Thursday, May 5, 2016

NOTA on my ballot

Courtesy: Lawlex
Just ten days from the elections in Kerala, I’m left wondering who to vote for.  The UDF government that ruled the state for the last five years has almost ruined the state.  Scams and scandals haunted the government throughout its reign.  It appears that every Congressman in the state is either a money-guzzler or an accomplice of some swindler.  When the Opposition leader, nonagenarian V S Achuthanandan, alleged that there were many charges against the Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy filed a defamation case for a damage of Rs 1 lakh.  Mr Chandy’s reputation cannot be very precious when the wily man had refused to file any defamation charge against Saritha Nair who went on hurling all sorts of allegations against him.  There seem to be very few Congressmen left in Kerala whose otherwise immaculately white, perfectly starched, khadi shirts are not tainted with variegated stains of corruption.  There are a few who are not corrupt in the traditional sense.  But they are guilty of breeding factionalism in the party. 

I can’t vote for the UDF.  My finger will recoil if it tries to press the UDF button on the electronic ballot box.  

The LDF is still not sure who their leader is.  Achuthanandan is 92, thinks he is 22 and behaves occasionally like a 12 year-old adolescent out of parental control.  Most prominent leaders in the Front can never see Achuthanandan eye to eye.  But when the election comes, they will project him as the supreme leader of the Front.  Achuthanandan is honest but anachronistic.  Not only his honesty but particularly his socialist idealism is out of sync with the contemporary world.  They, his honesty and idealism, are great vote-catchers.  His party knows that and is using the man effectively.  But once the elections are over, the game will change.  Honesty and idealism will be shunned. 

At any rate, it’s time for Achuthanandan to retire from active politics.

Pinarayi Vijayan is an efficient leader.  He won’t mind dumping some of the obsolete leftist policies if the party comes to power.  He won’t hesitate to call a spade a spade.  But he is not entirely untouched by corruption charges.  There is no reason to assume that he is going to a lead an efficient government which can effectively yoke socialist plough with the capitalist bulldozer.  Most party workers still labour under socialist illusions.  Even if Vijayan wants to revolutionise socialism by adapting it to the given reality, his party cadres won’t let him do it. 

If the UDF swallowed the state’s coffers, the LDF will take the state back by a few years.  My finger is likely to recoil at the sight of the LDF candidate’s name too, it seems.

There is a third front on the ascent.  About a dozen small parties have come together under the banner of the NDA.  I detest right wing politics.  My whole being rebels against the antique outlook of the right wingers.  Theirs is a vision that should be relegated to the museum as curious exhibits.  Vellapally Natesan who is a prominent leader of the NDA front in Kerala is a mere opportunist and has a reputation for swindling his own people.  There is not a single leader with any worthwhile vision in the Right front.  So my finger won’t even move in that direction.

NOTA seems to be the option left.  But is NOTA a responsible choice.  It is found that NOTA has been extensively used in reserved constituencies by upper class people to declare their opposition to the reservation of the seat.  I am against reservations.  But is the polling booth the right platform for registering my protest?  Do I want anarchy in the country?  Is a corrupt leader better than no leader?

I’m still thinking.  I have ten days more to think.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


The word became flesh
And the flesh was nailed to the cross
In a religious ritual
On a mount called Calvary.
Crucifixion became a ritual. 

“Hey Ram!” Called out
the flesh that was nailed
again and again
by owners of The Truth.
The cry became the ritual. 

“Shed the skin like a snake
And regain your new self,”
said the Buddha.
Becoming snake became a ritual.

 PS. Written for Indispire Edition 115 which had already extracted a post from me: Matching Heartbeats.  I'm obliged to write one more post on the theme by the latest posts at Indiblogger.  This is my response to some of the posts which I did not endorse at Indiblogger. #rituals

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Progress toward suicide

In a rather sentimentally titled article, The Saddest Trend, The Economist says that more and more people are committing suicide in the country of “inexorable progress.”  From 1999 to 2014, the suicide rates in America rose by 24%. 

The article does not list any reasons.  America is a dream for many people in the world.  So many Asians are willing to sacrifice their lifetime savings in order to be able to migrate and live in America, the perceived paradise on earth.  America, the land of progress, the land of dreams, the zenith of human aspirations.  Yet the Americans are choosing to end their lives prematurely!  “Men shoot themselves, women take poison,” tells the article pithily. 

Let the reasons be, whatever they are.  We shall wait for experts to analyse them. In the meanwhile, we may ask ourselves why is India, our country, leaving no stone unturned in following in the footsteps of this nation whose people are choosing death over life. 

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza: End of the Road
Source: DeviantArt
We have adopted the American economic policies and the attendant development dreams lock, stock, and barrel.  Statistical data about economic growth and per capita income give us orgasmic ecstasies.  We have replaced our natural forests with concrete jungles.  We have killed our rivers with industrial effluents.  We have converted our villages, what the father of the nation called the soul of the country, into deserts. 

But we are marching like Don Quixote and his most loyal Sancho Panza towards “inexorable progress.”

For what?

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Women and Equality

The latest issue of Frontline has put women’s equality on the cover.  India, which dreams of being a political superpower, is still paradoxically grappling with discriminations of all sorts: caste, religion, gender, language, and what not.  We still have religious leaders like Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, the Sankaracharya of Dwarkapeeth in Gujarat, who preach such claptrap as that the recent firework accident in a Kerala temple occurred because of the people who demand equality for women with respect to temple entry.  We have political leaders like Pankaja Munde, Women and Child Development Minister of Maharashtra, who uphold the discrimination in the name of “tradition.” 

The Dancing Girl
of Mohenjodaro
How long should we let ignorance and falsehood dominate religion?  The Shankaracharya’s teaching is sheer falsehood while the Minister’s reveals ignorance.  Both falsehood and ignorance have played a significant role in religion throughout its history.  Most religious teachings go against plain logic and the findings of science.  Many scientists and philosophers have sacrificed their lives on the altars of gods with grotesque shapes.  More terrifying, the sacrificial killers are venerated as saints in many religions.

Traditions can (and should, in most cases) change as time changes.  In her Frontline article, Prof R. Mahalakshmi shows how even the Buddha was willing to change traditions with necessary conditions.  When some women wished to become monks, the Buddha did not initially relent.  He had reasons like the presence of too many women might attract robbers and other offenders.  However, he did relent eventually making necessary changes in the rules and doctrines.

Women were restricted from many places in the past for various reasons.  Sabarimala, for example, was not a place where women could climb safely in those ancient days.  It was a dangerous forest on a rugged hill.  Today Sabarimala is a totally different place.  There is no risk involved in the ascent.  So why should women be dismissed from the presence of the deity?  Tradition, again.  The deity there is a confirmed bachelor!  Lord Ayyappa who overcame various temptations during his life and faced severe challenges with the courage of a warrior must be blushing with shame when his vulnerability vis-à-vis menstruating women is being projected as a tradition.

It is up to India, the projected Superpower, to decide how long it is going to let ignorance and falsehood dominate its religion.  As Prof Mahalakshmi points out in her article (cited above), it is more about exploitation of certain sections than mere ignorance and falsehood.  And it is not only religion that is being employed in that exploitative process in India today.  There is a whole political and economic system that is turning out to be grossly discriminatory and exploitative.

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