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Showing posts from October, 2023

Kochi's bomb and India's love

The explosions that shook Kochi yesterday morning brought a lot of messages and phone calls to me. Many of them were from friends of yesteryears, people who hadn’t contacted me for a long time. Their concern did touch me; it made me realise how much goodness there still is in our world. One such call was from Shillong, the place where I worked from 1986 to 2001. The person who called was my colleague for just one year, my first year in Shillong. His call yesterday evening struck me particularly because his concern was immensely palpable. It brought back a flood of memories – my walks with him through the narrow concrete paths of Shillong’s entrails. He knew all the shortcuts in the town and hills have plenty of time-saving shortcuts. He was my first guide in Shillong. Now, retired from government service, he is an active pastor. His concern reached out beyond me as an individual to whole communities as he discussed Kerala's demographics and the intricate relationships between commu

Book of Thrillers

Book Review In spite of the common theme – thrillers – that holds fifteen short stories together, this slim volume is beyond easy classification. You enter a phantasmagorical world as you open this book. Restless ghosts and souls in search of redemption will jolt you in some of the stories. Quest for justice and thirst for revenge are recurring themes. Blood is spilt on many pages. Love yearns to blossom on a few pages. These are all stories written by bloggers who have made their mark in their own characteristic ways. These 15 bloggers are brought together by a community known as Blogchatter which supports and inspires bloggers in many ways. As a member of that community, I’d readily agree with Blogchatter’s claim in the introduction to this book: “This book isn’t just about the 15 authors who have contributed their stories but also the rest of the community who are the wind beneath their wings.” I would like this review to look at each of the stories, albeit briefly, becaus

Poetry in a heartless world

Colonial soldiers, what have they been doing to my poetry all these years when I could have easily killed them in my poems as they’ve killed my family outside poetry? Palestinian poet Ahlam Bsharat wrote the above lines in 2021 in a poem titled ‘ How I Kill Soldiers ’. Poetry in a heartless world may pretend to be heartless too like in these lines. The poet wants to kill just like the soldiers. But poets cannot kill – that’s the fact. They have a heart. Poetry is as much about the heart as war is about armaments and attacks. As much as science is about the brain. Plato wanted to banish poets from his Republic because the philosopher didn’t think poetic passions would do any good to the nation. William Wordsworth told us that poetry is the distil of our refined emotions. T S Eliot, however, brought his sophisticated brain into poetry. We live in a dark world. Dark and evil. Poets are some of the people who bring some light, though feeble and flickering, to that dark

Internet does not discriminate

Anybody can be a victim of the frauds perpetrated on the internet day in and day out. Even the Delhi Chief Minister’s daughter was duped of Rs 34,000 by an online scammer two years ago when she was trying to sell a used sofa on the popular platform OLX. You may belong to a powerful family which can easily access the help of the police system, but you can be swindled easily and that too on a popular platform which is supposed to have all sorts of security measures. The internet does not discriminate. Many of us are familiar with the TV series Jamtara . You may also know that Jamtara is another underdeveloped district of Jharkhand. A lucrative phishing operation is what sustains the plot of the popular series. Sabka Number Ayega , threatens the subtitle menacingly. You and I may become the victims of some internet fraud any day. Anyone, young or old, learned or illiterate, powerful or pedestrian… anyone can be a victim at any time. With the coming of Artificial Intelligence, there i

Reading the Gita

I don’t usually read religious scriptures because, whenever I tried to read them, I found them absurd, silly or utterly nonsensical. Nevertheless, I ordered an annotated copy of the Bhagavat Gita from Amazon the other day. When the book was delivered all too promptly, Maggie asked why I wanted to read the Gita now. I had read it once, some twenty years ago, when I was teaching in Delhi. Almost all of my students and colleagues there were Hindus and the school was run by a Hindu organisation too. So I wanted to be familiar with the Gita . When I read, it didn’t appeal to me any more than the other scriptures I had read such as the Bible or the Quran. “Our country is going to be a Hindu Rashtra soon. Nay, for all practical purposes, it is already one.” I told Maggie. “Shouldn’t we know what the scriptures of our nation’s official religion say?” Maggie dismissed my explanation as yet another instance of my habitual crankiness. But I was serious. I really wanted to find out whether

North vs South

Dr Shashi Tharoor delivered the keynote address at Dakshin Dialogues 2023 in Bengaluru recently. An edited version of the speech is given in the Open magazine of 30 Oct 2023. I would like to draw the attention of the readers to the salient points raised by Tharoor. India rewards the brute demographic advantages of the north to the detriment of the south. The south is exploited brutally by the Modi government whose policies are all meant for transmuting India into some bizarre entity envisaged as Hindi-Hindutva-Hindustan. A very obvious illustration of this exploitation is the reduction of funds for the southern states year after year. For every rupee of the tax paid by UP, they receive Rs 1.79 from the centre, and Karnataka receives Re 0.47. Tharoor points out bluntly, “The irony is that historically, the South has been subsidising the North.” Karnataka meets 72% of its expenses from the state’s own taxes while Bihar is able to meet a mere 23% of its expenses by itself. UP, Biha

A Trek in the Himalayas

Maggie and I on the way to Hemkund Trekking in the Garhwal Himalayas is both fun and adventure. Thanks to the school in Delhi where I taught for a considerable period of my life, I got opportunities to climb many a peak in the Himalayas along with groups of young students. The best was the Hemkund trek. Hemkund is a glacial lake that lies about 15,000 feet (4572 metres) above sea level in the Himalayas. It’s a Sikh pilgrimage centre dedicated to the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh (1666-1708). There is a gurudwara on the bank of the lake. It is a two-day trek for ordinary folk who are not professional trekkers in the mountains. You climb about three-fourth of the total distance on day one. The trek starts from Joshimath, the place that was in news two years ago because of the catastrophic floods and landslides that wreaked unprecedented havoc in the mountains. Joshimath itself is at an altitude of 6150 feet (1875 metres). Our bus carried us up to Joshimath from where we started the trek

God is War

A Palestinian child whose dear ones were killed Pic from Malayalam weekly   They are killing each other because their gods are different. Each of the gods is a jealous entity. Yahweh, the God of the Jews, admitted his own jealousy. He told the Jews, his chosen race, “For you shall worship no other god, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” [Exodus 20:4] Allah of Islam makes no less claims. While Yahweh allows other gods to exist, Allah apparently isn’t as generous as that. La ilaha illallah. Both these gods together have caused endless misery on the earth. They have made their chosen people squeamishly narrowminded and incapable of living in harmony with others. Why on earth did anyone think of putting these two people together on a desert? Mahatma Gandhi was right. He was against the creation of Israel as a country for the Jews. He was not one who would give credence to fairy tales such as a race being God’s favourite and so on. “I am not moved by the argument that the Jews

Beloved and God

Let me start with a disclaimer. This is not a book review though I’m relying on Royston Lambert’s book , Beloved and God (1984) for most of the information contained in this post. The eponymous hero of the book is Antinous who died in his early 20s. Soon after his death he became a God in the Roman Empire because he was the beloved of Emperor Hadrian . What I wish to highlight is how a god can be created pretty easily and how the religion founded in his name can become popular too as easily. I think my country’s present leaders can take some lessons from here. Hadrian was quite a good emperor. A benevolent dictator, in the judgment of many historians. He did very many good things for the benefit of his people instead of going around conquering more territories. [China too can learn something.] One of those many things was giving the people a new god and religion. He did much better things earlier, of course. Antinous was an adolescent boy when Hadrian’s eyes fell on him first

Beyond the delights of belief

There are two worlds for each one of us. One where there is order, purpose, love, and joy. The plain truth is that this world of goodness is our own creation. We create the order, the purpose, and all the rest of it. Then there is the second world, a ruthless one which is beyond our control. The Goods and Services Tax (GST), the occasional floods and landslides, deadly viruses, and the Enforcement Directorate. And a lot more, of course. Confronted with the horrors and terrors of this second world, we seek solace and some sort of spiritual belief comes to our aid easily. It’s so facile to believe that there is a God sitting somewhere up there bringing this second world under some kind of control in response to our prayers. Mark Twain found this God too infantile to accommodate. In his book Letters from the Earth , Twain made Satan visit the earth. Twain’s Satan is astounded to find that humans think God is watching them. As if God has nothing else to do than watch some silly crea