulnerability even before a microscopic virus. In spite of that, we don’t seem to learn the essential lessons. We keep fighting in the names of gods and religions. We keep chopping people’s heads to prove the might of our gods. Nations threaten one another for a few acres of land in the border areas. Men rape and kill little girls for reasons that only they and their gods know. No, we won’t ever learn lessons. That is why certain lessons become more and more relevant in spite of the fact that they are not new. Certain stories of love and compassion, grace and beauty, sunshine and bliss need be told again and again. We need be reminded again and again of our capacity for regeneration, the urgent need for that regeneration. This is

The Charm of the Devil – 2

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  Jack London - Image from here For the 1 st part of this, click here . Wolf Larsen, the protagonist of Jack London’s novel The Sea Wolf , is a devil for all practical purposes. He can be ruthlessly cruel if he wants. He can engage you in an intellectual conversation about morality or literature when he is in the mood for that. He can throw one of his crew into the ocean just because his shirt stinks. When that man loses a foot to a shark in the ocean before being pulled aboard, Larsen can shrug his shoulders saying that the shark was not in his control or plan. What makes Wolf Larsen a charming devil is his brutal honesty. He knows that life has no purpose other than prolong itself as much as it can. “You have no fictions, no dreams, no ideals,” the narrator tells Wolf. It is fictions, dreams, and ideals that constitute nobility. We would all be subhuman brutes without our fictions, dreams, and ideals. Add Wolf’s brutal honesty to that and we would be heartless devils. What kee

The Charm of the Devil - 1

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  Caliban The devil is a far more interesting character than god in the Bible and quite a lot of Christian literature like Paradise Lost . He is authentic. His authenticity makes him rebel against god who is a bombastic and whimsical character. The devil’s problem, however, is not with god’s self-conceit and capriciousness. His problem is why he should endure all that and remain a slave to such an entity. The devil has self-respect and wants to assert his individuality and dignity. Hierarchical systems don’t like people with self-respect and individuality. Human beings love to create hierarchies. Our gods sit at the top of all our hierarchies and they are as hideous entities as the creators of our hierarchies. Our gods are the supernatural projections of our leaders. In other words, our gods are created in the images of our leaders who create our hierarchies. Our leaders obviously know how to make use of these gods for various purposes: political as well as others. You can bring a

Let go the past

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Living in the past is a psychological disease. Psychology has identified clear signs of the disease. If a person tends to speak about his past too much, about certain people who caused him pain in the past, and compares his present situation with previous ones, you can be pretty sure the guy has serious problems from the past that need be resolved in order for him to live a healthy present life. Such people tend to be attracted to or obsessed with the same type of people that caused them pain in the past. Their disagreements often surround past arguments. They are easily bored or frustrated. They indulge in self-sabotaging behaviour. After Mr Modi became the Prime Minister, India behaves like the pathological patient described above. We as a nation keep talking about past glories and wounds. Our entire discourses are constructed around past events that should have been buried long ago. We are wreaking vengeance on today’s people for offences committed by their supposed ancestors ce

The Other Side of Compassion

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  One of the mysteries that has baffled me again and again, like a cancerous pain, is the cosy coexistence of religions and cruelty. All kinds of cruelties were imposed on fellow human beings in the name of gods ever since religions were born. We did it in ancient India. They did it in all ancient civilisations. Compassion is the very root of Christianity’s theology. Yet no religion was as ruthlessly cruel as that for centuries in the medieval period. Islam has continued that ruthlessness, which Christianity gave up a few centuries ago, up to this day. Hinduism, under Mr Modi’s charismatic leadership, seems to be all set to take up the same tradition now – with a slight difference: Mr Modi’s acolytes have changing tastes. Young girls seem to be the favoured targets these days. Lynching in the name of cows was in vogue till the other day. Perhaps, the fad may change again soon since fads don’t have much longevity even with divine sanctions. Why are our gods such dismal failures? T

Fragmented People

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  Book Review Title: A Horse Walks into a Bar Author: David Grossman Translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen Publisher: Penguin, 2016 Award: Man Booker International, 2017   Too many people have been burdened with the authorship of the sentence, “Life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel.” David Grossman, Israeli writer, presents the tragicomedy of Dovaleh Greenstein in this dangerously gripping novel. Dovaleh G is what our hero calls himself. “Dovaleh, long for Dov, which is just like ‘dove’ except less peaceful, and G, like the spot, the apple of my dick.” That’s the protagonist’s self-introduction to his audience in a club in Netanya, a small town in Israel. He is both a thinker and a feeler. So his life has been both tragic and comic. But who sees the tragedy? He has been a stand-up comedian and laughter is what people associate him with. But a painfully fragmented heart is what he has been carrying around ever since his childhood. His

Crafts for Kids

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  Book Review A to Z Crafts for Kidz By Kinshoo Agrawal Children are creative by nature. The school smothers that creativity slowly with all the mugging up and other unimaginative acts of omission and commission that constitute the academic systems in our country. Of course, there are a few boards and schools that nurture each child’s creativity using ingenious methods. But not all can afford those schools. Here is a book that can easily solve the problem. Kinshoo Agrawal’s e-book is a rich source of ideas for engaging your child creatively using simple things that are available at home or quite easily from the neighbourhood stationer. As the author mentions in the beginning of the book, “Crafts and creative activities are proven to be helpful in early learning and early childhood development.” She goes on to elaborate the merits and benefits of crafts for kids and also gives some very vital guidelines to parents and other adults who are dealing with these kids. The book prov

Saint Devasahayam Pillai

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  Devasahayam Pillai's statue in one church in Kerala Book Review Title: യേശുമുത്ത് [Jesus Pearl] Author: Gopikrishnan Kottoor Publisher: Authors Press, New Delhi, 2020 Pages: 330 Spirituality is one of the ways to the discovery of the meaning of life. Evil and death are the most potent factors that render life meaningless. A lot of people have grappled with the problem of evil in diverse ways. The answers given by religions seem to satisfy ordinary people. But there are some who seek deeper answers. Saints belong to that category as also many philosophers, writers, and artists. Saintliness has its roots in insanity as philosopher William James argued very convincingly in his book, Varieties of Religious Experience . Jesus and the Buddha were not normal men in the traditional sense. Most people who were canonised as saints by the Catholic Church and a lot of the ascetics who found bliss in the solitude of the Himalayas are not normal people. Gopikrishnan Kottoor’s his

My own hero?

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  Every adolescent sees himself as the centre of the universe. He is a superstar unto himself. He looks into the mirror for long periods many times a day and ensures that he looks like prince charming. The hairstyle is perfect (though it may look bizarre to the adults). The skin complexion is fair and lovely. There are no dark shades below the eyes. No pimples on the cheeks. He thinks that the whole world is watching him all the time, in admiration. Every adolescent is a narcissist of sorts though the degrees will vary from individual to individual. People normally grow out of this narcissism as they grow up into the realities of adulthood. Some people remain adolescents at heart for various reasons. Their own feelings of insecurity or inadequacy may be the cause. May be an inflated sense of self-worth. Parents might have contributed it through excessive attention and admiration. Or excessive criticism and demands. At the bottom of it all, probably, lies only one factor: a fragile

Tanishq and the Patriots

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Patriots are a queer lot. You don’t know what all things can make them pick up the gun. Only one thing is certain apparently: the gun for anything. When the neighbouring country behaves like a hoard of bandicoots digging into our national borders, we will naturally take up the gun. But nowadays we choose to redraw certain lines on the map and then proclaim that not an inch of land has been lost. On the other hand, when a jewellery company brings out an ad promoting harmony between the majority and the minority populations, our patriots take up the gun. And shoot down the ad. Those who promote communal harmony are traitors in India today. The sacred duty of the genuine Indian patriot is to hate certain communities, rape their women, plunder their land, deny them education and other fundamental rights and basic requirements. Tanishq withdrew the ad that sought to promote communal harmony. The patriot’s gun won. Aapka Bharat Mahan. In the novel Black Hole which I’m writing there is

Stan Swamy and some questions

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  A lot of people who question the government are arrested nowadays on serious charges that amount to treason or nearly that. The latest is the arrest of Stan Swamy who is a Catholic priest and social activist. Apparently his crime is that he is a Maoist who supported the Dalits in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case. That is only the apparent reason, a reason manufactured by the government. What are the real reasons? The first reason is that he is a Christian missionary. After Muslims, Christians are the biggest enemies of the Hindu Rashtra that Mr Modi & Co are trying to create in India. A lot of comments made in various social media by the IT cell of the ruling BJP are about conversions made by Christian missionaries in India including Stan Swamy. So let me take up this issue of religious conversion first. What is wrong if anybody wants to convert from one religion into another? Why can’t I choose my religion? If I am not happy with the religion into which I was born without my

A Disillusioned Hindu

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  Book Review Title: I could not be Hindu: The story of a Dalit in the RSS Author: Bhanwar Meghwanshi Translator from Hindi: Nivedita Menon Publisher: Navayana, Delhi, 2020 Pages: 236 [hardbound] “Was it for this Hindu Rashtra I was working so hard, so ready to kill and be killed?” Bhanwar Meghwanshi asks in this autobiographical book of his. The book is about the author’s bitter disillusionment with the religion he was born into as well as the most powerful organisation of that religion, the RSS. Meghwanshi was born into a caste considered untouchable by his religion. But he loved his religion which taught him as a little boy that Muslims and Christians were enemies of both the nation and the nation’s religion. He joined the RSS as a little boy and at the age of 13, in 1987, he was on a mission to redeem the Ayodhya temple from its Muslim clutches. He joined the militant group that went from his village in Rajasthan to Ramjanmabhumi in Ayodhya and shouted passionate sl

The Ghost of a Banyan Tree

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  Image from here Fiction Jaichander Varma could not sleep. It was past midnight and the world outside Jaichander Varma’s room was fairly quiet because he lived sufficiently far away from the city. Though that entailed a tedious journey to his work and back, Mr Varma was happy with his residence because it afforded him the luxury of peaceful and pure air. The city is good, no doubt. Especially after Mr Modi became the Prime Minister, the city was the best place with so much vikas. ‘Where’s vikas?’ Someone asked Mr Varma once. Mr Varma was offended. ‘You’re a bloody antinational mussalman who should be living in Pakistan ya kabristan,’ Mr Varma told him bluntly. Mr Varma was a proud Indian which means he was a Hindu Brahmin. He believed that all others – that is, non-Brahmins – should go to their respective countries of belonging. All Muslims should go to Pakistan and Christians to Rome (or is it Italy? Whatever. Get out of Bharat Mata, that’s all.) The lower caste Hindus could