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Showing posts from June, 2023

Brown Truths

From here Charlie is arrested because he once had a white dog. His beloved white dog was poisoned to death on the order of his government which had decreed that it was antinational to have pet dogs and cats of any colour other than brown. When his little son wept over the death of their pet, Charlie controlled his grief because it was treason to grieve. Brown was the only true colour now. All other colours had to die. Charlie is a character from Franck Pavloff’s novel Brown Morning (1998). The title refers to the Brown Shirts of the Nazi Germany which had stifled all truths except their own pet ones. In the novel, brown truths become the only truths. All other truths and their adherents are done away with. When those who keep pet dogs and cats of other colours are already exterminated, the state will start arresting those who had such pets earlier. History matters. I haven’t read Pavloff’s novel. In fact, I was not even aware of it until I read an article about it in this week’s

World without Politicians

The Maharaja of Hindustan Vikram Seth’s poem, The Tale of Melon City , is an attempt to show the redundancy of political rulers. Can a nation manage itself without a king or a similar ruler? Melon City in the poem does not have one. Rather, an inanimate melon is their king. And the citizens are happy. They say, in the words of the poet, “If His Majesty rejoice / In being a melon, that’s OK / With us, for who are we to say / What he should be as long as he / Leaves us in Peace and Liberty?” Rulers don’t leave us in peace and liberty. They tax and vex us in many ways. Politicians create more problems than any others. Since we don’t have kings in the old sense, I’m speaking about politicians. India has too many of them for its good. There are more than 2600 political parties in the country. The number of politicians will be in millions. The politicians create most communal problems out of political motives. India has always grappled with the problem of sectarianism and politicians a

Relationships and Illusions

Illusions are necessary ingredients of healthy relationships. If we see the other person transparently as he/she is, it won’t be easy for us to love that person. A few months back, one of my sisters told Maggie (my wife) that I was a terror for my relatives when I was young. I was. Only, I didn’t know that. I used to think I was quite a hero in those days. That was my illusion about myself. Eventually I lost that illusion and grappled with my own terrifying reality. I became a terror to myself during that period of self-discovery. I realised how jejune I had been. I vowed to improve myself. I did improve too because my efforts were genuine and concerted. But this self-improvement distanced me from people. I chose the distance myself. I didn’t want to hurt others anymore. I didn’t want to be hurt either. I became a quasi-recluse. Why did my sister have to remind me about that bad past through my wife? Both Maggie and I pondered that question for a while. Probably my image as a ter

The national symbol called Brij Bhushan

Image from The Hindu Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is today’s India’s national symbol. He is a hardcore criminal who is treated by the ruling party as a valiant hero. In one of the interviews , this present national and nationalist hero describes how he killed a man once. “I held him by the hand, put the rifle to his belly and fired.” As simple as that. This killer is a six-time elected member of India’s parliament which makes rules and regulations for 1.5 billion people. He is not the only criminal in that place which is now converted as an emperor’s palace with a sceptre installed at a prominent place by none less than a man who regards himself as the Vishwaguru, the teacher of the cosmos. Half of the members of India’s parliament are criminals. Hardcore ones. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is their iconic symbol. Let there be any number of protests against him, any number of charges, nothing will affect him. He is a murderer, swindler, mafia leader, rapist, and a lot more. But for

Reading Day

  Today [19 June] is national reading day in India. Let me celebrate it with three posters I prepared with the help of Canva . 

Father’s Day

“I want to wish my father on Father’s Day,” little spider said to his mother. Mother was alarmed. How could she tell her son that she ate his father soon after the mating-meeting which eventually led to his birth? Her little spider might contemplate suicide if he comes to know that the fate of all male spiders in their species is no different from his father’s. On a positive note, he might contemplate and become a philosopher like Albert Camus and write an essay on why one should continue to live in spite of the sheer absurdity of life. Or become a Buddha and metamorphose into a god in whom he never believed himself. So Mother Spider said, “Paternity is an opinion. Maternity is the only truth when it comes to births.” Little Spider contemplated that and became a Buddha. He did not mate because he had no time for anything other than contemplation. So he lived a long life. Moral: Contemplation can give you longer life. Happy Father's Day to those whom it may concern .   


When I was reading an article in Malayalam by Rekha K [ Bhashaposhini annual edition 2023], the question that lingered in my mind from beginning to the end of my reading was: How many people born in our world were actually wanted as children by their parents ? Rekha says that her birth was an unwanted accident. She was conceived when her mother was 42 and father 59. Her parents had six children already and they were studying in colleges or high schools. Rekha was not expected. Rekha just happened. A freak birth. Her siblings were not quite chuffed with the new arrival. They were teased by friends with questions like whether their parents had no idea about birth control methods. The aged parents too thought it was quite preposterous to have yet another baby at their age and so they decided to abort the foetus. But the abortion went awry! Some are fated to be born no matter what others do! The writer goes on to say that her parents gave her a bombastic name anyway. Maybe to make a

The sublime answer to suffering

  Suffering is the university of egocentrism . Milan Kundera, Czech writer [1929-] Suffering is inevitable. That is a fundamental lesson of life. Religions teach us that, philosophy does, and literature shows the same too. While dealing with the inevitable though unwanted, our options are quite limited. We should change what can be changed and accept what cannot be changed. We may need to adapt ourselves in the face of what we cannot change. Religion, philosophy, the arts, and a lot of things can help us to make life easier in the face of suffering. Aren’t these things primarily meant for that: to help us make life bearable and as pleasant as possible? Why haven’t they been able to achieve their purposes? Obviously, they have not been used rightly. On the other hand, they have been misused by certain people. Religion joined hands with politics and became a tool in the hands of bigots or the power-hungry. Philosophy is dead for all practical purposes, killed by our pursuit of th

Death on the Roads

  India ranks first in the number of road accident deaths among all the 195 countries of the world and accounts for nearly 11 percent of the accident-related deaths in the world. Road accidents are a leading cause of death, disabilities and hospitalisation in the country. More than four lakh accidents occur every year on India’s roads. Over 150,000 people die in those accidents annually.   Number of accidents, deaths & Injuries: 2016-2021 Year Accidents Deaths Injuries 2016 480652 150785 494624 2017 464910 147913 470975 2018 467044 151417 469418 2019 449002 151113 451361 2020

Sengol and the King

Professor V Karthikeyan Nair’s article in the latest issue of the Malayalam weekly Kalakaumudi [June 4-11] is titled ‘The Sengol that tore apart the Constitution’. The article starts with making contrast between India and a few religious nations. Pakistan is a Muslim nation. The UK is a Christian nation. But India towers above them all with a very modern Constitution which states explicitly that Indians can have religions but India does not have a religion and that Indians can have gods but India does not have gods. It is that very fundamental principle that the government of India mocked albeit very solemnly when the Prime Minister received the Sengol (sceptre) as a symbol of power from a Brahmin religious supremo. It is a serious matter that the Prime Minister himself affronted the Constitution. In the days of kings and chieftains, crowns and sceptres were symbols of supreme authority. India liberated herself from kings and chieftains in Aug 1947 when the first Prime Minister ma

Dying with Dignity

I can hear "Time's winged chariot hurrying near" more clearly and seriously than  Andrew Marvell . People younger than me are bidding the final farewell in my neighbourhood in the post-Covid days. As a young man I used to yearn for death quite often. That longing was more than the Freudian psychological condition known as Thanatos. It was a profound acknowledgement of my own sense of worthlessness as a being. Mediocrity, if not worthlessness. Delhi soothed my Thanatos, however. When you live in a residential school along with all others associated with the school, you stop feeling utterly worthless. There’s something you are good at, you suddenly realise. It may be as simple as identifying the goodness in the other person with whom you share the dining table or the department duties. You can’t live with other people 24x7 unless you learn to see something good wherever you look. And when you see something good all around, Thanatos takes flight. Thanatos has returned

Love and Hell

Russian Dostoevsky and French Jean-Paul Sartre are both great writers. The latter is more of a philosopher than a novelist, I’d say. Both have left indelible marks in the world of literature. But both have diametrically opposite attitudes towards human society. Sartre apparently hated people (except beautiful women). Hell is other people, he said. Dostoevsky, on the other hand, upheld love as the greatest virtue. Hell, for Dostoevsky, is the suffering caused by a person’s inability to love.  Jean-Paul Sartre Sartre thought of love as conflict. People in love try to control each other, he said. Lovers get trapped in vicious circles of sadomasochistic power games which are meant primarily for keeping the other from leaving you. Love is vulnerable precisely because the other person is free to leave you. Love cannot be forcibly extracted from anyone. But many people do just that: extract it. That’s why love becomes power games. Dostoevsky would look upon Sartre with commiseration. But

Grabber – Review

Title: Grabber Authors: Nirmal Pulickal & Jehan Zachary Publisher: Puffin / Penguin, 2023 Pages: 208 One of the characters in this novel says that spirits abound all around us according to the Indian tradition. They are not all evil. Most of them are quite harmless. Some are just trapped between two planes of existence like travellers passing through. Some of them may try to get our attention because they need human intervention to help them finish some incomplete tasks here on earth; they can get their eternal rest only after completing the tasks. This novel is about some of those spirits who have a task to complete here on earth. They are the spirits of those people who constructed the Taj Mahal. Qasim, the chief architect, and 31 builders, sculptors and calligraphers had their hands chopped off by Shah Jahan, according to a myth. The author reminds us at the end of the novel that this story is not factual. He has merely used the story for the sake of the novel. In