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Showing posts from May, 2021

Humility

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  From New York Times Weekend contemplation “Don’t be so humble; you’re not that great,” Golda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel, once told somebody (whose humility was probably nothing more than obsequiousness which comes easily to politicians). Humility is not a common virtue. Really great people possess it because they are aware of their own limitations. One of the requisites of greatness is an acute sense of self-awareness. The oracle of Delphi was once asked whether anyone was wiser than Socrates. The oracle asserted that Socrates was the wisest. Socrates who was present at the scene refused to acknowledge it and went on to do some research and find out wiser people. He spoke to many wise people and learnt that they were not as wise as they pretended to be. Socrates’s greatness lay in the fact that he acknowledged his ignorance when he did not have the required knowledge while the others claimed to know more than they really knew. Socrates possessed humility. Socrates wa

Pimping a la Patel

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  Courtesy Nala Ponnappa Praful Khoda Patel has made pimping an art. He knows how to sell India piece by piece to certain clients who have high connections. He sold Daman and Diu to CG Corp Global in 2018. Now he is selling Lakshadweep to other VIP clients. Thousands of indigenous people are displaced by him with impunity because he is acting on behalf of the central government which reportedly has “dreams for the people”. This Patel is a phenomenon. His father, Khodabhai Ranchhodbhai Patel (a mouthful of a name) was an RSS leader whom Narendra Modi regarded as a guru. Our man became an MLA in Gujarat in 2007 and took over the entire charges of Amit Shah when the latter went to jail for arranging the encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheik. Now you can understand the ‘greatness’ of this phenomenal Patel. No ordinary man can take the place of Amit Shah under Narendra Modi. The people of Gujarat failed to perceive that greatness, however, and Patel lost the 2012 election. But soon M

A primer for fiction writers

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Book review with a difference Title: The Story of Story: Why People Read Stories Author: Ravish Mani Foramt: PDF E-book I want to get personal with this review precisely because this is a book with a difference. First of all, this book was written in a period of two days on a mobile phone. The author was getting another book ready for submission to the Blogchatter E-Book Carnival . But two days before the submission deadline, a lightning struck his house damaging his laptop along with other appliances. The lockdown aggravated the problem. Ravish Mani is not one to give up, however. He has a clear vision and sheer grit. Picking up his smartphone, he started: I wanted to talk about how to make your readers forget the sense of time, even the state of their being, & have blissful satisfaction when they get absorbed in your story . The first thing I admire about Ravish is that unassailable spirit. The next is his idealism which is reflected in what he calls “Uncopyright” ac

Urge to Merge

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  Book Review Title: Heartfelt Symphonies Author: Chinmayee Gayatree Sahu Format: PDF E-book All genuine art is a longing to transcend the self. Chinmayee Gayatree Sahu’s poems articulate that longing eloquently and evocatively. Heartfelt Symphonies is a collection of 40 poems divided into three groups entitled Nature, Fire and Life. The first two poems act as a kind of invocation of the divine. Interestingly, the very first poem, ‘Devi’, is an assertion of the divinity of the feminine as much as it is an invocation of goddess Durga. “Look around and you shall see HER (goddess) in each feminine body,” the poet asserts vehemently. It is also interesting to note that the second poem is an invocation of Shiva, the potent male counterpart of Durga. We meet Shiva’s various avatars here: Adiyogi, Ardhanariswara, the Tandav dancer, and Neelkantha. The tremendous energy possessed by these two deities suffuses the remaining poems all of which are thoroughly secular and worldly. A

Inspiration for beginners

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  Book Review Title: Inner Feelings Author: Cindy D’Silva Format: PDF E-book Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings is the best diary I have ever read. I don’t think he wrote it with the intention of publishing. It is a collection of the author’s personal inner struggles. The entries started when the author was 20 years old and ended at his death by a plane crash at the age of 56. The entries reveal the deep psychological and spiritual struggles that the author passed through and the lessons he learnt from them. You will find such gems as “Never measure the height of a mountain, until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.” And “Like the bee, we distil poison from honey for our self-defence…” I was reminded of this classical diary while reading Cindy D’Silva’s short e-book whose entire title is Understand and Accept Your Inner Feelings to embrace life wholeheartedly . This is not to suggest that this book reaches Hammarskjold’s profundity. But there is the striving.

Pandora's Hope

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  Lawrence Alma-Tadema 's water-colour of an ambivalent Pandora, 1881 Hope was the last item in a box of evils, in Greek mythology. When Prometheus stole fire from the gods for the sake of human beings, Zeus (king of the gods) took revenge by sending Pandora to the earth with a box that contained all the evils. The last item in the box was hope. Interestingly, hope does not escape from the box while all the (other) evils did because Pandora closed the lid on realising that she was condemned to bring evils to the human world. The story has found numerous interpretations. Is hope yet another evil? The ultimate evil? Or is it retained in the box because human beings are condemned to live without its benefits? Did the gods want frustration to be the human lot? Why did they then put hope into the box in the first place? Well, we can go on asking any number of questions when we are dealing with myths and scriptures. Let us be more realistic and look at our given situations. “Hope

­When fairies dwell with people

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  Book Review Title: And All the Seasons in Between Author: Arti Jain Format: PDF Ebook This is a unique book which magically blends a fairy world with the real one. “Surrounded by High Mountains of Himalayas in the north and Shivalik Hills in the south, lay a valley called Doon,” it begins. The author spent her childhood in that valley and the book is her nostalgic reminiscence of those innocent childhood days with her grandparents who, in the words of the author, “filled my world with love and magic”. The book is suffused with that love and magic. Each chapter (with the exception of one or two) begins with an episode from the life of a little girl named Artemis who lives partly in the fairy world with a dragonfly for a companion. Her dream is to be “the Most Green Gardener of all times”. Her parents were “the Beekeepers of the Valley” who keep half the honey for the bees. It is man’s divine obligation to make sure that the bees never go hungry. Artemis grows up in that

My New Book and a few old ones too

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  LIFE: 24 Essays is my latest book. All the essays in it were originally published in this same blog as part of the A-to-Z challenge hosted by Blogchatter. The essays look at life from the viewpoints of philosophy, literature, psychology and religion. Some editing has been done to the blog posts in order to make this book more coherent and systematic. The book is available absolutely free here . I take this opportunity to thank the Blogchatter Team which takes much pain to get bloggers to produce quality writing, organise it into standard books, and make the books available at their website with due publicity. Their enthusiasm and elan vital went long way to sustain the writer in me. Last year it produced another book, Great Books for Great Thoughts , which is available here . Again absolutely free . This book introduces the reader to 26 great works of literature starting with Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man and ending with Kazantzakis’s Zorba the Greek . For obvious reasons,

Ego

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  When Rohan said he wanted to make a card each for all the boys and girls in his class, his mother was worried. He was a shy little boy of the fourth grade who had no friends worth mentioning. Even when the classes were real in the school, he never made a friend. He wouldn't talk to anyone. He just didn't know how to, what to talk to friends. Teachers thought that he was either a potential genius (a polite way of saying he was plainly abnormal) or just a dimwit (which nobody said loud). Then Covid-19 made the classes virtual and Rohan didn't miss any class though he hardly made his presence felt.  Now his class teacher says they're going to celebrate the friendship day online. "Each one of you should make friendship cards for your friends. If you have one friend, make one card. If you have ten friends, make ten..." One card for each friend. And then the students will display the cards in the virtual classroom and thus declare their friendships.  Rohan's m

Blessing

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  Bjornsterne Bjornsen [1832-1910] won the Nobel for literature in 1903. ‘The Father’ is one of his short stories published in 1881. It tells the story of a peasant named Thord Overass who brings up his son with all the affection and luxury that he can afford. When the boy is born, Thord arranges a special baptism for him. The priest’s blessing on the occasion is: “God grant that the child may become a blessing to you.” The child grows up as the apple of the father’s eye. The father ensures that the boy receives the best of everything including public attention. Finally when he grows up to be an eligible bachelor, the father arranges his marriage with the richest girl in the parish. The father and son were making the arrangements for the marriage. One day they had to row across the lake. The father warned the son to be careful because the boat’s thwart was not quite in good shape. Just as the father warned the young man, an accident happened. The board on which the boy was standing

Who’s Modi scared of?

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  Modi admiring himself at Madame Tussauds Narendra Modi is a coward and a weakling. Otherwise he would not get people arrested for as flimsy reasons as putting up posters that read: “ Modi ji hamare bachon ki vaccine videsh kyon bhej diya (Why did you send our children’s vaccines abroad?)” A lot of people have been arrested in India from 2014 for criticising Modi. Many have had their offices raided by various central government agencies or harassed in surreptitious ways. A few have even disappeared. Who is Mr Modi scared of? India’s first Prime Minister was a man who warned the nation against his own potential for dictatorship. In 1937, an article published in Modern Review described the then president of the Congress (Jawaharlal Nehru) as having “all the makings of a dictator in him – vast organisational capacity, ability, hardness, and, with all his love of the crowd, an intolerance of others and a certain contempt for the weak and the inefficient.” The article was written by

The autopilot car of indignation

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  Reality is like a hologram. Its appearance keeps changing as your viewing angle changes. What to say about its meaning if even the appearance is not fixed? The meaning of reality similarly changes depending on from which mental position you see it. Take the example of a vagabond you see in a street corner in the town. You may think of him as a lazy lout, a thief, a potential rapist, an escaped prisoner, an unfortunate hungry man… Your perception depends largely on your own attitudes and mental makeup. Psychologist Erik Erikson says that an infant which grows up receiving consistent, predictable and reliable care from parents or significant others will develop a sense of trust which will mark their relationships with people eventually. Such children are likely to become adults with healthy attitudes towards other people as well as life. On the other hand, an infant that is deprived of such care will develop a sense of mistrust, suspicion and anxiety. It will grow up and become a m

Mental health and happy life

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  A mere 2.6 percent of the human population accounts for 72 percent of society’s problems, asserts Dr David R Hawkins in his book Power vs Force . These are extremely negative sort of people, people who carry negative energy in their consciousness. The negativity keeps their consciousness level terribly low, unevolved, animal-like. [The figures are arrived at after scientific research.] Hawkins has drawn up a chart of consciousness levels which is reproduced below. Consciousness refers to your awareness of your thoughts, feelings, memories as well as the external world. It can be clouded by a lot of things like shame, guilt, etc. As poet Shelley put it, “Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, / Stains the white radiance of eternity.” If our consciousness is unstained, our perceptions will be unclouded too. But life seldom leaves anyone with such purity of consciousness. Life stains us inevitably. Uncaring parents, punitive teachers, bullies of all sorts, repressive social systems

Before I Die

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  Fiction Sangeeta is selling the last bit of her gold – a couple of bangles, a small necklace and our wedding ring – for the money to pay my hospital bill. One microbial virus has eaten up all that we saved so far. The hospital gave us more bills than medicines. “There’s no medicine,” the nurse said sullenly when I dared to give voice to my apprehensions. “You need oxygen,” she added mercifully. And the oxygen cost us all our savings. A few kilometres away from where I’m lying on a hospital bed waiting for Sangeeta to come with the money for my oxygen stands the tallest statue in the world, the Statue of Unity. There are no hospitals anywhere near that statue. My home lay there in Kevadia before the statue came like a monster swallowing our homes. Crunch, crunch, crunch! The statue ate up our homes. Where our village stood, today stands Sardar Patel’s foot. In fact, our village stood just where one of his big toes stands. We are proud of course. Proud of that toe for which

45 Indian Essays

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  Book Review This book is a collection of 45 essays written by eminent Indian writers over a period of two centuries and selected by one of the best Indian-English poets, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. The first essay belongs to Henry Louis Vivian Derozio and was written in 1826 and the last is Pankaj Mishra’s. The essays deal with a striking variety of themes such as society, animals, tribal life, places, literature, and even God. Most of the essays are delightfully fascinating and they make the particular period come alive vividly in the reader’s mind. Shoshee Chander Dutt’s ‘The Street-Music of Calcutta’, for example, recreates the Calcutta of the late 19 th century with the various calls and cries usually heard on its streets from hawkers of all sorts of goods and services. The typical Bengali Bhadralok superiority complex is palpable in Dutt’s writing. Pankaj Mishra, on the other hand, describes the little Himachali village of Mashobra with a rare humility and sensitivity. So

Divine Potato

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  Potato enlightened me once. I had, on the previous day, attended a lecture on meditation in which the speaker suggested to his audience to use a candle as an aid to concentration. “Keep your eyes on the candle flame,” he said. “Let the flame flicker. Your gaze shouldn’t flicker. Keep looking at the flame. Keep looking. Focus. Now there is nothing else in front of you but the flame. Just the flame. You don’t exist now. Not even your mind. You vanish. Your mind vanishes. Into nothingness. That state of egolessness is the ideal goal of meditation.” I was sceptical because I had already spent hours earlier trying to achieve that state of egolessness. The best I achieved was a deep sleep. Even now at the age of 61, I find myself burdened with an ego that could not be incinerated by any furnace, let alone a candle flame. I can only envy those who claim to have extinguished their egos. Back then, after that lecture on meditation, while cooking my dinner in the tiny kitchen of a rented h