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Happy Days of Long Ago

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  My school days ended long, long ago. Those were days when there were fish in the rivers, birds in the trees, and oxygen in the air. Now one of the two rivers in my village is almost a drain and the other washes all the filth dumped on its banks every day by Development [ Sabka Vikas, Sabka Saath - like Delhi Police, Always With You ]. The birds have vanished except a couple of crows that come to drink water from my cats' plates occasionally. Food is not much of a problem for them since a lot of garbage lies piled up on roadsides. I miss those dragonflies and fireflies with which I held conversations long, long ago. Those were days when people went to temples, mosques or churches and came out feeling compassion for other creatures. At least without hatred in hearts. They didn't bother about Akbar or Macaulay. If a Narendran saw a Hyderali in need on the roadside, he would rush to help. Gods weren't bloodthirsty in those days. Viswanathan, Muhammadkutty and I sat on the sa

Living in coffins

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Satchidanandan We are living in coffins, according to prominent bilingual Indian poet K Satchidanandan, former secretary of Sahitya Akademi. His recent poem (in Malayalam) titled ‘Man who lives in a coffin’ is the monologue of a man who is shut in a coffin that has a hole which lets in air for him to breathe. He can see a blade of grass or a flower when he looks out through that hole. Occasionally he hears the chirp of a bird or the cry of a calf. He is habituated to lying in the coffin. Even if someone opens the coffin he is not sure whether he will be able to walk outside. He has learnt certain discipline lying in there. He doesn’t know who lies in the coffin next to his. They say that all the coffins together form a nation. [Who are ‘they’? The poet doesn’t tell us.] The man in the coffin can hear one person walking outside. That person carries a painting brush. The man in the coffin can hear that person with brush chanting ‘saffron, saffron.’ With the brush he writes “Vande Matar

Vallarpadam: camaraderie of the gods

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The Vallarpadam Basilica The history of Christianity in Kerala goes back to the first century CE. It is believed that Saint Thomas, disciple of Jesus, arrived at Kodungallur (Muziris) in CE 52. That is credible since we have historical evidence of the trade relations between Rome and Muziris in those days. It is possible that one of those trade-ships carried Thomas too. The Christianity that existed in Kerala in those days was not quite different from the Hinduism in the state, according to many historians. There were many rituals and practices common to both. That is natural since no people will cut off their religious roots altogether when they convert from one religion to another. Saint George of Puthuppally and the goddess Kali of the same place were believed to be brother and sister in the olden Kerala. It was believed that Kali drank the blood of the sacrificial animals and gave the flesh to George. Kali wanted only the blood. George, being from the West, relished the flesh

Bulldozer and Beyond

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Image from News18 They graduated from wayside lynching to the bulldozer. It was also a shift from crimes committed by apparent rogues to acts of state terrorism. The shift was rather quick. And the progress isn’t going to stop with the bulldozer. Agnipath is the next step. None of these is meant for the resolution of any conflict. They are all convenient and effective tools wielded by certain leaders to gain political mileage. The bulldozer is used apparently for targeting lawbreakers. The lynchers also claimed that they were targeting lawbreakers. What the Agniveers, when released countrywide after the stipulated four years, will do is anybody’s guess and this post will articulate that guess in a little while. The targets of lynching and the bulldozer have mostly been Muslims. Muslims are perceived as the ultimate enemies of proposed Hindu Rashtra. The Hindu vengeance against Muslims has been accruing for centuries. The Hindu battle cry is against Babur and Aurangzeb as much as

ICICI and I

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My association with the ICICI Bank goes back by about twenty years when I opened my account at their Saket branch in Delhi. The first thing that struck me about the bank was the suave and deferential ways of the staff which was a stark contrast to what I was used to in the other two banks which I was compelled to associate myself with. The Punjab National Bank which had my salary account was an utter disaster with its rude and listless staff. The State Bank of India which held my PPF account was the pinnacle of inefficiecy. ICICI came as a pleasant and welcome contrast. However, that bank too underwent an evolution in the wrong direction as time went. When the number of clients rose and the workload became heavy, the gentleness of the staff was the first casualty. Nevertheless, the bank remained far superior to the other two. When I shifted to Kerala I transferred my account to the branch in my hometown. Here the staff were exquisite. But I hardly had to visit the branch because I

Life after retirement

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Book Review I chose to read this book precisely because I am one of its target readers, a retired person. Though I crossed the conventional age for retirement two years ago, I continue to do the same job (teaching) with renewed enthusiasm and hence don’t feel like a retired person at all. But I know I will have to face the starkness sooner than later. It won’t be hard because I love reading, writing and travelling. Neerja Bhatnagar’s book is a forbearing companion to all the retired people who may wish to know certain things like how to make the retired life happier and healthier. What is more important than being happy and healthy especially in one’s retired life? This book offers valuable tips and more. It goes beyond and helps one with certain financial matters too. Right in the beginning of the book, just after the introductory chapter titled ‘Retirement – A Shock?’, the question is put to the reader: How to be happy? (chapter 2). For a person who is contented and happy (li

Home of Harmony

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  Celebration of Diwali at Mahdi Bagh Media Watch The latest edition of The Week brings us a delightful article titled ‘Harmony has a home’ written by Sravani Sarkar. It tells us about “India’s smallest known religious sect (that) has set a unique example of peaceful, disciplined living.” The Mahdi Bagh Institution is a tiny community of progressive Muslims who belong to the Atba-e-Malak Badar, the smallest known religious sect in India. The Week focuses on the Nagpur settlement of this community though they have branches in Ujjain, Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad as well as California and Sharjah. They are essentially Muslims but with some differences. They believe that salvation is possible only through the daee , the community’s infallible spiritual master. The Mahdi Bagh Institution in Nagpur is spread over 25 acres. Each family has a separate residence. But there are no boundary walls between them. The houses are never locked. It is like a private township with its own traffic

Some charming characters

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Book Review Deepti Menon’s e-book, Literary Characters with Character , presents 26 illustrious characters from literature. This book is a compilation of what the author wrote for the A-to-Z Challenge of Blogchatter and hence a few characters may be here by the sheer practical demand of the alphabet. The witches in Macbeth, for example, who take the place of the letter W under the title ‘The Weird Sisters’. [‘Witches’ would have been as good a title, I guess.] But it must be added hastily that the author has made a judicious selection of characters notwithstanding the alphabetic diktat. From Atticus Finch of Harper Lee’s unforgettable classic, To Kill a Mockingbird , to Dr Zhivago of an even greater classic, we have a treasure house of illustrious characters here. The paramount service this book does is to remind you of certain characters you shouldn’t forget. Those who know these characters will, hence, find this book a refreshing whiff of some sweet past. Those who are not so

Happy Endings – Review

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  Book Review Title: Happy Endings Author: Suchita Agarwal   There is no rainbow without clouds and rains. Joys and sorrows are inextricably intertwined in human life. Are there more sorrows than joys? I know people who have endured the most terrible things in their life without much consolation, not even that of an occasional comic relief, in between. Their tragedy becomes more intense when we realise that most of their sorrows are created by forces that are beyond their control. Since I don’t believe in Karma, the consolations of that dogma are denied to me. I choose to believe in destiny. And I also believe that destiny is a blind force that is guided by none of the benign principles of justice or dharma. The sole redeeming factor in many cases is the resilience that springs eternal in the human breast, to paraphrase Alexander Pope. Suchita Agarwal’s stories in this collection are suffused with that resilience. There are five stories and each one of them is titled after t

Restless ghosts of India’s past

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  I, Me, Myself In his latest book, Modi’s India , Christophe Jaffrelot identifies majoritarian inferiority complex as the driving force of India’s ethnic nationalism. The collective ego of the Hindus is marked by a painful lack of self-esteem engendered by the many conquests or colonisation by people like the Mughals and the British. Coupled with this subjugation was the dread of the declining population. The Hindu population declined from 74.3% in 1881 to 68.2% in 1931. This obviously gave rise to a fear that the Hindus would eventually be overrun by the others, especially the Muslims. Though the population ceased to be a problem later with significant increases in Hindu population (84.1%in 1951), lack of self-esteem continued to haunt the nation’s majoritarian psyche. V D Savarkar was driven to describe Hindus as a “mighty race” because of this national inferiority complex. Savarkar was not much of a Hindu. He hardly practised that religion. He was a racist. But he inspired the

Inflation can kill

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Media Watch This week’s Media Watch is entirely dedicated to the Frontline because its latest issue deals with a burning topic as honestly as only the Frontline can. Inflation. While the Modi government is spending thousands of crores of rupees on building temples, statues and the Central Vista for himself, millions of Indians are being driven to the brink of starvation. India isn’t shining at all except in the grand advertisements put up by Modi’s propaganda system on all sorts of media channels. More and more Indians are being pushed to the margins of existence, deprived of education, clothing, housing, healthcare, all of which have become luxuries that are out of the reach of many Indians today, says the Frontline boldly. Modi came with big schemes like bank accounts for the poor and cooking gas connections too. The bank accounts went dormant long ago and cooking gas is beyond people’s dreams now. Forget gas, even kerosene is unaffordable. The magazine quotes a man saying,

Profiting from Pain

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Wealth has no heart; it has much greed. This is the central message of the latest Oxfam Report. Titled Profiting from Pain , the report says bluntly, right in the beginning itself, that during the two years of the Covid pandemic, “the mountain of wealth” of the billionaires in the world reached “unprecedented and dizzying heights.” While the pandemic was a long and horrible nightmare for most of humanity, it has been “one of the best times in recorded history for the billionaire class.” The ordinary people of the world were affected immensely by price rise . From New York to New Delhi, says the report, no one except the privileged billionaires escaped this evil. The cost-of-living shot through the ceiling. The pandemic period witnessed the biggest increase in extreme poverty in over 20 years. The report is particularly worried about inequality in wealth distribution. The sort of inequality belched out during the pandemic period killed one person every 4 seconds. While this glar

Country of Hatred

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  In a poem titled ‘Love of Country,’ Malayalam poet Balachandran Chullikkadu wrote:             In the beginning there were no countries.             In the beginning was the word.             Then water, and then life.             Then countries came             And love vanished. A few lines later, the poet asks:             Where are the borders of solitude?             Where the soul’s lines of control?             What I seek is not love of country,             But a country of love.             An empire of life. I happened to read an interview of this poet in the latest issue of Deshabhimani weekly published by CPI(M). He says that writers are really helpless in shaping people’s thoughts and attitudes. He cites an example from the time of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. Many writers including him questioned Emergency and Indira’s dictatorship in their poems and other writings. But people elected her to power again. Writers make little impact on ordinary