Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Response to Mohanlal

There is something remarkable that struck me after reading your blog post, which has also now evoked many comments, critical and quite jingoistic ones too. You, through the entire length of your blog spoke with great veneration and gratitude for the soldiers guarding our frontiers. Your words and phrases often moistened my eyes. Dear Lal, your heartfelt sentiments is what many of us Indians hold close to our bosom. No commoner would asperse and belittle a soldier. But what was alarmingly outlandish in your post was this deft innuendo, the urbane aspersion, the allegation that many of us have no regard or gratitude for the Lance Naiks, the Subedars  and the officers who brave  weather and the tempestuous climate, the terrain and the enemy munitions and  isolated from their loved ones man the frontiers against adversaries and foemen from across the border. I wonder what provoked you to display such naïve and bizarre opinion.

Before I go further what I must say is that I and many who hold an opinion similar to mine on the vitiated social fabric in the country, about life and what we call social relationships etc do not repudiate your right to comment and opine as you wish and as you did. We do not demand you be jettisoned to an alien country for expressing your right to opinion. This, I hope you will appreciate, is unlike the forces that are at play in the country now in the name of patriotism, nationalism and culture.

You indignantly ask if we, Indians had even an iota of humane consideration and feeling at least of that the Pakistanis' expressed for the entrapped soldiers in the avalanche in the Siachen glacier. Pray, what has the plebian got to do with an expert manoeuvre and rescue operation that had to be organised by the political establishment and the military? You seem to be directly alleging that Indians collectively lost sense of gratitude and patriotism and we were only concerned about the right to voice our opinion on trivia ( as you opine) such as freedom of expression, disregarding the freedom we have; the freedom safeguarded by the uniformed men manning the borders of the country.

Yes, now I can  guess, I have understood what you euphemistically addressed. It is not the avalanche in Siachen or the precious lives lost there that is as troubling to your conscience as the persistence of enlightened noises made against fascist tendencies that we have been seeing for a while.

Dear Lal, tell me what do you think- you, me or the man on the street got to do with the la affaire Solar , the bar sleaze, the corruption, political horse trading and pimping, calculated cultivation of divisiveness, the communal and ethnic cleansing, xenophobia,the distaste for what is different, that are now facts of life? Do you think we don’t have our lengthy shadows etched in all that? Yes, you and I are equally culpable, for us as a society and electorate vote rapscallions and people with tainted past to power, to rule over the country. But do understand they are just the reflection of us – you and me. We deserve the rulers we get! I would now ask you to go back a few decades in our little lifes' span, to the Model School era. Where our minds defiled by caste and religion, by faith, by race, by language? Certainly not! Abdul Harris was equally dear as a Srinivasan or a Jose! So do not hold any fancy notions of washing yourself free off the grime or harbour  hope of  redemption and absolution from all the sins.

You touch upon very passionately about patriotism, love for the motherland and as some call it nationalism. You state that apathy to the motherland may only make one an intellectual but not a patriot. Your metaphor of the despicable act of casting away aged parents to the disaffection to the motherland may collect basketful of applause for you. But what is pity is that your understanding of nationalism or patriotism is naiveté, it is myopic, dangerous  and lopsided. Lal, jingoism is not patriotism and the former is a hideous concoction, a brew that has brought about untold human tragedies throughout the history of mankind. What I would like to remind you is that none of the votaries whom you subtly and so nonchalantly trivalised- the intellectuals, or the students of universities (which you were one few decades ago and I can talk about that first hand) defiled the motherland. There may be cases of renegades, turncoats, quislings , troublemakers and felons and they must  be dealt under the law of the land. All that we say is that we disagree with the culture the acclaimed patriots in the government and their nationalist (sic) cahoots have all these recent times being trying to pile on us. If you deny that fact under the guise of patriotism, if you intend to hide beneath the apron of what you call nationalism well that must be a very sorry state of mind that you are holding now. I hope not!

Blind acquiescence of authority and a blind belief in a system of government or an “ism’ is dangerous than walking into a tidal wave. Germans understood that and in a very bitter way in the 1940s. We Indians understood that in the Emergency era. Beware, those who forget history are condemned to repeat it!

 Mr. Modi reportedly said a few days ago in an address to students at the Benares Hindu University, "Don't let the student in you die.We want BHU to be like Nalanda and Takshashila". Certainly a high ask in the current context. What Modi forgot was that Nalanda and Takshashila thrived as great places of learning for the World itself was because of the great Indian tradition of argumentation.They thrived on the freedom to think and express.

Feeling the breath of great men and in it their thoughts through their literary creations is something of which I need not tell you about. The quest for knowledge that should keep us alive! I suggest you make little effort and get to feel the words speaking to you from the writings of Bertrand Russell, Bernard Shaw, J.Krishnamurthy, Mark Twain, Nehru , Tagore , Osho to mention a few. Watch in silence the resistance organised by  Medha Patkar against the grandiose schemes in the Narmada valley that was ostensibly done for the “greater common good” or read the exemplary analytical essays of one of our contemporary Arundati Roy. You may hate her, but you may not succeed in foisting a valid argument against. Lal, the essays of J.Krishnamurthy on nationalism and patriotism are simply inspiring and beautifully- beckoning you to be part of a better world. In passing let me quote George Bernard Shaw’s very simple, but emphatic expression on the subject “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it....”

 Hear out what Amabeadkar had to say about a speech on the nobility of “patriotism” to an untouchable (ostracised by virtue of birth over which he had no control), or what would you say in recent times to a dispossessed tribal in some remote village in central India. Do you know that in this great  country of ours  there are villages and hamlets where dalits are prohibited from drawing water? To them what patriotism, nationalism or love for the motherland can  you sell? To a family whose breadwinner was lynched by mob pressed on by macabre thirst for blood and driven by fanatic religious agenda, can you sell patriotism?  The artificially controlled, pleasant air inside your study in which you may have penned this post of anguish is not what is out elsewhere. But remember, that the privilege you have and the comparative comfortable cocoon I have is alien to 80 percent and more of the Indian population, Lal. If you are suggesting that they forfeit their voices, their right to protest and even to dissent and to express, for being labeled patriots and nationalist then what do you then make of them? The air and earth that you hold sacrosanct is meaningless and empty to such souls.

If one were to hold your expressions on patriotism and nationalism as inviolable and sacrosanct then one of the most amazing human minds ever, Albert Einstein must be consigned as a renegade and an anti- national by the State of Israel. In the book “Einstein on Israel & Zionism: His Provocative Ideas About the Middle East” by Fred Jerome (St. Martin’s Press, New York), you can see the political views of the great scientist and his objection to the creation of a Jewish State.  This was what he said, “I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish State". An opinion such as that on Kashmir or Nagaland, or even the raped tribal belt of central India can be seditious. Voicing one’s opinion on such matters will be classified by you gentlemen as anti- national. By the way would you recommend that brave soldiers on the front in Siachen, in Ladakh, in the Rana of Kutch , in Arunachal Pradesh be given a choice between  maintaining the man made political borders or shelving them to strive towards the oneness of human race? Indeed, today it may seem an utopian gibberish but the every thought that had brought about tectonic shift in human lives were ridiculed and thrown out as blasphemy and ranting of lunatics. All the great thinkers whom I mentioned have advocated this half a century and more ago. So please do not glorify jingoism and what we see of that.

You speak passionately about the great country India is, its great culture, its ancient traditions, its natural beauty, its ancient treatise. You plead to make young minds aware of these manna from heaven, introduce them to the “Letters of a father to his daughter”! You rightly say that these will suffice to infuse sense of love for the country.

Dear Lal, what is the India you speak of, you sign off the post wondering what is it there to live when India is no more? When we speak of India we are referring about a political idea that is about a little over a century old in the time span of a less than a score of thousand years since we know that human inhabitants colonised the sub-continent and when civilisation of reckoning  came about much later. Hence I guess a more realistic emotion will be sufficient here.

Now, ancient culture is awe inspiring. But tell me, single out a monolithic culture that you can call your own and unique amidst the melee of multiple cultures, ethnicity, languages, dialects and so on? Let me mention a small example here in the context. When self-proclaimed custodians of “Bharthia sanskriti” culture go on rampage protesting against invasion of alien culture, what culture are they claiming to protect. In nearby Tamilnad State a marriage between the maternal uncle and his niece is accepted, while just across the ghats in Kerala that is horrendous – its incest! Can you speak of any similarity of culture  in a remote Naga hamlet  or a poverty stricken sub-Saharan Africa like village in Bihar and of our Mallapuram? Even Deepavali is celebrated varied in Punjab and  the other parts of north  when compared to the south. Buffalo or an Oxen is decapitated in the north east during Durga Pooja, while in piety(sic) filled Gujarat that is sacrilege!  Can you clear my incertitude here?

MohanLal dear friend, India as we know is not merely a political ramshackle nation created post 1947. Even if one concedes it is so the multitude of diversity- ethnicities, of culture, tradition, languages, dialects, faith, social customs to name a few aspects, are unfathomable to an Indian like me, let alone a foreigner. It is the rainbow effect of the harmony of all this- the sum total that is India to many of us. Even the military is a spread of different colours, ethnicity and language. It is this fabric that many of us long to live for, not the vitiated, divisive, deprived land that is threateningly held in front of our eyes to behold mutely.

As for the majestic mountains and rivers that the sub- continent is blessed with, we can only wish that we can safe keep them for posterity for we don’t own it we are simply trustees, custodians.Aren’t we?But alas I have all apprehensions and with reason too that, that may be a far-fetched dream.But it is likely from what we have noticed in the past two years or there about, the puritanical patriots you seem to speak for do not consider that - respect and care for Nature ,a virtue!

Oh dear Lal, I've gone too far. A commoner like me may not be able to attract readers. You may not even notice this reply. However let me sum up reminding you these lines from Gitanjali. I shudder to think if Rabindranath Tagore would be branded anti- national in the present India we live in for pronouncing these lines.

"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake .“
Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


A few days ago, seeing a message from a family friend on his phone, he called her. It was past 9 pm.  She told him she tried calling his wife, but since she couldn’t get through she tried to reach him .It was awkward moments for him as he said, he did not know what to tell her or how to go about with the conversation after she said,” Nothing much here. What is there for us, haven’t we lost all”?

She lost the younger of her two sons little over a month ago. He told her that she has shown great courage and resilience contrary to what he feared. She said.”Yes, I know. God has given me the courage. I have decided that I have to live and I will.  I have given everything unto him, the Lord.” He was unsure of what to say. She continued, “I often think of my little boy and then when its hurts I can see him seated up there next to the Lord. Then, I feel so comforted and blessed”.

I know that to tell a person in her emotion and plight to be objective about the future and not to be hallucinating for comfort holding to a crutch that we all know is specious and a mirage is preposterous and inappropriate. Indeed   an objective thinking is an intellectual luxury, of which she is not capable now. But yet why do people who have been through similar tragedy hold on to the divine or the supernatural big fellow?  It’s quite a mystery of the human psyche, I suppose.

The late Christopher Hitchens was asked in an interview which apparently turned out to be his last (he died a few days after from the terminal cancer that plagued him), if he feared death and wished he was not an atheist. Was it true that most atheists ask for confession like Joseph Stalin allegedly did in his death bed? Hitchen’s , though obviously tired , said without remorse and batting an eye lid that he spent his life for reason, logic and science and he did not see it necessary to be woeful of a physical condition that is purely biological. Yes he would love to live some more years and direct his activity against un-reason, falsehood, superstition and fanaticism.  As for Stalin’s alleged confession he said, it is often said about all unbelievers and he emphasised to the interviewer not to believe similar stories about him after he was gone. I could only admire the man, his courage and his stand for reason.

To me the lady’s words were quite mystifying. It is the same attitude that many in whose life unexpected bolt of tragedy have fallen. A tragedy often triggers further tightening of the hold on to the spiritual crutch. It is simply revolting for me form the point of view of reason. If one believes in an omnipotent to whom one supplicates and appeals to with fervour respect or fear, however mortifying and ignoble the whole matter may be , then shouldn’t it be incumbent upon the omnipotent to reciprocate honourably? Instead  nemesis and agony is sent forth. Even in simple terms of a contract is it not breach of trust? I suppose that ought to trigger a revulsion and revolt towards God. For he has forsaken you! But that is not the case. Quite inexplicable!

The most offensive part of religion is this abject, meek surrender to a profoundly pompous, egoistic, masochistic, maniacal, sadistic, depraved  person , supernatural being or idea called God. I wonder what is it about this sickening bloodletting aspect of Abrahamical religions, each of which incessantly shouts about the peaceful and loving philosophy of their faith- whose omnipotent God demanded Abraham to sacrifice his son to convince him about his love for God. When Abraham almost goes through the fillicide,  God is appeased. This is the most revolting part of a story ever and even to this day we have faithful singing panes of Abraham and his God The infamy is commemorated with reverence and fan fare .Will such an act of attempted fillicide or murder itself call it sacrifice or noble deed unto God etc go untouched by the law of the land now, even in the most die-hard theocracy ?

What difference does such hallucinated devotion and abject surrender or prayer for succor fetch which is different from the hallucination that an inebriated condition fetch you? It is a false consolation.Certainly it is, unless you do not want to admit.

I cannot find a more appropriate statement than this in this context. It took Marx the son of a Rabbanical line to say so. "........... Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world,just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of man..The demand of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition that needs illusion........"

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

To be or Not to be

It was a few weeks since I was invited to and then reminded every Tuesday about the meeting of a few blokes at the residence of a genial fellow. But it was only yesterday evening that I could make it to their meeting.

I left the informal meeting after about two and one half hours with a few feelings. Firstly, since the chat was not supplemented or sautéed with alcohol, the discussion was on a different plane, there was no impassioned oration and arguments. But most of all, the individuals present there did not have the cantankerous, menacing and totalitarian attitude. Disagreements were argued off than shouted down or fumed at like monstrous grotsoque looking dragons I have sometimes confronted. None of us present there had a termagant flip side. What relief!

The meeting takes place every Tuesday evening and a subject or topic is laid on the table. Though I did not see any spectacular debating skills or opening of repository of knowledge, I felt some of them were quite competent and were actually people from whom one could be enriched in terms of ideas, insight and information.

Rights of LGBT! That was the subject for discussion. The contention was not more about transgender than about homosexuals. It was a pity that none of us were with a strong educational background in biology or genetics. None of us would disagree that the rights of gays and LGBT is as inviolable as that of any of us. However we just could not recall any definitive scientific study that tells that a homosexual disposition is genetic nor could we quote a definite study that it is epigenetic. Indeed it was not a malediction from the heavens or a mental illness.  But heck, nevertheless how could be a gay, bisexual or transgender be seen as tantamount to a thief, rapist or murderer? We were unanimous about one thing, that even if the SC throws out the anachronistic Section 377, the antiquated persuasions that people harbour about LGBT and homosexuality in particular will corrode minds like the egregious caste bias that stays put in spite of the ambitious statements in the statute. Mindset must change more than the law and for that we must heed to the revelations and power of scientific knowledge that always opens new vistas, if only we care to notice.

We did not notice that our discussion moved on to topics and we ended up with the suicide of the research scholar at the Hyderabad University. His misfortune need not be trumpeted to highlight the plight of dalits or the discrimination they face in society and across which ever political ideology they run to for succour. One need not even go excavating and hunting for information as to the lineage of the poor chap. He may have been a dalit or he may not have been one. He may have been a half dalit if there could be one such. But as one of the guys asserted, his suicide was perhaps a genetic temperament, an aberration that he was inborn with, only that the right moment and incidences accentuated it. The guy who stated this spoke about the state of depressive disorder and he asked if we could tell what it is to be plowed under by depression and then you are bludgeoned by the effect of medication. He said that there was a time in his life when he contemplated suicide every day. There were moments when he almost ended his life. External environment also was unhelpful to his crawling out from the plight.

I could not help remembering the young boy who I knew since he was little, perhaps 6 years old. He, the 27 year old young fellow who snuffed out his life the previous month, ending his untold agony (I suppose) hanging by the neck. Was he depressed, was he unable to tell his receding plight? Couldn’t the people near him notice? Or did he decide because of all that he reached a cul de sac?