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Showing posts from 2022

For a joyful 2023

  You and I may be saints in a country that garlands rapists and killers . One of the delightful short stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez is ‘The Saint’. A man named Margarito Duarte, who has not studied beyond the primary school, becomes a saint in the view of the narrator by doing nothing but carrying the dead body of his seven-year-old daughter for 22 years hoping to get her canonised by the Catholic Church. Margarito, like many others of his village, is forced to disinter the body of his daughter because a dam that is going to be constructed requires the acquisition of the parish cemetery. Everyone in the parish disinters the bones of their dear departed so that they can be buried elsewhere. When Margarito opens the tomb of his daughter who had died at the age of 7 due to illness, he is startled. His daughter looked as alive as she was before her burial eleven years ago. He, as well as the others in the parish, is convinced that his daughter is a saint and that is why her body h

When the Calendar Goes to the Dump

With my grandniece - the antique and the latest When the year ends the old calendar goes to the dump and the new one takes its place. The old has to go and make way for the new. This is the law of nature. The new may not always be better than the old, though. I have witnessed the death of many old entities in my lifetime. The transistor radio, landline phone, VCR, film camera, Bajaj Chetak scooter (ah, my beloved for 16 years) – that list is endless. My list ended with the Chetak because the nostalgia it brings veils out everything else of the old dispensation. That scooter carried Maggie and me for all those years. It was in excellent condition when my government decided that it should die. The law has its own way, as one of the chief ministers of Kerala used to repeat ad nauseam whenever he faced problems. His solution for all political problems was to sweep them under the legal carpet. There the problems will lie for an infinite period. And the calendar will be dumped inevitably

War of Words – guest post

The following is a guest post written by Anupama Joshy , one of my former students. I asked her to write on this topic because of one of her casual remarks in a chat message. Asked to introduce herself , following is what Anupama sent me. Completed my lower primary education from The Bethlehem International. Middle school and high school from Carmel CMI Public School. Both in Vazhakulam where I have been residing. A second-year student of BA English Literature. Hobbies are reading, writing, watching movies and web shows.   Love spending time with friends and family. Trying to be a better person every day. Words have evolved a lot through the generations. The archaic word 'thou' that meant 'you' can now be read 'though' in the gen-Z text slang. Means of communication have become online with emojis and GIFs serving as the medium of communication. People are hesitant to talk face to face and rather prefer 'chatting' online. 'Can't talk, What

My Christmas

Christmas was the most joyful season of my childhood. The study table would become the base of the crib that father made every year more or less in the same style. Palm leaves for the sides and roof. The bed was made up of a kind of grass which was known as Unneesopullu (Infant Jesus grass) since it was abundant in the Christmas season. [Now I find it pretty tedious to cut off that grass which invades my garden like heartless marauders in December.] The Christmas carol group from the parish church and the midnight Mass were all part of my childhood delights of the season. The petromax lamp carried by the carol team was one of my chief attractions. There would be some fireworks too to add to the delight. The most memorable Christmas of my life was in 1978. I was in Kotagiri as a student of religion. One of my teachers took me along with a few others to a nearby church in the evening to listen to carols. It was the first time I heard such spellbinding rendition of carols. Silent Mi

Teacher as Laundress

Teachers have to play multiple roles. When the school’s annual day comes, they become musical directors, choreographers, script writers, cosmeticians, and so on. This is the first time, however, I saw a teacher doing laundry too. This teacher is in charge of an item which has 20 artistes. A day before the programme she gets the required 20 costumes, all taken on rent from a professional renter of costumes. The rent per costume is a staggering Rs700. When the teacher checks the costumes, she finds them all soiled. A few of them have bloodstains too, menstrual blood presumably. She points it out but the school tells her to ignore it. She finds it insulting to hand over such costumes to her students and so takes the costumes home to launder them. The first question that comes to my mind is about the professional ethics of the costume renter who charges exorbitant rents for costumes used many times by different performers without laundering. I learn that this keeps happening year after

Love till morning

Last Christmas I gave you my heart But the very next day you gave it away This year, to save me from tears I'll give it to someone special Wham! sang those lines in 1980s. They wouldn’t sing it today. No one wants to give their heart anymore to anyone, it seems. Maybe, there’s no heart anymore. Situationship has become a regular word in English.  Relationship is a burden today. Why endure the stress and strain caused by such commitments? Love the skin, enjoy the sex, and say goodbye when you are tired of it. You can have multiple partners too. The New Indian Express tells me [18 Dec 2022] that there many types of relationships (situationships?) among the youth today.   Cookie jar relationship , for example, refers to dating multiple people before deciding who will be better for you even if it is for a few days. Keeping one on the hook because either one of the partners is not ready to commit even for a few days is called benching . Roaching is when you hide from your pa

The Monk – Review

Book Review Title: The Monk Author: Matthew Lewis A lot of evil is found in hearts that claim to be religious. Published in 1796, this Gothic novel lays bare some of that revoltingly horrifying evil in the most macabre way possible. It is set in Madrid and much of the action takes place in a Catholic monastery and a convent. It may be useful to remember that the author was only 20 years old when he wrote this. Hence you will find some parts grating against your aesthetic sensibility. On the whole, however, it is a riveting novel with a lot of suspense, drama, lust, perversions, hypocrisy and depravity. Most of the evil is perpetrated by religious persons, especially the monk named Ambrosio who is the abbot of a Capuchin monastery, and the prioress of St Clare’s Convent. Father Ambrosio is a living saint for the people around the monastery. The novel opens with a huge audience assembling to listen to his weekly homily. One of the devotees describes him thus: His knowledge is s

The Happy are Lucky - guest post

  Dr Joseph Thonikuzhiyil Joseph is an old friend of mine. We got to know each other in 1987 and the friendship continued for many years. Joseph appears a number of times in my memoir, Autumn Shadows . We were colleagues in the department of English at St Edmund’s College, Shillong for five years. Luck did not favour me and I had to give up the lucrative job. Soon Delhi became my refuge and leaving Shillong turned out to be a wise decision. So did my misfortune become my luck? Luck and fate. What do they mean? When something turns out to be good, is it luck? Otherwise, fate? In one of his relaxed evenings, Joseph wrote me a WhatsApp message which sounded poetic as well as philosophical to me. I requested him to write a guest post on the topic and he consented. Below is what he wrote. The Author Dr Joseph Thonikuzhiyil has over thirty-two years of teaching experience - national and international. He has had vast experience in training candidates for all types of English competitiv

Vizhinjam Port and some questions

And Adani came back with a bang! A protest that lasted 140 days came to an end in Vizhinjam the other day. For those who don’t know, Vizhinjam is a seaport near Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala. The International Container Trans-shipment Terminal project got under way there in 2015, not much after Narendra Modi became India’s Prime Minister. Modi is important here – as anywhere in the cosmos now – because the project was handed over on a platter to none other than his friend, Gautam Shantilal Adani. It was Oommen Chandy’s Congress government in Kerala then. The irony is that the Marxist government of Pinarayi Vijayan which succeeded soon went out of its way to support Adani though Vijayan’s party is the very antithesis of capitalism, particularly crony capitalism of Modi’s kind. Vijayan’s party is also vehemently opposed to everything that Modi’s party stands for. But in Vizhinjam, the two parties came together, shook hands and partook of Adani’s sumptuous dinner. Years pass

Flower Lover

Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash He loved flowers. Or so it appeared. He had a garden, a huge one. It appeared like a garden from a distance. But the flowers grew in crowded spaces. They looked like cows in a goshala. Though they were cared for better. They got regular water and manure. They were sheltered from the ravages of climate change.   And when they were in full bloom Were plucked and wrought into wreathes To be laid on dead bodies And monuments of fabricated history.  

Shillong's People

With a Khasi couple [middle two] - circa1990 One of the many responses to my last post is given below.  I thought of giving it a personal reply since it was a personal query. On second thought, I concluded that a public response would be better since many people might have similar queries some of which cast aspersions on the indigenous people of Shillong. The most important clarification I have to make is that my problems in Shillong were not created by the indigenous people of Shillong at all. The Khasis who are the indigenous people can be as friendly as they can be hostile. It depends on how you deal with them. They are tribal people and there is a certain degree of clannishness in their outlooks. That comes, I believe, from some sort of insecurity feeling coupled with an inferiority complex that seems to run deep in the tribe, particularly among the menfolk. If one of their own scholars, Kynpham Sing Nonkynrih, whose voluminous book on the Khasis I reviewed recently, is t

My Nightmares

Nightmares abound in my sleeps. They are all very similar too like the sheep in a flock. Their fidelity to one theme used to disturb me. Not any more, because I have accepted them as my lifelong companions. Moreover, their frequency has declined considerably. Some mysterious but friendly person persuades me to go on a journey and takes me along strange yet familiar landscapes. Rugged mountains with turbulent rivers. Initially the place looks familiar, like Shillong where I lived the most painful years of my life. Eventually, however, the place assumes fiendish shades and undertones. There are people and they don’t seem to notice me. Yet they look menacing indirectly as if they are lying in ambush just waiting for an opportunity to pounce on me. The person who brought me here has vanished. I walk alone with inimical forces all around. There is no harm done to me but the threat is always looming all around. Sometimes I am caught in a labyrinth on the mountain. Sometimes it’s a labyri

Death in Holy Orders

Book Review Title: Death in Holy Orders Author: P D James Publisher: Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2001 Pages: 415 St Anselm’s is an immense Victorian mansion on “one of the bleakest parts of the East Coast of England.”* It is a theological college of the Church of England with four priest-teachers and 20 ordinands. One fine morning, the dead body of one of the young ordinands is washed ashore. It is assumed to be an accident until an anonymous letter reaches Sir Alred Treeves, adoptive father of the ordinand and a flamboyant businessman. The letter implies the possibility of a murder. None less than Commander Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is commissioned to find out the truth. Dalgliesh’s arrival at the ecclesiastical college is followed by three deaths one of which is a violent murder, another appears natural death, and the third seems to be an accident. The novel probes all these four deaths in a complex and gripping narrative. What lends charm to the novel, in addition

My blog and 2023

Blogging with Bobs by the side 2023 holds out new promises as I have decided to bid farewell to teaching at the end of the present academic session. There is a saying in Malayalam which means: When the voice is still good, stop singing. Teaching is something that I have enjoyed doing and my students too found my classes stimulating. Not so any more, I feel. There is a lot of change in the attitudes of the post-Covid generation of students. My understanding is that the smartphones have replaced teachers quite effectively in their horizons. At any rate, there is a time for everything, even to stop your regular job. That means I will have a lot of time at hand. I look forward to a richer 2023. A lot of reading and writing and some travelling. When the pandemic got the students glued to their smartphones, it got me glued to books more than ever. I found myself reading much more and I loved it too. I would like to write more too. As a teacher I was more of a learner. That was the chie

To a friend

Vincent van Gogh - self-portrait of a man who suffered much This post is dedicated to a person who was very dear to me for quite some time. We were good friends. But certain situations affected that friendship adversely. Years later, he contacted me recently. There is a lot of frustration, anger, sadness and rebellion in his psyche, as I sense it. Dear Friend, Your present situation grieves me as much as it worries me. I knew you as a benevolent individual who went out of his way to help friends. I received much help from you for many years. You were an inspiration for me in more ways than you might have ever imagined. What happened to our friendship was inevitable to some extent because I was passing through a painful phase of personality deterioration and your efforts to assist turned out to be counterproductive. It was not your fault at all. You meant well, I know. I knew it at that time too but my psychological condition made it impossible for me to continue our friendship. I n

Reading Comprehension for Senior Students

 Let me present the reading comprehension test I gave to my 12th graders recently.  1.        Read the passage and answer the questions that follow .                      1x10 = 10 1.     On 1 Oct, India launched 5G services. It was a low-key affair even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi was launching it. Natural, perhaps, since it came after 70-odd countries had deployed it in close to 2000 cities since 2019 when South Korea kicked off the new era of connectivity. 2.     Attempts to get 5G going in India have been botched by muddled policies. The biggest bottleneck was the high reserve prices for airwave sales. The 700-megahertz band, which is needed for 5G technology, was priced so high that it did not receive any bids in the March auction and even in the recent auction, only one company, market leader Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, has been able to cough up the asking price despite a scaling down of rates by the government. Telecom companies are bleeding after the cutthroat tar