Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Monkey God

Polemics are always frowned upon. But that is because you feel your contention and comfort zone is threatened. At the same time when you make fantastic claims it must be supported not by fantastic faith but verifiable evidence. “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
Yesterday on this holy and zealously individual place called “my wall” on ‘face book’ a post someone posted happened to reflect on my Timeline. It was fascinating news of Hanuman Jayanthi being celebrated. Naturally my temperament did not let me ignore it. I posted a comment which read, “Goodness me finally they found the birth date of the Monkey God!”
Now tell me was there any rudeness and disparaging tone in that remark? Absolutely not, I can tell and argue with reason. But the gentlemen who posted took umbrage at it and replied rather menacingly. “Desist...from making such an insulting words for the gods....and if you have any problem keep it with yourself ...If I start pointing the fingers ok on banana State of for yours ( Kerala)…. .” I really did not understand the last part, though. Moreover since the word 'jayanthi' is understood to mean  birth date, it was also natural to wonder , how the heck they established that.
I politely asked him in my reply what was insulting in my observation. Wasn’t Hanuman member of the monkey clan? Folks considering him God don’t alter his race. Does it? But he would have none of it. He warned me to desist from trolling. Well, I rest matters there as Facebook seems to be held and guarded zealously by many people where they can tell whatever they want, but frowns upon any critical comments. That, one must not ever agree.
But the question remained, “Did they uncover the birth date of Hanuman, the Monkey God.?”
This morning different post from another gentleman reflected on my page. There was a picture of a clan of monkeys being fed (they were seated like at a table and partaking). The caption read “Vanara sena- Hanuman Jayanthi party.”
Now, interestingly the gentleman who posted this is a staunch Hindu and an ardent fan of the saffron brigade.

Now where did I err? In asking if they really uncovered Hanuman’s birth date? Or did I err in calling Hanuman- ‘Monkey God’? I began to wonder but soon understood there was nothing to be astonished about.
I repeat the quote I mentioned earlier. “What can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence”
To use the social media to purvey and assert one’s fantasies, bias, and idiosyncrasies or bizarre claims supporting ones belief system or political affiliations cannot be done without inviting criticism and scrutiny. If you do, yes you may do it, but don’t act offended when someone ask you to prove your fantastic assertion. There is no mockery and trolling in it. It is sarcastic reply to your eccentric and  assertion.
Take it or leave it. Its social media and it’s an open space.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Malayalee

Deluge of anguished posts, statements that seem to not cease, (but will only last for a few more days are flooding the social media sites)! This began the day  the news broke out about a mentally unstable tribal youth being lynched in a tribal hamlet in Kerala for allegedly stealing rice. He was thrashed  mercilessly by the mob of puritans (sic) and succumbed due to severe internal injuries. The killing was not done at the behest of the Cow brigade, not by the Commies , not by the Jihadists and not by the Congis. But by Keralites- ordinary Malayalees! Some of whom even boasted selfies like game hunters pose with their trophy of a kill.

Cherry picking by the Sangh fans , bringing back quotes from Narendra Modi's infamous speech while electioneering in Kerala that allegedly compared the State with the dystopian Somalia  is being revived. "I told you so!"

There has been no hartals and bandhs sponsored by the political parties to protest the brutality.  For a dispossessed mentally deranged tribesman cannot be in the voters list. The political henchmen and masters seem to be muted in response. Perhaps the scale of the act may have even numbed their senses.

Am I incensed, angusihed, sad? Oh no, not  at all !
Such bestiality need not necessarily be the privilege of the  Sanghis in the Sangh dominated lands of the cow-belt. We Keralites are indeed adept in perpetrating the most despicable, heinous of  acts and a herd mentality can in fact bring out the best of barbarian in us. We need not be a Sanghi, a Commie or Islamist to assert that. 

Yes we Malayalees zealously bathe every morning, wear pristine white dhoti and shirt, we unfailingly read a couple of newspapers and boast about our literacy and wisdom; we believe we have expertise within us to assert on any subject that is thrown at us ; we think slightly of people  from other parts of the country and the world; we think deprecatingly of others for we indeed (claim) are yards ahead culturally and socially. We kvetch about expat youth from other States who fill-in for blue collared, lay jobs that the arrogance of our educated ( but unemployable) youth scorn.We are deeply religious and spiritual- flocking to  churches on Sundays, observe lent and Eid with astounding piety, do not miss namaz and as decreed perform that ritual five times a day, make temple festivities a cultural statement. We are both outraged and indulgent in  public display of affection. Well the lists that tells our primacy among societies are never ending.

But look aren't we just like any other depraved minds, we think exists elsewhere? The beast trapped in our human body manifests often in fashion similar- a hapless mentally compromised youth can be wretchedly assaulted and left to die, a pregnant woman is kicked in her stomach that the pregnancy is miscarried, a father has no qualms in sexually violating his girl child...., a  Gulf returnee who dreamed of his own automobile workshop  is forced into misery by communists and takes out his anguish for ever by hanging himself.......!

And yet we claim to be a civilisation and society apart, decked in intellectual glory and prideful.
Hypocrisy thy name is Malayalee!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

All said, be it Padmavati, Sexy Durga, Satanic Verses, MF Husain’s  "Saraswati", Taslima Nasreen's, “Shame” , Nicholas Kazanzthika’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” or Meera Nair's "Fire", what has been pilloried and strangled is the right of expression and speech, to criticize, to creative freedom and use the creation to critique a system, thought  belief or a person.

However dispassionate I get, I cannot totally forego the traces of mischief and may be a plot for possible commercial windfall in naming a painting or a movie provocatively. This is why I feel SunilKumar Sasidharan must cross his heart and confess to or refute the motive I allege him of.
 MF Husain had a host of other names to caption his painting of a nude decorated woman and “Saraswati” was a silly choice. SanalKumar Sasidharan had a plethora of names from which to choose one for his movie. Neither did! That either ought to be stupid, specious or cunning. 

The content of Sexy Durga as I can understand has nothing titillating or sexy about the protagonist. So a name that did not have that prefix would have fared uneventful. Just “Durga” would have avoided these controversies. Moreover when asked to change the name the producer over imposed “XXX” on the alphabets “exy” in the word SEXY. Wasn’t that trifle suggestive and mischievous?
Now what right does the puritanical (sic) brigade, be it the Hindutva forces, the Islamists, the Rajputs or any others have to proclaim fatwa and order violence upon an author, a film maker or a painter for her/his oeuvre?

The much fancied the then young Prime minister Rajeev Gandhi who we thought would be a harbinger of fresh young air, disappointed when he succumbed to Muslim vote banks and proscribed Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses and also circumvent the Supreme Court order in the Sha Bano case. Those of you who do not know the 10 years of turbulent and hounded life Salam Rushdie lived, after Ayatollah Khomeni ordered he be killed, must read his autobiographical work “Joseph Anton”. The whole civilized system and governments in multiple countries succumbed to the mad mullah in Tehran who ordered killing of Rushdie. That idiot may not even have read that work. Democratic societies world over being held to ransom by Islamist forces began with the “la affaire Salman Rushdie”.

Now when you say that the limits of expression and creativity are subservient to another person’s like and dislike, you are being a censor and an obscurantist. If you say that terrorists have a right to kill people who put up cartoons or paintings and even novelettes criticizing or lampooning their God or prophet, you are only endorsing the terrorists’ argument that rest of the World must acquiesce and follow their unitary beliefs and not be different or dissenting.  What then is the society you are expecting to have? A homogeneous, vacuous, scrawny moronic world? What then about the colourful diversity of thought, belief system, culture, tradition, languages etc that adds vibrancy and interest to life? Plow them down under and cover us with black cloak like Grim Reapers?

In Kerala the ancient art form of “Chakiarkoothu” is a medium to taunt, lampoon, mock, criticize, rubbish, shame, rebuke and rebut a person or system. Kings and rulers were mercilessly critiqued and mocked by the artists; the current art of mimicry is precisely a variant of the old “Chakiarkoothu”.
As much as one has the right to be hurt and flaunt offended sentiments, a writer or an artist must have the right to offend and critique.

If religious sentiments and emotions were hurt by using a prefix to the name Durga or the movie ‘Padmavati”, well what must first be banned ought to be the mythological treatise such as Ramayana, Mahabharata or the Bible. Wherein there is surfeit of incest, misogyny, sadomasochism, rape, violence, sex, sleaze, bestiality, sodomy and whatever you can think of as offensive to the pristine sentiments. I’m told the 12th century treatise of Jayadeva, “Geetha Govindam” which describes the fantastic relationship between Krishna and his maidens the Gopikas , has enough and more that would pale D.H.Lawrence’s , “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” and Charles Devereaux ‘s “Venus in India” . Should they be burnt or proscribed? Well should Khajuraho and Konark be pulled own and the many Hindu temples too? Should Naga sanyasis be rounded up and forcibly clothed or forced into the ocean with millstones around their necks?

It is utterly ridiculous and inane to be anguished over a movie, its name, a painting or a book.  At least here in India where we have great tradition of dissent, heterogeneity and argumentation as well as tolerance. To argue that the Abrahamic world are far sinister and intolerant is a childish argument because the choice we have is, should we accompany them and stay like them in a barbaric archaic mental existence or use the greatness of Indian culture to look forward.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Cartoonist Bala

If Liberty means anything at all , it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” George Orwell

This post is not intended to pillories you or accept your version of the incident absolving any culpability in the ghastly suicide that happened in the Collectorate premises.
My concern is only at the utter lack of  respect and reverence  for democratic and civil rights that, you ought to have, as a senior civil servant shown to Cartoonist Bala  who caricatured the incident and the powers that are.

I wonder what you as the candidate at the Civil Service interview would have replied or may have replied to perhaps  the question put to you regarding the constitutional  provisions guaranteeing free speech and expression. Very curious!

I’m sure that you are not oblivious of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Section 66A in April 2017. The honourable Court observed in its ruling on the draconian Section  66A thus, “…. it invades right to free speech , every expression used in it is nebulous. It is clear that Section 66 A arbitrarily excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right.”

You by your act ordering the arrest of the cartoonist took a miserably weak position using the tattered apron of Section 66 A to hide like a weasel.. This is the same narrative and reasoning ( if one may call it reasoning) often used by political parties and religious outfits to bludgeon unpleasant truth and satire . The right to offend is a sacrosanct right and if you feel offended by a caricature, a novelette or a statement it only shows the shallowness of your thought and philosophy. Plowing down the author is the easiest way and that is the path weaklings take to.

You showed that there is no difference between an intolerant mind of  the Charlie Hebedo killers and folks who hound free speech and expression in this country. To find a civil servant among that unsavoury ranks is a sad thing for this country.

Tell me what difference is there between the act of arresting Cartoonist Bala and decapitating or gunning down people over a caricature? What difference is there between you, arresting cartoonist Bala  and the Siva Sena thugs who ensured the arrest of two girls for voicing their disagreement on Facebook  over the shutting down Mumbai after Bal Thackrey’s death? What difference is there between your act and that of the mad Ayatollah Khomeini who ordered death for Salaman Rushdie for his magnificent novel? What difference is there between your act and that of the feral bigots in Bangladesh and India who hounded Taslima Nasreen for being candid about the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh in her novel “Shame”? What difference is there between you Mister Sandeep Nanduri and the  Hindutva ideology that banished MF Hussain? The list will go on and you may find yourself in a very notorious and depraved company.

This October the centenary of the October Revolution was commemorated by the working class, world over. I wonder if you are aware that , in India  the October Revolution worked as a accelerator , a catalyst that actuated progressive literature. This triggered a fecund environment for egalitarian and socialist thoughts in the people. This was heartily  harnessed and channelised by the leaders of the Freedom movement too. Indeed the Brits used the draconian legislations to pulverise such expressions in literature. But they survived and stand even today as immortal hand-downs to posterity.

Not so long ago during the pre-independence days expressive people, editors of news papers, social workers were all subjected to banishment by the Brits and their cahoots, the Princes, for their candid speech, writing and literature. It’s a pity that there are remnants of the Raj  amongst us today. Now, you underlined that ominous reality  through your act of arresting the cartoonist for doing his job. A sad day for Indian democracy and Civil Service!

I will have to remind you  the words of Gopal Subramaniam the SC lawyer , he said, “Poetry encouraged fearlessness of expression and this cannot be restricted because of the use of the name of a personality. Freedom to offend is also a part of freedom of speech”.

Monday, September 4, 2017


Come Onam, celebrities and somebody who is anybody is seen on Television channels reminiscing the Onam of the past and of their childhood.  Amusingly young film actors in their early twenties proclaim, the good old Onam that once was and ruefully reminisces the days of the mythical Emperor Mahabali. Wonder if they confuse Mahabali with Bahubali. That will be the last straw!

Having been through 58 Onams , I guess I have a fair right to pen a few words on it, when Onam was not a commercial melee and ‘athapookalams’ were not embellished with pesticide laced flowers from Tamilnad and Karnataka ; when veggies were not doused in toxins; where there was a feeling of elation and success the night before “Thiruonam”, when the local sartorial expert would honour his commitment and deliver your new Onnam shirt & trousers, skirts & jackets. There was no ARROW and Tomy Hilfigers then to walk in and pick one’s ready to wear ‘Onakodi’ dresses. Moreover elders did not have the vanity to indulge and there was no Maria Saharopovas and Tendulkars to ape.

‘Athapookalams’ had individual flair, even the ones in street corners. They were made in different layers and in clay. 3, 5, 7 & the jumbo ones with 9 layers. Cow-dung paste was laced over to act as glue and petals and flowers were stuck to them. Each household chose their own size of ‘atha-thattu’. Flowers were procured from around the neighbourhood. The cunning and watchfulness, the networking among children’s group enabled to scout and identify houses that had flowering bushes and foliage. Then it was the clandestine hunt early before dawn, crawling and climbing over fences and walls, duping noisy watchdogs that tell the master of little thieves set out to stealing flowers. Some good Samaritans willingly let you in and allowed you to collect flowers for the ‘pookalams’. The nip in the early dawn air, the smell of blooming flowers, the freshness of fallen flowers nevertheless, the sheer motivation for it all cannot be explained and have to be felt.

The ‘pookalams’ at street corners and squares where managed by the slightly older folks  and was enlivened through the day with film songs played over loudspeakers that were not noisy and often a persevering bloke on a bicycle  would undertake  nonstop cycling mission around the ‘pookalam’. I still cannot relate the significance of that during Onam but it provided lot of awe and fun. Then, the ubiquitous swing that remained a sine qua non to usher in Onam!

Then while we were in our late adolescence and into our teens the venturing to cinemas to see the block-busters that were released for Onam. Often they were dominated by either a MERRYLAND Studio production or the UDAY Studio production- a mythical grand story of the war of Gods or the chivalry of a ‘Vadakan pattu’ folklore.

The grand melee and finale on Thiruonam day was unforgettable. It generally would be modest kind of embellishment of the ‘atham’ that morning as the full and blown out decorations were reserved for the late evening when the ‘atham’ was given a grand flowery embellishment. The exercise would begin after the sumptuous Onam ‘sadhya’ in homes and folks would gather by evening and rework the ‘atham’ for the finale. Women folks cook and got ready ‘elapams’. The ‘atham’ was covered with ‘thumba’ a local shrub and the ‘elappams’ are deftly enshrouded in the shrub. Folks got ready with primitively made bows and quiver full of arrows. At dusk ‘onapattu’ is accompanied by folks (mostly boys) shooting arrows into the shrouded ‘atham’ to pick out the concealed ‘elappams’. When finally all the ‘elappams’ are retrieved the ‘atham’ is carefully removed off the ground using a suitable kitchen utensil without damaging the layers and left on a sill by the front gate of the house. It stays there till probably the next Onam beaten by weather- sun and rain and slowly withering away.

As every aspect of human life changes over time, so does Onam and the feeling it gives. But something that can be vouched for is the simplicity and freedom from vanity and conceit Onam of yore lend.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Jungle Book

In an impassioned essay quoting ten acclaimed literary creations that has adoption as the storytelling theme, The Guardian said,   “A profound human experience- and also a brilliant plot device- adoption has inspired endless stories from Shakespeare to the contemporary”.

Those are in literature. But outside, in the real world adoption is yet to resonate among human beings as an epoch and ground breaking act of love, caring, compassion and pathos. If a pack of wolves could adopt a ‘man child’ in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’, why not man?

A few years ago, a Dutch acquaintance narrated why he and his wife decided not to beget children. They were married after the Second World War and during the acme of the Cold war era. Nuclear Armageddon was imminent and many like the gentleman and his bride decided not to bring forth children into a world that was hurtling down inexorably into cataclysmic termination. In retrospect that may seem to be a highly cynical decision, but it is all the more pertinent today and sapient. Today it’s the man-made existential threat that hulk like the more definite threat of environmental and ecological melt down but also the utter chaos & anarchy in social, economic and political environment. Well the sleight of the hand of human kind is reflecting in all the dire prophecies.

I was driving past a city school this morning and the traffic was moving as fast as the fastest tortoise ever could. It was rush hour for the school and there was long winding queue of school kids waiting to go in through the half open school gate. May be some five hundred of them! Little, young, cheerful looking lads and girls all in their adolescence. I wondered about the less than a decade from now, when these kids pass out at different stages in their education, what prospects does the world hold out to them?

In a world already burdened and plowed down by over population and consequent unsustainable living, already vitiating the natural environment and heralding ominous climate change pushing human race farther into perilousness; in a world where political and social environment offer nothing but despair; where macabre of religion and xenophobia eclipse acts what we often proudly attribute to human sensibilities, what can these kids and hundreds and thousands of them expect from the World? Nothing but stolidity and desertion. The Gods are silent too even if they did exist.

In India we may touch the 1.5 billion mark in population as fast as in a decade and little more. Which means well within the fertility age of our progenies. An exhortation to the fecund generation to restrain from begetting would be termed as selfish and pessimistic alarm. But it is not, certainly! In fact it will be an act of cruelty, selfishness and crime if human race continues to be driven by the irresistible social and cultural urge, exhortation or custom to procreate. This world as it is hurtling along offer no solace or hope for mankind. More because humankind is in an irreversible kamikaze gear and obstinately so.

This is where adoption can be a nobler and wise deed than the act of copulating for procreation. Almost two thirds of infants in India are malnourished. “World Bank data indicates that India has one of the world’s highest demographics of children suffering from malnutrition – said to be double that of Sub-Saharan Africa with dire consequences. India’s Global Hunger Index India ranking of 67 the 80 nations with the worst hunger situation places us even below North Korea or Sudan. 44% of children under the age of 5 are underweight, while 72% of infants have anemia!”

To argue emotionally that biological bonding cannot be replicated or substituted with acts of philanthropy is quite naïve. Aren’t there enough instances and stories happening around us to the contrary, where an artificial bonding proves to be far more potent and enduring than the trappings of cognateness?

Leaving all that aside, one hard look at the world around us will make one rethink of ever begetting and there are plenty of lives waiting to be rescued from what otherwise would be a sure dystopian life.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Cinderellas

It is often quite true that empathy is  nonexistent in a person or hard to come by because he or she may not have been through a situation to feel the scars  desolation can bring about. But at the same time what distinguishes or what we daringly claim to distinguish man from beasts is empathy! The feeling for and oneness with a fellow being! I firmly believe so. Yet often we are found barren, indifferent smug and abounding in or given to pompous or aphoristic moralising. Ironically some video footage that are viral on the NET from the wilderness of Africa tell us that beasts sometimes outflank man in empathy and acts of compassion.

Yesterday a few of us got together at home and we chanced upon a discussion on the trauma of child abuse and the  indelible scars that it  leaves upon the person as he or she moves through adult hood and even late in life.

A few things became apparently reinforced to me from the argument we had. Men are men like the clichéd quote of some idiotic politician, “boys’ are boys” while commenting callously on sexual violence against women. Indeed men are men that (may be with some exceptions, mercifully)! But the vast majority regardless of their education and sophistication are egocentric chauvinistic porcine.

Is it not true about people confiding their deepest mind to even a comparative stranger or a new acquaintance, even traumatic experiences and thoughts which they otherwise bear like dark menacing shadows in the farthest corners of their minds? Is it not true that friendships develop early in life and is it not also a fact that bonds that develop in later life may stay stronger than a bond through years of familiarity from the cradle? One fellow was so sure that such a thing as confiding one’s deepest secret and very personal matter is inappropriate and suspecting and that it belittles the person and her or his acceptance as a decent human being. Utterly,utterly obnoxious thought,I argued.  

“Who among you would arise from a severe traumatic beating very early in childhood and then look life in the face?” I asked the women folk. I explained seeing their confused faces. I rammed it in further. They had to nod their head in utter disbelief when I narrated. But then was it not rather naïve and foolish to disclose that to another person and worst of all one’s spouse- husband? This is where the male chauvinism and hypocrisy boils over, one that I mentioned earlier. Worst of all women endorse the right of the man to be offended and rattled by the news of the abused childhood of his spouse. Utterly shameful I had to say, particularly in a moment when his understanding and acceptance would serve as panacea for the years of mental trauma and profound horror she was plowed under. But that is not to be and men are men and boys are boys. It sucks!

It takes courage and that deserts most men and women to be honest with the new people in their life about their past, to admit  the trauma of their abuse as part of what makes them who they are rather than trying to enshroud  like it’s something to be dishonoured  and penitent about. That is potently honourable and courageous! “A frank brave heart she has triumphed over pain and set a courageous example by leading her safely out of the dark stalking shadows of her abuse." Some women cannot understand that any man could accept the courage and perseverance of a woman, whereas they seem to be more comfortable with the existence of a spouse who would be enraged and offended by the unveiling of the abused past of the woman and his relating virtue of the bride to her virginity. Is it not natural for men to be so? To be piqued by such a past? A trite and a pity I was indignant!

The epilogue- “by calling herself Cinderella she is standing her ground. This isn’t a girl running to a man to be rescued. This is a girl saying here I’m scars and all take it or leave it, but don’t expect me to be something that I’m not. A fairy tale can’t get more empowering! Cinderella is without a future and resigned to her fate only until she finds the courage to stand up to her abuser, her stepmother. Once Cinderella decides to try and attend the ball, when she realises her worth of a better life, that she doesn’t have to live this way, then amazing things begin to happen before the prince even enters her life.”

The story of the ever present prince is just the extended narrative of male priggery and chauvinism. For it is fed to us no Cinderella shall be complete without the chocolate faced rubicund charming young Knight or a Prince on a horse back!

Yet what is ignored is the Prince bewitched by an evil spell cast on him and transformed to a toad, could break the spell and regain his form as the charming prince only when the beautiful princes kissed him and broke the spell. Yet this narrative and its ideal is lost in the wilderness of what is our society.