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Showing posts from July, 2023

Rape as Weapon

  Image from Malayalam weekly After the Modi government took charge of the nation in 2014, the number of assaults on women hit a record. In 2021 alone, in spite of the Covid-lockdowns, there were 31,677 cases registered in this regard. A lot more assaults go unregistered for various reasons. 87 rapes take place in India ever day now. That is the official statistic. You can imagine the real number. There is little connection between word and deed in Modi governance. The empowerment of women was one of the loudest slogans of Modi when he came to power. Nine years later, women have been enfeebled more than ever. There are a lot of slogans and projects like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and Mahila Samman Bachat Patra Yojana . Diarrhoea of words and constipation of deeds. One bizarre truth is that women have been transmuted into battlefields in Modi’s India. Rape is a weapon that the right wing in India now wields effectively. Manipur is the latest war zone. How many women have been raped there


From The Print India is going to be a superpower. When my Prime Minister says that I should feel proud. My veins should bulge with the thrust of rushing blood of patriotism. I wonder why my blood doesn’t rush. Am I not patriotic? Am I an antinational Modi-baiter who should be put behind the bars like hundreds of others ? A whole state called Manipur is burning in the imminent superpower. People are killing one another. The Prime Minister hasn’t said a word about it though the violence has been going on for nearly three months. When a video surfaced showing the brutal treatment that the PM’s supporters extended patriotically to two women in Manipur, Modiji condescended to say that such treatment of women was very un-Hindustani. And that was an utter lie. Hindustani culture burnt women on their husbands’ funeral pyres. And Modiji is a diehard fan of that great ancient Indian culture . The great Indian culture has always stifled the vast majority of people in various guises like th

When Trust is Broken

You meet an old man with an unearthly sparkle in his eyes on a street in one of Coleridge's poems. He insists on telling you his story. He was a sailor. A tempest carried his ship away, beyond all human control, to the South Pole. And there the ship lay stuck in the ice with huge icebergs towering all around. No sign of life anywhere. It looked like a hopeless situation. Then came from somewhere an albatross breathing hope and cheer. The bird became the sailors' friend. It came whenever they called it "for food or play." A unique bond developed between the men and the bird. That bond was shot to death by a sailor one day. He took his "cross-bow" and sent an arrow straight into the heart of the trust that had developed between the men and the bird. Wanton brutality. So human! The sailor who committed the perverse act never knew peace after that. Their ship was damned. The sailors perished one by one. Our sailor survived to tell the story of his betrayal to us

Love is Dirty

Bob on my sofa Cleanliness belongs to air-conditioned rooms. Heaven must be air-conditioned since cleanliness is next to godliness. I keep my windows open so that my cats can come in and go out as they like. They do make the walls and windowsills dirty. Maggie and I clean the places regularly as well as we can. My cats make the sofa covers dirty. It’s my duty to wash the covers regularly while Maggie cooks food for me and our cats. We are happy, cats and us. Our relatives have problems, however. How can we keep the house clean with all these cats around? Our hearts are clean, friends. We keep our house clean too. But if you notice a cat’s pawprint somewhere on the floor tiles or smell a kitten on the sofa covers, please understand that love has its limitations like tolerance. I have seen children’s toys leaving footprints all over. Love leaves stains like paw prints. Where there is love, there will inevitably be some footprints. Air-conditioned rooms are clean. They have

Doors of Possibilities

Andrew Potok is a blind man who lives in Vermont. Once he was a gifted painter. Then an inherited eye disease slowly corroded his vision. He was devastated. He thought it was the end of the world for him. In his own words, "I thought I'd go down and hit rock bottom and get stuck in the mud." When one door closes, another opens. In fact, many doors may open. Life isn't too cruel. Potok realised that he could write as well as he painted. He says he had a dream in which colours metamorphosed into words. He awoke from the dream with the realisation that something new was possible. He began to write and people liked what he wrote. "I saw myself as a newly empowered person," Potok wrote in his autobiographical book, Ordinary Daylight: Portrait of an Artist Going Blind. Potok paints with words now and he is a happy person in spite of his blindness which undoubtedly is a debilitating handicap. Blindness slows down everything, he says. The blind person will feel the

Blogging and Numbers

The death of the former chief minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, led to an unexpected holiday today. So I picked up a book to read, out of the three in the waiting list. The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely was my choice this morning. The other two may require more concentration than I can muster today: Ivory Thone by Manu S Pillai and The Journey Home by Radhanath Swami. “International bestselling author” Ariely hasn’t caught my fancy yet. What prompted me to buy Ariely’s book is its subtitle: ‘The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home’. Human irrationality, including mine, is something that has made me think a lot. Ariely doesn’t seem to have many interesting things to say about the subject, I feel. Maybe, I should be more patient. Chapter 2 discusses the meaning of labour. How many people find their jobs significantly meaningful? Your job can have Meaning with a capital M or meaning with a small m. The former implies that your work affects a large nu

Manipur is a Portend

From India Today Knights in Shining Armour Narendra Modi visited the Northeast of his kingdom more than 60 times after he crowned himself as the emperor of India-to-be-renamed-as-Hindustan. Travel is one of his countless passions and hence the number 60 need not bother us. The only place left on the earth for him to visit is Timbuctoo. It is rumoured that he wanted to go to the moon on the latest edition of Chandrayan but the scientists were not quite sure of whether their thing would land in Pakistan mistaking it for the moon. The scientists who made that rocket went to the Tirupati temple to ask Venkateswara (Modi may not know that Hindu God yet!) to direct the rocket scientifically to the moon instead of Pakistan. At that time Modi was in France preaching peace to the world. Om shanti. Let there be peace, said Modi to France. And Manipur burnt. Manipur has to burn for the sake of world peace. Narendra Modi is the name of the last incarnation of God, according to the latest Hind

Gone Girl

Book Review Title: Gone Girl Author: Gillian Flynn Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2012 Pages: 466 This is a masterpiece. It makes you laugh a lot, especially in the early pages. Then it fills you with awe; awe at the complexity of the two main characters: Nick Dunne and his wife Amy Elliott Dunne. As you move to the final section, it terrifies you. This novel is a thriller. Amy Elliott Dunne has vanished. All evidence points to Nick Dunne as the murderer though Amy’s body is not found. There is her diary and a lot more that put Nick in the dock. The whole story is told by Nick and Amy in alternate chapters. And they are amazing narrators. Both are writers, after all. Nick was a journalist writing TV and movie reviews. Amy’s specialisation was making personality quizzes for magazines. Both lost their jobs due to the Recession in 2009 and so they move to Nick’s hometown of North Carthage, Missouri, where Nick opens a bar with his sister Margo. He also finds a j

Uniform Civil Code

I have read quite a few articles on the proposed Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and none of them seem to have anything good to say about it. Most of them view it as a political stunt meant to create a sectarian strife with the 2024 general elections around the corner. One of the best illustrations comes from Madhyamam weekly.  Uniform Civil Code is something that the Constituent Assembly discussed in detail and left aside as something not quite practical in a country like India which has too many diverse cultures and practices. I lived in Shillong for a decade and a half. The people of Meghalaya – Khasis, Garos and Jaintias – have their own traditional tribal cultures and practices which are not like the mainland’s culture and practices at all. They all follow slightly different versions of the matrilineal system. The youngest daughter inherits the family property. The surname of the children comes from the mother and not the father though the maternal uncle plays a vital role in many f

Tender joy

Memories are serpentine. They cannot be trusted. What was profoundly sad then can become a tender joy now. More often, sadness lingers. One of those many images that still linger in my memory from years ago belongs to Delhi. Some construction work was going on. I was a witness. For days. The following poem came from what I saw. This poem belongs to those days when I had some sensibility to write poems. A memory. A grief. And a joy that I haven’t lost that sensibility altogether though I don’t write poetry anymore. My Hunger is Concrete   I’m just a year and a half old and am constructing this huge shopping mall.   Here I am sitting in the shade of a bush by the side of the towering structure to which my mother carries the mixture of gravel and sand and cement in a grating crater on her head.   When I’m hungry, I wail loud. That’s when mother comes and makes me stand on a wall, opens her blouse, and pops a nipple into my mouth,  her one hand behind my

Some lessons that life taught me

For some people like me, life is a sum of their scars. Life has seldom been a happy affair for me. I endured it day after day. Now, in the autumn of my life, I know that endurance is what life is largely about. I also know that it could have been much less of a torment if I had learnt a few lessons in time. One of those lessons is that we learn the most vital lessons too late. That’s how life is designed to be: a series of errors . You are destined to err all along the way. You may learn the necessary lessons and correct yourself, your ways, your attitudes, or whatever requires correction. Yet you will make errors again, new ones. What it means is that we are all pathetically imperfect creatures. That’s the first lesson I needed to learn long, long ago. I had a painful compulsion to be correct all the time, to be perfect. It made my life miserable. It made other people’s life miserable too sometimes. The compulsive desire for perfection made unearthly demands on me as well as ot

The Witch in the Peepul Tree

Book Review Title: The Witch in the Peepul Tree Author: Arefa Tehsin Publisher: HarperCollins India, 2023 Pages: 327 There is no witch in this novel and the peepul tree hardly plays any role. Both the witch and the peepul are metaphors. In the words of one of the characters, “There is an evil influence in this house, something which is not human.” The house belongs to Dada Bhai who is an exceptionally benevolent human being. His beautiful wife Mena is as good too and she has devoted her life to such noble social causes as empowerment of women and education of girls. Yet there is something sinister about their house. There may be a witch lurking in the heart of the best of people. This novel is set on the Makar Sankranti day of 1950 in the historical city of Udaipur. The entire plot unfolds in that one single day. In the afternoon of that day, Dada Bhai’s young son discovers the dead body of his 16-year-old sister Sanaz in her room. Did the living witch in the peepul tree

Role Model

The other day a student asked me who my role model was. It’s a dangerous question if it comes from an intelligent person and this student is indeed intelligent. Donkey years ago, when someone hurled this question at me – with a lot of malice – my answer was Mahatma Gandhi. The questioner laughed uproariously. He had reasons to. I was a clownish alcoholic at that time. The questioner was trying to be my well-wisher. Those were days when the entire town of Shillong became my collective well-wisher. One of the best things that people love is to see you as a patient etherized upon their counselling chair. Almost everyone I know in my life is a counsellor. They tell you what to do and what not to. They tell you what a catastrophe you are and how you can be much better with their help. They have all the answers to the rigmarole that you are to yourself. I was not really joking when I foisted Mahatma Gandhi upon that well-wisher as my role model though I was an alcoholic and I ate all ki