Saturday, June 13, 2020

Lieutenant General .R.Gopal

It has been a long ride on the road for many of us in the decades that went by after college. A rollercoaster to me personally. But what gives immense pleasure is when you see close friends go up the road, steadily, and (it may seem) effortlessly. The pleasure, the satisfaction one gets to see friends scaling heights in their career is so immense that you must love it to feel it.
One such mate is leaving the Indian Army today. Another bloke will retire from the State Bank of India tomorrow as the Chief General Manager. KT.Ajith the bibliophile, quintessential Kannur leftist liberal (if I may) who cast away what could have also have been a promising career as a Chartered Accountant and joined the SBI mid-stream.
But Lieutenant General Gopal.R UYSM, AVSM, SM of the 8 Gorkha Rifles stands out. Lieutenant General R Gopal held the reins of the prestigious Spear Corps. Spear Corps is one of the largest and operationally active Corps of the Indian Army and headquartered in Dimapur, Nagaland.
Lieutenant General Gopal R, (Retired) is an alumnus of the IMA, Higher Command Courses, and the National Defence College. He has had an illustrious career encompassing command, staff & instructional appointments including those of commanding an Infantry Battalion on the Siachen Glacier, a mountain brigade, and an Assam Rifles Range in South Assam. He was one of the first members of the team which established the Defence Command and Staff College at Botswana.
Gopal stands out unique for tethering himself to one solitary goal in life- a career as a commissioned officer in the Army and to succeed. He indeed did that enviably! His love for the Army, his ambition, his dedication, and the uncompromising attachment to the only goal in his life- to be a soldier! It was a sole obsession unlike what many others like me harboured. And what makes the position he retires worthy as no diamond can be is that he has had a satisfying and proud career spanning 40 years. A soldier who chose the infantry as an obsession!
I first saw him while we were in the Model High School, Thiruvanathapuram and interactions may not have happened because I was a different fish and had other friends and priorities than being obsessed with lessons or the NCC. Later, while I was in the Mahatma Gandhi College, I saw him pass by every afternoon at 3.40 pm precisely on his bicycle. Speeding back home from MarIvanios College. We used to greet him every day with howls and catcalls. He would shyly smile and wiz past, sometimes in his NCC uniform. Those days we would yell,”pattalam”.Now, I can audaciously mention that I’m among the couple or three who dare call him “pattalam”, even to this day.
Two years later we were in the same class at Marivanios College. And since those days I have seen him at the close quarters as the paradigm of dedication and honesty. He has limited fascinations and indulgences unlike most of us, and perhaps what that dominates his attention is gathering information. Sometimes one feels the guy is trying to know too many things. Idiosyncrasies!
A teetotaler. Perhaps most of his quota of spirits were utilised for me. I cannot forget one instance many years ago when I was in Thiruppr. Those days’ mobile phones were yet to be outside science fiction. He sent me a postal mail that his Gorkha would be passing Thiruppur (time mentioned along with the train number) and would I collect a crate of beer from him. Did I need any persuasion? Though the train arrived late by about 8 hours, I could see a diminutive Nepali Gorkha standing on the platform just outside a compartment with the crate of beer and holding aloft a placard with my name on it.
The melee and furore that preceded his train journey in 1980 to New Delhi for the interview and selection process to the IMA are still vivid. An inebriated TTE who tried to finesse his travel almost got strangulated by a furious and incensed young Gopal. For the drunken man was shattering his only dream, and would he for the love of God let someone do that and have his way? Fortunately, the situation was mollified and he could travel on the train with no restraint.
The bloke will seek his old classmates wherever they might be and visit them during his vacation here in Thiruvananthapuram. This is a unique character and seldom have I seen this in any other.
I, Christy, and Aravind can never forget the Royalty we were when we spent a few days in his bungalow in Dimapur as his guest in 2018 December. It was rather awkward and embarrassing to us when the sentries at his gate saluted us each time we went out for a stroll, or whenever they saw us lounge outside on the lawn. As ordinary civilians that were too heavy for us to bear. But looking back, we felt proud to be his friends and guest. It was that unique status that mattered. The many times we spent with him in Wellington, Conoor while he was a Major and a student at the Staff College, and later as Lt. Colonel and Colonel there, are unforgettable.
If I were to suggest a marquis to aspiring young folks, I would suggest Lt. General Gopal R (Retired). For his uncompromising ambition, the earnest efforts put in to achieve his goal, the dedication, sincerity, and honesty with which he accomplished his role.
Welcome mate into the world of civilians and that of social media you had to avoid all along. And the honour of continuing to be “Pattalam” for many of us is solely yours.
It’s with a lot of pride, mate,that I end.
(I just called Raji his wife, and she told me she was at home waiting for him and he is in his office in South Block ).

Saturday, May 23, 2020

By the Power of Emoticons

 I have noticed distinct characteristics in men and women here on Facebook. Some men who brook no criticism, disagreement or even a suggestion take the easiest recourse–abuse and slander! These days seem endemic to Sanghis and unrefined Marxists. Even fans of the Snake wrangler Vava Suresh abused me with such astounding expletives that will pale the toxin of the most venomous of snakes. While women true to themselves walkout and block you when you disagree. Both are intellectually bankrupt lot. What do you think?

Recently three ladies slammed the door in my face on Facebook. One came back rather tame a few months later and said as if she never was the termagant ‘B’ who went away with a snort.” Hi, can you tell me what you think of this?”
I side-wheeler, why are you back here asking me? Why must I engage  with a person overflowing with cussedness?”
“Oh, sorry about that.”
So there she was, but in less than a month she walked out again when I did not agree with her conspiracy theories on matters ranging from moon-landing climate change to the necessity of a vaccine for Covid-19. She boasted that she had never vaccinated her daughter or her pet dogs and never will.
I asked, “not even for polio?”                                                                                                                    She was imperious and said  “Yes and never.”
“Oh, lady, your daughter is 25 and tremendously lucky, and you were stupid.” She unfriended me on FB and blocked my phone too.

Another one with strong detestation for Narendra Modi caught up on Facebook. She seemed knowledgeable and concerned about matters around us and was not uneasy about expressing strongly. But, I was soon to realise that the detestation of Moditva is no guarantee of social relationships.
She wrote on her page that no one is to share her opinions or what she posts without her permission. I wondered if what we write or post on social media attracts copyright law to demand that others should not copy. I also mentioned that the share button is an allowance for copying and if not acknowledging the source or tagging the source would suffice, perhaps! And I suggested rather check with an expert on copyright laws. That peeved her. She went off on a different tangent. She accused me of insensitivity and disregard for another person’s misfortune. That I expressed amusement through a laughing emoji when she wrote in a brief review of the movie “Thappad” , that she thanked her stars she chose to be single.

Gosh, for once the power of emoticons struck me. I  amused now and truly!

I told her, yes it amused me because these days, we often hear the young say so and I have a few amusing cases that I knew where such extreme views for frivolous reasons were raised. Besides, I did not watch the film to critique on it, and my expression was not either disapproving or approving the premise of the story.
The fact was, she followed up and wrote that she walked out on her spouse who was abusive and no man may hit her or have a say over her body, and I was being a true misogynistic sod. By the time, I wrote to her I was sorry for the misunderstanding and there was no way I knew her past, and now I feel awed by her courage and hope she understood my expression through an emoji was not meant to be offensive, she blocked me and vanished.
What a fascinating and convoluted place in this virtual world of social media and the world of emojis!

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Do I Hate Modi? A citizen's Posit

The usual refrain is, “you ignorant Modi haters, your dislike for the man is blinding you, and you do not want to accept the good he has done. You sickular, urban-naxal, antinational commies”. Now, this comment has become so hackneyed, that it has begun to show out glaringly who is ignorant if not blinded and biased.
Am I biased in my opinion about Narendra Damodardas Modi the prime minister of India? Do I hate the man so much so, that my assumptions and opinions are prejudiced against him and his almost 6 years as the country’s prime minister? Often I sat back and thought, after all, could these folks be right, that I was biased? Are my opinions and comments (though constitutional given right), determined by my hatred for the man? Do I hate him?

Heads of States often occupy chairs that are unenviable and as the cliché goes, to quote the Shakespearian lament, “………and in the calmest and stillest night,
with all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

I thought and I thought, I even excised the Godhra, and the Gujarat programme from my mind and then juxtaposed next to Narendra Modi, King Henry bemoaning his position as King that he, unlike even the most penurious could not have a moment peace and repose. I drew void! For Modi in his exalted avatar as the master of all, he surveys in the past 6 years as the country’s prime minister failed himself, the people and the country. One must be an incorrigibly blind or a twat to think different.

Before I ventured here to explain my opinion, I had asked his fans to highlight a few of his achievements that changed the country for good, and then, perhaps I could alter my opinion. But since the few times I have done so I invited only invectives and even termination of a longstanding friendship I hasten here to explain my point as a citizen who exercised his vote in the preceding two general elections. So this opinion here of Narendra Modi is that of an ordinary voter, and I hold no political affiliation.

True I had serious reservations against Narendra Modi coming to power. More so if he would retain power in the previous elections. That aside, when he rode into New Delhi in his previous tenure, I wished fervently that I was wrong. His truly symbolic gesture genuflecting at the doors of the country’s parliament made me hope that I could be wrong in understanding the man. I could recall that his more famous predecessor Indira Gandhi virtually held the very Parliament as a juggler would the juggling pins. And she made the cabinet and the house servile and mute, while she mauled the constitution, superseded Judges with pliable ones,
deracinated institutions of democracy and even suspended fundamental rights for 18 long months! Now here we have a lesser-known person, controversial but a commoner, go down on his knees and then prostrate at the doorstep of democracy as he himself put it. Indeed a matter to hope and have trust!
I thought, perhaps the thumping election win had chastened him and he would call upon his countrymen to unite, to leave behind parochial, communal and religious intolerances and differences, exhort camaraderie and universal brotherhood. I told to myself he will halt the limbo of the second UPA, tackle corruption that was killing the country, instill confidence in the economy, lend succor to the multitude of the needy, the underprivileged and the marginalised. Shun the divisive, hate-filled saffron- hindutva ideology that he exercised in Gujarat and as the Prime Minister enedavour to build an inclusive and rainbow nation (to paraphrase Bishop Desmond Tutu). Uplift the underprivileged and the marginalised, give meaning to Dalit life by going hard on caste and untouchability both still scourge and abomination in many parts of the country, and ensure tribals are not dispossessed and are treated like human beings and citizens of this country. He will heed scientific data and advise and strive to arrest climate change-related issues and ensure the environment is protected and not raped barren and left scorched in the name of development. That he would address the confidence reposed in him by the youth of the country who swayed by his “sab ke sath saka vikas” and “achedin” slogans flocked behind him. He would like a sorcerer pull out the rabbit that would halt the disastrous slide in Kashmir and deal with Pakistan and China as Statesman. He will recast the often shot-funded health and education, strive to persist with a scientific temper that Jawaharlal Nehru exhorted and is laid out in the Directive Principles of the constitution.

However, as days, weeks, months and years went by, Modi’s intentions became less curioser and less curioser. As Arun Shourie famously put it Modi rule is UPA plus the cow!
1- It became clearer and clearer that here we have saddled a man who is a thespian nonpareil, who thrives on theatrics and spectacles, gimmicks and foolery, who is a sophist and pedals falsehood at every turn, that even his academic qualification has become an apparent lie and joke, like the fantastic stories invented about his childhood.
2- A man who is so egoistic that his only intent is to enhance his image, whose knowledge of economics is penurious and yet his conceit and hubris prevents him from owning up his mistake or keeping talent and scholarship around him.
3- He is indebted to his crony capitalist friends for putting him in the prime minister's chair and quid pro quo became blatant.
4- And he instead of tackling corruption, in a way legalised it through an egregious instrument called “electoral bonds”.
5- He unleashed sectarianism and gave carte blanche authority to the Sangh parivar to inflict its hindutva goons on the society and began targeting Muslim, minorities, Dalits, and tribals, paving way for lynching in the name of the cow, the Hindu god Ram and the religion. The gentle beast, the cow became a predatory animal and the law enforcers’ facilitators of the crimes committed by saffron goons.
6- Bigotry soon was made the official religion and daily doses of outlandish, bizarre, idiocy BJP ministers and parliamentarians began to zealously mouth became an utter embarrassment to commonsense and to the country itself.
7- The extent of fear and emasculation that was to come among the intelligentsia was noticed even as back as 2014 when physicians sat mutely through a speech of Modi wherein he claimed, cosmetic surgery and reproductive genetics were used thousands of years ago in ancient India. He referred to the birth of mythical Karna and the figure of the elephant-headed god Ganesha as examples. Stupidity seemed to be seamless in Modi rule.
8- Then the most ridiculous, quixotic and heartless of all his decisions- demonetisation was inflicted on the country.
9- And one of the most novel of tax regimes- GST mooted by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and which Modi as the chief-minister opposed tooth and nail was rolled out hastily, without a proper plan or thought and literally botched it up. Modi’s yearning for theatrics and a position with the founding fathers of the country was so irresistible that he made the parliament convene at midnight to announce the new tax regime, without planning or forethought, throwing commerce and tax generation into a tailspin.
10- For the first time in the history of Independent India the world’s financial institutions began to sceptically eye statistical figures dished out by Modi government. It was pathetic, the country’s own Department of Statistics distanced from the government’s data and figures.
11- Lies and falsehood became the rule and norm. Cyber cells were set up to spread innuendos, falsehood, and canard.
12- The mammoth defence deal with France was arrogated by the man himself and his government stonewalled and refused to answer legitimate queries about the deal.
13- Procedures were steamrolled through in parliament with scant regard for conventions and propriety.
14- Constitution was defenestrated when Article 370 was abrogated.
15- Important legislations were blatantly piloted without debate and scrutiny in the lower house as money-bills, circumventing the possibility of discussion and bottlenecks in the opposition-controlled Rajyasabha.
16- An egregious law to use religious profiling like in the Third Reich to identify and sequester Muslims was passed in parliament, throwing the country into turmoil and Modi made the infamous and unstatesmanlike comment that protesting people can be identified by the dress they wear.
17- Institutions were systematically encroached and packed with ideologues, textbooks were refurbished with hindutva narratives and mumbo jumbo.
18- The Courts and the media were bought or bludgeoned to submission, institutions of higher learning were targeted, canards were spread about them and the students there and criminals escorted by police were given a free hand to enter campuses and attack faculty and students.
19- Police were used to aid rioters and let the capital of the country burn for three days, targeting Muslims.
20- Sufficient international reports and the WHO missive on the possibility of COVID-19 turning into a pandemic were ignored for one full month and more. Ostensibly Narendra Modi had more pressing issues to handle- the toppling of the government in the State of Madhya Pradesh and then the international thamsha of Donald Trump’s visit. By then the damage was done and proactive recourse were nonstarters.
21- Intolerance towards criticism and different opinions became so abusive that paled Indira Gandhi’s Emergency.
22- Contempt for scholarship, intellect, and science. Central funding for research tweaked to .8 percent of the GDP and funds for education and health slashed.
23- Like he claims if he is a democrat what prevented him from facing the media? Not one candid press meet in his tenure so far. That itself proves his weak guts when facing the truth.
24- As a person living in Kerala, I cannot forget how malevolently Narendra Modi finessed all sources of aid and assistance from friendly Arab countries that were promised to the State to stand up to the devastating flood two years ago.

The man’s penchant for theatrics and symbolic gestures which befool Indians have always been plenty during the past 6 years. His wailing to burn him at the stake if demonetisation was a failure moved people to such extent that they stood by him. But forgot to heed his offer when demonetisaion became a monumental blunder, fraud, and crime on Indians. The dramatics over the coffin of 40 soldiers blasted to oblivion in a bomb blast at a high-security zone in Pulwama and the outrage still remains a mystery like the Godhra, but moved people to a great emotional extent that they rallied behind the man. The adventures across the border on a cloudy night, evading Pakistani Radars to hunt terrorists amassed near the international border was enough reason to anoint Modi as Napoleon Bonaparte – the fearless, and like Lancelot the daring knight in shining armour that India was searching for 70 years! These two incidents propelled him back with a thumping majority, but over the dead bodies of thousands of farmers who ended their lives, plowed down by farm distress, 40-year high unemployment, economic tail-spin to an alarming extent, atrocities on dalits and refusal to hear their agony, marginalisation and insecurity among Muslims and minorities, hounding and dispossession of tribals and prevalent mutual suspicion in the society which reached a never seen proportion.

Before coming to the recent theatrics of clanging and banging vessels and then the lighting of candles and lamps, remember a delayed response and the decision to enforce a nationwide lock-down was implemented with a notice of 4 hours. We saw the exodus and frenetic scramble by lakhs of migrant labourers , total disruption and defeating the very purpose of lockdown. Modi's penchant for drama sans idea, planning and thought, in brief lack of commonsense and empathy reflected here. And again both spectacles proved clownish and disastrous from the very need to distance physically. Only time can tell what is in store. His call for clang- bang would have been welcome if Mister Modi had shown an iota of honesty and sincerity in dealing with sectarianism communal hatred his party and the Sangh fanned out. I would not have hesitated to be part of these exercises symbolically though if the man had uttered one effective sentence addressed to his bakths and Sanghi storm-troopers that unity and oneness should mean inclusiveness of all people irrespective of religion, caste and creed and that symbolisms must be translated into realism. I would have volunteered had he not infamously profiled dissenters based on what they wear. That was an outrageous utterance from the prime minister of the country. Let him first target bigotry, be it of whatever religious hue, if he sincerely wants unity among all Indians. A symbolic drama will be an irritating comedy and utter dishonesty when he, Narendra Modi has not to date shown one act of carrying all Indians with him.

Now it is not just hating it is the detestation of what he stands for and am offended that the prime minister of the country is a person who has created more division than the Brits could in their infamous imperial history. Mister Modi, there is still time and opportunity to make amends and leave a legacy that will make posterity dismiss your fallibilities and see you as a Statesman.

I see that the country has been changed forever and even if Modi is voted out in the next general elections in 2024 or even the one after (should there be one), it will be years before the social fabric of the country can be repaired and people would begin to trust their neighbours; where ethnicity, religion, and caste become insignificant and harmony, food, shelter, security and clean environment become existential matters

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Wizard King

Once upon a time there lived in a faraway land, a man who boasted a broad chest and he ruled over a kingdom where its people even surprised him for their lack of intelligence. And he rightly observed them so to his coterie. But they, his subjects, in their blinkered life had not seen a donkey and so could not compare themselves with the twat, dumb-looking timid beast. They believed their King was smart and they clever as their King.
The King was canny as a fox, but he also thought he was smart and had a high IQ. Kings from other kingdoms would always want to remind him politely he was an idiot like his subjects, but alas he always hastened to hug and charm them as soon as he saw them, that they preferred not to be candid and risk being rude in the bargain.
The fact remained as stark as that, that the King would go on national television as he often did and announced mad decrees he claimed were for the greater common good and demanded compliances which his donkey subjects, the twats gleefully obliged, eagerly looking up to him for more.
He was a sorcerer if he could hypnotise his donkey subjects and they joyfully followed him like even the pied piper of Hamelin would have no alternative but envy the King. He would proclaim his decrees at night and the next day, he would wail, beat his chest that they should burn him at the stake if he was wrong, and they forgave him, they could not bear tears in his eyes. They knew not that his eyes were of marble and could not generate tears. Often he would send out a decoy, a look-alike (though many say for real)- his old mamma to run the same errand he asked his donkey subjects to do and they would go gaga and dance singing eulogies of the King and his old mamma. The King would not even spare his old mamma! How noble! The King would laugh his guts out, rocking in his chair in his castle. And the donkeys in unionism would bray, “Oh, great leader, you are the shining star, the burning sun, son of Gods you could never be wrong. You are infallible, you are the light and deliverance.”
One day a little before midnight the King went on Television dressed in his splendid silk attire appliqued tapestry that at a closer look told was his name embroidered in the thread of gold, his snow-white mane immaculately groomed and waxed with ancient Indian herbs, its aroma stifling even through the television screens but as aromatic incense to his hallucinated subjects in their dreamy indolence. He then decreed that from midnight that night he was suspending the earth’s gravity so that his subjects could spread their wings, tethered until then by evil forces and fly with abandon. Midnight came by and his donkey subjects flocked and jostled to jump out of their apartment windows and float like fairies in the state of zero gravity. Many living in hutments scampered up coconut palms, so they could jump and fly. Such was his prehensile purchase and sway over them they gleefully jumped and flew; then they fell flat on their skulls and on their faces, on to the ground below like hailstones. Their craniums, ribs, and bones breaking like twigs, and still, they thought they felt they were flying, the strong cold wind in the sky blow in their faces. They were in awe that they could fly. And the wizard King with ease held them in his spell, that their broken skulls, dying hearts, and aching bodies refused to believe they did not fly. They bled and bled!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Circus after the Hanging

For some time yesterday early morning after I switched on the TV, I began to wonder if Covid-19 vanished from the country overnight. There was not a word of the contagion, all that burst out on TV channels was the hanging of the four rapists in the wee hours in Tihar.
It seemed like a carnival at the gates of Tihar. Newfound trust in the judiciary as placards displayed “we trust Judiciary”. Then all kinds of bizarre slogans which I now fail to recollect. Men were jubilant, so were women. It all seemed like some medieval circus where public executions had taken place and the crowd braying for more blood. The 7 years of wait had finally come to close and the Indian judicial system that moves as fast as a tortoise has ground its way and brought to close a sordid chapter of gang rape, brutality, and murder that may pale the wildest of barbarians even the Vikings.
7 years ago on a wintry night, the unfortunate Delhi girl was stalked by six savage men and after thrashing her companion to an almost invalid state the brutes set upon her gang-raped her in the most flagitious and dreadful way only human beings can think of. That night India as a country and we as social beings failed the young girl miserably. We failed because we let six depraved societal beings physically violate her – she was mauled and torn apart. The brutality that even wild beasts would not do was heaped on her. We again failed when we most outrageously rechristened her “Nirbhaya”, or the fearless. How dare we? How dare we presume that the girl was not plowed down by mortal fear when six hellish, debauched men pounced on her and ignoring her pleas, cries, and entreaties ripped her apart like hungry savage wild dogs? How dare we call her fantastic names ostensibly to elevate her on a high pedestal of courage and bravery and thereby mollify our collective guilt? She, a frail teenager, I’m sure could do nothing to resist when six cannibals had her pinned her down and set upon her in the most gruesome fashion words fail to tell. And we try to believe she was “fearless”! It makes me sick and retch when I hear the girl being referred to as “nirbhaya”, it must put down our heads in shame. She ought to be known by her given maiden name, her memory must not live under a pseudonym the hypocrite society granted her. That is the least justice we can do for her.
One can empathise with her parents who were pleading for the execution of her daughter's rapists. Their anguish minds could not have seen beyond that and the moral, ethical side of jurisprudence. When the mother said with relief that at last, her late daughter got justice, we could hold out our feelings for her. What else can a mother feel? But it makes me wonder when the general public says that “Justice served for ‘Nirbhaya”. What justice could a dead person possibly get? One said her soul was writhing would now be at peace. Semantics and fantastic phrases apart, the soul is itself a mirage that we human beings invented to appease our longing for immortality. A satisfaction we get when we think a part of us live even after we are dead.
What justice is it that we could give the girl now she is dead that we as a society collectively failed to provide her while she was alive? What justice are we waiting to render to the teenaged Unnao girl who was brutally raped and later murdered? What justice can we now give Asifa the seven-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped for days and murdered in a temple in Kathau, Kashmir? How many more individual justice are we to ensure for rape and murder of women and little girls that happen every day in this country? It is offensive that we even think of finding satisfaction and expect to clear our conscience by invoking the end word in such cases- “justice served”. My foot!
We saw tribal instincts come alive in front of Tihar yesterday morning and the kill TV channels found in the news of the hanging of the quartet, baring a few channels like the Asianet News and NDTV who simultaneously dealt with the very foundation of the premises on which capital punishment continues to be on the statute in countries like India that we call civilised. The benchmark for “rarest of rare case”, is a flawed premise. A protest against capital punishment will in today’s India be as seditious and anti-national as criticising Hindutva. The old and humane avatar of Kiran Bedi the fiery cop, when she took charge as the first female Inspector General of the prison, carried prison reforms that were in tune with a society that claimed to be civilised. She was upbraided for trying to reform the incorrigible and calling for human rights in prisons. It is an old primitive tribal notion that believes prisoners do not have their rights as human beings. One can even ask the hackneyed cliché well if something that happened to the Delhi girl fell upon your kin you might then think differently.
There is a sine qua non for calling ourselves a civilised lot. That must first ensure the patriarchal mindset and misogyny are erased from the society; children from a young age are taught to respect women; if an accused when guilty of a crime is punished as per law and that very law must either address his or her transformation in incarceration or accept the fact that retributive justice is no justice but only vendetta as offensive as the crime itself. Look at people braying for blood of the accused or the guilty. We see that in primitive tribal societies. It doesn’t take much thought to understand that the men who were vociferous in front of Tihar, yesterday would perhaps readily stalk and violate a woman, molest, grope and harass if a given situation makes them believe that they can escape being apprehended or punished. That is the duality of people. You hunt the victim and later cry for her.
A few months ago much of the country applauded when the Hyderabad police stage-managed an encounter and bumped off three rapist murderers. We, like daft, were more than eager to accept their alibi that the men tried to attack the police posse before attempting to bolt. We even were content to think that extrajudicial killings were providing speedy ‘justice’. What we forgot to understand was we are going back into primitivity. Did we have a convincing trail that diligently tested the accusation those men were guilty of the crime? Or were they decoy planted by the real rapists – murderers? Did we realize the anarchy such extrajudicial, instant retribution can cause to the fabric of the society and its law and jurisprudence? Not a word thereafter, we moved on – in fact we have moved backward.
Now, when we stand up and be passionate about what we call retributive justice for the Delhi girl and thinking she finally got justice, we are lying unto ourselves and let me put it, mocking her soul if you may. There is no proof that retributive justice or capital punishment, and in primitive semantics an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth holds good as a deterrent. Only in uncivilised barbaric societies that still fall for that, quoting antediluvian practices and bizarre books can think of chopping one's hand for theft, stoning for adultery and decapitation for murder. When the world over societies has done away with capital punishment, I do not see why that medieval retributive punishment should not be removed from the statute of a country like India which claims to be civilised. Lifelong incarceration with or without a chance of parole is what would torment the criminal either leading to his or her reform or pathological decay.

To quote Henry Ford, “Capital punishment is as fundamentally wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong as a cure for poverty”.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Little Whore House

The little whore house stood next to a well-known and respected family home on Ambujavilasom road in the heart or Thiruvanathapuram. About 5 minutes by foot from the main thoroughfare and the State Secretariat. It was an unassuming place with tiled roof and a lone door opening right on to the street. Much of the drama and little melee we used to witness as we passed by each morning and evening was all that we were privy too. Nothing beyond that!

It was about 200 meters or so from where I lived and, I and my friend used to walk past the little whore house each morning to school and on our way back in the evening. I was in the 5th standard when I was told about this strange, and to me then, a fascinating place in our neighbourhood. It was my friend two years senior to me who introduced me to the intrigues of the place. Being about 8 or 9 years and fresh from the protected environment of a convent education, many things were inexplicable though curious and amusing. Amusing especially when on our way to school or back we witnessed the police raid at the whorehouse. A ramshackle police van parked by the door of the whorehouse and potbellied fearsome-looking policemen and a few scrawny ones with only handle mustache to evoke trepidation bundle few women inmates and their plebeian clientele into the police van. Looking back, the policemen would now evoke clownish feel, attired in their odd short trousers with ample ventilation around their hairy thighs for fresh air to blow up their groins. I recall the day after when we passed by, the old woman who ran the place (a hag perhaps in her early 70s) , always with sandalwood paste and a few shreds of flowers on her grey hair sitting at the door forlorn and sad, having lost her clientele, women and business to the police outrage.

She lived there with her daughter (a single woman) and her teenage son. I did not notice any disenchantment in the daughter nor her son who apparently let the old woman run her cottage industry.

There were occasional arguments at the door between petulant patrons and the inmates. I saw one day one man forced out of the place by a few women inmates. He was very agitated, quite inebriated too and was shouting expletives. An unhappy and a dissatisfied customer, perhaps! “Caveat emptor”, I now would suggest to him.

Looking back there was no clear discomfort, annoyance and moralistic angst from the people who lived around. An impossibility in today’s phoney, voyeuristic Mallu society. The place seemed to have survived all by itself and ignored by the elite folks who lived in the neighbourhood. Whether the clan men in the region frequented the whorehouse talking refuge in shadows of the night, I can only guess with some amusement nevertheless!

The story ended one day abruptly with the death of the old woman. It abounded rumour that someone poisoned her, but no one could tell. However, the passing of the old woman ended perhaps the saga of “the little whore house”. The daughter and son vanished soon after and now a multistoried office building stands on the 5 cents of land where perhaps much of Vatsyana’s exhortations were religiously indulged in, but all at a value. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Shooting Star

I haven’t met her, have not spoken to her and communications were only through text messaging. She was reticent, perhaps timid and unassuming and I felt she preferred to stay away from being noticed. She spent her moments away from the tawdriness and melee of contemporary life, not even in the periphery of it. Even if one were a trained  danseuse (in Mohiniyattom), she humbled her ability even after being conditioned in the art form since she was 6 and after having done quite a few performances in temples and other venues. Her gregarious peers seem to have had not much effect on her decision to be different. In the age of social media and wannabes are everywhere jostling, elbowing for space and visibility a pretty eyed maiden  whatever was the reason , she chose to be confined and less conspicuous , if I may say so?

In fact she was literally faceless on social media, but yet she had her own little space; you scour through her pages you may not see a picture of hers, but if you have the clever knack of sieving through, you may chance to pick her from the many faces in the few photographs of groups that you would see on her social media pages. But yet again, that can only be a conjecture. However I was certain. The vivacious, spellbinding pretty eyes and the élan of a danseuse was obvious in one among others in the few pictures she posted. The pulchritude of the eyes was arresting. Yet, until you can be sure guesses how so ever definite may stay just as they are - guesses.

When asked why she chose to be so, she said she loved it so. Was she a troglodyte of sorts? Oh no, definitely not. She must have been 23-24. Her eyes captivatingly beckon you from her pages. But what also was conspicuous was her outlook towards life and life around her. 23 or 24 may not necessarily be an age when one thinks deep about life and living, about wanting to give meaning to one’s life which in fact has no real sense – “we are just born without purpose, but we can provide one. Can’t we?” She once suggested in a chat. Now, that was some time ago and today there is no shred of line that can tell you about her whereabouts, she simply melted away. Perhaps she consciously left no foot prints.

Yet, what she said in the last communication we exchanged haunts, gives one an eerie discomfort, though she may have gone away as shooting stars do. She fancied them and their wanderlust.
She communicated with me the first time after reading my blog post which I reposted on my social media page. “My Gods of Small Things”, was the title of the post taking the cue from Arundati Roy’s novel of the almost similar name “God of Small Things”. The matter was entirely different in its content and I was seized with the few images of people from my life, who have all now passed, but the little things they did has been more than Godly.

I understood in course of our quite some discussion which touched on religion, love, morality, humanity, apparent frivolity of life, doing nothing, and even film songs of the old from Malayalam and Hindi, that she was a keen listener, reader and at the same time possessed a keen sense of reasoning in on almost anything we discussed about.   But why was she being trained as a Chartered Accountant? Most of them in that profession are insipid aren’t they? The answer was simple, her father willed so.

It was her mother who cultivated in her the love for Mohiniyattam, she being a dancer in her own right. But had to compromise her passion in face of her spouse’s imperiousness, but not without the rider that her daughter will not be restrained. Occasionally she used to mention about her little sister who was about 10 years her junior and often hung around with her with the faithfulness of a satellite.
“Sir, (she always addressed me so), what do you make of this clichéd phrase of ‘settling down’?  Why must settling down be confirming to what society and someone else, even be it what the family decides for you? Perhaps you can tell?”

“Yes, why can’t settling down be what you think would lend meaning to the frivolity of life?”
”Yes exactly what I meant. You see this is why I believe being sexy is not of a masculine body, an arrogant swagger, Ret Butler whiskers, broad jaw or high cheek bones.”(She followed up with smiley in her text messages). “It is how one thinks… it is the mind and it shows in one’s face. You cannot fake with sassiness and swagger. Men are terribly wrong, mistaken. Don’t you think so?”
“Haa, well, well. Indeed!”

” Thanks for agreeing, now think of that girl , you once spoke about, the one who cast away a wonderful  job in the far east , heaved a back pack and took to travel the world. How old was she when she did that, my age?”


“Here Sir, I quote, I read from her book her own words, ‘4 years ago, I gave up my home, sold most of my possessions and embraced a nomadic life. This journey has taken me as far within as with my feet.’ ” I could see the text pause on the screen, then, “I hate him, the bastard!”

“What?” I asked not knowing what she meant. I myself had suggested the book to her and I knew those few words were not from the passage she read from the book. Certainly those words were not related to the texting she was doing quoting the young author of that book she loved reading over and over. If they were spoken words I could shrug off thinking I heard them wrong. But these were words she typed out and sent in text message.

She continued and not giving importance to my question. “…. how travelling changed my perspective on getting married, not wanting kids. ‘Sir, I felt sick after that.’  I finally decided to write this post for fellow dreamers, adventurers and rebels, who feel stifled by a lack of choice too.”

“What?” I asked again. There was a pause, a little long one from her and when I asked again, what she meant in between by something unrelated, she narrated.

“I wanted this out of me. It is he.”
“What? And Who?”

“My father.”

“Yes what about him?”

“He hugged and kissed me today.”

“Well what about a father kissing his daughter hugging her. I do. Haven’t he kissed you, hugged you before?”

“No, no, it is not that. Yes he has sometimes. But this was not of those kind. It was different. I felt it when he touched me. It was nauseating and terrifying.”

“Oh, what are you trying to say….?”

“Yes exactly that, but I feel like retching and am scared now. He kissed me biting my cheeks, almost my lips and I could feel it… that thing of his pressing on to my body, and through the lungie he was wearing… it was deliberate. It was all in matter of seconds.”

I was wordless and then asked her, “Are you sure?”

Please, understand me Sir, I’m no child. This had never happened before, but I could feel it, see it in his eyes that moment. I was numb that I could not shrug away from him. These days I sometimes felt strange when he was around, a kind of discomfort….but now…!”

“Did you tell your mother?

No, I can’t. That will make matters worse. You see they are not hitting off well and anything I say might jeopardise my sister too.”

“Is he your step father?”
“No, no.”

Okay, what do you want me to do?

“Nothing, I just wanted this heaved off my chest.”

“Now anything untoward any sign of it, let others outside know. Call me, if you may.”

“Hmm, yes. Instead of wondering when one’s next vacation is, maybe one should set up a life you don't need to escape from.”

Was that a quote? I do not know. But that was what she texted the last before the line went dead. Months have passed and she just vanished without a trace. Perhaps her foot prints can be traced in the sands of time - in the deserts, the mountains, the wild basins of South American rivers and the forests she dreamt of. She may have gathered the courage to run away so that she has not to escape from places and people. Pray she did not relent and be captive.