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Showing posts from January, 2022

February’s Challenge

Two things happened this morning. One was a message from long-term friend, Jose Maliekal, who is a Salesian priest. The second was that I started reading a novel titled A Man Called Ove . Both together reminded me of the challenge I have undertaken for February: Blogchatter’s #WriteAPageADay . Maliekal’s message was about Don Bosco’s love for keeping the boys under his care productively engaged even if that meant disturbing the sleep of a visiting bishop. Was the missionary in Don Bosco driven by recklessness or temerity? Maliekal’s message raised that question. And the message ended with an apparently wavering hope that I loved Don Bosco though I didn’t love his priests. Ove in the novel is a 59-year-old man (just a couple of years younger than me) who is “the kind of man who points at people he doesn’t like the look of, as if they were burglars and his forefinger a policeman’s torch.” Once upon a time I was just like that. And Don Bosco’s priests and some other equally spirit e

Climate Change: A Solution

In June 2020, the Modi government launched an auction of 39 coal blocks in the country. Enormous areas of forests and farmlands were auctioned off to the corporate sector for mining. The livelihood of thousands of poor people was taken away from them by the proposed mines. Worse, the entire ecological system of the country would be ravaged. “Respect for nature is an integral part of our culture and has been passed across generations,” Modi was exhorting the nation while his friend Adani was getting his bulldozers ready to clear forests and farmlands for mining. “Protection of environment comes naturally to us,” Modi said while his government was selling the environment wholesale to the corporate sector. “Can greed ever be green?” The Guardian asked once while discussing ‘Capitalism v environment’. Capitalism is all about profit. Profit before all else: before people, before environment, before the nation itself. The capitalist economic system has been thriving on exploitation o

Climate Change: the problem

  Human beings are killing the planet. In less than the last one century, we have belched out an unpardonable amount of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere. The following graph from NASA’s website makes the picture abundantly clear. “It is undeniable that human activities have warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land and that widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred,” says NASA. Graph from NASA The earth’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.18 degrees Celsius since the late 19 th century and human activities are the cause. The warmest years in the history of the planet were 2016 to 2020. Our oceans have absorbed a substantial part of this heat. Consequently the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are decreasing in mass. Greenland lost an average of 279 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2019. Antarctica’s loss was 148 billion tons per year. Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world i

Will saffron continue to darken India?

  F ive states are going to the polls next month and four of them are being ruled by the saffron party. Will saffron continue to cast its dark shadows there? If the voters go by reason rather than by religious sentiments, the BJP will not have a cat in hell’s chance of winning. But do voters ever go by reason, especially in a state like UP? Already hate speeches are flowing like venomous rivers in that state. And most of the speakers are ‘holy’ people! Let us not forget that the massive victory of the BJP in the 2014 general elections was preceded by a murderous communal riot in UP’s Muzaffarpur. Now the BJP is trying to do the same thing all over again. There have been open calls for genocide against Muslims from BJP leaders and others like sadhus. Repressive measures are being taken against minority institutions like those of the Missionaries of Charity. A lot of Christian churches and schools were attacked recently in many North Indian states. When you have nothing to show for

Where are our Writers?

Illustration from Mathrubhumi The latest short story of celebrated Malayalam writer Zachariah raises some vital questions about the role of writers as well as religionists in contemporary India. Titled ‘Devotional Poet’, the story appeared in Mathrubhumi [Jan 30-Feb 05]. The protagonist is a young man who ekes a living by singing devotional songs. But his livelihood is suddenly brought to an end by contemporary religious zealots who ask him, “Aren’t you ashamed to sit and sing songs while our religion is under attack?” His soothing devotion is replaced by a frenzy pretending to be devotion. “Can you hear?” a friend asks the poet. “There is music in the war cry of the religionists. It is the rhyme of maddened devotion.” Maddened devotion replaces genuine devotion in Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. The devotional poet gets an opportunity to perform in Delhi, “the spiritual academia of Indians now.” Shouldn’t the protagonist learn a new lesson from this great academia? The question

Small Gods

  “Do you know who my Jesus is? He is money. Jesus is money. Do you want money? Send your bank account number to …” Frenzied people take out their smartphones and… Brother Raunaq Mathew holds them in thrall. He is one of the many new gen religious cult leaders in Kerala today. There are many like him now. Their only motive is making money. Make money by the Holy Spirit or by the unholy apps. I am astounded by the number of followers that these frauds gather even in Kerala. Kerala claims to be the land of enlightened people; Prabuddha Keralam is what it calls itself. But I find the people here as beguiled as those anywhere else in India. Long ago Swami Vivekananda [whom Prime Minister Modi once called Vivek Munda] called Kerala a lunatic asylum because of the inhuman casteism that prevailed in the state. Kerala was rather quick to cure itself of that lunacy. But soon other lunacies replaced it. The latest is a bunch of Christian cults. Pastor M A Varughese is an icon amon


  If India had a one-child policy like China, I would never have existed. If my parents had a two-children policy, I wouldn’t have existed either. I was their third child. The nirvana of non-existence was not to be mine. I always imagine nirvana as non-existence. The Buddha too meant that, I’m quite sure. What else can ‘non-self’ and ‘emptiness’ mean? If nirvana is indeed the end of all desires and feelings and illusions, as the Buddha saw it, then it has to be as good an existence as a stone’s. Which is as good as non-existence. When you don’t know that you exist, do you exist? Ask the stone and wait for the response. [That is one route to nirvana, I assure you.] If nirvana is non-existence (the end of the self), then it logically follows that non-existence is the ideal form of existence. The next best is the stone’s existence. No desires, feelings and illusions. Animals must rank one step higher than human beings since they have no illusions though they have desires and feeling

Dead Poets Society

  T his book is a novelised version of the 1989-movie by the same name. It tells the story of an unconventional English teacher, John Keating, and a few of his 16-year-old students at Welton Academy Prep School. The plot is set in 1959 when elite schools followed certain rigid codes very religiously. Welton (which is Hellton for the students of this novel) is erected on the “four pillars” of Tradition, Honour, Discipline and Excellence. All the teachers except Mr Keating belong to the usual conventional rut. Keating inspires his students to follow their hearts. Carpe Diem, he tells them, Seize the day, “… because we’re food for worms, lads!” “Because we’re only going to experience a limited number of springs, summers, and falls.” There’s much to be done before our bodies turn cold in their inevitable tombs. Triumph as individuals instead of following the herd. That’s one of the things we need to do, Keating tells his students. As an English teacher, Keating insists on his student

Shikhandi and other transgenders

  Book Review Title: Shikhandi Author: Devdutt Pattanaik Publisher: Zubaan and Penguin India, 2014 Pages: 179, Rs 299 G ender is a social construct unlike sex which is a biological status. Until recently, the human world was divided neatly into the male and female. Every child born was assigned one of these genders on the basis of its genitals. The child might grow up to be something else eventually. We have lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. These were all considered as aberrations. And, obviously, unwanted. Why these, even female children were not quite wanted in many families. But the Indian mythology has far too many characters who apparently question the validity of the traditional male-female duality. Devdutt Pattanaik’s book presents these ‘queer’ characters. They are queer in both senses: (1) transcending the male-female duality; and (2) strange or odd. Those who are familiar with Indian mythology will also be familiar with most of these characters and t


  What, according to you, is the virtue that the world stands most in need of today?   #NeededVirtue [Indispire Edition 403] A little more sensitivity will make the world a far better place.   Can the wind kiss the leaves without shaking them so much as to make them fall? Green leaves quivering in the breeze that caresses them fondly fills my heart with romance. Often they are like lovers in an embrace. Sometimes like the infant in its mother’s arms.   The cool touch of the misty air on my face as I ride my scooter early in the morning. Sensitivity. Palpable was the moisture of the moonlight that was asleep on the village road until it got up and walked away as the dawn broke. Sensitivity is ephemeral. Like the rainbow somewhere far, far away.   The sun begins to lash soon. At the market junction, the loudspeaker blares charming slogans whose hollowness penetrates into the marrow of my bones. Is it impossible for politics to be sensitive? Is it impossible f

Price of the Modi Years

  Book Review Title: Price of the Modi Years Author: Aakar Patel Publisher: Westland, 2021 Pages: 488, Price: Rs 699 S ome leaders become extremely popular and may even acquire messianic proportions but end up costing the country a price beyond all imagination. Narendra Modi is one such leader, according to Aakar Patel’s book, Price of the Modi Years . The book has 13 chapters each of which deals with very specific aspects of Modi’s governance and provides the details of the damage done in each. Modi’s endless campaigns versus his actual delivery is the subject of the first chapter. Like in every chapter, hard-hitting facts and statistics tell us in no uncertain terms how Modi has failed in almost every domain that he has touched: from human development to religious freedom, economy to mass media, terrorism to climate. What you see in Modi’s diverse advertisements is far from the reality. Chapter 2, titled ‘The Godi Media,’ shows how the Indian media has become Modi’s l

Masculine Virility

Image from here Satchidanandam. The mammoth signboard was visible from far away. A surly face peeped from inside the enormous saffron gate beside the signboard as Joseph pressed the calling bell outside the gate. ‘I want to see Ramankutty,’ he said to the surly face. ‘Who?’ The face frowned. ‘Ramankutty, the man who owns this enterprise.’ Then he added as a vital piece of information, ‘He was my classmate, you know.’ ‘This is not an enterprise, first of all,’ the surly face said. ‘This is a holy ashram. And it belongs to Satchidananda Swamikal.’ ‘The same,’ Joseph said. ‘He was my classmate before he became Swami. You just tell him my name, Joseph George, and he will remember, I’m sure.’ The surly face was not convinced. But he let in Joseph after asking him to enter his details in the visitor’s register. A visitor, that’s what he was, Joseph realised. As he walked towards the Reception, he was greeted by various huge billboards on either side. For Firm and Full Breasts

Modi the Great

  Image from Indian Express P Chidambaram recently called Modi a dictator and compared him to Hitler. He is one among many Indians to do so. I am one of the humbler ones in that galaxy of those who stand in awe of Modi’s rise to imperial eminence. I’m still haunted by what Modi said after he secured a thumping victory in 2019. “This is the 21 st century,” he said, “and this is new India.” For a moment I choose to forget that he took India back to the medieval period. Let me continue to be haunted by that 2019 victory speech. “Our victory in today’s election is followed by chants of ‘Modi! Modi! Modi!’” Just imagine Modi saying that. If you can’t imagine search for that speech on YouTube and watch it. “This is not a victory for Modi,” he went on. “This is a victory for the aspirations of every citizen of this country craving for honesty.” Wow! Modi shouting “Modi! Modi! Modi!” is what has kept haunting me. No one on the planet loves himself as much as Modi does, I think. Or is

Anti-conversion laws and other games

  Image from Global China Daily K arnataka became the ninth state to pass a bill that makes religious conversion a crime. On the one hand, it is quite funny that a political party whose leader avows repeatedly that running business is not the government’s job is making religion its business. On the other hand, it is bizarre because we know the truths behind the Prime Minister’s assertions. When he says that running business is not the government’s job, he only means that he wants to sell India part by part to his wealthy cronies who in turn will pamper his insatiable ego. When his party gets anti-conversion bills passed, it only means to criminalise certain people. Modi’s party has seldom had noble intentions. Look, for example, at what happened in Odisha after the anti-conversion law was passed in an Indian state for the first time in 1967. Attacks on Christians began a few years after the passing of that law. The attacks culminated in the Kandhamal violence that resembled genoc