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Showing posts from 2023

A Thousand Cuts

Book Review Title: A Thousand Cuts: An innocent question and deadly answers Author: T J Joseph Translator: Nandakumar K Having read the Malayalam original of this book, I turned to my mobile phone to catch up with the latest news. The first headline that Google gave me is: Darul Huda Islamic University comes out against Literature Festival in Kerala . This book is written by a college professor whose palm was chopped off with a hatchet in 2010 by a group of young Muslim terrorists. He was attacked brutally while he was returning from Sunday church service. He was stabbed in many places and some of the wounds were near-fatal. His palm was chopped off and thrown away. This book, written originally in Malayalam, tells us why the professor was attacked so inhumanly and how it changed his life quite radically. What provoked the terrorists was a particular question that the professor had set in the Malayalam question paper for the undergraduates of his college. It was an internal

All the light we cannot see

Book Review Title: All the light we cannot see Author: Anthony Doerr Publisher: Fourth Estate, London, 2014 Pages: 531 What we call light is just a tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum. Most part of the electromagnetic spectrum remains beyond ordinary human perception. Such is human life too: so many of its shades remain beyond our ordinary perception and understanding. Anthony Doerr’s novel, All the light we cannot see , unravels for us some of the mysterious shades of human life. Marie-Laure LeBlanc leaves Paris with her father Daniel who is entrusted with the task of carrying a rare diamond, Sea of Flames , to safe custody when the second world war breaks out. The National Museum of Natural History, Paris, has made three counterfeit diamonds of the Sea of Flames. Four men are assigned the task of carrying each of these diamonds to four different destinations. None of them knows whether they are carrying the original diamond or the counterfeit. Marie-Laure a

Face of the Faceless

“When you choose to fight for truth and justice, you will have to face serious threats.” Sister Rani Maria, the protagonist of the movie, is counselled by her mother in a letter. Face of the Faceless is a movie that shows how serious those threats are. This movie is a biopic. It shows us the life of a Catholic nun who dedicated her life to serve some Adivasis of Madhya Pradesh [MP] and ended up as a martyr. If it were not a real story, this movie would have been an absolute flop. Since it is the real story of not only a nun but also the impoverished and terribly exploited Adivasis in a particular village of MP, it keeps you engrossed. It is a sad movie, right from the beginning to the end. It is a story of the good versus evil, the powerless versus the powerful, the heroic versus the villainous, the divine versus the diabolic. Having said that, I must hasten to add one conspicuous fact: the movie does not ever present Christianity or its religious practices as the only right way

Whose India?

“If you keep doing the same things, you will keep getting the same results,” Dave Ramsey said. It doesn’t matter who Dave Ramsey is. I don’t know, in fact. Albert Einstein could have said that as well. From the time BJP came to power in Delhi, India has been doing more or less the same thing: sectarian politics which favours one particular community and marginalises all others. Since the majority of Indians belong to the community favoured by BJP, no other party could arrive at an effective strategy for winning elections. People obviously want favours from those in power. And BJP is giving those favours to the majority. The majority will then vote BJP. BJP continues to rule. Happily. Till date. And so some genius in the other camp struck upon a strategy. Divide the majority community along caste lines. This is not a new strategy at all. This was effectively made use of in all the Hindi belt states earlier many times by many parties. What is new now is that almost all the non-BJP

How to prevent divorces

Image from City With No Divorce I attended a wedding ceremony today at St Xavier’s Church near Kottayam in Kerala (India). What I liked most was the homily which was based on the fact that a particular town in Bosnia-Herzegovina has no divorces. I checked it out with the help of Google and got this: City With No Divorce . “ Siroki Brijeg is a rural town of 30,000 inhabitants… The city has suffered centuries of war and famine, cultural and political strife. Yet, not one single divorce has been recorded .” The secret is the cross. Of Jesus. The homily said. The wedding ceremony in Siroki Brijeg has an additional ritual: the couple are made to choose a cross on which they pledge to be faithful to each other till the end. ‘Marriage Crucifix’ is the name given to the tradition. It’s not just a wedding ritual; it’s meant for the entire married life. The cross on which they pledge is taken home as a holy icon to be looked at every day! What the ritual means is this: you are not marryi

Celebrating Brownie

Brownie snuggles up against me every evening. Whenever her pregnancy advances, she does this: get close to me. She has a way of getting me to pat her forehead and belly. She will rub her head against my palm until I start patting her.  Eventually she will get me to prepare a safe and comfortable set-up for her kittening. She has a way with me, so much so that Maggie says Brownie is the only creature who has succeeded in making me toe the line. I want to celebrate Brownie today. With some of her pics. Brownie was just a month-and-a-half old then. Her siblings Dessie and Denny are here too. Dessie is still with us in robust health while Denny disappeared long ago. Male cats are not quite loyal, I learnt.  With Bobs, her son, who also left us eventually Let me conclude this celebration with a short video in which Brownie displays her majestic indifference to Kingini, the latest addition to my feline family.  Related posts Kingini The Story of Kingini

Gods and Ends

  Book Review Title: Gods and Ends Author: Lindsay Pereira Publisher: Penguin Vintage, 2021 Pages: 205 This is a book which presents characters taken from real life. You will think, as you read the novel, that you know this character and this and this too. Only the names sound different, even exotic: Vaz, D’Souza, Sequeira, and so on. All the characters are Goan Catholics living in Orlem, Mumbai. All the major characters are tenants of Obrigado Mansion, a rundown building belonging to aged Francisco Fernandez who lives with his daughter-in-law, occupying two of the rooms in the mansion. All other rooms are occupied by families that are grappling with quite a few problems. There are five families plus one widow who lives alone in one of the rooms. Each one of these characters catches our attention with their unique earthiness. The Sequeira family in Room 108, for example, is headed by Jude Sequeira who is little more than an alcoholic. He has a job in a factory. But since hi

Philosophy ToDAY

Today is the World Philosophy Day, a friend reminded me in the morning. That friend is a philosopher. He has been a professor of philosophy for most part of his life. Great man he is like Immanuel Kant. The only one great person in my life who knew me from my infantile adolescence and stayed with me until now, the autumn of my life. UNESCO observes the third Thursday of November as the World Philosophy Day, I learnt after I received the message from Prof. What does philosophy mean to ordinary mortals like me? [And you, may I dare to ask?] Philosophy died long ago. Poetry died a little later. Prof and I were students of philosophy together at The Retreat in Yercaud [Tamil Nadu, India] in the early 1980s. My early twenties. His too. But he was a mature person unlike me. I was silly. So I didn’t learn much philosophy while he learnt too much and became a Doctor of Philosophy. What surprises me is that he has continued the friendship till this day in spite of my congenital sillin

Old God's Time

  Book Review Title: Old God's Time Author: Sebastian Barry Publisher: Faber & Faber, London, 2023 Pages: 261 Much of our personality is shaped in our childhood. Traumatic experiences can distort one's personality irreparably. Thomas Kettle (Tom), the protagonist of Sebastian Barry's latest novel, is one such person whose very soul was wrung out by the Christian Brothers (a Catholic congregation of ascetics) in whose orphanage he grew up. These Brothers abused him sexually. Old God's Time is not a psychological thriller, however. It is a metaphysical novel that explores the impact of our early memories on our later life and the ineluctable subjectivity of reality. Tom is 66 when the novel begins. He is a retired police detective who was earlier in the British army. He has now chosen to live in a relatively secluded place overlooking the Irish Sea. Memories don't leave him alone, however, and his memories aren't any kind to him. Tom has had a catastrophic li

I love Mahua Moitra

It is impossible to love politicians. I love Mahua Moitra just because I hate politicians. Mahua is not a politician; she is a flame. A wildfire, that’s what she is.   A flame wearing windshield-like spectacles and an elegantly pleated sari has haunted many a hopeful day of mine. The flame grew into a conflagration that engulfed Hastinapura’s Central Vista and incinerated the phoney old men there who deluded millions of people with the charm of a thick-lipped, smooth-tongued, cockeyed, snow-haired pied piper. That flame licked the Citizenship Amendment Act , Manipur violence , Hindenburg Report , and scorched the piper’s own Adani. The male bastion of Hastinapura that would love to disrobe a trillion Draupadis, however elegantly pleated their saris be, trembled like a leaf caught in a storm, when Mahua Moitra rose to speak quite unlike a contemporary Bengali who is willing to sell Tagore’s Santiniketan to the new custodians of Bharatiya culture. Who but Mahua Moitra would h


  Book Review Title: Quarterlife Author: Devika Rege Publisher: HarperCollins Fourth Estate, 2023 Pages: 403 This novel left me quite puzzled. So I returned to it with a staunch determination to read it again because I read some of the rave reviews it had received. What did I miss? I didn’t read it again entirely. I just couldn’t. It didn’t make that sort of appeal to me. I went through certain parts again. It didn’t create any better impression on me. But it had been long-listed for the Booker and many reviewers of good journals found it excellent. Something within me agreed with those reviews too. The Hindu said that “every page you turn, the book’s universe mirrors our everyday reality, the hyperfused gaze magnifying the cracks.” The Hindu ’s fortnightly publication, Frontline , said that the novel is “thickly packed with ideas that threaten to clog its flow until the narrative changes gear towards the end, saving the day.” The Hindustan Times thought that the author

Institutionalised Evils

  Bernard Shaw's play, Captain Brassbound's Conversion,  is a study of various kinds of evils or follies masquerading as virtues. Justice is in focus particularly. What we imagine as justice is often nothing more than revenge. In the play, Howard who is a judge and his sister-in-law Cicely who is an explorer arrive at the residence of Rankin, a Presbyterian minister in Morocco. Howard's brother Miles was a friend of Rankin. Miles is no more. He had married a local woman and moved to Brazil where he died. Howard believes that the widow and her family members seized all the wealth of Miles. He used the judiciary to grab that wealth for himself. Cicely wants to explore Morocco and Rankin arranges a guide, Captain Brassbound. It turns out that Brassbound is Miles's son and he seeks to take revenge on Judge Howard for the injustice he perpetrated on the bereaved family of Miles in the name of justice. "Justice!" exclaims the judge. "I think you mean vengeance,

How to become a billionaire in India

Motivational enterprises can be very rewarding. Gaur Gopal Das is a monk and a motivational guru. That’s double dhamaka. If you wear saffron robes, you get to make a lot of money in India. On top of that, you are a motivational guru! Then you are possibly sitting on a gold mine or riding your Rolls-Royce laughing all the way to the bank. I’m not saying this. Gaur Gopal Das is. In one of his infinite motivational speeches , the Guru said something which I remember as: If you work as a teacher in India for ten years, you save about one or two lakh rupees. If you are a software engineer, you may earn 30-40 lakh. A politician in India can earn something like 30-40 crore in that period. And someone like me, wearing the saffron, can rake in 300 to 400 crore rupees in that period pretty easily. Gaur Gopal Das was not just employing some hyperbole. His cult, ISKCON, earns millions of dollars every year. Religion sells more than anything else in India. If it is able to masquerade as moti