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Showing posts from January, 2021

Beside Arundhati Roy

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  Sunday musings Arundhati Roy on my bookshelf A friend forwarded Arundhati Roy’s latest lament about India’s pathetic condition. I love Ms Roy’s passionate probity. I have admired her ever since I came to know her political writings about two decades back. I have personal collections of most her writings. My continuing admiration for her notwithstanding, I now feel more like Estragon standing beside Vladimir in Samuel Beckett’s inimitable play, Waiting for Godot . “Don’t touch me! Don’t question me! Don’t speak to me! Stay with me!” I feel like telling her in frustration. India is frustrating. But I don’t feel like shouting in indignation anymore. It’s futile, I begin to despair. Two thugs are ruling us and we have no way forward. We are condemned to be stuck in the filthy alleys beyond Lok Kalyan Marg holding motley flags and shouting dissonant slogans. Forever. Or at least until the goons of the thugs will come and ram nationalism down our throats. I feel weary to hold flags an

The Second Crucifixion

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  ‘The Second Crucifixion’ is the title of the last chapter of Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins’s magnum opus Freedom at Midnight . The sub-heading is: ‘New Delhi, 30 January 1948’. Seventy-three years ago, on that day, a great soul was shot dead by a man who was driven by the darkness of hatred. Gandhi has just completed his usual prayer session. He had recited a prayer from the Gita:                         For certain is death for the born                         and certain is birth for the dead;                         Therefore over the inevitable                         Thou shalt not grieve . At that time Narayan Apte and Vishnu Karkare were moving to Retiring Room Number 6 at the Old Delhi railway station. They walked like thieves not wishing to be noticed by anyone. The early morning’s winter fog of Delhi gave them the required wrap. They found Nathuram Godse already awake in the retiring room. The three of them sat together and finalised the plot against Gand

Short lives and long leaps

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  Antony always ready for new leaps My cat, Antony, fell on my TV while trying to catch a lizard from the wall. The TV which couldn’t hold Antony’s weight fell with an explosive sound to the floor before Maggie or I could save it. Antony was stunned by the sound. He realised he had done something rather terrible and so he lay down with his forelimbs stretched ahead as if seeking pardon. His gesture extracted a smile from me. “You’re smiling?” Maggie was scandalised. “Give him a slap,” she said. “Will he understand?” I asked. “Moreover, our TV is nearly 15 years old. Maybe, it’s time to replace it.” I picked up the TV from the floor. Its stand was irreparably broken. But the set could stand by itself. I replaced the detached cables in their appropriate places and switched the set on. It worked as if nothing had happened. “This is old technology,” I said. “A traitor to the TV industry,” I almost added sotto voce. That traitor concept came from an American contractor of last century.

What you suffer is your karma

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 The following is one of the chapters of my e-book, Coping with Suffering .   Your suffering is your choice to a great extent in Hinduism. Your karma determines what comes your way. Karma is the principle that governs the unfolding of events in your life. Your karma depends on the integrity with which you lived your previous lives. It is not a punishment because unlike in the Abrahamic religions there is no punitive God sitting in any heaven meting out retribution to people. Karma is the unfolding of the moral law that drives the whole universe. As Dr S Radhakrishnan put it, “The working of karma is wholly dispassionate, just, neither cruel nor merciful.” It is not about cruelty or mercy. It is the natural consequence of what you do. If you eat salt, you will drink water. Quite as simple as that. There is no escape from it because it is part of the eternal law of the universe which is applicable to everything and everybody in the universe without any discrimination. The high and th

Goswami kinda Nationalism

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  83-year-old Stan Swamy who can’t even have glass of water without somebody’s help is thrown in jail for terrorist activities. A young stand-up comedian, Munawar Faruqui, is in jail for a joke that didn’t crack but might have cracked. Siddique Kappan, a journalist who went from Kerala to report a gang rape in Yogiland, is in jail for suspected terrorist links. Laughter is a crime in Modi’s India. Helping the poor and the marginalised is a crime. Even questioning the government’s crimes can land you in jail. Nitish Kumar’s Bihar has enacted a law for gagging people’s mouths. And Nitish Kumar is the “Bhishma Pitamah of corruption” according to Tejashwi Yadav. Now, why is Mr Yadav not arrested yet for making that statement? Well, this is Modi’s India. You can never say who will go behind the bars for what. Somebody like Arnab Goswami can say anything and do anything – even induce suicides – but won’t be caught by the law. He is above the law like a lot many other hardcore criminals

Malevolent India

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  Book Review Title: Malevolent Republic Author: K. S. Komireddi Publisher: Context, Chennai, 2020 Pages: xxxiii + 228        Price: Rs399 ‘A Short History of the New India’ is the subtitle of this relatively short book. In ten tersely titled chapters [e.g., ‘Erosion,’ ‘Surrender,’ ‘Decadence’], the book presents just five prime ministers of India : Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh, and Narendra Modi. The history of a country is largely a creation of its prime leader. While the first four PMs mentioned above receive one chapter each, the entire second part of the book [6 chapters] is dedicated to Modi and the pathetic if not pathological history he has been forging. With Indira Gandhi started the erosion of the high principles followed by the former leaders. Indira knew the game of politics and played it shrewdly. The emergency and Bhindranwale were her serious mistakes. Her son Sanjay was another. Komireddi is of the opinion that Indira was gl

The heartlessness of Idealism

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  John Oswald was sent by the British to reform India in 1780s. India reformed him instead. Under the influence of certain Hindu ascetics, Oswald became a vegetarian and also a committed champion of animal rights. This same man, however, had no qualms about killing fellow human beings. In the very same year in which his pamphlet decrying meat eaters for their “callous insensibility” was published, Oswald was devising, as a member of the Jacobin Club in France, effective methods for largescale massacres of human beings. Vegetarianism and sensibility towards animals on the one hand and heartless brutality to humanity on the other. This is what India taught Oswald. Do you find something similar happening in India nowadays? One of our chief ministers appointed by none other than our Prime Minister himself is a Hindu ascetic by profession and is a pure vegetarian who loves cows more than certain human beings. Before becoming the high priest of his state, he had founded a local army of h

The Emperor with too many clothes

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 Sunday musings Image from panna.org In the classical story, the vainglorious emperor is naked though he is made to believe that he is wearing some supernatural fabric. The King in this blog post is blessed with the same vanity though he cannot be accused of the same naivete. His sartorial sense is as sophisticated as his political acumen is shrewd. He has his own brand of jackets with colours that match the occasions. His words have colours that match the occasions. He can be a teacher or a butcher, a persuasive demagogue or a deferential tea-seller. He longs for appreciation from the very people whom he holds in contempt. He emulates the people whom he seeks to displace from history. He professes absolute love for his country and its ancient culture and civilisation. But he will get foreign writers to pen his biography. Andy Marino and Lance Price have written voluminous books about his greatness though they knew him little until they were hired to do the job. Knowledge is no

The agony of faithlessness

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  A church in a village in Kerala The best definition of ‘faith’ I’ve come across so far is Ambrose Bierce’s: “Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge of things without parallel.” What does the word ‘faith’ mean to me? This is the question raised by fellow blogger, Parwati Singari , at a blogger’s community for this week’s discussion. The word ‘Faith’ is primarily associated with religions and gods . There are other meanings too, of course, like in ‘I have no faith in my government’ or ‘You’ll cope – I have great faith in you.’ I stick to the primary connotation here. The first thing I did when I saw Parwati’s topic was to take once again The Scale of Doubt Quiz given in the opening pages of Jennifer Michael Hecht’s scintillating work, Doubt: a history . [In case you wish to take the same quiz and see how much of a believer you are, I’ve posted a pic of the page from Hecht’s book in my Facebook timeline .] My result: I am an atheist, but I “may

Brainless nation

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  “The ideas by which a ruling group maintains its power must be suited to the intellectual climate of the given epoch.” Barrows Dunham, 20 th century American philosopher who was fired from Temple University for being “un-American” in his thoughts, wrote that in his famous book Man Against Myth (1947). There is a close affinity between the intellectual levels of a people and their rulers. There was a time when religion was the most powerful social entity among people and hence rulers claimed to possess divine rights to rule. Ancient kings worked in collusion with priests. Both together exploited the ordinary people mercilessly. Since the people also believed in the same gods that the kings and the priests did, the system worked. But that changed when people realised that the gods weren’t exactly what they seemed to be. The rulers who once derived their power from the gods were now content to derive it from monkeys, as Dunham put it. Charles Darwin usurped the power of the gods a

Destiny’s gifts

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Bogey-Beast There is a fairy tale about a poor, little, old woman who is very cheerful by nature. She runs errands for her neighbours and lives by what they give her in return for her services or in plain charity. During one of her carefree sojourns, she sees a pot lying in a ditch. Though she doesn’t have anything worthwhile to keep in such a pot, she decides to retrieve it from the ditch. When she gets to it, she is amazed to see gold coins overflowing from the pot. She carries the heavy pot full of gold coins thinking that she has become awfully rich until she feels tired and incapable of going on. She puts the pot down for a while. When she picks it up again, alas, it’s no more a pot of gold coins but just a mass of silver. Her happiness does not dwindle. Silver is better, she mutters to herself, because it’s less trouble. Thieves won’t be attracted by silver as much as by gold. But the next time she puts the mass of silver down out of fatigue, it metamorphoses into a lump of

Save your penis

  Fiction “Damodar!” The cry that was an ethereal mix of joy, surprise, and agony staggered me. I looked at the old man who had uttered that cry looking into my eyes. I had just come out from a shopping mall in the city which I was visiting after a very long period though it was the city that nurtured my childhood. I stared at the million wrinkles that crisscrossed his sunken cheeks, at his bald head, into his sad eyes… “Timur…” I whispered hesitantly. “Yes,” the man said with relief as well as heightened joy. It was Amir Timur, my childhood friend. The boy who told me, “Arey yaar, you should celebrate Diwali,” when I told him that my father was against firecrackers which did no good to anyone including the earth’s stratosphere. He took me to the junkyard behind his hut and took out the crackers he had bought on the way and gave me a matchbox. “Come on, this is your Diwali.” He said. “Celebrate it. Darn the stratosphere.” Timur and I became best friends. I visited his hut and

Empty Bullets of Nationalism

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 " ... The deaths of twenty Indian soldiers [in the Galwan Valley] did nothing for the morale of the very soldiers from whose shoulders Prime Minister Modi and his BJP like to fire the empty bullets of their nationalism." Shashi Tharoor , The Battle of Belonging Nationalism is quite an absurd thing in independent nations. When you are free as a nation to forge your destiny any way you want, what job has nationalism to do? Nationalism is an assertion of a nation’s rights and privileges against an enemy. For example, India’s nationalism during the British rule was needed and valuable. Once the coloniser is gone, nationalism should give way to nation-building. Shashi Tharoor’s latest book, The Battle of Belonging , takes a deep and wide look at the subject. The book is divided into six sections. The first , The Idea of Nationalism, analyses the subject in great detail viewing it from all possible angles. There are varieties of nationalism like religious nationalism, territo

Making sense of what is happening

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  “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out,” said Vaclav Havel. Things don’t turn out well generally in the human world where Murphy’s law is quite universal: What can go wrong will surely do. Our endeavours to make conquests are often like Uncle Podger’s attempts to fix a picture on the wall. Uncle gets all the required things ready: hammer, ruler, step-ladder, kitchen-chair, and what not. Then he would lift up the picture and drop it and it would come out of the frame. While trying to save the glass, he cuts himself. He goes searching for his coat because his kerchief is in the coat pocket. He has forgotten where he left his coat. All the family members are put on a treasure hunt for his coat. “Doesn’t anybody in the whole house know where my coat is? I never came across such a set in all my life…” Uncle frets and fumes. “Six of you! And you can’t find a coat that I put down not 5 min

Pink for boys

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  Remember the Pink Chaddi campaign that rocked India in 2009? Hundreds of pink panties were couriered to Pramod Muthalik’s office by Indian women as a mark of protest against his organisation’s [Sri Ram Sena] offensive actions upon young couples found together on Valentine’s Day. The colour pink was chosen because that colour was considered to be conspicuously feminine. The campaign was a revolutionary assertion of autonomy by India’s women. Now look at this quote from a trade publication called Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department , published in 1918: “ The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Pink for boys and blue for girls. That was a century back. Today it’s just the opposite. Who makes such conventions? The society, of course. And randomly too. There is no rationale behind why boy