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Showing posts from January, 2023

Write a page a day - Preface

Writing a page a day is not as tedious as watering the garden or assessing your students' assignments. There are some people who can talk and talk endlessly on any topic provided they get a microphone and an audience. Once a student told me that his father could talk endlessly without any topic. I found out that the man was a politician. Writing is for me what speaking is to the politician, I think. Give me a laptop and leave me alone and you can get an article in a few minutes. There's so much to write about in the world of humans. You can write about Eliot's Prufrock and the latter's women who came and went talking about Michelangelo. See, politicians can't do that. Because they don't measure out their life with coffee spoons. They do it with bulldozers and earth-movers. You can write about why the dictionary lacks rhyme and reason though it is the most precise book in the world. Or about how such boring things as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen come together to m

When Arif Mohammed Khan becomes a Hindu

Pic from Manorama Arif Mohammad Khan, the governor of Kerala, declared himself a Hindu yesterday while addressing the Hindu Conclave at Thiruvananthapuram. The term Hindu is not religious but geographical, he asserted with his characteristic disarming smile. ‘Hindu’ is a geographical term denoting the people of a region, the whole of India. I was excited. Patriotism surged in my veins. Goosebumps embraced my entire body. I am a Hindu, I said to myself. Now I can enter the temple which has been denying entry to famous people like K J Yesudas because of the temple authority’s ignorance about what ‘Hindu’ means. ‘No entry for non-Hindus,’ says a board outside that temple (and many other temples in Kerala). But my governor gave me hope. So I went to the temple. The board is still there. The temple looks slightly different from usual. The crowd is less and there are a lot of police around. Something is wrong, I can see. Maybe, Mr Khan has inspired a lot of other Indians like me and t

Valli – Review

Title: Valli Author: Sheela Tomy Translated from Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil Publisher: Harper Perennial 2022 Pages: 407 “It is not the creatures in the forest that we have to fear, it is the creatures among us.” An Adivasi girl named Kali sings those lines in Sheela Tomy’s debut novel, Valli . That is the central message of the novel. Kali is a daughter of the forest. The novel is the story of the degeneration of Wayanad, erstwhile abode of many Adivasis in Kerala. The so-called civilised people from the plains invaded the land of mist and mystery, forests and folklore and brought into it what is known in the mainland as ‘development’. A whole mountain vanished and tourist resorts came up in its place. Forests gave way to townships. “Brokers bringing booze, sex and other amenities into ‘homestays’ sauntered between the township’s grey buildings…” A whole culture that sustained the forests and the hills and the rivers died. It was killed. “Young women transformed themsel

Micro stories

  1. Atheist becomes God " I'll   perform the same miracle that the godman performed just now," Atheist said. He waved his fist in the air as solemnly as Godman had done a while back. Then he opened his fist. "Voila!" he said displaying the ash in his palm. "Simple trick," he said. "Sleight of hand." He waved his hand again and then opened his fist which now contained a golden ring. "Only looks gold, actually fake," he grinned. He explained how he did it too. "No miracle, simple magic." The godman was furious. His devotees now thronged before Atheist. They were falling prostrate at his feet. 2. Dead Sure A man believed he was dead. He stopped eating and lay down in bed quietly. "Do the dead bleed?" The psychiatrist asked. "No," the man said. Psychiatrist took a blade and made a small incision on the man's arm which started bleeding. "See?" Psychiatrist asked. "Yup, I understand,"


   Photo by Sean Oulashin on Unsplash Carl Sagan, scientist and writer, was of the opinion that science has humility in its openness to reality, in its constant readiness to correct itself. Religion, on the other hand, claims to possess absolute truths. Such a claim underscores the hubris of religions. Humility is an awareness of our limits and limitations. That does not mean that we ignore our strengths. Humility comes from a healthy and clear self-awareness. I am this and only this. You may be sitting on the highest throne in the country. But you must be aware that you are sitting on your bottom. In fact, humility has little to do with top or bottom. It is not about you at all, so to say. As Rick Warren put it, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” There is no ego, in other words. There is only the clear, transparent self. And that self is aware of its oneness with the cosmic reality, with the billions of gargantuan stars and plane

When a few live life king size

Ganga Vilas PM Modi flagged off the world’s longest river cruise on 13 Jan 2023. The Ganga Vilas will take you from the holy city of Varanasi to the industrial city of Dibrugarh in 51 days at a cost of Rs55 lakh per suite . A suite accommodates two travellers. The charge can be more if you opt for emperor size journey instead of king size. A few people live their life king size in India now. India belongs to them according to a recent Oxfam report titled Survival of the Richest: The India Story . The richest one percent of Indians own more than 40% of the country’s wealth, according to the report. The richest 100 people in India have a total wealth of Rs54.12 lakh crore which is equal to one-and-a-half years of the central budget. A few rich Indians have the economic potential to buy the country if they wish. [They are already doing it very surreptitiously with the help of the central government which is more than happy to sell the public sector units and forests and minerals and

Conversations with God

Inside a church in Kottayam The novel which I’m reading currently is the English translation of the Malayalam Valli by Sheela Tomy. It received rave reviews in standard publications and that is the reason why I decided to read it. Having read about a hundred pages, I must say that it’s a charming work. It’s musical. It’s a symphony. But I’ll write a proper review after I read the whole of it. Right now, I wish to speak about the conversations that a character named Varky has with his God, Jesus, whom he calls Karthav (Malayalam for Lord). Varky is a drunkard. When he is drunk, he becomes more chatty with his Karthav. In one of his final chats with Karthav, before the deluge carries him away, Varky says, “Look at Him just sitting there! After turning water into wine to vex people for evermore! It was your Divine Majesty, wasn’t it, that made our Kalyani here (the woman who supplies him with locally brewed liquor) spicy and poor Magdalena Mariam pretty? And then you go around keeping

Of Awards and Honours

William Hazlitt counselled his son to keep the people around him happy if he was to rise to prominent positions in life. “Without their support, you may rise but very heavily.” That is how the advice remains in my memory. If you want to rise in career, you need other people’s support. When I was teaching this lesson, my class eleven students immediately commented merrily: “ Chamchagiri,” flattery . I was teaching in a residential school in Delhi at that time. Residential schools are like extended families. Everybody knows everybody else too well just like in a family. Hence they suffer one another too just like in a family. Otherwise residential schools will crumble like a house of cards. When you live with other people 24x7, you know everyone too well to point a finger at anyone openly. That sort of knowledge builds up relationships too. You love and you hate. It’s all part of the game and the game goes on much better than in day schools. Flattery plays an immense role in such a s

Development that Destroys

Development has been one of the many mantras that drives the Modi governance. Like quite a few of Modi’s mantras, development has wreaked its share of decimation in many parts of the country. The latest is a Rs72,000 crore project in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The latest issue of Frontline magazine features on its cover the fatal development that is being exported to the islands from Indraprastha. All the information in this post has been taken from Frontline . I have just converted the long articles in the magazine into capsules for a quick read. For details, please go to the magazine. Before we look at what is being planned for Andaman & Nicobar, let us remind ourselves of what has happened to Joshimath, the threshold to the Abode of Gods. Development killed that small hill town. Development has extracted similar disastrous prices from many other places such as the coastal areas, Vizhinjam being the latest. People like Arundhati Roy have written copiously about the

Portrait of a Gentleman in Slippers

From Adobe All kings and others who wield similar powers (e.g., the Prime Minister in a democracy) are counterfeit people. They hide their real selves behind many masks and facades and present to the public what they think is the ideal image of themselves. A A Milne’s short play, Portrait of a Gentleman in Slippers , entertains us with the motley masks worn by Henry XXIV, a 30-year-old bachelor king who is going to marry Princess Averil soon. Introducing him, Milne says that “ He is all the Kings that there have been in fairy tales and history .” He is a paragon of all royal virtues, apparently. How many of those virtues are real, however? This is what the play explores. The King is seen in the beginning of the play with his body-servant Brand. Brand knows, like anyone who has even the remotest association with royalty, how to keep the King pleased with subtle and not-so-subtle flattery. “It is a pleasure to deal with a beard like your Majesty’s” is one of his opening dialogues. He

Who’s afraid of conversions?

No conversion, only posing The New Year witnessed some attacks on Christian churches in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district . Religious conversion is said to be the reason. I came to know from a personal source that the problem started as a family feud and burgeoned into communal violence. Many such attacks on religious places happened in the past in India and many more will take place in future too. Because religion in this country is not about spirituality but about power and manipulations. The most fundamental question that arises is whether we need religion at all . The answer is quite obvious. Very obvious to those who think clearly. If it is the spiritual meaning of life that you are seeking, religion may help but it is not the best means. Your personal enquiries and spiritual exercises will help you much better. Spirituality is a personal affair in the first place. Unless it touches your heart, it is not spirituality at all. Religion and its institutions may help you in the p

Priya becomes a trigonometric ratio

“Why don’t you do something useful?” I asked Priya. Priya is a class eleven student of mine. I had been asked to look after their class for a while as their mathematics teacher was called to the office on an urgent task. Priya looked at me and smiled indolently. Her maths notebook lay open before her even more lethargically. Sin Ө and Cos Ө floated on the page like butterflies looking for roses. All her classmates were busy doing one thing or another. “Why don’t you solve a problem or two of trigonometry?” I asked. Priya was not amused. She didn’t seem particularly fond of Sin Ө and Cos Ө. “Why don’t you write a story?” I knew she liked stories. “ Write a story?” She blinked at me. Writing is not something that her generation likes to do. I learnt that as their English teacher. They will listen to stories. Some of them, at least. But write? Oh no, that’s so boring, dude. “Hmm,” I said in her generation’s lingo. “What about?” She demanded. “Priya was in love with Sin

Marilyn Monroe – Book Review

Title: Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox Author: Lois Banner Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2012 Pages: 515 The worst tragedy is when you become your own enemy. Marily Monroe was her own enemy and so she ended killing herself at the age of 36. She had become an icon of Hollywood. She had many lovers, all of whom were highly eminent personalities. Yet she chose to flee from life altogether. This book tells her story in all its glory and tragedy. Lois Banner is a historian by profession and hence the book reads more like history than literature. However, it is written in a simple style that any reader will find easy to read. There is absolutely no jargon or academic verbosity. Banner divides Marilyn’s story into five parts: (1) Childhood, (2) Hollywood, (3) Meaning of Marilyn, (4) Departure from Hollywood and life in New York, and (5) Return to Hollywood. As the subtitle of the book indicates, Marilyn was a passion and a paradox. In Marilyn’s own words, “A lot of people like to th