Monday, October 12, 2015


It is a blessing to be able to smile after you have crossed over into that period of life which people would rather refer to with the help of some euphemism than plainly as ‘old age.’  When friends of the same age group counsel you condescendingly that “age is a matter of the mind,” you are free to smile.  Smile at the condescension.  Or you can smile at the hypocrisy.  Or self-delusion, if you wish to look at it that way.  You are free to smile when people choose to call it positive thinking.  And you can smile all the way as you drive to some Art of Living prayer session which will teach you avant-garde terminology for the senility that inevitably catches up with you.

The realisation that life is all the sound and fury that transpires between the wail that marks your arrival on the scene and the gasp that pushes you out can be an ideal source of smile.  The lessons that your near and dear ones tried to teach you in the countless scenes of the drama of life may deserve pretty much smiling.   The lessons in charity, for example, which were not quite charitable.  Green indignation over your jealousy.  Mocking chuckles about your cocking a snook at what failed to appeal to your snobbery.  Fiery sermons that scorch the lust that befriended your youth. 

Life is generous with opportunities for smiling.  Thomas Grey’s flowers that blush for you alone in the air of your willed solitude.  The country roads that stretch into welcoming twilights.  The smiles on the wayside, smiles not warped by pedantry or self-righteousness, not tainted by the city’s rat-race. 

There’s so much to smile at. 

PS: Inspired by Indispire Edition 86 : #YouMakeMeSmile

Sunday, October 11, 2015

You are Dying, Columbus

You are dying, Columbus.
I wish your corpse would carry to your grave
the sins you committed
against whole races of people,
my people, and all the other people,
whom you held to ransom
in the name of a god and a king and his queen.

What were you but a thief, a murderer and a rapist?
You came armed with a sword in one hand
and the Bible in the other.
Our women were naive to welcome you
with gifts of parrots and bales of cotton;
They showered their hospitality on you
and made spears for your men on your demand.
And you killed them with those spears
after raping them.

Did your god smile
when you poured the baptismal water
on our infants
who grew up to be plunderers
of the earth
like you?

We were clay in your hands
and you moulded us
in your image.
We despise us
in your image.

PS: America is celebrating Oct 12 as Columbus Day.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

When Intellectuals Wake Up

Finally India’s intellectuals are waking up, it seems.  “The tide of intolerance has risen to such a level that individuals do not have the freedom to eat what they like or to love a person of their choice,” said Sara Joseph, eminent Malayalam novelist, who has decided to return her Sahitya Adkademi award following the example set by Nayantara Sahgal.  Hindi poet Ashok Vajpeyi had already returned his award.  Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas followed suit.  Sashi Despande stepped down from the Akademi’s General Council. Former Akademi secretary and poet K. Satchidanandan has announced his decision to resign his membership in all committees of the Akademi.  Subhash Chandran, Malayalam novelist and Akademi award winner, has told a TV channel that he is going to return his award.  Short story writer P.K. Parakkadavu, member of the Sahitya Akademi General Council, said he is resigning his membership in the council with immediate effect. Literary critic K.S. Ravikumar, member of the General Council, has already resigned.  There may be others who have joined in or are doing so.

A cry in the mountain can set an avalanche in motion.  Provided the cry rises from the right throat.

With so many writers taking up the cudgel on behalf of individual liberty, there is reason to be optimistic in contemporary India. 

Truth was becoming the biggest casualty in the country.  Individual liberty, after that.  Fascism had begun to unsheathe its claws and fangs. 

And there’s Hardik Patel who has declared the Gujarat model of development a myth.  He is threatening to expose the reality behind the myth.

India is waking up to the harsh realities buried beneath expedient shibboleths and psychedelic slogans.   Chak de, India.

Friday, October 9, 2015

We and They

Fascism is an act of contempt.  Albert Camus made a detailed analysis of that contempt in his book, The Rebel.  Conversely, said Camus, “every form of contempt, if it enters politics, prepares the way for, or establishes, fascism.”

Those of us who are not victims of selective amnesia may remember certain mock-slogans such as Hum paanch, humara pachees which won the sloganeer tremendous popularity in the country.  If from Mein Kampf the road led straight to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, the mock slogans of the country’s most eloquent orator have brought us to Dadri.  Leaving aside a Nayantara Sahgal and an Ashok Vajpeyi, the intellectuals in the country are lulled into stupor by the eloquent contempt.  Have we reached that stage where –  as in Camus’s analysis of fascism – one leader, one people translates into one master, millions of slaves

Finally when the orator broke his silence on the issue he took recourse to the counsel given by the President who is a soft-spoken man with no gift of the gab at all.  Why didn’t the orator declare his own ideology?  His own philosophy about the plurality of the country’s culture and religions?

Hitler did not have any clear set of principles or ideology, argues Camus.  He was a man of action.  Action alone kept Hitler alive, says Camus.  For him, to exist was to act.  That is why Hitler and his regime needed enemies.  Bereft of a constructive vision, the leader can only survive on hatred of the enemy and the constant action it generates.  The very meaning, the purpose of existence, for such people is defined in relation to their enemies. 

Yet the enemy has to be decimated too.  The regime moves from conquest to conquest, from enemy to enemy, until the empire of blood and action is established.  Or else, the march ends in total defeat – as it happened in the case of Hitler.

As long as the march is going on, it is only conquest, occasional setbacks notwithstanding.  Hitler used to tell his generals that nobody was going to ask the victor whether he abided by truths or not.  Hermann Goring, one of Hitler’s generals, repeated again and again during his trial that “The victor will always be the judge, and the vanquished will always be the accused.”

The guilt of the perpetrator of violence is shifted easily to the victim wherever there are victors and the vanquished.  “They disrespected the religion of the majority.”  That’s the crime.  You can see that verdict in the umpteen comments made by readers below online newspaper reports of the Dadri lynching and related issues.  It doesn’t even matter whether the hapless man had actually eaten what he had been accused of! 

Even if the man had eaten the food forbidden by the so-called majority, did he deserve the kind of death he was awarded?  During Hitler’s heyday the Nazi newspapers proclaimed a “divine mission,” namely, “to lead everyone back to his origins, back to the common Mother.” The Germans were divided into we and they.  ‘We’ became the cogs in the fascist machinery, and they (those who did not belong to the common Mother) were viewed as the waste products to be dumped. 

Let us hope that our great leader, instead of relying on the feeble inspiration muttered by the President, will use his eloquence to reunify the nation on a platform of pluralism where even bovine metaphors can have different meanings to different people as they ought to.