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Showing posts from October, 2022

My Home My Kingdom

Bobby, one of my 3 cats, while I was writing this post. For some time he was on my lap and then found a better place on my printer. The white paint on the walls just below the windowsills are stained with the pawprints of my cats. When someone asked me why I let my cats stain my otherwise clean white walls, my answer was simple: “It’s my house, they’re my cats.” My cats have the freedom to enter through any open window of my house. I clean the stains left by them once a week or so which means the stains remain there most of the days. The last time I got my house painted I asked the painter to help me with this problem. “Why not apply a washable paint just below the windows?” I asked. “That won’t look good,” he said. “We’ll use a wall paint which can be cleaned with a wet piece of cloth,” he continued when I looked unhappy with what he said. The wet cloth doesn’t really remove all the pawmarks . It doesn’t matter. Because my cats are more important to me than the chastity of the white

Some Biryani Politics

Biryani is a favourite food of mine. The reason is simple. It’s easy to order. There’s no need to search in the a la carte menu and waste time waiting for the different dishes to arrive. “Chicken biryani,” tell the waiter. Simple. It arrives soon enough. There’s veg biryani if you are a nationalist in contemporary India. My home state, Kerala, offers a rich diversity of biryanis to suit everyone’s palate. You can have mutton biryani, beef biryani, veg biryani, egg biryani, paneer biryani, and tapioca biryani. This last one, tapioca biryani, is a queer recipe. It has no rice in it. Only tapioca and some bones and fat of an animal that was vegetarian until a few years ago. Now a Malayalam poem tells me that the animal has started swallowing certain people called Mohammed Akhlaq. A friend drew my attention to this Malayalam poem titled ‘Biryani – a non-veg political poem’ by P N Gopikrishnan. It is about the food politics that has been devouring the country since 2014. Slogans started

Master and Margarita

Book Presentation “All authority is violence over people,” Jesus tells Pontius Pilate in the novel, The Master and Margarita , by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940). The novel was written during Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship in Russia though it was published only posthumously. Stalin doesn’t appear anywhere in the novel but he is present everywhere. Power is omnipresent in any dictatorship though the dictator seldom comes anywhere near the people. The orderliness that seems to exist in any dictatorship is only an appearance. Scratch that veneer of apparent discipline and the darkness of evil will explode like a detonated bomb. Satan and his team of three devils – a heartless Koroviev who dresses more like a clown, Behemoth who has the shape of a mammoth black cat, and Azazello with a single fang – rule the roost in this fantastical novel. Does evil originate from Satan? ‘No’ is this novel’s emphatic answer. Satan describes himself as “part of that power which eternally

Two Novellas by Shahidul Zahir

Book Review Title: Life and Political Reality: Two Novellas Author: Shahidul Zahir Translated by: V Ramaswamy & Shahroza Nahrin Publisher: Harper Collins India, 2022 Pages: 192 “One day in 1985, the sandal on the foot of Abdul Mojid … lost conformity with circumstances and went phot and snapped.” That is how Zahir’s stirring novella, Life and Political Reality , the first of the two in this collection, begins. The sandal strap has a reason to snap. Abul Khayer had just broadcast his thanksgiving note to the people of Bangladesh. Abul Khayer had emerged as a leader of the people. Abul Khayer and his father, Moulana Bodu, were the traitors to the people 14 years ago when East Pakistan was fighting its War of Independence with West Pakistan. Moulana Bodu was betraying his own people to the supporters of Pakistan. The novel begins with the ominous sightings of human body parts in the homes of people. These were the pieces of human bodies that Moulana Bodu was throwing

Wish you a Green Diwali

I live in a part of India where Diwali is not celebrated at all: a village in Kerala. Most villages in Kerala don’t celebrate the festival. There are many reasons for this. One is that the Hindus of Kerala worship Krishna more than Rama and so the latter’s victory, which is what Diwali is supposed to celebrate, doesn’t mean much to Keralites. Another reason is that Kerala’s beloved Asura king Maveli (Mahabali) is believed to have been sent to Patala by Vamana on this day. Vamana, an incarnation of Vishnu, becomes an enemy of Malayalis by this mythical story. Obviously, his victory, much less Maveli’s vanquishment, is not a cause for celebration in Kerala. Diwali is celebrated in many cities of the state, however, because of the migrant populations there. Though the Malayali heart cannot pulsate with the Diwali lights and sounds, he/she does not object to anyone celebrating the festival in the state. The Malayali heart is not parochial that way. After all, weren’t Malayalis the firs

The Insecurity of Congressmen

The new Congress President I longed to see Dr Shashi Tharoor as the new President of Indian National Congress [INC]. But I knew that he stood little chance to win the election. Most Congressmen, like their counterparts in the other political parties in India, are puny-minded people who won’t be able to accept the scholarliness and profundity of a man like Dr Tharoor. As Dr Samuel Johnson put it bluntly, “Politics is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Tharoor is an odd man out in that arena. As a Malayalam weekly [ Kalakaumudi ] put it rather saucily, “given a choice between a kitchen man and a global citizen, INC will choose the former merely out of jealousy.” India’s grand old party has now chosen as the president for themselves a man who cannot climb up/down steps without another person’s help. What is this grand old man expected to do to take INC beyond a rival who brings live cheetahs from Namibia and releases them personally in a national park?  The gallantry displayed by D

Academic Freedom in India

Back in 2015, eminent historian Ramachandra Guha described the Modi regime as “the most anti-intellectual government.” It has turned out to be prophetic. Today India ranks high among countries that have imprisoned truth even in academic centres. Recently The Wire published a report titled Six Tables that Tell the Story of Academic Unfreedom in India . The report is based on extensive research carried out by a group of people. Let me summarise the report below. 1. Censorship of books and interference with university syllabi From A K Ramanujan’s Essay: 300 Ramayanas and James Laine’s book on Shivaji to Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An alternative History and Kanchan Ilaiah’s Why I am not a Hindu, dozens of publications have been either banned or removed from academic curriculums. The reasons vary from hurting the sentiments of a particular religious community in India to sheer arbitrariness of certain right-wing groups. 2. Denial of permission, disruption of seminars/meetings

Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan

Hindi is being imposed on Indians once again. The 11 th volume of the Report of the Official Language Committee headed by Amit Shah has been submitted for the approval of the President. The chief ministers of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu have registered their protest against this fresh move to impose Hindi on people who have nothing to do with that language. This move of Amit Shah is yet another instance of the ruling party’s objective of decimating the minority cultures in the country. Language is an integral part of a culture. Amit Shah and his accomplice Modi nurture the dream of creating a Hindu Rashtra in India. The latest move to impose Hindi on the entire country is part of the materialization of that dream. The Shah panel has made around 100 recommendations one of which is that the medium of instruction in IITs, IIMs, and central universities should be Hindi in the Hindi-speaking states. There are numerous students from non-Hindi-speaking states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu st

History in Capsule Form

Book Review The Shortest History of India by John Zubrzycki cannot be made any shorter. In 260 pages, the author manages to condense the history of a vast period from the Harappan civilisation to the present. There are ten chapters, each of which focuses on a particular period. In fact, the book starts with the earliest people of India who existed some 1.5 million years ago. “The discovery of Palaeolithic tools in South India pushes back the timeline … to 1.5 million years ago, making them one of the earliest populations outside Africa,” says the book in one of its initial pages. But the book does not go into the details of that ancient period. India witnessed many invasions. The earliest must have been those by the Aryans. The book says, “What caused the decline of the Harappan civilisation in the lead-up to its demise in 1300 BCE is still open to interpretation. Later religious texts suggest that invading war-like pastoralists who had mastered horse-drawn chariots laid waste

Patriot’s Song

  I wanted to sing a song - A song about rivers of love and suns of joy   But the river that once bathed me now carries the tears of the girl who killed herself in it after being raped by people who claimed to be guardians of her morality. Or, was it her loyalty to the nation that they protected?   The sun lashed the land with the same zest of those guardians And the farmer was driven to his death The beetroot I eat carries his blood And the stench of the pesticide that took his life.   His land is being taken over by the government to build the tallest statue in the world to honour the latest patriot.   I can hear the rumble of galled slogans in the distant land where fairies used to sing once. How do I sing my song now?   Try in Hindi, my friend said. That’s the language of the patriot.        


Image courtesy here The following quote that I came across quite by chance struck me simply because it seemed to reflect me quite as a mirror does. “I am nothing but a dilettante, a dilettante in painting, in poetry, in music, and several others of the so-called unprofitable arts. Above all else I am a dilettante in life. Up to the present I have lived as I have painted and written poetry. I never got far beyond the preparation, the plan, the first act, the first stanza. There are people like that who begin everything and never finish anything. I am such a one.” The self-description belongs to the Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch from whose name came the word ‘masochism’. The writer was certainly not chuffed with that coinage contributed by an Austrian psychiatrist who justified it saying, “I feel justified in calling this sexual anomaly ‘Masochism’ because the author Sacher-Masoch frequently made this perversion, which up to his time was quite unknown to the scientific wo

Religion beyond 2040

Around 10,000 people assembled yesterday [Gandhi Jayanti day 2022] in Kochi to proclaim their atheism loud and clear. It was advertised as “the biggest atheist conference in the world.” Is God dying? In America, church membership has been declining consistently in the last few years. The renowned Gallup poll informs us that more than half of the Americans have given up church. The attendance in church was 70% in 1999 and 50% in 2018. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church. The Pew Research Center predicted in 2015 that by 2050 the Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world. Atheists will make up a declining share of the world’s population, according to Pew. But the gathering in Kochi yesterday seems to be contradicting that. More and more people seem to be getting disillusioned with religion and god. I am yet to come across any reliable study which suggests that gods will become extinct in a few decades though I raised the provocative