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Showing posts from December, 2020

Interview with a Missionary

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Dr Jose Maliekal Dr Jose Maliekal is a Catholic priest who is the Principal of St John’s Regional Seminary, Kondadaba, Andhra Pradesh. He is a profound thinker who perceives the realities around us very keenly and discerningly. I am pleased to bring here this interview with him which was held via email. He speaks frankly about contemporarily relevant topics such as religious conversion, love jihad, fascism in India, and the farmers’ agitation.   Apart from being a professor of philosophy and a deep thinker, you are also a Christian priest who has worked for decades among the Dalits in Andhra Pradesh. Many of the Dalits have been converted to Christianity. Why do you think they choose Christianity? The Dalits negotiate religion in the particular context of their political, social and economic marginality and appropriate the various elements of religion to respond to their own needs and to pursue their own dreams. This dynamics challenges the missionaries as well as those who accu

The Embers of 2020

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  The year 2020 is dying having delivered little of value. A pandemic that held three-quarters of the year hostage is threatening to mutate into a deadlier version of itself having already claimed 1.8 million lives. Will it lead the world to the final whimper that T.S. Eliot prophesied a century back? The whimper of hollow people, stuffed people, who made too much noise for too long? As a teacher I made quite a lot of noise for three-and-a-half decades. As a blogger too I made pretty much noise. 2020 put an end to the first noise. Classes went online and smartphones replaced students. Phones without automatic response mechanisms. So my questions in the classes went unanswered. I realised I was talking to no one. My dried voice, as Eliot would put it, died into meaningless whispers like wind in dry grass or rats’ feet over broken glass. 2020 rendered my job absurd. I spoke and deathly emptiness echoed my voice back to me. My New Year resolution is to give up teaching unless the job

Crime and Punishment

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  The murderous priest and the nun with the victim in the foreground Image from LiveLaw Dostoevsky’s unforgettable character Raskolnikov commits a murder to prove to himself that he is above the common man’s morality. He kills a despicable woman who is a ruthless usurer and hence won’t be missed by anyone. In the process, however, he is forced to kill that woman’s sister too, who is a good person, in order to get rid of the inconvenient witness. The crime doesn’t prove what Raskolnikov wanted it to. Instead of proving his superiority to average human beings, the murders leave him with a restless conscience. Eventually he has to confess. There is no other way. The person who convinces Raskolnikov that he had indeed committed a crime against no less than the humanity itself is a prostitute. Sonia had chosen prostitution as a profession out of sheer helplessness. She is a saintly person at heart. A self-righteous murderer and a saintly prostitute: one of the many contrasting pairs t

Modi and the Farmers

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  Image from Scroll There are millions of Indians who are fanatic supporters of Narendra Modi who is seen as a macho PM and saviour of Hindu religion. These people are Modi’s real strength. He gets away with a lot of balderdash as well as maliciousness because of the mass support he enjoys. He has paid scant attention to the ongoing farmers’ stir as if farmers are below his dignity to meet and discuss with. Modi regards himself as the greatest person on the earth if not in the entire cosmos. He has brought down to dust every democratic institution in the country so that his authority will remain beyond questioning. His strategy is to subtly alter the way the institutions function so that they are slowly and steadily crippled and eventually rendered effete. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been converted into a “caged parrot” by Modi. Prior to the Modi era, the CBI was “the gold standard of Indian crime-fighting” (Shashi Tharoor’s description). It has now become Modi’

Scrooge’s Christmas

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  Ebenezer Scrooge [Phot by Loren Javier] Ebenezer Scrooge is the protagonist of Charles Dickens’s novella, A Christmas Carol . A bitter childhood has turned Scrooge into a mean and selfish person. He is quite like some of our corporate bigwigs whose greed is as endless as selfishness is insensitive. He is a corporate honcho of the time, in fact. His concern is only profit. Profit before everything else. People don’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether his staff are starving as long as his business rakes in profits for himself. One Christmas transforms Scrooge, however. He is blessed with a vision into his own heart and into the heart of the reality around him. The vision teaches him that there are many other things that should come before profits. Mankind is your real business, as one of the characters tells him. Compassion, forbearance, and benevolence are your real business. A miracle follows the vision. Scrooge is transformed. He decides to help the deserving people. He sheds h

Minority Rights Day

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  Today, 18 Dec, is Minority Rights Day. India should celebrate this day heart and soul for various reasons. First of all, as Shashi Tharoor claims in his new book The Battle for Belonging , everyone in India is in the minority one way or another. Take this example from Tharoor himself: A typical Indian stepping off a train, say, a Hindi-speaking Hindu male from Uttar Pradesh might cherish the illusion that he represents the ‘majority community’. He’s wrong, of course. As a Hindu he belongs to the faith adhered to by some 80% of the population, but his language, his caste, his state and its culture – none of these belongs to the majority. If he is visiting a state in the Northeast, he will be astounded by the realization of how much of a minority he really is. He will be quite an alien among the Garos of Meghalaya and the Kukis of Nagaland. The diversity of tiny Arunachal Pradesh alone will be enough to strip him of any hubris about a singular national culture. Why, in his own reli

Thief

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Fiction Sivaraman was the last person whom I would expect to catch in a dim corner of a bar sitting before a glass of whisky and contemplating the sun waiting for the earth to reappear after a mythical deluge that had drowned the earth for some forty days. ‘The sun is an eternal lover,’ he told me as I sat down opposite him. ‘The earth is the beloved. Unfaithful beloved.’ He sighed like a Shakespearean furnace. ‘But the infidelity is due to helplessness. The flood is beyond the earth’s control.’ Sivaraman had met his old girlfriend that afternoon. She was the unfaithful earth that had emerged after the deluge. Megha was her name. She was the daughter of Bhargavan who was the caretaker of the Gopika estate where Sivaraman had joined relatively recently as the accountant. Gopika’s owner, Somasundaram, worked in Dubai though he was an ardent Indian nationalist who hated Muslims with all his heart. Gopika stretched across acres and acres of orchards and vegetable farms. Bhargavan w

Destiny’s Gift

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  In one of his novels, O V Vijayan illustrates destiny with the story of a bullock. The bullock was one of the two used to draw a cart. This bullock was always tied on the right side of the cart and hence got most of the whiplashes the driver being right-handed. The bullock was not happy with his destiny and envied his counterpart on the left side. I added a twist to Vijayan’s story while discussing destiny once. The bullock prayed for a change; it wished to be on the left side of the cart. God answered the prayer. The bullock cart was sold and the new owner tied our bovine hero on the left side of the cart. But his destiny didn’t alter. The new driver was left-handed. You can’t escape the whip if it is in your destiny. Some whips are indeed ineluctable parts of your destiny. Your genes, for example. There are catastrophes that strike you with divine vengeance. Even your government can be your destiny with its policies that may hamstring you. As a young man, I poohpoohed the n

Nationalism's Hunger

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The Great Wall of Ahmedabad: symbol of Modi's poverty policy Image from The Hindu The ‘Hunger Watch’ survey conducted in Gujarat by Anna Suraksha Adhikar Abhiyan [ASAA] reveals that one out of every 5 persons in the marginalised communities of the state go hungry in these pandemic times. Some of them do not have even a single meal on certain days. This is happening in a state that has been projected as a model for development over decades. With a tragic irony, we should note that the same person who brought about that pathetic condition in Gujarat is ruling the country today. He has met every opposition to his imperial rule, every demand for justice and human rights, with an iron fist. He suppressed the protests against Citizenship Bill and Act. He spent a huge sum of money to erect a wall meant to hide a slum from visiting Donald Trump . The money spent on the wall would have been enough to rehabilitate the slum dwellers, to give them a life of dignity. But Modi chose to hide t

The sublime answer to suffering

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    Suffering is the university of egocentrism . Milan Kundera, Czech writer [1929-] Suffering is inevitable. That is a fundamental lesson of life. Religions teach us that, philosophy does, and literature shows the same too. While dealing with the inevitable though unwanted, our options are quite limited. We should change what can be changed and accept what cannot be changed. We may need to adapt ourselves in the face of what we cannot change. Religion, philosophy, the arts, and a lot of things can help us to make life easier in the face of suffering. Aren’t these things primarily meant for that: to help us make life bearable and as pleasant as possible? Why haven’t they been able to achieve their purposes? Obviously, they have not been used rightly. On the other hand, they have been misused by certain people. Religion joined hands with politics and became a tool in the hands of bigots or the power-hungry. Philosophy is dead for all practical purposes, killed by our pursuit of

Dogs are created to obey

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  When human beings discovered laws They knew they had struck a gold mine And more, much more. It was easy now to subjugate people. Tell them what to eat, what to wear, what to speak, In the name of the most divine gods sitting up in the mighty heavens From whose feet were you born while we emerged from the head. Wearing sacred threads on our breasts We tore off the clothes that covered the breasts of your young women And dropped our divine seeds into their vaginas So that your race would improve; our generosity, our compassion, By the mercy of the rules and rubrics sanctioned by gods.   Divine laws dispossessed you of your lands, Call it Article 370 or whatever. Divine laws made your women ours Just for a few minutes, that’s enough. Divine laws brought fire and fury Upon you through us, we decide your fate. Didn’t our ancestors decide the fate of widows Who burnt on the funeral pyres of their husbands? We know what’s good for you. Our gods t