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Showing posts from March, 2021

Flowers in the cemeteries

From here  "I am the best." This was the slogan of one of my colleagues in Delhi. She taught this slogan to every student of hers with an indomitable spirit. Her students (who were my students too) tended to take it literally. Many of them behaved like absolute egotists who were entitled to the best of everything. She too possessed that sense of entitlement. She was a buoyant lady who knew how to play her cards deftly. No one could defeat her in the game of life. But she couldn't survive a catastrophe that came on her way. Her son died in a bike accident and that tragedy ate her away. She died a few months after her son's death.  She was the most positive-spirited person I ever knew. Obstacles were opportunities for her. She converted every obstacle into an opportunity to take out a new weapon from her inexhaustible armoury. For her, being 'positive' meant precisely that: being as aggressive as the wild boar while looking as cool as a lamb.  Whenever people sp

Black Hole is not so difficult

  This is about my own book, the only novel I have written so far: Black Hole . It was published just a few weeks back at Amazon as an e-book.  I'm sorry if I appear to be pushing it aggressively and unabashedly. Like every writer, I would love to have as many readers as possible. A few readers have told me that the book is slightly difficult. I agree. I didn't intentionally make it difficult. But I didn't intend to write a simple novel either. If life is convoluted, can literature be easy? Let me tell you how  Black Hole is structured so that your reading it will become easier. There are 6 chapters. Chapters 1,3, and 5 are about Devlok Ashram and its godmen. The first godman is Kailashputar Boprai whose nights were "haunted by nondescript phantoms" until he found peace in being a godman. He is succeeded by much inferior minds (inferior hearts, rather) in the persons of Amarjeet and Nityananda (who was originally Nitin Jane/Jain). Like any establishment, Devlok su

Girl, Woman, Other

Book Review   Bernardine Evaristo's Booker winner of 2019, Girl, Woman, Other , is a novel that tells the story of 12 black British women, most of whom are lesbians. Aged from 19 to 93, they belong to diverse classes, cultures and sexual identities. One of them, Penelope, doesn't know who her real parents are until the end of the novel. And when she learns about them in the end, she realises that her DNA is 87% European and 13% African. And in the 87%, 22 is Scandinavian, 25 Irish, 17 British, and so on with 16% being European Jewish too.  What are we? This is a question that has enchanted writers for ever. We make all sorts of identities and fight in their names endlessly. The hippies want to live in communes sharing everything. Environmentalists want to ban a whole range of things like aerosols, plastic bags and deodorant. Vegetarians want a non-meat policy. Vegans want that policy to be extended to non-dairy. The Rastas want to legalise cannabis. "The Hari Krishnas want

Writers who don't read

 As a teacher of English language and literature in a senior secondary school, my only complaint in the last few years has been that my students don't read anything other than their course books. "Your answers in the writing section possess the thinking levels of high school students at best," I told my class 12 students the other day while returning their examination answer sheets.  It's not about the style. Style is something that I have stopped bothering about as a teacher. Gone are the days when I could expect from my students a sentence like "A sudden warm rainstorm washes down in sweet hyphens." That sentence, of course, belongs to J M Ledger, no student of mine. A student of mine would have written that as "It rained and there was a wind also". As prosaic and brusque as that. Poetry died long ago. Style died too. Stifled by ruthless pragmatism.  It's not about style, however. Not poetry either. It's about the content. I can forgive t

The silence of fascist death

Image from The Quint   In 1944, the Nazis erected a vast conglomeration of structures in Poland which was fenced with barbed wire. In one of them was found a heap of clothes stripped from the Jewish victims - a pathetic heap consisting of an array of items from men's suits to babies' shoes.  Another building had three rooms. In the first of these the prisoners were made to remove their clothing; in the second they were passed under a series of shower baths; and in the third they were packed tightly so much so that none of them could move even their limbs. Three pipes led into this room from the outside, and there was a fourth aperture for a guard to watch what was going on inside.  When the room was filled entirely with stripped human beings packed like sardines, there suddenly came a shower of crystals through the pipes. On contact with air, these crystals generated deadly gases. The guard on duty outside could see the men, women, and children dying inside with exploding lungs

Demons in men's shapes

  Pavleen was haunted by nightmares though she lay holding her husband in a tight grasp. A woman wailing helplessly as she was chased by men who looked like monsters rattled Pavleen’s nerves all through the night. Exactly fifty years ago, in the torrid summer of 1934 in Lahore, a woman was chased by men with long beards and turbaned heads. Zenib was her name. She kept wailing as she ran until she collapsed at the feet of Buta Singh who was digging his farmland. “Save me, save me, please.” Zenib pleaded. Buta Singh was a pugree-wala too. He looked at the other pugree-walas in front of him, people metamorphosed into demons by anger and hate. Buta raised the woman at his feet by her arms and looked at her face. He did not see the terror in her eyes. The beauty of the youth on that face buffeted Buta’s heart like a tempest. “Stay behind me,” he told her. “What do you want?” Buta asked the men. “Give her to us,” they said. “She’s ours.” “She’s mine,” Buta asserted. The men in

Humble writer's dilemma

  The first feedback I received on my new book, Black Hole , is that I put off the lay reader with too many allusions and references which are not made clear enough. "All your readers are not going to be people of English Literature," the message went, "nor are they going to be all Christians." My mention of Kipling's 'white man's burden' and Henry VIII's murderous lust were cited as examples.  The feedback came from a very good friend who was with me through thick and thin for over a decade. But she is a person with a double Masters in English language and literature. While I agree with her that my novel is not an easy read at all (I didn't mean it to be either) and concede also that quite a few of my allusions are likely to put off some Indian readers who are not acquainted with Christianity, the fact that a person of her knowledge and literary background made the remark continues to amuse me even now.  The feedback made me sit and think fo

From Camus's Absurdity to Zorba's Santuri

  Life is a mystery to be experienced, not a puzzle to be solved. However, experiences can be terrible and terrifying more often than not. Life is not a fair game. It's a rugby of bullies. It turns a deadly battleground occasionally. Nevertheless, it has its music, its moments of awe, its sweet orgasms.  I'm participating in this year's A2Z Challenge thrown by Blogchatter  just for the fun of writing something non-political and possibly more exciting if not inspiring than politics. Life is the theme. But life is too vast a topic for a blogger to handle. Life is an infinite and eternal ocean with relentless waves and winds, as well as corals and pearls. A blogger can at best look at a tiny fraction of that infinity, that eternity. And I'm gonna do just that.  The series is tentatively titled From Camus's Absurdity to Zorba's Santuri. It is going to take a deep look (as deep as a blogger can go, of course) into life's ocean starting with its a bsurdities. We&#

Lesson I didn't Learn

 I wish I had learnt the art of nonbeing in my adolescence.  This week's Indispire theme is:  Things I Wish I Knew When I Was A teenager   #Life   There is a character in my novel, Black Hole , who seeks nonbeing. Jane Abercrombie is a Jewish woman born in Hitler's Germany. She sees her people disappearing into nonbeing. Standing on the shards of broken windowpanes of Kristallnacht, Jane tells her father quoting Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, "I am going on my way, not to seek another doctrine, for I know there is none, but to leave all doctrines and all teachers and to reach my goal alone - or die."  "Go my daughter," her father tells her. "Maybe, the non-being in India will be less painful than the non-being which awaits us here in our fatherland." Jane will learn yet another nuance of nonbeing in India. Quite different from Hitler's and Yahweh's. Totally different from the Buddha's. She will learn the nonbeing of sexual ecstasy, the

Let youth rule

Oommen Chandy   Kerala is going to the Assembly polls on 6 April. A lot of games have already played out and many more are going on to grab seats. At the age of 77, Oommen Chandy has turned out to be more agile a player than anyone else. He has succeeded in keeping his lifelong seat in Puthuppally still with him in spite of all devious games played by certain other Congress leaders to wrest it from him. He was elected first to Kerala Assembly from Puthuppally in 1970 and has not looked back ever since. As chief minister of Kerala from 2011 to 2016, he grappled with quite many scams and scandals. His was one of the most corrupt governments that Kerala has ever had. Kerala has had enough of him for five long decades. Can't he retire from politics now at the age of 77? When Mr Chandy became MLA for the first time I was a little boy of 10. I grew up writing his name many time in social science answer sheets. Now I have crossed the legal age for retirement. Yet there Mr Chandy is, conte

Give yourself another chance

  From Forbes There are far too many people who think they are sane. 800,000 people commit suicide every year in the world, according to WHO . That is, in every 40 seconds somebody is choosing death voluntarily in our world. In addition to that, 400,000 people are killed every year by other people. What is interesting is that a lot of these homicides are committed for the sake of noble causes like patriotism, religious beliefs, and ideologies. We aren’t quite a sane species, right? Insanity is the norm rather than an exception when it comes to human beings. We call it uniqueness. That’s fine too. The world would be an absolutely boring place with too many perfectly sane people. Just imagine a world where everyone thinks absolutely logically, rationally. They’d see molecules of hydrogen and oxygen when they see water. They would hear sextant when you say sex. They will say that a body at rest wants to stay at rest but won’t ever rest themselves. Let us admit it: we are all insane.

Jane Sara Abercrombie and nonbeing

Courtesy Github Jane Sara Abercrombie is a character in my new novel, Black Hole . She was a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. “Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, had broken not only the glass windowpanes of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues but also people’s heart.” With the shards of Kristallnacht lying all around her as well as in her heart, Jane is overwhelmed by a yearning for nonbeing. That yearning brings her to India, the land of Buddha’s nonbeing which she knows through Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha . The yearning takes her to Devlok Ashram in Delhi’s outskirts where the plot of Black Hole unfolds. Amarjeet who will be the next Baba at the ashram teaches Jane nonbeing using Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra. “Kamasutra is not just about various sexual positions,” he says.  “It’s more about intimacy between man and woman.  It’s about how the woman becomes as important a partner in physical relationships as the man.  It’s about rising above differences such as the gender, risin

Black Hole is ready

  Finally I have completed the novel which I started writing more than half a decade back. Black Hole . It's a short novel of about 35,000 words in 6 chapters. The protagonist is Ishan Salman Panicker whose father is a Malayali Hindu and mother a Khasi Catholic from Shillong. His maternal grandfather is a Muslim from Bangladesh.  Reverend Father Joseph Kunnel prophesies a dark future for Ishan. Ishan escapes from the priest and his prophecies and arrives in Delhi with his wife Jenny. Delhi turns out to be a twirling black hole which drives Ishan to write his own gospel. "In the beginning was a black hole," the gospel goes. "The black hole was with God, and the black hole was God." This novel is, short as it is, a complex work that probes the inevitable mystique and horror of life. The plot spans a whole century. Saints and sinners, Gandhi and Godse, Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and a whole range of ordinary people come together to continue the evolution of a 14-b


  When the Taurus comes along carrying tons of granite from the booming quarry in the hills being levelled, my heart palpitates in reverence. It reminds me of a majestic ruler who claims everything to himself. My Maruti Alto 800cc takes a bow like Cinderella and beats a retreat to the side of the rural highway.   Tauruses come one by one like soldiers marching to annihilate the infiltrators at the borders. Cinderella quivers and tremors. She gathers enough courage one day and tells the menacing Taurus: My Prime Minister has a BMW-7 fully armoured he’s my strength he’s my fortress You’re only a Taurus.

Travel as Redeemer

One of those good old travels  Eric Weiner's article, 'Are We Born to Wander?', in the Feb issue of the National Geographic stirred my dormant nostalgia for travel. I have always loved travels and had planned certain exotic trips before the epic pandemic descended on us all with unprecedented vengeance. As soon as there was some relaxation to the lockdown, Maggie and I made some short trips which were of course nowhere near the 'leaps of faith' that Weiner describes in his article. Something is better than nothing. A stride if not a leap.  The pandemic has dampened my aging spirit quite a bit. Weiner's article consoles me because it quotes the example of James Hopkins, a friend of the author living in Kathmandu. Hopkins is a Buddhist who was contented with his meditations and chanting and lighting of lamps. But now he looks haggard and dejected. He longs for the "old 10-countries-a-year schedule": visiting ten countries in a year. The pandemic has left