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Showing posts from March, 2022

A for Prayagraj

In yet another instance of history’s inexorable vindictiveness, Allah was driven out of Prayagraj on 16 Oct 2018. Allahabad became Prayagraj with the single stroke of a pen. The pen is mightier than the sword if it is wielded by a mighty hand. Might is what matters. It is what mattered from time immemorial. Every war is born of someone’s desire to impose himself, his might, on others. War can be in the form of name changes. Changing the name of a place is to erase its history. Changing the name of a place is to erase a whole people from that place. Place names, animal totems, dress colours or styles – they can all be weapons of mass destruction. Nothing really changes except names, totems and dresses. Crime rates don’t change. Poverty levels don’t. Political corruption and chicanery don’t. Even after Allah wad driven out, the state of Uttar Pradesh has remained the same, if not became worse , on the various parameters that determine social progress and cultural development. One thi

New Caste System for India

Mansiya Mohan Bhagwat, RSS Supremo, has decided that there are no more non-Hindus in India . All Indians are Hindus hereafter. They are classified into 4: (1) the proud Hindu, (2) the reluctant Hindu, (3) the unfriendly Hindu, and (4) the ignorant Hindu. In which class does Mansiya fall? Mansiya is an atheist from Kerala with Muslim parents and a Hindu husband. She was forced to give up her religion, Islam, when her mother was denied a burial in the Muslim cemetery because Mansiya was a Bharatanatyam dancer. Bharatanatyam is not Islamic, you see. Mansiya had to choose between Islam and Bharatanatyam and she chose the latter. Now a Hindu temple in Kerala has banned her from a 10-day National Festival of Dance and Music because she belongs to a class which does not exist in Mohan Bhagwat’s new system; she is an Ahindu, says the temple. For the Hindutva Pope, Mansiya is not an Ahindu simply because there are no more Ahindus in the country. But the Hindu temple in Kerala insists tha

Kashmiri Pandits: Some Facts

  The latest issue of India Today [April 4] carries a detailed feature on the Kashmiri Pandits. It is worth looking at some of the facts presented by the weekly especially because the recent Bollywood movie has struck a raw nerve and evoked diverse reactions. First of all, why were the Pandits targeted ? The attack was not simply because of religious animosity as the film tries to make it out. India Today says that the Kashmiri Pandits accounted for just 4% of J&K’s population, “but their influence over the affairs of the state far exceeded their numbers.” The Pandits were an integral part of the ruling elite during the harsh Dogra rule. After Independence, the Pandits continued to occupy high positions in both the state and central government offices. Though they were only 4% of the population, 30% of the farmland in the state was owned by them. A major share of commerce was under their control. India Today points out that there was “the famed spirit of Kashmiriyat or the

From Bhishma to Modi

  “Do you really believe that you are a selfless person?” Draupadi asks Bhishma in my short story, The Autumn of the Patriarch . And the Patriarch of two kingdoms stands speechless before that question. What prevented Bhishma from seeing the adharma of what was done to Draupadi first by Yudhishthira and then by Duryodhana? What kind of dharma did this man, this great patriarch, practise? Draupadi contemplates. She recalled what he had done to Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. Just carried them off without even bothering to find out what their wishes were. And then gave them to another man as wives. As if women were commodities made for gratifying men’s varied pleasures some of which were as perverse as Bhishma’s when he carried them off like trophies. And when Amba faced problems one after another because of what Bhishma did, the great patriarch treated her as if she were a lump of cow dung. No, even cow dung gets more respect! “Dharma is too subtle,” Bhishma tells Amba in my story. “Trut

Rediscovery of India

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in The Discovery of India that religion “played little part in Indian political conflicts, though the word (religion) is often enough used and exploited.” He went on to argue that it is not religion that created problems but “what is called communalism , a narrow group mentality basing itself on a religious community but in reality concerned with political power and patronage for the group concerned.” What Nehru wrote 80 years ago is truer today than then. India now is ruled by a political party that is cynically ‘using and exploiting’ the Hindu religion for the sake of political power. Unfortunately a large number of Hindus have fallen prey to the sinister manoeuvres orchestrated by a handful of crafty men who have dictatorial ambitions and grandiose visions. A sizeable section of India’s population today stands poisoned in heart and mind by hatred of certain religious communities, thanks to the crafty manoeuvres of a few. Nehru’s vision is crystal clea

Hypocrisy of Indian Nationalism

18 million Indian citizens are living abroad, working or studying, according to a report published in Jan 2021. Now the number could be more. In addition to that number are people of Indian origin who live in other countries but are not Indian citizens. In short, there is a huge number of Indians living in other countries. One of the interesting facts in the 2021 report is that the United Arab Emirates has the highest number of Indians, 3.5 million. That is a Muslim country. It is followed by the USA (2.7 million). Saudi Arabia, another Muslim country, is at the third place with 2.5 million Indians. Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan and Qatar have sizeable populations of Indians. These people working abroad contribute substantially to India’s revenue. The irony is that quite many of them living out there are hardcore right-wing nationalists. Every day, invariably, you will find them writing in the social media against the Muslims of India and occasionally against Christians too. They have

The Kashmir Files

Even propaganda deserves a better standard than Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files . The last half an hour of the movie is pathetically propagandist with sermons of all sorts. The concluding frames left me nauseated. No, there was absolutely no need to show every single one of those murders. Especially that little child’s. Not so unaesthetically, at least. Cinema is an art, Agnihotri bhai, not an insipid ad for your pet ideology. The first half had some good drama. I thought I made the right decision to watch the movie though none of the reviews I had read gave me any reason to make the decision. Soon drama gave way to blood-curdling scenes. Violence of all sorts. Terrorist violence on the one hand and violence on art on the other. If the Muslim terrorists in Kashmir committed the former, Agnihotri’s direction did the latter. The word ‘narrative’ is mentioned again and again in the movie especially toward the end. The Kashmir Files is a narrative and little more. It is a

The Absurdity of Religion

Photo by Deepak Amembal Whenever I see crimes committed in the name of religion, I am baffled. Ask any religious believer about religion and you will surely hear that all religions teach believers to be good, loving, compassionate, etc. But the crimes committed in the name of religions or gods outnumber all other crimes, I think. Remember the Christian crusades and Muslim jihads, for example. The numerous acts of genocide in the name of religions or gods, witch hunts, burning of heretics, the Holocaust (Hitler was not motivated by religion but his victims all belonged to a particular religion), religious terrorism, ethnic cleansing, lynching… Not all of them are things of the past. Someone tells me that these acts are committed by a minority of people. Most people don’t take their religion to such extremes. So I look around at the very ordinary people I know. They are all religious in the sense that they go to church or temple or mosque. They pray regularly. They practise the ritua

Prismatic Dispersions

Along with a few score of other bloggers, I’m accepting the A2Z Challenge of Blogchatter . This entails the writing of 26 blogposts in the month of April with each successive topic corresponding to a letter in the alphabet. This is the fourth time I’m accepting this challenge. I found it fun particularly in the last two years though quite exacting especially if you are hard up for time. But something productive emerges out of the exercise. What I wrote for this challenge in the last 2 years is available in book form in the public domain. Below are the links. 1. Great Books for Great Thoughts 2. Life: 24 Essays This time my theme is Prismatic Dispersions . A prism disperses light into its various components. We all learnt in junior school about the enchanting VIBGYOR. It was amazing to know as a little child that the ordinary white light that we took for granted consisted of so many sparkling colours. Later I thought of VIBGYOR as a metaphor for life itself. For life’s truths,

Death Road to Sounds of Eternity

 Fiction Kurseong: Image from Times of India It was in an informal meeting of the members of a bloggers’ community that I met Ajay personally though I knew him for a few years through his blog. He usually wrote about the paranormal. His ghost stories were particularly haunting. The bloggers’ meet was held in Siliguri. Since I was working in Guwahati, not too far from Siliguri, I thought of joining the meeting for the heck of it. A lot of bloggers whom I knew through their writing would be there too. “Have you ever come across a ghost?” I asked rather flippantly when the meeting as well as the dinner was over and Ajay was with me in the room we shared in the hotel. “I wish I did,” said Ajay. “I want to fall in love with a ghost so that I can write a romance novel set in the paranormal milieu, a new genre, you see.” He laughed. Then he asked, “Are you interested in visiting the most haunted hill station in India? It’s nearby.” I was curious though I never believed in ghosts or in

Tomichan’s Farming

  Sunday Raving When I left my job in Delhi a year after Modi became the supremo of Indraprastha, one of the many gawking phone calls I received was from a Malayali working in Delhi as a teacher. The old gen Malayalis are very inquisitive by birth. Their top priority is to find out what’s cooking in the neighbour’s kitchen. [The new gen is just the opposite. They don’t bother about what’s cooking in their own kitchen. They are busy with their smartphones even while eating and will be happier if nothing is cooking in their own kitchen so that food of their choice can be ordered via Zomato or something.] So this guy whom I had met a couple of times at one of CBSE’s evaluation centres called me to find out whether I was still surviving. He is a typical Malayali who loves to hear bad news about others. So I told him, “I’m in a remote village cultivating brinjals.” Like all Malayalis who are experts with innuendo, he understood it was time to hang up. I was living in a rented house at

Leaders with castrated imaginations

From here “Imagine there’s no countries / It isn’t hard to do / Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion too / Imagine all the people / Living in peace.” The inimitable John Lennon sang that . I have imagined such a world a million times. I have written umpteen blog posts for promoting that sort of imagination knowing fully well that such a world is not going to materialise in my lifetime. But I’m imagining it for the times ahead. For a time when humankind evolves further. Evolves towards what dreamers like Teilhard de Chardin imagined long ago. Russia’s Putin put a prodigious stumbling block in the course of that evolution. There are always some such people in history. Even the biblical God loved to put such blocks. Remember the Tower of Babel? Hitler was the most recent successor of Yahweh and predecessor of Putin. People like Hitler and Putin abound in history. Present day India has their counterparts and they won the recent elections too. They are popular and can lead a ge