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Showing posts from July, 2021

Catholic Church and Population Problem

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  One of the dioceses of the Catholic Church in Kerala is offering sops to believers for having more children and thus saving the Church from extinction. This is diametrically opposite to what Pope Francis said last year: Catholics don’t need to breed “like rabbits.” Catholics have a moral responsibility to limit the number of their children, the Pope said in no uncertain terms.   The National Catholic Reporter wrote thus about the Pope: “ Telling the story of a woman he met in a parish in Rome several months ago who had given birth to seven children via caesarean section and was pregnant with an eighth, Francis asked: 'Does she want to leave the seven orphans?’” Pope Francis has always advocated responsible parenthood. Having more children is not a service to God or the Church or the State, he has said loud and clear. Having too many children is “irresponsible parenthood,” according to the Pope. He went to the extent of saying, “This is to tempt God.” There are 7.67 bil

We're not afraid to die

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  I get a lot of queries from students as well as teachers about Gordon Cook's essay prescribed as a lesson in CBSE's class 11 English course. So I thought of presenting certain salient points here. [I'm thus saving myself from having to answer too many people.] Gordon Cook was replicating the second voyage made by Captain James Cook from 1772 to 1775. Gordon Cook is not related directly to James Cook. James Cook was married but none of his children married and none of them had children of their own. So there are no direct descendants of Captain James Cook.  James Cook undertook three voyages all of which started from Plymouth, the same starting point of Gordon Cook too. But only the second one was for circumnavigating the globe. The missions of the other two were different. Gordon Cook intended to go round the world too in a ship similar to the one used by his role model.  Resolution and Adventure, a painting by William Hodges Strictly speaking, the Resolution did not star

Wrong Lane

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  My own lane It took me a while to realise that I was in the wrong lane and fatally so. All the headlights were rushing straight into my eyes and one of the drivers shouted an expletive too. It was sometime in the 1990s. I was on my Yamaha 100cc, returning home after a visit to an acquaintance who lived on one of the many remote cliffs of the little hill town of Shillong. The acquaintance had directed me on a shortcut. Shortcuts abound in the hills. And the shortcuts on the hills can be particularly tricky. It was thus that I emerged from the shortcut on the wrong side of the highway in Laitumkhrah. Those were days when my life was running downhill with greater acceleration than the usual free falls have. Later on I wondered time and again about what would have happened had I been killed that evening. Nothing. People would have come to the natural conclusion that a drunken man was driving madly on the wrong side. A natural end to an aberration. Frankly, I don’t know whether an e

Killing Paradoxes

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  Nietzsche Philosopher Nietzsche saw a man whipping a horse on a street in Turin, Italy. He couldn’t endure the cruel sight. Rushing towards the animal, the philosopher hugged it before collapsing to the ground. He never regained his sanity after that. Nietzsche despised weakness and sentimentality. He was a social Darwinist who believed in the right of the fittest to survive. Strength is the ultimate virtue, he said, and weakness is a vice. Goodness is that which wins while the bad yields to pressure and perishes. This philosopher of strength who counselled people to live dangerously and to erect their cities beside fuming volcanos and to send out their ships to unexplored seas could not bear the sight of a horse being whipped by its owner. That was Nietzsche: a bundle of paradoxes. He did not even possess basic health. He was a sickly person right from childhood and he possessed all the goody-goodiness of such boys. As a little boy, he detested the “bad boys” of his neighbou

How to fight like Gandhi

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  The book I’m now reading is Eric Weiner’s The Socrates Express . [Waiting in line next is Rutger Bregman’s Hopeful History of Humankind , suggested by blogger-friend Yamini MacLean .] Weiner has taken pretty much of my time already. An attack of Covid-19 kept me in bed for nearly a week and I couldn’t read anything serious, much as I longed to. Moreover, you can’t just skim through Weiner in spite of his apparently light style. The lightness is only apparent. He demands serious reading. The book is a collection of essays on philosophers from Marcus Aurelius to Simone de Beauvoir. I loved each one of them. Each one begins with a title How to … ‘How to wonder like Socrates,’ for example. ‘How to fight like Gandhi’ lies exactly in the centre of the book, 8 th out of 14 chapters. Appropriate place, I thought. Gandhi deserves the centre-stage especially these days when his country is driven by the opposite of all that he stood for, lived for, and died for. Gandhi was a fighter. Inj

Memories

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Appu Garh, Jan 2001   Memories can sustain us. They can also kill us slowly.  Shillong and Delhi are memories for me now. I lived in both places for a decade and a half each. The first was hell for me and the second was my paradise on earth.  I visited Delhi for the first time in the winter of 2000-2001 along with Maggie. We were on a holiday from Shillong which had become an agony for us both. The very next summer found us both seeking jobs in Delhi. We had given up our jobs in Shillong. We had given up Shillong.  Looking back at any reality two decades later has certain dangers. The past is never a fixed entity in our memories. The past is as much in a state of flux as is the present. The past keeps changing to suit our present. We need that transmogrification for our own survival. How else would certain events of the past become bearable? More than 20 years after I left Shillong, the place still remains as a festering wound somewhere in my psyche. That is how certain memories are. T

The curse of medicines

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 I have never been a fan of medicines except when I broke my bones. The pain of broken bones is not quite pleasant and you need a technician to set the broken pieces together in harmony once again. And you need painkillers. Covid-19 confined me to a hospital bed in the last four days. I shouldn't have gone to hospital in the first place. I should have just contented myself with the medicines given by my neighbourhood hospital. But I had a slight breathing problem in the night which refused to subside with my usual dose of Asthalin. So I thought of seeking technical assistance. You don't feel like taking too many risks when you've crossed the age of 60.  The amount of medicines that the nurse put out on the table for me to consume each morning, noon, and evening threw me into a bout of depression. There was just one tab alone, Flavipiravir, that would fill my belly with all its 1800 milligrams in weight, apart from half a dozen others which were mercifully lightweight champi

Is Hell overflowing?

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  Image from here When French philosopher and Nobel Laureate, Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote that hell is other people , he didn’t mean that Hell had become full and the devils had started spilling out on to the earth. He meant we are the devils. We are the devils to one another. “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth,” says a character in a Hollywood movie (if I remember correctly). This is the theme for this week’s Indispire . Is Hell really overflowing? This is a question that struck me recently when I read about how my compatriots behave these days towards fellow human beings in the name of weird ideology (which is in practice a ploy for grabbing whatever wealth is left with the minority communities and Dalits). But I know that it’s not the ghosts of the dead that walk around here now raping and killing little children, assaulting people in the name of non-existent spirits, spending enormous amounts on concrete structures some of which will do no good to anyo

Modi's cabinet reshuffle cartoons

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 Modi's cabinet reshuffle was followed almost instantly by some very interesting cartoons and other reactions on social media. Here are a few selected ones.  And the next comes from The Hindu .

When the State turns murderer

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  “Do you want all non-Hindus to be banished from India?” I asked. His instant answer was, “Yes.” And then like an afterthought he added, “Not all non-Hindus but …” He named a particular religious community. I made changes in my Facebook settings so that I wouldn’t see his posts anymore. I didn’t unfriend him just because he was my student once upon a time. The above conversation took place in Messenger. It left me feeling ashamed of myself as a teacher. What did I teach him? I wondered. To hate? He is not a singular case. There are quite a few students whom I taught in a residential school in Delhi who are now ardent Modi-fans and staunch haters of a particular religious community. None of them could ever give me a satisfactory answer why their nationalism was so vindictive and malicious. Some of them are celebrating the death of Stan Swamy now. Their celebration saddens me more than the gentle soul’s departure. Their celebration is a symptom of a deadly disease whose virus was

Stains on Greatness

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  One of the most interesting articles I read yesterday is from a Malayalam monthly, Bhashaposhini . The article is a glorious tribute to a Malayalam writer named V B C Nair. What I loved about the article are the profound insights it gives into the lives of some great writers of Kerala. When we read the works of these writers, we admire them. We admire the stories they weave, the characters they etch into our memories, the themes they leave us thinking about, and so on. We would imagine these writers as superhuman entities living beyond the normal human follies and foibles that punctuate the lives of silly people like me and the guy next door. This Bhashaposhini article reveals – rather unwittingly, I feel –the very human side of some great Malayalam writers. Let me take only one example. The motive is not to highlight the dark side of this eminent personality. I have been fascinated by a thought that recurs these days to me like a motif in a novel. The great writers know so much

Thesaurus Man

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  My old thesaurus One of the oldest books in my present collection is Roget’s Thesaurus . I bought this book in the Christmas season of 1975. One of my teachers bought it for me as well as a few other students who wanted it. The book was my faithful companion for many years because I was in love with words. The art of writing has little to do with a thesaurus. But I realised that truth much later. Initially I laboured under the delusion that writing was a kind of verbal jugglery. My appetite for words was ravenous for quite a few years and I employed bombastic words in my writing in those days. Somebody compared me to Mrs Malaprop and somebody gave me the nickname ‘Thesaurus Man’. Eventually I was enlightened. It dawned on me that writing wasn’t quite about words. Of course, if you can use words elegantly and appropriately that’s a great advantage in writing. But writing isn’t all about such elegance or appropriateness. Writing is essentially a form of self-expression. It does

Lessons from China

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  The Chinese Communist Party is celebrating the centenary of its foundation.   The word ‘Communist’ stands out like a grotesque phantom because China is a capitalist empire today and has nothing to do with communism. It has emerged as the only viable rival to the United States of America as a global superpower. It has gone one step too many ahead of Uncle Sam in oppressing large sections of people like in Tibet and Hong Kong. In spite of all that, India can learn some lessons from China. The use of science and technology for the maximum benefit of its people is the first lesson that India should learn from China. Take just one example: the high-speed railways. China started construction of high-speed railway only in 2007. In about a decade it developed 37,900 km of high-speed rails, more than two-thirds of the entire world’s share in that transport medium. The country also has bullet trains that run at the speed of 600 km/hour. Eradication of poverty is another matter that dese

Porcupine Dilemma

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Arthur Schopenhauer Human society is no fun. Solitude is worse. Philosopher Schopenhauer called that situation the ‘Porcupine Dilemma’. Imagine some porcupines struggling to stay warm on a cold winter night. The closer you get to each other, the warmer it is. How close can porcupines get to each other? Their quills protect them from external harms. Societal harms, shall we call them? The same quills prevent them from coming closer and sharing the body warmth. That is what Schopenhauer called the porcupine dilemma. You need others to survive. But others can hurt you. They will , in all probability. When I read about this dilemma in an essay on Schopenhauer by Eric Weiner, two thoughts hit my brain simultaneously. One, how do porcupines mate? They don’t pollinate, obviously. Two, how close did Schopenhauer get to other people? The pollination dilemma of porcupines was solved easily as far as I was concerned. I learnt that the female of the species went an extra mile to make the p