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Showing posts from September, 2021

Never trust a man who doesn’t drink

  In James Crumley’s novel, The Wrong Case , one character gives this counsel: “Son, never trust a man who doesn't drink because he's probably a self-righteous sort, a man who thinks he knows right from wrong all the time. Some of them are good men, but in the name of goodness, they cause most of the suffering in the world. They're the judges, the meddlers. And, son, never trust a man who drinks but refuses to get drunk. They're usually afraid of something deep down inside, either that they're a coward or a fool or mean and violent. You can't trust a man who's afraid of himself. But sometimes, son, you can trust a man who occasionally kneels before a toilet. The chances are that he is learning something about humility and his natural human foolishness, about how to survive himself. It's damned hard for a man to take himself too seriously when he's heaving his guts into a dirty toilet bowl.” I came across one of these self-righteous moralists on F

Koorumala Viewpoint

  Koorumala is at once reticent and coquettish. It is an emerging tourist spot in the Ernakulam district of Kerala. At an altitude of 169 metres from MSL, the viewpoint is about 40 km from Kochi. The final stretch of the road, about 2 km, is very narrow. It passes through lush green forest-looking topography. The drive itself is exhilarating. And finally you arrive at a 'Pay & Park' signboard on a rocky terrain. The land belongs to the CSI St Peter's Church. You park your vehicle there and walk up a concrete path which leads to a tiled walkway which in turn will take you the viewpoint. Below are some pictures of the place.  From the parking lot to the viewpoint The tiled walkway A selfie from near the view tower  A view from the tower Another view The tower and the rest mandap at the back Koorumala viewpoint is a recent addition to Kerala's tourist map. It's a 'cool' place for people of nearby areas to spend some leisure in splendid isolation from the hu

When push comes to shove

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly competitive and hence even more increasingly self-centred. Competition is always about the victory of some individuals over other individuals or groups or even systems. In a capitalist system everyone is everyone else’s potential rival one way or another. This rivalry soon extends to the groups or communities to which the individuals belong. Whole systems like democracy or ideals like secularism can come crumbling down in such a world. Worse, such demolitions may even be seen as virtuous victories of the good over evil. Such battles are rampant in our world today. Some people emerge as glorious victors while some others end up as pathetic losers. These battles need to end. The ideal way is to open our eyes and see the most fundamental reality about ourselves: that we are not only unique and separate individuals but also integral parts of a larger whole. Call the larger whole God if you choose. Call it truth or the sublime or whatever

Yogi Akhilesh’s Poems

  Yogi Akhilesh writes poems with the black smoke stinking of burning human flesh on the bank of the holy Ganga in Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi.   Ants and worms compete to eat Yogi Akhilesh’s poems. They chew the letters and the punctuation marks. The exclamation marks disappear first.   Dead ashes float on holy Ganga. Sins dissolve into the holy waters. Shanti mantras rumble and roll into the river’s ripples. Abandoned gaumatas wander in and masticate what remains of Yogi Akhilesh’s poems.   Yogi Akhilesh is a holy seer. He has no eyes. His vision is clear. His poems are tangy. One day the Ganga will carry them too, Without punctuation marks. Distorted words.   PS. This blog is participating in The Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa2021 campaign.

Beyond right and wrong

  “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” The great 13 th -century Persian poet Rumi sang that. Rumi was an enlightened person and like all enlightened people he knew that the line between right and wrong is rather too blurred. Right and wrong, truth and falsehood, are not absolutes except in science and mathematics. Sonya, the heroine of Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment , is a prostitute. Prostitution is absolutely wrong, a cardinal sin, in most religions and moral systems. Sonya stands on the side of the condemned in ordinary morality. But not for Dostoevsky. Sonya emerges as one of the noblest characters in the novel. She was driven to prostitution by utter poverty. She had to look after her ailing sister and her children. Sonya had no choice but sell her body. Ordinary morality and religion would condemn Sonya. But Rumi would have met her on that field beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing. Life’s truths and rights c

Nights of Scorpions

  The Pieta In one of his best-known poems, ‘Night of the Scorpion,’ poet Nissim Ezekiel describes the agony of a mother who was stung by a scorpion. Those were days when the rustic people would rely on traditional cures rather than take the victim to a hospital. So the “peasants [who] came like swarm of flies” “buzzed the name of God a hundred times” and uttered prayers and chants. They believed that the sins of her previous birth would burn away in her present pain and that the misfortunes of her next birth would be decreased. Her pain would make its momentous contribution to the balancing of the sum of all evil in this illusory world. Some twenty hours pass before the pain loses its sting. When it does, the mother’s consolation is: “Thank God the scorpion picked on me / And spared my children.” That is mother’s love. Mother is an emotion, an emotional bond. Perhaps no other person on earth – perceived as a concept – has received so much attention from poets, artists and scul

Areekal Waterfalls

  William Wordsworth’s heart would have leapt up at the sight that lay before us. Maggie and I had decided to brave the pandemic and move out a bit. Staying at home day after day for months on end can be quite maddening even if you have half a dozen pets . But we didn’t want to risk too much. So went to a place that is about half an hour’s drive from home. Areekal is a rural landscape less than 40 km from Kochi. [And about half of that from our home.] Maggie and I drove through rubber plantations mostly. Narrow roads snaked through the somnolent and rugged terrain. The drive itself was heady. The waterfall at our destination was headier. “These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs / With a soft inland murmur…” Wordsworth came to mind. He would have loved the secluded place. But for a couple of small shops, one of which is a toddy shop, there were no buildings nearby. Rubber trees swayed all around gently in the cool breeze. Kerala is usually not so cool. But yesterday was

Cat House

  The family [Brownie is missing] There are 5 cats at home now - Cleopatra and her kittens. There were seven until last week. Two kittens have been adopted. So I'm left with Denny (Dennis the Menace), Dessy (Desdemona), Brownie (Elizabeth Barret Browning), and the latest arrival Nora (named after the heroine of Ibsen's A Doll's House . When I posted a pic of these cats in Facebook yesterday, a friend commented on the personality traits that differentiate cats from the very loyal canines. That comment led me to this post.  There's no comparison between cats and dogs. Cats are royal while dogs are servile. Opposite poles. Christopher Hitchens put it best when he said that if you give food and shelter to a dog, the dog will think you are god and if you do the same to a cat, the cat will think it is god. If you want to hear it a little more comically, here is Bill Dana (American comedian): " I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It’s not.

Insanity of Religion

  Catholics protesting Muslim protest ( New Indian Express ) A century and a quarter ago, Swami Vivekananda described Kerala as a madhouse. The inhuman horrors perpetrated in the name of religious castes prompted the sage to use that analogy. The people of Kerala were openminded enough to listen to the verdict passed by a voice of sanity. Swami Vivekananda led Kerala to introspection and subsequent reformation. The brutalities of religion gave way to the humaneness of a new civilisation in Kerala. It is this same Kerala that stands on the brink of a communal clash now because of a thoughtless statement made by a bishop . The Muslims took out a protest march to the Bishop’s House a day after the puerile statement was made by the bishop. The Muslim ire was understandable. No one will like to hear his entire community being labelled as terrorists and criminals because of a minority of such people in the community. A day after the Muslim rally, the Catholics in the area took out a pr

God’s Terrorists

  God's wrath on WTC On this day 20 years ago, four airplanes were hijacked by 19 men who then flew them straight into certain symbols of modern civilisation: the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Capitol was targeted too but the guy who flew that fourth plane missed: his God was not happy with him, perhaps. It was all done for God. One man called Osama bin Laden decided that his God was not happy with the “unjust, criminal and tyrannical” America. So he killed 2977 innocent people some of whom were in those buildings which came tumbling down and others were in the planes hijacked by his warriors. The youngest victim was Christine Lee Hanson, a two-year-old child travelling with her parents. The oldest was 82-year-old Robert Norton who was going with his wife to attend a wedding. Innocent people. As innocent as a two-year-old is. And as innocent as an 82-year-old is when it comes to the vengeance of gods. Are the gods really hungry for the blood of C

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers

  Adrienne Rich [1929-2012] This is the last of a three-part series on gender discrimination. The first two parts [ Women in Indian Democracy and Gender bias in a land of goddesses ] touched upon certain aspects of the discrimination in India. This concluding part looks at the issue from a wider perspective with a feminist poem as the substratum. Adrienne Rich’s poem Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers presents an old lady who has been oppressed by a patriarchal system. She is an unhappy wife and hence, obviously, an unhappy woman. Her discontentment is caused by her husband who put the “massive weight” of the wedding ring on Aunt’s finger. From the day that ring was slipped on, Aunt has been “mastered” by “ordeals”. The poem was written in 1951. America, Rich’s country, wasn’t quite progressive yet in those days especially in matters related to women’s liberties. All women were expected to marry soon after school and live a life of subordination.   Even a faint suggestion of divorce would

Gender bias in a land of goddesses

  Less than one-third of the researchers are women in the world. In India, the percentage of women researchers is a meagre 13. There are hardly any women in the higher echelons of research institutions. In the four major government institutions that fund research – Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology, Department of Earth Science, and CSIR – only twice has a woman become a secretary. AIIMS and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have had only one woman director each so far. A few studies done on this problem identify two chief reasons: (1) the appointing committees are male-dominated and biased; (2) household responsibilities which, in India, are conventionally laid on women’s shoulders almost entirely. Well-known novelist Anita Desai made some very interesting observations about Indian attitude towards women [‘A Secret Connivance’ in The Times Literary Supplement in 1990]. It’s worth reading it in her own words: One form of imprisonment in I