Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2021

An Ounce of Appreciation

  O King, I'm your court poet. “An ounce of honey gathers more flies than a barrel of vinegar.” I think it was from one of those Dale Carnegie books that this sentence sprang straight into my face when I was a young man. The sentence carried all the tang and sweetness of honey for me. Until the flies in the sentence began to buzz around my thoughts. “Why gather flies?” I wondered. That sort of wondering was a grievous error. You can’t win friends and influence people if you start wondering about the worth of flies. In fact, that little fly hovering above the stray zinnia that is growing on the side of the drain channel may have something vital to teach you. Nothing is insignificant. That is a fundamental axiom for success in life. Appreciate the fly and the zinnia and even the drain. When Mahatma Gandhi exhorted us not to be drain inspectors, this is just what he meant: don’t look at the filth in the drain, see the zinnia instead. Discover the charms of the fly too, if you wa

Idealism vs Realism

  Idealism devastated Keats’s knight in the poem ‘ La Belle Dame Sans Merci .’ I imagine the knight as a charming young man until he met Beauty on the hillside. The young woman whom he met on the hillside was the personification of the ideal beauty for the knight. But that ideal beauty was as good as an illusion. It vanished sooner than it had gratified the knight’s quest. However, once you taste the ideal it is hard to be contented with anything less. The knight spent the rest of his life in quest of that ideal beauty. It was a futile quest, however. He squandered a lifetime on an unavailing quest because he failed to understand that the ideals belong to an illusory world. Keats was a Romantic poet. The Romantic quest is essentially a quest for the ideal form of everything. The Romantics have powerful imaginations which conjure up paradises and hanker after them. Worse, they judge all given reality against those conjured up ideals. Shelley, another Romantic poet, wrote that “Hel

Death by Water

Whoever said that the third world war will be for water will shudder if he sees Kerala's Kuttanad these days. Large areas of arable land went under water for the umpteenth time after the recent rains. Even the Alappuzha-Changanassery Road [AC Road, as it is known] was submerged for days. When I travelled from Changanassery toward Alappuzha yesterday, many parts of the AC Road were still under water though vehicles were plying on it.  AC Road I went there - the Venice of the East - to attend the funeral of a relative whose life was taken by the flood water. He was just a year older than me and had been a very energetic and healthy farmer until the waters that had inundated his paddy fields gave him a cardiac arrest. His entire labour of months had been ravaged by incessant rains. The paddy was just ripe for harvest but the rains devastated it.  Submerged paddy fields On the way, I saw many signboards with the offer of land and houses for sale. The people of Kuttanad want to leave th


Reverend Lawrence was driving to the charity home run by a group of aging nuns. It was his duty to say the holy mass that Sunday morning for the nuns and the hundred-odd inmates of their charity home. On the way, right in front of his car, a scooter skidded and the rider fell down. It was obvious that the rider required some help. Rev Lawrence looked at his watch. He had no time. It was his duty to begin the mass at the given time in the charity home after which he had to attend a solemn meeting at his monastery, again at a given time. He ignored the man lying on the road and concentrated on the sermon on kindness that he would be delivering soon during the mass. “Even if you speak the language of the angels, but do not have kindness in your heart, you are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal,” his sermon began. The fundamental message of Our Lord is kindness. Be good even to your enemy. The sermon went on. Rev Lawrence was not a wicked man. Far from it, he was a very reli

Nehru Under Arrest

  Nehru was arrested on the Prime Minister's order. "Why the hell do you continue to haunt people's hearts?" The Prime Minister fulminated.  We removed you from textbooks and history , We painted you black in posters, We removed your names from roads and institutions. Why the hell don't you vanish yet? Nehru smiled and said nothing.  Why do you kick me up from my resting place again and again,  He wanted to ask. But he was wise. The silence exasperated the Prime Minister More than the smile.  Silence is treason when you are asked questions, The Prime Minister thundered.  It was time for him to groom himself for Mann ki Baat.  Arrest him under UAPA, The Prime Minister ordered Before going to address children on their day. One child was fidgety in the audience In spite of being selected after detailed screening. The Prime Minister stared at the child And a black cat commando picked up the child By the scruff... Nehru and the child played gilli danda i n the prison W

Laughter of Nightmares

  Image from Religion has terrified me for the larger part of my life. The Christian crusades and the inquisitions of the medieval period, the endless Islamic jihads, and other historic atrocities are not the only causes. The present Hindutva versions of some of those atrocities are bigger nightmares for me since they happen in my own country – not in some distant land and ancient time. But even they are not the chief reasons why the very mention of religion sends shivers down my spine. The most tragic things that happened in my personal life were all caused by certain religious people. First it was some Christian missionaries who took upon themselves the arduous mission of salvaging my soul from perdition. I managed to save myself from them after about five long years of hellish ordeals they put me through. A decade and a half after that came a Hindu cult with its unique style of subjecting a whole school to slow death

Dharma Yuddha

Image from scoopwhoop   Yudhishthira   This victory seems more like defeat to me, What have I achieved? Death is what I have reaped in the end, And that too using the foulest means.   What am I but a ruthless killer? It was better to be a gambler than a warrior for dharma.   Krishna   My birth was blackened by the shadow of death Cast by none less than my uncle. I erased that shadow by killing my uncle. Killing came to me as naturally As romance did.   I led the ultimate war between dharma and adharma, Using adharma so that dharma wins. It was better to be an ordinary mortal Than a deity with a mission.  

Happy Anniversary of Demonetisation

  Does the government exist for the people or do the people exist for the sake of the government? As my country ‘celebrated’ the fifth anniversary of Modi’s demonetisation exercise yesterday, this question about government-for-people or people-for-government arose in my mind. Soon after Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014, India’s wealth started moving into the hands of a few billionaires. There were just 9 billionaires in India in 2000. But Modi’s magic raised the figure rapidly and it became 101 in 2017. Oxfam India estimates that between 2018 and 2022 India is producing 70 new millionaires every day. On the other hand, millions of Indians are deprived of basic needs like food, shelter and medicine. Oxfam says that 63 million Indians are pushed into poverty every year now by mounting healthcare costs. Modi lives life king-size. His residence in Lutyens’ Delhi (which he loathed before becoming PM) is a five-mansion palace with countless chefs, housekeepers, gardeners, and o

Gilead: A Christian Novel

  Book Review This novel consists of the reflections of a 76-year-old Congregationalist minister (a Christian priest, for those who are not familiar with the Christian denominations). His days are numbered due to an illness, and he wants to leave something by which his 7-year-old son will remember him when the latter grows up. This novel is his diary written for his son. John Ames, the minister, was born in 1880. His life has been a witness to the essentially tragic nature of human life: “the droughts and the influenza and the Depression and three terrible wars.” How do we make sense of so much evil? John Ames has been delivering sermons every week for 45 years to help people discover not just meaning but the very joy and beauty of life. He has kept the texts of all those sermons which would be equal to some 225 books – “which puts (him) up there with Augustine and Calvin for quantity.” He wrote all of them “in the deepest hope and conviction.” But today, when he looks back at th

The flickers of Diwali lamps

Let the lamps remain different This is the seventh Diwali of mine in succession without any Diwali lamps anywhere in the neighbourhood. I live in a region of India where Diwali is not celebrated. Like most villages in Kerala, mine too does not celebrate Diwali though half its population is Hindu. This indifference to Diwali doesn’t signify anything more than the cultural diversity of India. Even the Hinduism in this country has more shades than the advocates of a monolithic Hindutva are ready to acknowledge. One of the most beautiful aspects of India is its cultural diversity. The North-east is nothing like any other part of the country. Their foods, dresses, languages, and even physical appearances are an amazing contrast to those in the other parts of the country. The differences in the other parts (such as between north and south) may not be so highly accentuated but they are far too many to be accommodated comfortably in any system or ideology that ventures to homogenize them.