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Showing posts from October, 2021

Moral Dilemmas in a metaphorical Black Hole

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Dr Jose Maliekal SDB   Dr Jose Maliekal SDB is a thinker, professor of philosophy, social activist and a Catholic priest. He has written a book, Standstill Utopias , based on his doctoral thesis. His observations on reality tend to be keen and profound. Hence his views on my writings are of much significance to me personally. He has been magnanimous with his review of my novel, Black Hole   and I am thrilled to present the review below.  ***** Literature is an introduction to where and how we live and the challenges that face our time and society. In many ways, literature is an introduction to who we are, or ought to be, as people. It helps us to be ‘critical insiders” to borrow a leaf from U.R. Ananthamurthy, a doyen of Indian literature (Kunal Ray, The Purpose of Literature , https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-purpose-of-literature/article36167231.ece ). Being a critical insider would mean not being a spectator to all what is going on around us. As human beings, we are just

Too Hot to Live

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"Rising heat in the 21st century is likely to push millions of people and entire regions out of their comfort zones," warned The National Geographic magazine a few months back. The earth is witnessing phenomenal rises in atmospheric temperatures.  The summer of 2003 scorched the planet. France experienced a temperature of 40 degree Celsius for eight consecutive days. 15,000 people died in that country because of the heat wave. It was Europe's hottest summer in 500 years and it took a toll of 70,000 lives in that continent.  The last six years have been the warmest ever recorded globally. It is not just about temperature. There are other disastrous consequences like hurricanes, drought, rising sea levels and sporadic wildfires.  The heat affects the people's psyche too. Exhaustion due to heat can make people highly temperamental. It has been found that hotter weather leads to more violence and crime. It lowers children's creativity. Overall productivity shrinks tre

Hamlet in Lucknow

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  Hamlet is on a stroll in Lucknow. It is his leisure time. He has come quite a distance from Kalidas Marg where he has been undergoing specialised training from none other than Yogi Adityanath himself. Claudius and Gertrude had sent him over when all their attempts to teach him the quintessential deviousness and venality of practical life failed. “There’s nothing like the East for this,” Kipling told Claudius when the latter complained about Hamlet’s refusal to understand politics. It was Kipling who suggested Yogi Adityanath in particular. “No one can do better than him the art and craft of putting on sanctity and putting out sanity. They call it rajneeti.” Dead bodies of human beings were floating in the Ganga when Hamlet landed in the land of yogis and sadhus. And once upon a time fakirs too. I mean land of fakirs once upon a time. Not dead bodies. Well, I’m not so sure anymore. Dead bodies, yogis, fakirs… Prime Minister Modi was stuck in Delhi unable to go on his habitua

Learner to the last

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I was immensely fascinated by an interview published in a recent edition of a Malayalam weekly. ‘I’m a little grain of sand in this world’ is the title of the interview. And that is spoken by the interviewee who is M K Sanu, well-known Malayalam writer, orator, social activist and a retired professor. Right in the beginning of the interview, the 95-year-old man says that he is a contented person. The humility in the titular quote and the sense of contentment that was palpable in the man’s words kept me glued to the interview to the last word. Here I wish to focus on that contentment which is something I would love to acquire as I’m moving rapidly towards the last stage of a person’s psychological development in Erikson’s theory. Psychologist Erik Erikson would certainly approve of Prof Sanu who, at the age of 95, can confidently claim that he is contented with what he has done in his life. Sanu thinks that what really made his life worthwhile is the service he did for fellow human

The Enemies of Religion

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  The enemies of religion are not non-believers; on the contrary, it is the believers themselves. Any social organisation or institution is destined to degenerate and even perish eventually when its foundations shift towards hatred of certain people. Religions are social institutions. When their leaders begin to preach hatred, they are sowing the seeds of degeneration within their own institutions. Initially it may appear that they are gaining power over people of other religions by making them appear as enemies. In the long run, however, hatred won’t achieve anything good. If you are observing what is happening in the social media these days, it must have become clear to you by now that certain believers of every major religion in India (in many other countries too) are spewing poison against believers of other religions. Hindus, Muslims and Christians – all are doing it. These people are the real enemies of their own respective religions. They are killing the very spirit of the

Woes of God’s own country

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  Trucks carrying stones from quarries near my house   Kerala has been experiencing unprecedented natural calamities in the last few years. Floods, landslides, cyclones and extremes of weather wreak immense havoc again and again. These are the prices that the state is paying for the mindless greed of certain sections of people. Kerala is not what it was until a few years ago. When I was a school student in 1960s and 70s, there used to be heavy rains in the monsoon season as well as the retreating monsoon. That means heavy rains for almost half the year. But these rains did not carry away houses. Hills didn’t come tumbling down in the form of massive landslides. Cyclones didn’t uproot trees. The rains poured down and the waters flowed naturally into the numerous streams and rivers whose swelling was a marvel for us children and not causes of disasters. Those were days when people had not exploited the nature brutally. There was a symbiotic relationship between man and nature. Farmer

The Liars’ Gospel

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  Book Review Title: The Liars’ Gospel Author: Naomi Alderman Publisher: Viking (2012), Penguin (2013) Pages: 264 This novel is a concerted effort to exonerate the Jews from the crucifixion of Jesus. It consists of four ‘gospels’ just as there are four of them in the Bible. Here, the story is narrated by Mary (mother of Jesus), Judas (the betrayer), Caiaphas (the high priest), and Barabbas (a rebel). Caiaphas emerges as the real hero and Barabbas is the villain while Jesus appears as little more than a lunatic. Right at the outset Jesus is portrayed as a worthless young man who never does anything useful. He is just good for nothing. He sits gazing into the air and speaking to himself. His parents are sick of him because he is so useless. Even when people start seeing Jesus as a teacher, the point that “he was out of his mind” is driven hard into the reader’s psyche repeatedly. Mary finds Jesus so repulsive that she wonders: “is this my son? How did this man come from

Modi Republic

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Image from The Hindu Modi’s government has challenged India’s poor ranking in the Global Hunger Index 2021. Why not? We can rewrite anything if we have the power. It’s as simple as that. Let’s consider an example. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the other day that V D Savarkar begged for forgiveness from the British on the counsel of Gandhi. History tells us in no uncertain terms that Gandhi was in South Africa when Savarkar was grovelling before the British. Two clemency petitions were made by Savarkar when Gandhi had no connection with him at all – in 1911 and 1913. Later in 1920, when Savarkar’s brother sought Gandhi’s counsel, the Mahatma suggested a clarification of the Savarkar position vis-à-vis the independence struggle – a clarification that actually secured the Veer’s release from prison. Let me quote a few lines from Gandhi’s article in Young India of 26 May 1920. “ They both [the Savarkar brothers] state unequivocally that they do not desire independence from the B

Back to School

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  With some students  The other day I was walking from a shop to my car that was in the parking lot when a group of young girls waved at me from the roadside where they were waiting for a bus. They and I were wearing the pandemic masks like everyone else in the public spaces of Kerala. The masks steal people’s identity. At first I thought the girls were waving at somebody else. As I approached them, they greeted me and I knew they were my students. But I couldn’t recognise even one of them. I had never seen them in real life. The classes have all been online so far. I loved the sparkle in their eyes. On November 1, Kerala’s birthday, the schools in the state are set to reopen at least partly and with a lot of restrictions and precautions. I’ll be delighted to meet my students in person. A year and a half of online teaching has been an agony without even a shade of any ecstasy. You never know whether you are talking to real people at all. More often than not, there is no response wh

Justice

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Mehmed Talaat “Motives make actions right or wrong,” Arjun said to his son who wondered why his father was so staunchly opposed to right wing politics. Shyam was 14 years old but his relationship with his father remained as cordial as it ever was, untinged by any adolescent rebellion. Rebellion was obviated by the unique bond that the father had built up with the boy right from his infancy. Father and son can be good friends forever – that was one of Arjun’s many axiomatic truths. “Let me tell you an incident,” Arjun said. “Straight from history.” History is stranger than fiction, Arjun used to say. That was another axiom of Arjun’s. He was a history teacher and he should know. “Now visualise this. 14 March 1921. A damp day in Berlin. A burly man in a heavy grey overcoat is taking a stroll in a public street. He is 47 years old. A young man of 24 pulls up behind him, places a revolver at the back of the older man’s head and shouts insanely, “This is to avenge the death of my fami

Post-truth leaders of India

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  Kochi edition 9 Oct 2021 These days my mornings invariably mock me with the images of Modi and Yogi on the front pages of my newspapers. Gasconade about the progress of Uttar Pradesh under the BJP. Day after day. About women’s safety and children’s health and public hygiene and clean governance and… The Yogi government spent Rs 160.31 crore on television advertisements alone in the financial year of 2020-2021. The print media ads are extra. Why on earth does the UP government advertise itself in Kerala and that too in local language newspapers? I understand that the same propaganda takes place in other languages too. Gasconade is a language by itself, I know. The Modi government spends much more, naturally. National level gasconade has to be one up on local levels. In his first term as PM, Modi spent over Rs 5000 crore on gassing. I haven’t managed to get the figures for his second term yet. The graph below will help you to project the figures. Modi and Yogi are India’s own p

Being Alive

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  A scene from Ezhattumukham in Kerala One of the most alive characters I can mention without having to think twice is Zorba, a creation of Nikos Kazantzakis. Even in his sixties, he possessed all the passion of a young man. He sang and danced, made love, drank wine, and did not care much for the silly politics of ordinary mortals and the gods of the same mortals. What would Zorba answer if you ask him, “What does being alive mean to you?” “To have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right…” Zorba would begin. Life is freedom. Free to sing your own song and dance your own steps. It doesn’t matter whether the song jars or the dance looks clumsy. Just liberate yourself from all man-made snares like isms and religions. And live. Live your life. To have no ambition and yet work like a horse as if you had the all the ambition of a conqueror. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To be able to stand with the land behind you and the sea in

If Gandhi Returns

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  At Raj Ghat in 2001 About a decade back I suggested the theme ‘Gandhi Returns’ for a one-act play to a student. It was for an inter-House competition. Gulshan, the House Prefect, understood me instantly and wrote the script for the play that went on to win the first prize. In the play, Gandhi returned to the present India and was tormented by what he saw: corruption and political chicanery on the one hand and the helplessness of the common person on the other. Gandhi was another helpless common man on the side of the stage where life’s noisy drama was played out. Whenever he tried to interfere on behalf of truth and justice, he was rebuffed. Indians didn’t recognise him anymore. If someone did, it was worse: Gandhi was mocked or blamed. Narendra Modi had not ascended the throne in Indraprastha yet. If he had, Gulshan’s script would have been different. Because for Gulshan, Modi became the real hero of India, the man who deserved to replace Gandhi as the father of the nation, afte