Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2023

A constant learner

The last of post of January confessed that I was participating in the #WriteAPageADay campaign of Blogchatter which entailed writing a page every day of Feb. I managed to complete the campaign successfully though there were three days on which I could not write anything for various reasons. Such days are also part of the campaign, thanks to the magnanimity of the Blogchatter team. I avoided politics as far as possible during the campaign. I wrote posts which were more interesting, in my reckoning, during Feb. But some of my regular readers seem to have abandoned me in Feb. I don’t know the reason. Maybe, many of them were busy with the campaign. Maybe, my ricocheting from one subject to another didn’t amuse some of them. Maybe, it’s time to take stock of the very relevance of traditional blog posts in the world of YouTube and podcasts and others. As I’m concluding the Write a Page campaign with this post, it is quite natural that some sort of self-assessment struck my meditati

Conspiracies of the Universe

Fiction I was not surprised when I ran into Kurian in the town because I had heard from neighbours that he was back from Canada on holiday after a long gap of many years. I recognised him immediately because he had not changed at all except that his tummy had bulged a little. He rushed to me as soon as he saw me and gave me a bear’s hug. I wriggled out of that hug telling him to be careful. “We are in a different India now. There are all sorts of spies everywhere including moral police.” He laughed as he always used to do. Life was never a serious affair for him. We both studied in the same school, the government-aided Malayalam medium school run by the parish church of the village. Due to pressure from home, I put in my best and did fairly well in the exams while Kurian hardly managed to pass. When the teachers came with the answer sheets and made fun of Kurian’s answers, he laughed. I wondered sometimes whether he realised that the joke was upon him. Of course, he was no idiot.

Gods should laugh

  From Pillai's article The latest issue of the Open magazine [March 6] has an interesting article by Madhavankutty Pillai. Titled ‘Artificial Morality,’ the article looks at how the bot is programmed not to say anything that is remotely sensitive about certain subjects like Islam and Hitler. He asked the bot to tell a joke about Jesus and pat came a joke, an intelligent one too. Next he demanded a joke on God Krishna and the bot obliged again promptly. But when he asked for a joke about Prophet Mohammad, the answer was surprising: “I’m sorry, but I am not able to tell jokes about Prophet Muhammad as it goes against my programming to generate content that may be offensive or inappropriate. Can I help you with something else?” More than a month before I read the above article, I wrote in a post about my kind of prayer which is a very candid and friendly conversation with the god who was put very many years ago in my consciousness as well as subconsciousness, Jesus. I went on t

How to change the world - an example

  Arun Krishnamurthy [from Time] There are too many armchair critics like me in the world. We sit and grumble when things don’t work as they should. At the most, we write blogs and draw attention to the problems. We don’t do anything much to solve the problem. Actions speak louder than words but actions aren’t easy. So anyone who actually performs some meaningful action in this absurd world becomes a hero for me. Let me present one such hero today. Arun Krishnamurthy is a 36-year-old young man from Chennai who was worried about India’s progress and development. Since 2000, when Krishnamurthy was an adolescent boy, India has changed significantly. The population grew by nearly a third. The country’s economy quintupled. Both these booms have put immense pressure on the country’s natural areas, Krishnamurthy realised. For example, more than 70% of surface water in the country is polluted. Poor management of industrial and domestic waste is the chief cause. Another problem that worried

My Name is Not Devdas

Book Review Title: My Name is Not Devdas Author: Aayush Gupta Publisher: HarperCollins India, 2022 Pages: 155 The original Devdas story was written a century ago when the world was quite different. In today’s post-truth world, where nationalism and many other similar isms are nothing more than political gimmicks, where every slogan has an equally engrossing anti-slogan, and where love is little more than veiled selfishness, old-style romance has no place. Love becomes all the more an alien thing on the campuses in the country’s overly political capital city. Aayush Gupta’s slim novel is set in Delhi and most of the story unfolds on the campuses of Delhi University and the Jamia Milia. In the background, we can hear the slogans of both the nationalists and the anti-nationalists: Goli maaro saalon ko! and Azaadi! Azaadi! The 21 st -century Devdas, Paro and Chandramukhi belong there on those campuses. Devdas came to Delhi from Kolkata where his father, Professor Narayan

How to deal with the religious

  I was in a friend’s (let’s call him Alex) house when an elderly woman rang his doorbell. She introduced herself as a member of a popular religious cult. She wished to talk to Alex and his family for a while. “My family is not here,” Alex said. “Wife is in office and children are working in faraway places and they come home once in a month or so.” So she decided to counsel Alex. “Do you go to church every Sunday?” “Yeah,” Alex said and I blinked at him. The last time he went to church must have been for his grandson’s baptism half a decade ago. Alex went on to give the answers that the woman wanted and most of them were obviously lies. The woman might want to recommend him to the Pope as a living saint after hearing his answers. “We are such a godless people now,” Alex told the woman very sanctimoniously. “Look at the graphs of crime rates, alcoholism, drug abuse, and so on. If all people went to church every day and prayed three times a day and had fear of God in their he


  From the Buddha The Buddha and his disciples were walking along when they came to a river. The water was too deep for many people to wade across. ‘It’s less than neck-deep,’ Buddha said. ‘We can manage.’ It is then that they saw a young woman waiting helplessly on the bank. She was too scared to wade across. Could they help her? ‘Can you sit on my shoulders? I’ll take you across.’ She was more than happy. She had to get across one way or another. They crossed the river with the young woman on Buddha’s shoulders. Nobody uttered a word. Was there a feeling in the air that something repugnant was being carried out? The woman thanked Buddha as he left her on the other bank and went her way. The Buddha and the disciples continued to walk in silence. Something didn’t sound quite right. There was no sound, of course. Silence can be ominous sometimes. Finally one of the young disciples broke that silence. ‘Master, was it right for you to carry that woman on your shoulders?’ Bud

ടോമിച്ചന്റെ പെൺപൂച്ചകൾ

പത്തു പൂച്ചകളാണ് ഇപ്പോൾ വീട്ടിൽ ഉള്ളത്. രണ്ടാഴ്ച മുതൽ രണ്ട് വർഷം വരെ പ്രായം. അഞ്ച് പേർ കുഞ്ഞുങ്ങളാണ്. ഡെസിയുടെ ഒറ്റ പ്രസവം. ഡെസിയുടെ ഓരോ പ്രസവവും ചാകരയാണ്. 5 ആണ് അവളുടെ ഇഷ്ടസംഖ്യ. ഓരോ 4-5 മാസം കൂടുമ്പോൾ അവൾ നിറവയറുമായി എന്റടുത്തു വരും പ്രസവിക്കാൻ ഇടം ചോദിച്ചുകൊണ്ട്. അവൾക്കറിയാം സുരക്ഷിതമായ ഒരിടം ഞാൻ ശരിയാക്കുമെന്ന്. കാർമേഘത്തിന്റെ നിറവും അഴകും ഉള്ള ഡെസി മഞ്ഞിന്റെ വെണ്മയുള്ള കുഞ്ഞുങ്ങളെയാണ് പൊതുവെ പ്രസവിക്കുക. Ego തൊട്ടുതീണ്ടിയിട്ടില്ലാത്ത ഡെസി സ്വൻതം നിറം തന്റെ കുഞ്ഞുങ്ങൾക്ക് വേണമെന്ന് ശഠിക്കുന്നില്ല. ഇത്തവണയും 5 മഞ്ഞുകണങ്ങളെ തന്നെ അവൾ സമ്മാനിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്.  സമ്മാനമോ ശിക്ഷയോ? ആ ചോദ്യമാണ് ഈ post  എഴുതാൻ എന്നെ പ്രേരിപ്പിച്ചത്. സുഹൃത്തേ, ഞാൻ ഒരു പൂച്ചപ്രേമിയല്ല. പണ്ടൊരിക്കൽ ആരോ എന്റെ വീടിനു മുന്നിൽ ഉപേക്ഷിച്ച രണ്ട്‌ കുഞ്ഞുങ്ങളുടെ നിസ്സഹാ  യതുയുടെ രോദനം സഹിക്കാൻ വയ്യാതായപ്പോൾ ഞാൻ അവർക്കു ആഹാരം കൊടുത്തു. അങ്ങനെ എവിടെയോ നിന്ന് വന്ന രണ്ടുപേരുടെ മക്കളും കൊച്ചുമക്കളുമാണ് ഇപ്പോഴുള്ള പത്തിൽ എട്ടു പേര്. രണ്ടു പേര് അയലത്തെയാണ്. എന്റെ വീട് ഒരു അന്തർദേശീയ മാർജാര മന്ദിരമോ മറ്റോ ആണെന്ന് ധരിച്ചു അവരും ഇവ

Human Odours

Hospital is one place where you witness human helplessness most visibly. I spent most of my time today in a hospital for a person who is a very close relative of mine. He is younger to me by a few years but looked more than a decade older than me because of his illness. Worse, he was utterly helpless. He had to depend on someone for every need of his.   The moment came when I had to go and buy a diaper for him. At that time, when I was called by the nursing staff to get the diaper, I was sitting in the corridor outside the ‘care room’ where my relative was being given the medical treatment. The corridor had started to stink of human excreta. “Mummy, shit, shit.” A two-year-old child was telling its mummy for quite some time. Mummy was busy on her mobile phone. The whole corridor of the centrally air-conditioned hospital stank of human excreta that emanated from the child’s diaper. The mummy of that stench was still engaged with her mobile phone. I longed to tell her that the whole

India: The Media Question

India occupies a very low rank on the World Press Freedom Index: 150 out of 180 countries. In 2002, the rank was a passable 80. Now India enjoys the company of countries like Turkey (149), Sudan (151), Tajikistan (152), Belarus (153), Azerbaijan (154), Russia (155), Afghanistan (156), and Pakistan (157). The ranking is worked out on the basis of political context, legal framework, economy, sociocultural context and safety. India’s rank fell consistently year after year especially after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. The latest assault on media by the Modi government is what is euphemistically called “survey” of the BBC offices. Everyone knows that the raid (which is what it is) is occasioned by the documentary that the media house produced recently about Modi - India: The Modi Question . We have seen ample examples of media houses being targeted by the government for being critical of Modi. A well-established channel like the NDTV which was doing a remarkable job of jour

When upon life’s billows

Fiction 99, 100, 101… Joseph Thomas continued to count. He was sitting on the beach looking at the ocean that stretched endlessly in front of him. Since he had nothing particular to do, he started counting the waves to pass the time. Then it became tedious. Just like life, he thought. The waves came on and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, without any sense of purpose, without any goal. His life was like that too, he thought. His childhood was spent in school trying in vain to outdo Anita of the next flat. Anita always stood first in the class in every subject. Joseph Thomas would come nowhere near her. And his mother would invariably blame him for that. ‘Look at Anita, you dunce. Can’t you do better than a girl for once at least and do us proud?’ Mother wanted to boast in her social circles about her son just as Anita’s mother did. Since Joseph Thomas couldn’t ever come anywhere near Anita’s genius, mother chose to boast about her husband. ‘He loves me like crazy,’ she said to her fri

With my Foot in my Mouth

People talk a lot. For example, there are more than 2 million podcasts which have produced 48 million episodes. More than 3000 TEDx events take place every year. 373 million YouTube channels bring us talk after talk on every topic under the sun and beyond. The various avatars of social media produce tons of words every day. Did you think that women talk more? A recent Time article said, “Men, in particular, are the champions of overtalking – and talking over. We bulldoze. We hog the floor. We mansplain, manterrupt, and deliver manalogues.” I was one of them too: an over-talker. In the process, I put my foot in my mouth too frequently and got into infinite troubles. That is how I learnt to quit talking. Now I don’t talk unless it is absolutely necessary. I write, but. One way or another, this urge to spill the beans which is deep-rooted finds its way out. I chose writing over talking because the reader can choose to stop reading at any time. In a conversation, it may not be easy to

Happy Valentine’s Day

When I was in school (late 1960s and early 70s), I had never heard of Valentine’s Day. I studied in a village school which had more than 2000 students. The boys and girls were meticulously kept apart from each other in completely different blocks. They were not even expected to look at each other. Our society in those days was so straitjacketed especially in matters of sex and gender relationships. Love affairs belonged to movies. And they usually ended as tragedies. Why were Indians so averse to love? I don’t know. We haven’t grown up much even now, have we? Look at the kind of injunctions and instructions issued by our ruling party regarding the Valentine’s Day. They went to the extent of declaring it Cow Hug Day. Comedy has no limits in India. One of the leaders told us to hug the cow really close because we will get oxygenated. Well, I hope he wasn’t mistaking it with oxen or something. India is a country that produced a book like the Kama Sutra back in the 4 th century BCE

The Tolstoy of Hindi

Image from Time Weekend is the time to catch up with all the reading that was missed during the week. It is during that catching up I came across Yuval Noah Harari’s article in the Time [Jan 30 – Feb 6, 2023]. Titled ‘The Dangerous Quest for Identity,’ the article argues why undue stress on one’s identity as a member of a narrow group can hamstring our understanding of ourselves. If you choose to emphasise those parts in you that connect you to a group and ignore the other parts, you will obviously see only a small part of yourself. For example, if you define yourself as a proud Hindu Indian and believe that your culture is the best, you are obviously ignoring a lot of things in your personality that came from other places and cultures and religions. There are, probably, more factors which came from other sources than your religion and nationality that make up your personality. You ignore all of them the moment you choose to see yourself primarily as a Hindu Indian. If you are r

Religion with Education

I accompanied a group of my students to a pilgrimage centre today as part of my school’s usual ritual before the annual exams. Perhaps that’s a very pertinent destination for such a trip which is meant to seek the blessings of a divine personality on students before their exams. The patron saint of the place is a monk who revolutionised a whole system in Kerala. He is Chavara Kuriakose Elias, one of the officially recognised saints of the Catholic church. Born in 1805, Kuriakose Elias witnessed a lot of injustice. The poor were deprived of every possible delight of life in those days. Those were days when the caste system of Hinduism ruled the roost. The low caste people and the untouchables had no rights whatever. They were not even allowed to eat sufficient food. Keeping people hungry is one of the easiest ways of subjugating them. Their young girls would be carried away by the upper caste men for their transient delights. There were even traditions like a newly married bride of

Cow's Valentine

  Now they want us to hug the cow. They made us drink its urine and revere its dung. They made us breathe its exhalation saying it's all oxygen. For its sake, they made us kill fellow human beings. The government is doing this! That's the catastrophe. The government should lead us from darkness to light, from superstition to enlightenment. Our government is doing just the opposite, taking us from 21st century to primitive darkness. Our government tells us to follow the ancient Vedic culture instead of perverted Western practices like Valentine's Day. Hug a cow on Valentine's Day. Have these leaders really read the Vedas? The Vedas chanted hymns before killing cows and horses in sacrifice. Aswamedha and Purushamedha of Vedic days had sexual rituals that would put modern sex perverts to shame. Yajurveda suggested sex with goats for various benefits like cure from gastric troubles or acquiring eloquence. Sex with a bull can bring prosperity. You need to chant the right shl

My flirt with AI

  I came across an article about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how its services are made available free online by OpenAI . I made a layman's entry into the formidable arena. Here are some of the results I got. I find it interesting though I intentionally kept the responses short. People aren't interested in reading long pieces nowadays, especially when they know that a lifeless bot has written it. Look at these three pieces written by AI at my request.  The bot produced all these pieces within seconds of my request. You can now get your pieces written like this so easily. I imagine my students bringing essays written by bots. Will the speeches I listen to at school be written by AI?  Will human writers become redundant? Will we be listening to bot-produced music? Watching paintings produced by AI? I understand that robots which can carry out complex surgeries on human body are being developed.  Man, what will your role be now unless you are a creator of AI? You may become ir