Saturday, August 19, 2017

One Crore-Rupee Question

The issue raises a lot of questions.  First of all, how does a candidate retrieve that amount assuming that he passes the exam and gets the job?  Obviously, he will have to be utterly corrupt.  Corruption is nothing new in India and no eyebrows will be raised at the mention of it.  But when people in the judiciary become so corrupt, what justice can we expect?  The innocent will go to jail because they may not have the money to pay for justice while the criminals will reign supreme.  This is a very serious matter. 

Secondly, why should one pay one crore rupees just for a question paper?  Remember it’s not for a job that the money will have to be paid but for a question paper securing which need not ensure a job.  If a person can afford to pay such a fabulous sum for a question paper, does he really require that job?  Why not deposit that amount in a bank and live on the interest comfortably?  The interest will amount to about ₹65,000 per month which is a fabulous sum by Indian standards.  Just sit at home and enjoy a rich life without doing anything.  Anything at all.  Best of all, without corrupting the judiciary, without sending innocent people to jail, without having to pollute the Ganga further with more sins.

Thirdly, why are people willing to pay such sums?  Is it because they just need a job somehow instead of sitting idle at home and enjoy the comforts bought by the monthly interests?  Is it because people don’t know what to do with such free time afforded by their wealth?  Is it because there are people who have too much black money in spite of demonetisation and other measures such as tax reforms?

Fourthly, if the judiciary is potentially so corrupt, what can we expect from the other systems?  Are all such examinations compromised?  Have we created a country in which the wealthy are buying up all the jobs and positions?  We know that seats in medical colleges, engineering colleges and most other professional institutions are being sold to the children of the affluent who may not have secured even the basic qualifying marks.  How far has this sort of corruption corroded the systems in the country?

Is there any way we can arrest the spread of this sort of corruption so that the meritorious and the deserving get their rightful places and positions?

It is high time that the government stopped focusing on cows, yoga and other such things touted as supreme in the name of religion and culture and take serious measures to clean up the systems.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Utmost Happiness

Book Review

The world today resembles the macabre settings in the gothic novels: horror, death and a little romance. Unlike in those novels, however, there is no resolution of the problems.  Life today is, as Arundhati Roy’s novel under review says, “a rehearsal for a performance that never eventually materializes.”  It is impossible to make a neat narrative with the traditional elements of beginning, crisis, climax and resolution.  The world is full of debris left by the horror and death.  A writer is condemned to gather the fragments lying shattered all over and put them together to make as meaningful a picture as possible.  This is what Roy’s novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, does. 

The novel tells the story of many people – too many people, in fact – one of whom is a transgender Anjum who “lived in a graveyard like a tree” after a tragedy that befell her during the 2002 Gujarat riots.  Though Anjum is a Muslim she was not killed by the rioters because of the belief that “Hijron ka maarna apshagun hota hai”.  Anjum realises with horror that she, a hijra, is a “Butcher’s luck”. 

It is a butchers’ world.  The butchered are human beings.  The graveyard is the right place for the human beings.  Anjum builds her home in the graveyard and even the municipality bureaucrats (who are compared to the hijras because of their unique dexterity to smell a celebration and arrive there to demand their share) don’t dare to evict her from there.  She makes her home in the graveyard so fine that she calls it Jannat House. 

Later in the novel, in Kashmir, Major Amrik Singh of the Indian Army compares himself to a travel agent who facilitates the Kashmiri jihadis to reach their jannat where their houris are waiting for them.  He calls himself Jannat Express though he is more fond of a sexual metaphor: “Dekho mian, mein Bharat Sarkar ka lund hoon, aur mera kaam hai chodna.” 

Anjum finds her jannat in the graveyard.  Major Amrik Singh finds it in “fucking” the jihadis.  In search of her personal jannat is Tilottama, the other major character, whose name is shortened to Tilo.  Tilo is a dark-skinned Malayali who studied architecture in Delhi, smoked Ganesh beedies kept in a Dunhill cigarette packet, and wore an ill-fitting shirt bought from the second-hand clothes market outside the Jama Masjid.  Her quest for her personal jannat will link Anjum’s Delhi with the jihadis’ Kashmir. 

One of the many jihadis in Kashmir is Musa, Tilo’s classmate in Delhi School of Architecture.  Tilo joins him in Kashmir and there is a bit of gothic romance.  Musa who lost his wife and child in a counter-terror attack knows very well that Tilo is a rare specimen.  He knows that if he had married her he would be wearing the hijab and she would be running around the underground with a gun.  That’s Tilo, the quintessential rebel which is what Arundhati Roy is.

Musa knows well that the Indian government has made Kashmir a land of “duplicity”.  Jannat is far, too far, from Kashmir.  “Duplicity is the only weapon we have,” says Musa.  “You don’t know how radiantly we smile when our hearts are broken.  How ferocious we can turn on those we love while we graciously embrace those whom we despise.”

The utmost happiness lies in Anjum’s graveyard jannat. 

This is a novel about the fragmented world or the fragmented Bharat where cows are better off at least policy-wise.  It is about how India is destroying itself with its hatred of certain people.  The novel makes use of a lot of fragments like diary entries, letters, lessons written by Tilo for The Reader’s Digest Book of English Grammar and Comprehension for Very Young Children and so on to tell the story.  The author’s creative genius is evident in the novel.  But the novel fails to satisfy a serious reader at some level.  (Non-serious readers won’t go beyond a few pages anyway.) There are too many characters and too many fragments which don’t combine into an aesthetically unified whole, a whole which is greater than the sum of the parts. 

The socio-political activist in the author has superseded the literary artist.  Nevertheless the novel is a valuable contribution especially in the current scenario where the waters in all the holy rivers of the country have been riled by much vindictive politics. 

Acknowledgement: I'm indebted to a blogger-friend who gifted me a copy of the novel. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Not your place


I had warned him.  “Facebook is not a place for a person like you.”  That’s what I had told him.  Could I make it clearer than that?  Especially to the best mathematics teacher in the school? 

Mathematics doesn’t teach you the equations of human affairs.  Facebook does.  Facebook can, at least, provided you know where to draw the line between trust and friendship.  Between genuineness and deceit.

Stupid! You are too good for Facebook. Could I tell him that?  You tell me.  How do we deal with somebody who is a successful mathematics teacher with a loving wife and two loving children when he chooses to go active in Facebook when he cannot even get his water supply properly because he does not know how to communicate with the government officers in the Panchayat office who don’t know how to calculate hundred minus hundred though they know what a two hundred rupee bribe is?

Some people fall on this earth by mistake.  He belongs to that category.  That’s why I love him.  That’s why he loves me.  I’m a useless person.  I look around for those who need help and render that help.  But I’m a crook. I have political ambitions.  I set cows loose on the streets so that I can catch antinational people.

He was upset with Facebook posts about Dalits and Muslims being killed in the name of cows.  The idiot didn’t even know that cows are scapegoats.  I could not tell him cows today are scapecows.  We are creating a new vocabulary.  A new lingo.  The mathematics teacher didn’t understand that.  Can’t understand that scapegoat has become scapecow in the new lingo.

That’s why he has gone into depression.  I told him to quit Facebook.  Live with your family, man.  I told him.  But he wants some society, he says.  What is society?  You tell me. 

In the meanwhile, let him take antidepressant pills if he doesn’t know that his society is his family. He doesn’t belong anywhere else. 

One Crore-Rupee Question

A question paper of the Haryana Civil Services (Judicial Branch) examination was up for sale .   The price: one crore rupees. Th...