Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pretensions


Most of us will have had the misfortune to live disgusting moments watching folks flaunt their wealth- writing away cheques to the Church, other religious and charitable endowments. Their face mulched with haughtiness, moue and with glee. A certain satisfaction would writ in their face and comforts their mind coming to think that the apparent act of benevolence would cocoon them from nemesis. Further it is the adulation that comes when the act of munificence is publicised. Finally, the thought of the eulogies that would be incessantly read out in memorial services after they are gone! They will enjoy the vainglory even as they lay putrefacient in their graves! The philanthropists!
Philanthropy as practiced often shamelessly is as lascivious as philandering. I just cannot tell between the two, see any difference. Both are indulged in, one to satisfy the ego and the later gagging. And some folks do both.

However some are different and this guy is quite different. He cannot be called a philanthropist, because he doesn’t think that giving is the ultimate act of charity. In fact, he believes that the act of giving must make a substantial change in the life of the receiver. Failing which it is just an empty act like the ostensible statutory reservation that is provided to socially backward people in education and jobs in government.

Going back to his tale of riches from an ordinary middle class existence some twenty five odd years ago one feels envious and at the same time awe. He told me about the specter of future staring without bating its eyes. He was married and the young bride and he were travelling by train from Vizag to Kerala precariously perched on top of their steel trunks that held their belongings inside an overcrowded, smelly second class compartment. The future looked bleak. He was out of job and was not certain if he could collect the small capital that two of his friends suggested he bring so that they could begin a venture. The only source of income was the job his wife had as the teacher in a government owned Engineering college. It was then quite meager, but handy nevertheless and very vital.

From there, in a while life took a turn that he and his wife could not fathom. The business that he began with his partners flourished and exponentially too. Within a few years they spread overseas. A new life with remarkable shift, riches and money flowing in copiously and it continues. It is indeed different in a rich man’s world he would say later.It seemed almost like little Alice falling down the rabbit hole into a wonderland.

Now in the mid fifties he opined that matters like success and money are irrelevant to him. It has been so he says since long. He began practicing the art of giving after him, one day some fifteen years ago asked his wife if she really wanted to keep the job she had. Money was no more a necessity for her to be working. Children were growing and she could probably blend as a home maker. Besides inquisitive and intrusive opinions were passed in the family and among friends about her being employed and they alleged too greedy and self serving that she has little time to care for her family. She told him that she would like to keep the job, not for the money, but because of the passion she has for the profession- for teaching. Then, the very moment he suggested that she foregoes her monthly pay from the university and give it to students who are genuinely in need of financial support. Since that day, he said, it has been fifteen years and she would not touch a nickel from her pay cheque and personally ensured to credit the bank accounts of children who were finding it difficult to pay fees and other cost.

That was just one case of his voluntary promotion of human welfare. He dislikes limelight and as in his own words the left hand  shouldn't be told about what the right gives away.

There is something else besides money that can come to the aid of people. I saw used that well in him intervening as a good Samaritan and counselor when hard times and difficult issues almost plowed down the family of a good friend. Isn’t it so very true that the greatness of a man is not how much of wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and ability to affect those around him positively?


The wads of note one throws into the cash pots in places of worship, the large cheques signed off to prelates, the ostensible charity all which many do are seldom done out of love for the disadvantaged but as insurance against the malice and wretchedness that  in many cases are their associates and as a passport to a nonexistent paradise in the netherworld. But there are a few exceptions, I suppose.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Vain & Ostenatious



It sounds quite a right when we hear someone say, ‘It is my money, what I earned out of my labour and I‘d use it the way I want. No one can question my right to burn my wealth; I might give it away, might want to be voluptuary with it- live in a palace made of gold and eat off glittery gold plates’.
People who speak thus could be anybody who is seated on mountain of wealth- it could be the Kalayan Jewelers family hosting the Big B, Benny Hinn the evangelist healer (sic), the Ambanis or the most fraudulent of species- politicians in whose case the only knowhow to accumulate wealth is to steal, pilfer, rob the masses and purloin.

However, I feel the statement and thought that it is my money and my right to indulge with it is flawed and obnoxious. How can we say that gilded and opulent living, a life style that is utterly, utterly epicurean and extravagant is morally agreeable? Just because it is one’s own money, one’s own (call it) hard earned wealth- a product of sweat and toil or because it is one’s heirloom one has the inviolable and unquestionable right to be voluptuous with it?

Indeed wealth or the money wealth generates can be used to buy, possess and experience pleasures of the mind, body and most of all gratify vanity. The last mentioned- vanity, is indeed what drives people to indulge, to swank, to swagger. But can one claim that as absolute right?
Now, we need to think about the resources that went into the generation of the wealth that we decide to use to satiate our greed and vanity. Are they exclusively – morally and ethically ours for a price? Do we possess the right to hoard and squander resources that are scarce because one may be sitting on wealth as rich as that in Fort Knox? Can we trivialise the labour of many by placing a price? Can we ear mark the produce of labour and resources that are natural and products that are made, to which there are a million others who have the right to, but not the means.

I had a very animated and hot discussion with a young woman on the topic. It pertained to the picture and the news report of the Kalyan Jewelry family hosting Amitabh Bachan. The dinner was served in dishes plated with gold and resembled the sumptuous feasts that we have seen in Hollywood flicks that tells about medieval period intrigues. I expressed that it was vulgar display of vanity and wealth. My young companion vehemently disagreed and she said, it cannot be bad because what one does with one’s money is one’s prerogative. If I disliked opulence and did not wish to be ostentatious so be it and that I have no right to criticise the other and call it vulgar or vain.

We moved on arguing our sides. The question of opulent weddings came up; the obscene concrete home of the Ambani’s – “The Antilla” overlooking the slums of Mumbai came up; the ecclesiastical vulgar pomp of the evangelist Benny Hinn and the Vatican  was thrown across by me as some examples of what should not be the life’s statement. However we just could not agree, but she stressed that she may not display such ostentation but at the same time she could see nothing wrong if someone who is rich indulged.

The vulgarity of ostentation was something which she could not understand and disapprove. Perhaps it takes quite a bit of life to reverse her understanding and honestly feel different to people who are arrogant in their use of wealth.



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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Piss Boys



“Hour of the Second Defecation” (disconcertingly an hour earlier than usual for his evening …abulations). Dharmapuri is a country where even every last of the President’s excrement is venerated (they take their shit seriously in Dharmapuri….) and each bowel movement examined by the press (“’Magnificent, said one; ’great stability,” said a second) - - - suggesting that this has become a land of mindless, groveling courtiers, oblivious to reality. (O.V.Vijayan in “Saga of Dharmapuri”).

Yes, this is the land of groveling courtiers dressed in khaki and olive green overalls and of piss boys in uniform, holding piss buckets for ministers donning cotton spun white wears known by the desi name ‘khadhi’;  cowering, hovering with piss pots minding the piss buckets for the Lordships to pee, because no one can tell when their bladders get filled with the pale yellow urine, distilled in their kidneys served with the exotic food and spirits that they devour with tax payers money; when it will be time to jet it out- the stinking excretion of a depraved species. When the Lordships pass by and even if you happened to be pissing you got to hold back your piss as a gesture of veneration & respect and salute them, the Lordships. For only the Lordships can piss when they want and where they want.

It is in such a society that Rishi Raj Singh the policeman dared to mind his business seated firmly in his chair and ignored the arrival of the tutorial school teacher turned home minister and wealthy politician who walked by, escorted by police officers virtually massaging him from toe to groin. Outrage and incense were the reaction from the political class who were used to police officers squirm and tremble in their presence, bending backward and forward, sideways and levitate too at their beckoning and often wetting their underpants in abject fear and debased.

Rishi Raj Singh the above board police officer from Rajasthan went by the protocol book which dictates that a guest need not stand up to salute an elected representative and sat firmly in the chair as the State Home minister later stepped in on the scene escorted by a retinue of supplicating imbeciles clad in khaki; holding piss buckets. This was branded as disrespect towards an elected representative and abominable arrogance of a police officer who will keep his job only at the will and pleasure of the elected representatives. The State was offended said some as it was an affront to the State & its 70 million Mallus and not just to the Home minister.

Rishi Raj Singh stuck to what was laid down in the protocol book. But in a country where politicians and elected assholes take it upon themselves as the birth right to defecate and demand that bureaucrats scoop their pooh it was seen as an offence second to caricaturing the prophet of Islam. It was only a few months ago a young Administrative officer was pulled up for donning sunglasses while shaking hands with the prime minister.

It is a sad reminder of the pathetic abyss of our times that Rishi Raj Sigh was moved out from the position of transport commissioner and recently as the chief vigilance officer of the state Electricity board because he was booking powerful weasels who had defaulted payment to the board and were also stealing power from transmission lines. Earlier, as the transport commissioner when he insisted that passengers travelling by car must wear seat belts, the minister in charge was annoyed and chose to reverse a sane order.

Leaving aside the book rules and niceties of protocol I wonder if any self respecting person will want to salute this awful species we call politicians. The very sight of these scoundrels walking by would make one writhe in disgust and utter helplessness. Recently in the USA, President Obama was chastised for not saluting the Marine who was in attention by the Air force 1, helicopter that was to fly the president out. That sounded wise and just- the president or the elected representative saluting the Marine. After all it is the soldier and the police who are at the receiving end of fire and not these parasites that are often well cocooned inside state mansions and steel armoured bullet proof motor cars. They always maintain a human shield.

It also is laid down that traffic should be stopped only when the president, prime minister and visiting foreign dignitaries travel by road. Which means that no one should hold back pedestrian and vehicle movement to make way for other persons and that certainly include state chief ministers, central ministers and even governors?

It is time that well meaning denizens reacted in face of the arrogant ways of this abhorrent lot. But, then is it not true that we get to be ruled by men we deserve and in democracy aren’t we electing our representatives who in body, mind and deed are us- our reflection, our shadow? Why then wail?







Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Greek Tragedy



The last few weeks, in the Western print and visual media we have seen a feast of commentaries on the Greek tragedy. The Indian press, baring a few of substance and the visual news media were totally oblivious to the tumult in Greece. As usual they had ample matters to feed upon that were of local flavour. There was also a fair bit of postings and comments on the social media too on Greek bankruptcy.

In the end though I had devoured most of the lead articles and the incisive reporting of the BBC, I simply cannot help not wondering about the Greek economic mess as simple issue of a recalcitrant borrower who displays arrogance and  a fair bit of credit immorality. The leftists, people like Noam Chomsky and the capitalist baiters will disagree and say that it is grossly offensive to brand the Greek attitude as  dishonourable unwillingness to repay debts. Astonishingly, I have not seen an article from the quintessential Arundhati Roy who would generally have reveled in an opportunity to blast Western economic policies directed at developing economies.

One need not have to be an Adam Smith or a Keynesian disciple to discern the Greek mess and it should not take a great deal of acumen to see that whosoever lives beyond their means- be it an individual or a country as a whole, capitalists, communist or socialists you will soon reach a cul de sac and have your back against the granite wall; lenders will snarl and all hell will break loose. Further lending will generally be ruled out in case of individuals whilst corporates and governments will have to sing the tough tunes lenders dictate. It is simple reasoning here that nobody wills, to throw good money after bad money unless strict assurance is available. Then, why are the cries of betrayal and cries of capitalist conspiracy? Did we hear a murmur of disapproval when the lenders were letting credit lines open to Greece and the ECB was generous?

This reminds me of the Indian situation which is akin to the EU. Many states have run up dangerous levels of overdrafts with the Central government and in a way is forcing printing of money .Monetary policies like that the ECB prescribed for its members including Greece was negated by the latter’s  fiscal application. Going slow, weak and timid on tax collection is all the more dangerous for a State for instance like Kerala that has no industrial output to bring in revenue.  In the case of Greece, one could watch on television that citizens were aware of the hole their country had got into and the austerity & belt tightening they will have to grin and bear. Back here we simply are oblivious to economics and are gaga when corrupt, dishonest and inefficient governments in States keep providing doles and freebies. Every meal that is free will have to fetch resources from elsewhere to make it stay free!

At the end of the acrimony with Greece will there be an honest and dispassionate appraisal of what went wrong for the Greeks to be indebted by over more than 350 billion Euro? Indeed the multi- billion dollar Athen Olympics was a luxury that wrought deep holes in Greek pockets. Like the Roman denizens twenty one days of round the clock circus briefly cast away reality. But that was just one of the many leaks and extravaganzas for which Greeks may have used borrowed money.

I was reminded of this necessary inquisition by a real time story of how a galloping business entity that nose-dived? Fortunately for the promoters the Banks intervened favourably and offered a life line of credit restructuring. Meaning to include the precise antidote ECB might prescribe for the Greeks – strict austerity and deferred interest and debt repayment.But here again neither the Banks nor the promoters seemed to investigate how the mess came about? The safeguard against the repetition of history is to find the culprit within if not show him the door.
There is indeed a simple quotidian moral in this Greek tragedy.




Wednesday, July 1, 2015

MCP



“You see, what you convey in English need not necessarily sound polite and civil when you convey the same in other languages.”  She made a statement of sorts and without waiting for my reaction continued, “In fact it can be gauche and rude too. So you really cannot blame her for being annoyed. “I protested, yet when you are confronted by two women and when they are mother and daughter duo it is forbidding and you can be sure that all your remonstration and explanation will be in vain. You simply can’t reason with these folks. They are crafted to wear you down.

I could not understand this reasoning. Just could not. So, I was in no mood to throw the towel and relent to this nonsensical talk and lecture the duo have prepared to wear me down with. I minced no words and said. “Ok, ok, even agreeing with your decision on the choice and use of phrases, when you tell someone  ‘fuck you’, in English and when you transliterate the phrase into Malayalam or Tamil and even Hindi for instance, the meaning and the menacing intent is the same as long as you pepper your voice with baleful  intent. Yet you could tell someone ‘fuck you’, with enough punch to make him or her understand that what he or she is up to is stupid and can’t be approved, but no menacing, sinister intent is harboured.”

“Hear; hear you can never agree that you are in the wrong. You are all excited when you have done something bad. You do not own up and you simply argue.” They said in union. But the younger one was more vocal. I turned to her and repeated what sparked the conversation or argument in their parlance. “Come on, if I had told the girl, ‘stop chattering’ in Queens English, certainly you folks would have had nothing to say. Not that the intent is evil and rude when conveyed in Malayalam and elite when said in English. Moreover she is a girl who is about your age and with the same irritating recalcitrance as you display and when I told her to shut up and listen I was in fact admonishing her for being brusque and jumping the gun than listen carefully to what  I tried to convey to her over the phone.”

“Nevertheless, the language- the word you used is not acceptable, even if she is a young subordinate, an apprentice or whatever.” This was the mother‘s judgement. With these folks around, one gets the feeling of being marooned in a Central African Banana Republic and facing a Kangaroo court.
“No wonder she called you MCP when she heard you speak so to that girl your subordinate.” That was the daughter and she said with a chuckle.

“I don’t care a damn what she thinks about me, because she is presumptuous.  And you folks simply refuse to see and are prejudiced towards whatever I say. She just had no idea about in what circumstance I told so to that girl and what was the conversation transpiring between us. She simply acted like an overbearing matron. Moreover I do not see an eye to eye with her. We are just not homogenous. But for her to label me a chauvinist is boorish.Ca you tell one instance when you found me a male chauvinistic filthy boar?” I directed that question to the mother.
I continued. ”I have quite a few women friends and have good relationship with them. None would call me such sardonic names. Go ask them if I’m chauvinistic male boar. What she said reflects her arrogance, her disdain for others. Because she could have her way with one, she thinks she could lord over the rest too. I care a hoot."

“Yes do that, after all you always think you are right. You argue for the sake of proving your point. You don’t see if you are right. All that you do is yelling and raise your voice. In the bargain you raise your blood pressure.” I do not remember who stated this as the mauling was a joint exercise, I did not keep much tab as to who was punching below the belt.


“Indeed, I argue. I argue when I believe in something passionately and want to put forth my reason, my point. I raise my voice to emphasise the point and you allege that is screaming and yelling. If one can’t discuss and if you see an argument as a quarrel and an exercise that will only result in raised blood pressure and bad blood, well, then one must tape ones mouth with adhesive tape and wear blinkers too. A handful of cotton screwed into the ears would also ensure that all that is, is sound and voices, opinions are shut out. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Musings of Amour & the Unkind


There is one friend who latches on to philosophical discourse whenever we sit down for an evening sundowner. His memory is sharp and he quotes from varied sources. He has very valid, practical and sometimes questionable outlook towards life and death. He is not worried or afraid of the end of life. He asserts borrowing from Athenian philosopher, “The hour of departure has arrived and we go our separate ways, I to die and you to live. Which of these is better, who could tell?”

Indeed one could never tell! Yet, sometimes we can presume and sometimes we can tell too.                A couple of incidences in recent time have been telling. It is scary, unpredictable this phase called old age. But, also then as this diminutive fellow often argues, every next moment is scary because its unpredictability and one need not wait to be in old age to feel the anxiety. Nemesis can catch up with us any moment. But we continue to move on oblivious and apathetic. Quite a truism!

When we live in a non-welfare State, the odds that are stacked against us are enormous. A few months ago when my mother was hospitalised with acute pneumonia, the odds in her favour was almost bleak. It became less than pale when she had a secondary infection. When life is supported by an invasive apparatus and even physicians unable to tell how long the patient would need the aid of ventilator to survive, if at all he/she survived- as days and weeks go by, there comes a moment when we ask to particularly no one, how long can we financially sustain this cost?

A week ago, a not so aged close relative was felled by acute hemorrhage in the brain while he was revelling with his two little grandsons. He now lies in hospital after a life saving surgery and solely aided by the ventilator that keeps him alive. Will he come out of coma? If he does what impairment will he live with? If he continues to be in coma and slip into vegetative state, how long will he survive? How long will he need medical life support to survive in a morbid existence? Now his children are by his side, but soon they may have to attend to their quotidian necessities & of livelihood and they will have to leave. How deep are their pockets to meet the medical bills? Yes indeed he is their father, but how long will they be able to sustain the medical aid, for there is no cornucopia of wealth to dive into. Deep pockets!

The questions may seem to be inappropriate; after all it is the father who is battling for life. But then glaring facts and situations can be such that there is seldom room for emotional persuasions and the so called high ground ethics and morality as we love to identify with. Not everyone is a Schumacher or Christopher Reeves to possess the resources to endlessly spend on medical assistance. At some point one will have to accept that it is a culdesac. It will be an awfully repenting and helpless situation we might find ourselves.

Aruna Shanbag was cruelly kept alive-a frozen and withered vegetable for forty two years. The nurses of the King George hospital were asinine and audacious to state that given another one hundred years they would still care to keep the unfortunate woman alive and on external  life support. Well in that case there were voluntary forums to meet the medical bill of that unethical saga enacted in the name of love, humanism, compassion and godliness. What about the cases of us, many other ordinary folks who might at some point find it a financially impossible task thrust upon us? What if we are the ones to be kept alive over the broken backs and lives of our children? Financial encumbrances in such cases will be enormous even to think of. Do we want to be kept alive and in the bargain wreck the lives of all who care for us? Do we want to be plowed under by the burden that we simply are unable to cope with- sustaining the miserable existence of the person we really love? Herein lie the irony, the tragedy of our falsehood, rhetorical frippery and malarkey-the government’s and the society’s refusal to legalise euthanasia. The fascination about life is its quality. And when the quality of life is not even remotely sensible, when the “Welfare State” is nonexistent, how can the government and the moralists deny a person’s right to dignified death? What civilised thought and law is it that would enable a government to criminalise assisted death by stopping life supporting medical intervention in cases of irretrievable physical state or in cases of financial impuissance arising out of grim and superfluous ghoulish existence, when the Government itself is unable to provide a welfare state?



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Eruption of Toba & Hinduism


We all will have multiple choices. Either he or she can keep his or her convictions or beliefs to self and ignore the tumult of dissent and disagreements around; bludgeon or hound the person who airs a different view point; still strongly express one’s conviction or opinion ( often to considerable annoyance of the other) and entice the other into a healthy argument. The first option is the corollary to being a eunuch, however broad and hairy may be one’s chest. I do not intend to commiserate with such kind. The second option is the easiest way to the ones who are feeble in mind, frail. The last option need not make you right but at least (to quote) Chinua Achebe, “To me, being an intellectual (sic) doesn’t mean knowing intellectual issues; it means taking pleasure in them”.

I came across a fantastic statement, best defined as an outlandish claim on the facebook wall, posted by a fellow fb user. It stated that Hindus existed in India from 74,000 years ago! Awesome discovery of anthropology, a mammoth singular feat of evolution and social living, a splendid demographic achievement that early in human history, one can presume (sic). The link in the post further moves on to atrocious claims that when the ancient volcano in Indonesia, “The Toba” erupted 70000 years ago, the cataclysmic aftermath wiped out many civilisation  and heralded a brief  volcanic winter shielding the sun out for a decade and more. Artifacts and tools besides fossils and skeletons  found in volcanic ash that was deposited in parts of India prove it goes on to claim that “Hindus “existed in India 74,000 years ago. Bizarre! What else can one say about this claim? Why not say that Hindus existed everywhere 100,000 years ago? Why not go further and claim that “Lucy” the prehistoric ancestor of human beings whose remains found in Ethiopia and who may have lived 3 million years ago was a Hindu? The agenda is to tell a concocted story, a surreal one a hundred times hoping it would be taken for real. Such an audacious claim is possible when you see as much as laughter provoking claims of aircrafts travelling transcontinental from India 100000 years ago and decapitated heads being stitched back on torsos aided by advancement in plastic surgery in ancient 

What are these folks after? Anyone with basic faculties will know that the science of archeology is the branch of anthropology that studies prehistoric people and their cultures through their material remains. One needs physical evidence or something near to it to extrapolate and not just mumbo jumbo and fantastic notions driven by outlandish ideas that are triggered by acute fanaticism and hallucination. Alas! The plan is simple. Create an eccentric theory that would keep folks in awe of the past and showcase it as historical truth so that the fact that the country is a land of immigrants is deftly set aside and erased; but was inundated by foreigners in the recent past, usurping a culture of a 100000 years.

“To comprehend the present and move towards the future requires an understanding that is sensitive, analytical and open to critical enquiry. …” says Romilla Thappar. This is what these folks make a pulp of and thereby making the study into history a mockery.

If a harmless question, whether God is a democrat could warrant a petition in court ,certainly these bizarre claims and statements should be termed offensive to basic intellect and commonsense and the ones brandishing such nonsense statements must be hauled up before law for offending commonsense.