Thursday, September 1, 2016


“What should I do when there is nothing that I could do?” He ululated helplessly and the sea howled back with turbulent waves one after the other lashing angrily on the shore on that overcast monsoon morning. Yelling, his cries sucked up without trace by the constant sound of beastly waves beating on the shore and the howling incessant roar of the wind   he went down on his knees and punched his fist on the wet sand in anger and wretchedness. The sea continued to roar its tumultuous vitriol.

He was swept over with disgust and wrath- like in epic scale.  When all that he can do is watch and watch in utter impuissance, like a mute spectator, a eunuch!  He wished he could seize the situation and pluck her out from the infestation; bludgeon the  maggots who feasted on her and like a child does with care to a cocoon- cup safely in his closed palms and run farther and farther away from the beasts and the interminable selfish parasites . A pearl not cared for and it’s worth unnoticed. He felt a deep pang incessantly hammering in him. 
  If only one could go back in time machine! He wished.

In a suspended state of self inflicted denial, perpetually fooling her and the people who wished her good, she was hoping to conjure a feeling of goodness, and quiet; of love and harmony. Not many human beings would refuse to be be plowed down like she and still not be disheveled. Well at least in appearance.  The wounds and the scars of these years were well masked. The outward gaiety and exuberance was a decoy, nevertheless the courage and the clarity of thought was sublime and unseen. The pleasantness in the face and the  serene pulchritude was unmatched.

 Yet the fact remained that what shows on the surface- the seeming placidness is a facade meant for the world, the world of unholy curiosity and callousness

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Its not the Cows....

Crocodile tears are a metaphorical usage.  But some people shedding crocodile tears will put to shame even those prehistoric predatory beasts known for its stealth and ruthless predatory skills. In the battle field of Kurukshetra the most infamous treachery and untruth were enacted like seasoned thespians by folks who are even to this day considered noble and epitome of honesty and righteousness. Mr. Narendra Modi’s theatrics, the past week, in a well stage managed interactive session (as he wants us to believe) resembling the customary interactions of the US Presidents was something akin to the vile and perfidious innocence displayed by the Panadava clan and their interlocutor, modulator and cahoots- the Charioteer of Arjuna!

It took almost a year for this man Narendra Madhav Modi to utter one word on the barbarism of the Cow vigilantes who have been unleashed by his party and its ideologue parent body the Sangh. It was in September last that a depraved mob propelled by the very hideous ideology pedaled by the Sangh and the VHP set upon an old Muslim man in Dadri and lynched him allegedly because he retained in his house cow meat. The number of incidences that regularly followed this cannibalism of the nationalists was systematic and heinous. Muslims and Dalits were handpicked for thrashing and bludgeoning by these criminals. While Mr. Modi   jet -set across continents and shook hands with Presidents and Prime ministers, some of whom until a couple of years ago had branded him pariah and untouchable. He missed no photo opportunity, all well orchestrated by his PR Company. All the while Cow vigilantes ran amok and Kashmir burnt, with such atrocities inflicted on Kashmiris that pales what the Zionist state of Israel perpetrate in Palestine.

Finally when he spake in his sonorous yelping fashion, he spoke with riders and with contrived sincerity. He did not repudiate the cow vigilante goons in toto but selectively branded a few criminals who were hounding “Dalits”. The man who elevated sophistry into a craft and higher art form went on to say in a pleading voice ,”Shoot me if you want but spare the Dalits”.

What the heck is this guy, a reincarnation of Jesus of Nazareth? Or is he a 21 st century self advocate of vicarious redemption of sorts? He has clearly questioned the faculty of the average Indian. It is true that a chief executive may not necessarily have to be involved in subjects that fall under the purview of States such as law and order. But these incidences were not trivial. In any case it is incumbent upon the Central government to monitor the law and order in States. For a Prime minister to claim that killing and daily persecution of Dalits & Muslims by cow protection group which is necessarily a bunch of thugs and urchins owing allegiance to his party, the RSS and VHP is not a matter within his purview is willful  dereliction of responsibility.

What I intend to take umbrage here is that, firstly in no uncertain words he alluded that Cow vigilantes are people with his and his governments ( meaning the RSS’s) patronage , though a few criminals may have infiltrated. It is they he asserts who cannot be tolerated. Meaning the ex officio cow vigilantes will be let loose. Then his very specious pleading,”don’t shoot the Dalit, shoot me instead if you must”.  I feel total revulsion at this remonstration of the man, the messiah for the many asinine middle class Indians. If there is unfeigned and an uncompromising will, what will it take him and his government  to unequivocally clamp down on these criminals, these savages of the VHP, Bajrang Dal and the Sangh   who pose as cow protectors?  Five minutes! The law of the land is absolutely clear as to how criminality must be confronted and put down. Why prevaricate and bay? But he has not moved a finger since the Dadri in September last, while letting loose the Sadhvis and his party members who went ranting their feral and dangerous invective on Dalits and Muslims.
Thirdly, when he pleaded to shoot him and not the Dalits, he conveniently ignored the atrocities on Muslims who for generations have been eking livelihood from leather processing and trade in leather. His Sanghi bred detestation for Muslims was blatantly manifest in his silence on lynching and hounding of Muslims in the name of cow protection. His government’s unpardonable indifference and disastrous engagements in Kashmir is yet another proof of this. That State is as good as lost- lost because a generation of young has been permanently alienated; and when one’s future looks bleak & hopeless , desperation naturally kicks in. This is what we see in Kashmir today.

Where do we position ourselves as a society and as a country with an elected chief executive who is specious in his utterances, who is unconcerned about the heinous practice of un-touchability and plight of Dalits, who harbours total disdain for Muslims and a general apathy and intolerance towards dissent?

Successive Congress governments beginning with that of Indira Gandhi’s have played the religion & caste card and ensured that fault lines and divisiveness became permanent feature of the polity. Mr. Modi has taken over from there and given a newer meaning to divide and rule and to ushering in a RSS dictated Indianness by distancing Dalits and Muslims from the national milieu. His cow vigilantism is solely orchestrated towards this end.

Modi is no Nelson Mandela. In fact even a remote attempt at comparison is offensive to the late icon of African resistance. When South Africa was tethering at the precipice of disintegration and racial violence soon after the dismantling of apartheid, a Modi would have doubly ensured that the natives or the majority blacks were let loose on the Afrikaners and eventually made a dystopian waste land of South Africa. What we need today is the man of the hour,  a person with vision who can like Nelson Mandela bring about reconciliation and oneness;  understand that a multicultural and diverse India is as rainbow a country like South Africa.  History can be a tool to reconcile and also to ensure that history doesn’t repeat. But for that we need a leader with character and the lack of it is what we have to bemoan.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Small Saga

The narrow panchayat road wound through the periphery of the Lower Primary Government School and abruptly ended sloping at the entry into the vast expanse of the paddy fields that stretched beyond into Kuttanad.. From the school it took about twenty minutes, a distance of about three quarter of a mile to reach the cul de sac in the road, on nights when the moon was free from clouds that often threw their mantle across its lucent face. 

 One could see the couple of street lights en route, atop the tall poles with moths and insects swarming around the glow of the bulbs and occulting their incandescence. Some dead and stuck on the face of the bulbs like barnacles. The street lamps gave the image of forgotten ancient detritus.  Folks depended more on the torch made out of a bunch of coconut fronds than the faint glow of those electric street lights.  The tall Kanjiram stood on the Ouseppachan’s small plot and silhouetted at night like a lone cliff over the plains. It dwarfed the Jack trees and the Poovarasu that together threw a thick canopy over the house . The panchayat road ended little further down the wired gates of the house.

It was usual for Esthappen to sit at the gate, a movable barrier made of wire mesh and pieces of log. Some nights, he would recline in his easy- chair on the verandah pulling profusely on the beedi stubs and lighting another when the dried rolled tobacco had burnt-over almost scorching his parched lips. Old  Esthappen had since long forgotten to sleep and he cohabited with insomnia. His hallucinations and fantastic woolgathering were probably the result of that.

The bats that lived in the kanjiram would circle about and shriek occasionally from their inverted berth high up on the branches. They moved about in the night sky in silence, their dark silhouettes gliding, their wings flapping gently in flight often conveyed awe and yet to some an eerie sight to behold. Those innocuous winged mammals often are alleged representatives of evil and harbingers of evil forces in the stories told a dozen and more times by Esthappen. He was quite deft in mimicking while narrating stories and folklore, something that enthused the fascination of kids and Esthappen happy.

On some nights, Esthappen’s mongrel “Kaiser” would howl looking aimlessly into the night sky. Perhaps he saw something we could not; something Estahppen could not notice. Kaiser may have been annoyed by a phantasm- a psychedelic shadow, a field rat scurrying past, or the glowing moon.
Folklore has been unkind to dogs; old mother tales and chronicles in which dogs have some strange sense of perception, power to see the unknown, feel things that we could not and to foresee bad omen. Esthappen swore that the street dogs which strayed around the LP school compound wailed in unionism while the old karnavar at the Thekkeparambu  thravad laid battling snake venom that had paralysed all of his body. The dogs signaled his end was near-his death by their howling and strange wailing the whole night until he passed at dawn and as soon as he died their howling stopped abruptly. Esthappen asserted that most deaths were forewarned by dogs.

The thatched shed that housed the two cows kept by Esthappen’s daughter Kochu Maria was a few yards from where he rested on the verandha. The occasional shuffle of the bovines , their snorting and Esthappen’s phlegmatic cough interrupted the silence of the night.
It was rumoured that Estahappen smoked strange dry leaves rolled up in the beedis.  He also used them as added flavour to the  beetle leaf he chewed .The old man often spoke about floating through the clouds and sometimes galloping across mountains and valleys on a horse. He would fly through the sky on a beast, which would sprout wings and appears like a white stallion- a Pegausus! He would be brought back little before day break. Old man spoke about retinue of fairies who would guide him through the journey. Esthappen claimed that these mysterious night odysseys have happened many times and he unfailingly would narrate to the children the very next day.       
 His fantasies were fantastic as fairytales of yore and about solo crossings of men, of men flying through the skies on white Pegasus and magic carpets, crossing oceans to faraway heavens by night, when the rest of the world sleeps. To come back by daybreak with intrigues and privy to them only; their stories- apparently mostly contrived and images of sorcery, of which most have survived ages not only as fables and folk tales but as apocryphal beliefs. Beliefs for which men and women are prepared to forsake their lives, to snuff out another life, to wound and kill without a feel of remorse or guilt, but with casuist fervour.

Esthappen’s molars had all fallen out except a couple and all that remained of the rest of the teeth was the incisors. And they stood precariously. The perpetual stubble on his cheeks resembled the parched paddy fields, dry and life less like after the harvest. Because of age his eyes were rheumy. His hearing was faulty and he often bowed angling his head and holding his palm to the ear as a deflective barrier to direct the sound he wanted to pick up. This created an impression that he was eager to listen, while often he meant the opposite. He loved to chatter, tell stories and of adventures from his days in the Army and before that his life as the cook at the bungalow of the plantation manager the English man. Esthappen was eighty five.

Ouseppachan, his son-in-law bought the 18 cents of land with a loan on his retirement funds and the house was painstakingly put up. The majestic jack fruit tree stood at the gate and mocked at the seasons with the perennial bearing of green jack fruits. Folks were awed how that tree produced those fruits round the year in such spectacle of abundance all over its trunk and bow. In fact the tree bore fruits even when jack fruits were an unseen thing in the market.

Esthappen was the errand and cook to the British manager of the plantation who lived for long in Peeremade, in Idukki before he went back to England. But before the English man went away he did not forget to reward Esthappen for his loyalty and most of all for his culinary skills. No one knew how he acquired his culinary attainments. In any case Esthappen by the stroke of fortune became the owner of five acres of Tea and Cardamom plantation in Idukki.

His daughter Kochu Maria was from his earlier wedlock. When his wife died young soon after childbirth he married again, something that he would later rue. As ill-luck may have it, his new bride who was about half his age and little older than his own daughter was a termagant and feral woman. Her parents did not care much about the age of the widowed Estappen and had no qualms in giving away the young lass Rahel.

The past in Rahel’s life were not without mysteries so as to attract a young suitable boy from a respectable denomination. A widower was the best bet. When she was nineteen Rahel eloped with a Tamil labourer, a tea picker from a nearby tea estate. She spent about a year with him in some town across the border in Tamilnad before presumably when matters had got unbearable, took the rickety bus that deposited her back at her father’s door step. She would not talk a word about her whereabouts, the fellow with whom she eloped or her life with him. It is a fact of our times that sententious folks are common but of little value. Equally obnoxious are the ones who pass pharisaical judgments and have scornful opinions on other people’s lives, their follies and personal grief.  Esthappne understood that well.   When he solemnly took the wedding vow accepting Rahel as his bride at the altar of the St Joseph church in Peeremade, Esthappen was not eschewed by such queasy lots, the people who chose to be unkind and rude, alleged malicious stories about his bride. Esthappen's large heart, was not touched and was not to be shriveled by vicious comments, all of which he rubbished as innuendos. He was unmoved by those shenanigans.  He did not probe Rahel with disquieting and unkind questions. As a good Christian he believed in the salutary effect of forgiving and forgetting and also acknowledged the frailty of man. He was only concerned of making a secure home for his little daughter Kochu Maria and did not want her live through childhood, motherless. A foster mother is a consolation than not having the affection of one, he presumed. For that he needed a woman- a wife. He hoped to found one in Rahel.

However his bride for that matter was incisive about the tidy fortune of Esthappen- the gift left to him by the Englishman, than a life with the man who was her father’s age. She was not to be impressed about having to be foster mother to his daughter. Rahel was cantankerous and rude to Esthappen and the little girl. She did not bother to hide her dislike for both.

When war reached the Indo-Burma border, Esthappen volunteered to go to the front. Unable to bear the shrew wife, quite upset and saddened he enlisted in the Army. He entrusted his adolescent daughter to a catholic nunnery run by the order of the Congregation of the Mothers of Carmalite in Vandiperiyar. He left Rahel and the two sons she bore him and journeyed to the place of his stationing, in the trenches in the jungles of North East Frontier.

Four years was a long period but they went fleetingly. When Esthappen returned to Peeremade after the war he realised that Rahel had not changed her ways and was crotchety as before. He felt unwanted, a stranger and an intruder. It was during one of those days then that a robust young man, a tall dark complexioned and well-built fellow of about thirty came to see him. His hair was black as a raven’s, well-oiled and combed back. Thick tooth brush moustache was well trimmed .He wore kakhi drill trousers and white short-sleeved cotton shirt neatly buttoned and well tucked inside the waist of his trousers. However his brown leather shoes were untidy and badly needed a coat of polish.
He spoke head held high and straight into Esthappen’s face. “I’m Ouseph, the mechanic at the Merchiston Tea Estate in Vandiperiyar. I was born up north, in Malabar. Though, now for all practical purpose my home is here in Idukki .My mother passed away a few years back and since then I have not been to my native town. In fact I do not have any close relatives back there”.    

  Esthappen heard out the young man, but was at the same time searching for some clue as to why he was standing there and telling Esthappen about himself. The reason for his coming was yet not evident in his words.Perhaps noticing Esthappen’s searching eyes, the young man decided to get to the point. But he had to speak about himself before he touched on the subject. It would not help to broach the subject without the preamble. Because who he was and what he was mattered most when the subject come up. “Of late, I  drive down to the St. Fathima convent daily on some substitution of work- you know transporting tea leaves and I happened to see your daughter there. I do not think that she would disagree with my decision to ask you her hand in marriage. Though I must confess I have not spoken a word to her or asked her willingness yet. But I do not have reason to believe that she may have a different opinion about this or about me.” He paused and followed Esthappen’s face, which now showed a mouth slightly agape and eyes squint in surprise. Seeing that he continued, “I can promise you that I shall take care of her for all her life". Esthappen was a bit surprised but impressed by the young man’s demeanour and frankness, the choice of his words and how he spoke in a voice of clarity and masculine. Esthapen surveyed him head to toe and looked him in the eyes and placed him as an exponent of free will, innocuous, youthful in spirit and perhaps pollyannaish in emotion. He was not wrong. Esthappen continued to watch the young man for some moment. But to the young man Ouseph time stood still. Would his words be seen as the audacity of youth and improper on a subject that is customarily dealt by elders? Esthappen rewound the young man’s words “I can promise you that I shall take care of her all her life”. He noticed the glint in the fellow’s eyes and he felt the fellow meant what he said. Esthappen studied him; he had a straight face, an honest face. He has shown the courage to seek his approval for his daughter’s hand. He is young and strong and he could not disbelieve that his daughter will be unsafe with him. There seemed to be nothing inscrutable in the man. His face seemed to evidence his personality, his words and how he let them flow vouched further. His countenance was reassuring.

Meanwhile, Rahel who was in the kitchen noticed the arrival of the stranger and sneaked behind Esthappen to eavesdrop-an exercise that she excelled. Rahel was seamlessly pleased when Kochumaria was sent to the convent. She only had to plot a bit and finesse Esthappen’s plans for his daughter. Plans, she thought could make her and her boys’ position weak and precarious. She must ensure that Kochumaria will not be coming home to be a threat to her and her children. She must ensure that the girl was ordained a nun. She had in fact with seductive lure of an enchantress, speciously confronted the war ravaged and disheveled Esthappen not long after he was back from the front; to persuade him by all means to accept the offer from the convent to let Kochumaria take up nun-hood. She knew the idea may not fail to work if tapped shrewdly as she was aware of Esthappen’s taste for matters of the Church. Rahel had not forgotten his penchant to sign off of his land to the church when the parish committee expressed anguish at the precarious state of the parish finances. Under no heavenly skies shall offering a girl to God and his church be a lesser sacrificial act than willing some ground of land laden with undergrowth.

Rahel knew the art of malarkey, when to blow hot and when to relent, when to stoop to conquer; most of all how and when to wrench. She would remind Esthappen of the words of the Genesis.              “Adam knew his wife Eve intimately and she conceived and bore Cain. She said, "I have had a male child with the LORD's help." Then she also gave birth to his brother Abel. Abel became a shepherd of a flock, but Cain cultivated the land.In the course of time Cain presented some of the land's produce as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also presented an offering-some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cane was furious and downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you furious? And why are you downcast? If you do right, won't you be accepted? But if thou do not do right, sin is crouching at the door.”

Nun-hood was the easiest and the surest way to eliminate the burden a girl child may become. At the outset and most importantly it may also appear as a sacrifice and penance by the girl and her family. A  deed, of piety! However the losers was the girl, who more out of condition than own volition consigns her life as if destined by fate into the dark, dreary, repressive cold world of cloisters and nuns. A renegade is ostracised by the Order, community and her family. It is a one way ticket for many young girls in Kerala who are driven to choose a life ostensibly pronounced and described as “God’s maidens”, “God’s beckoning”. Penury drives families to offer girl children to the Church and for some sending a girl into a nunnery is a convenient way of casting away an inconvenience or a liability.

 Alas, now here stands the spoiler in the form of this avtar, this intruder, this dark tall specter who descended here heaven knows where from, in quest of asking Kochumaria’s hand in marriage. Rahel’s agitated mind began to churn fast -thoughts, ideas, plots which only must have one end and that was to see that the girl Kochumaria stays inside the convent and as a nun. A life for the girl outside the convent would be disaster for Rahel. She was aware and apprehensive about Esthappen’s boundless affection for his daughter and will have no hesitation in bequeathing all that he has for her. She cannot let that infliction, the lass corner Esthappen’s modest fortunes.When she agreed for the wedding with this middle-aged man who was already at the threshold of edentulous existence, it was because she was desperate for a life, a life that will bring her some respectability and financial security, nothing more and nothing less. Derisive comments, spiked glances that impales alive, muffled derisive laughter when she attended the mass at the church services made her realise how insincerely, callously and cruelly society can attend to a woman; who have perhaps in hindsight foolishly tethered her life to the promises and gallant assurances of a man only to be tormented and abused by him later. It was then that she decided she needed a refuge even a decrepit one that will lend her respectability. It was not for nothing that she was quiet and pliant to the mental duress and emotional blackmail of her parents and others who delighted in bearing upon themselves the right to rubbish her. She decided to bore his children, cook him food, wash his clothes and asphyxiate in the vice like carnal grip of the old man. No woman can lie back and relive the odour of the sweat and slime of a man- a man she has no love for, a man whose proximity she despises, a man who she decided shall only be an instrument, an aid to wrench back self-worth and not barricade from the world any more. She will stand up to life’s betrayals and do not intend to be shriveled and closed with fear, shame and pain. She harboured no sympathy for this man Esthappen. She cannot love anymore, no man –and the feeling that stays within her is only the love for her.

Esthappen was unsure of giving the man his word either way. He was not displeased with this young fellow. But he needed time; he needed to discuss the matter with the parish priest. A shuffle of the feet made him turn and look towards the kitchen door behind. Rahel stood there looming like the goddess with eighteen arms, like a juggernaut; teeth bared, fire blazing from her mouth and nostrils. Her blood-red tongue extended dripping blood; eyes as amber intending to incinerate to ashes all that it surveyed. Rahel stood there with one hand on her hip and the other on the door frame, signaled him with the corner of her eyes to go in with her. ”You oafish, mister I do not want you standing there drooling and blinking like a nitwit bowled over by that fellow’s sugared monologue.”
 She was seething. She pushed Esthappen to the wall and thumbed her finger in his chest. “If not for your sake, at least for the sake of my two boys better not forget the vow I took in your name while you were holed up in some goddamn trench in some goddamn jungle eating grass and fighting somebody’s war for all the past four years. Remember your daughter is meant for the church, for the Lord and not for some vagabond whom you think have descended like a messiah.”

The day Ousepachan wed Kochu Maria, the Esthappen household was almost in shambles. Rahel vent her distress and anger on all that she saw. She threw the household goods all around, uprooted the banana plants, deracinated the coconut palms in the small nursery that Estappen maintained, chopped down pepper vines, she flailed the cows and starved the dog. She rubbished Esthappen’s entreaties to be at the Church for the wedding. Disheveled and incessantly wailing Rahel walked about the house like a schizophrenic. She cooked no food. She swore at Esthappen and Kochu Maria. She tore Estappens dhotis and shirts. She ensured utter cluttering and disarray. Her boys wailed and ran behind her tugging her.        
 Sarah was eighteen and was the first one to discern that there is world beyond the fantasies and gibberish that Esthappan fed her and other children. She sensed that there is a wide and interesting world outside, big cities like Madras , Bombay and yonder. And she was not awed by the quite meaningless existence and life in that little hamlet where they lived.

Sarah was born to Ouspeh and Kochu Maria in the ninth year of their wedding.  Kochu Maria believed that she owed the child to the forty one days of novena she did at the Vellankani Church which  appeased and pleased the heavens that finally she and Ousepachan begot Sarah, their eldest child. Sarah, named after the wife of Abraham the Biblical patriarch of Israel, (who when Abraham and Sarah remained childless into their old age, took it upon herself to have children through a surrogate, her Egyptian handmaid). Apparently her fervent prayer for a child must have moved God over the top  that she begot 6 more children after Sarah!

Sarah often displayed an air of imperiousness. She demanded and ensured that she as the eldest of Ousepachan’s children deserved the best and preference in all matters. Sarah insisted that she be served food first. She chose the biggest chunk of fish Kochu Maria fried for lunch and dinner. Only she got to garnish her rice and lentil with butter that Kochu Maria made whipping the creamy milk from her cow which she otherwise  usually sold out. She had her own room, an alcove that she wrested and made an exclusive territory for her and hers alone- her private chamber.  She chose the most colourful cloth and the colourful flip-flops Ouspecahan bought for Xmas. She ate almost all the candy that he brought home leaving crumps and tit-bits for the rest. Worst of all she enjoyed the vicarious pleasure while she ate chocolates, the Cadbury bar she bought with the little money she shaves off from the groceries. She enjoyed eating them alone and not sharing with her siblings who stood about drooling like alley cats but fearful of being mauled if they asked for a crump. She sashayed. This display of dominance was a ploy to ensure the obedience and the pliancy of the younger ones. But unbeknownst to her, Sarah desired. She dreamt of a life that is rich, opulent and believed one day she will have servants and butlers waiting upon her and huge estates of land. Cars parked in the porch, huge wrought iron gates with gate keepers. Her parents will not have to break their back and be stressed for meeting ends. She will often take the airplane to distant lands and come back home with exotic gifts. She believed in the dream of possessing.

Esthappen called aside his daughter Kochu Maria one day, few days before he died and he said, presciently, “The domineeringness Sarah shows is partly a ploy and partly her desire to possess. Sarah is a person who will not hesitate to invite hardships and sufferings upon her if that would help the family. For, she will carry the quality of benefaction and caring within her to an extent which will make your family obligated and bound to her for all your life. But even if she desires she will not find a life of comfort and happiness. She will in the end lose her youth and life in search of felicity. Yet, lo and behold sacrifices will never be truly beneficent, can one day extract more than its share of the pound of flesh. But pity the child for she will not know contentment and will be always seeking, stretching her hands to grab the mirage, the rainbow. People who lived by her will purloin her. She will not be shown gratitude. Her birth star is such”.

Sarah was endowed by Nature with qualities that compensated for the average chiseled beauty that she possessed. She had elegance and charm that would beguile any. But she was smitten by traces of hedonism. Sarah decided that she will not coagulate herself in that bottled place, she felt the yearning to fly out into the world. She heard about Bombay and the window of opportunity there, the life in a metropolis! Her hostel mate in the convent the Anglo Indian lass gave her rollicking stories of the city and the possibilities of life she could hit out there. She was ambitious and resolved that whatever may balk she will weather them.

One week-end evening after supper, after the younger ones were sent to their bedroom she confronted Ousepachan and Kochu Maria with her plan to go to Chennai. Her parents were aghast. Ousepachan had a couple of months more to retire. The thought of the loss of income that it will bring about was giving him sleepless nights. With  five young mouths to feed, clothe and school, two adult girls and old father what can his wife Kochu Maria do besides what she has been doing all these years, tend to the daily chores at home? But he refused to accept his daughter’s plan. “Sarah, I as your father cannot sit idle and in comfort while my daughter a young woman, who has not seen the world beyond a hundred kilometers from here venture out alone to a strange and far away city. Life is uncertain there, full of pitfalls and danger. Do you know that?”                                                                               

“ Appacha it is not that mysterious and frightening as you make out. I will be living with a friend, you know the Anglo Indian girl. She has been here last Xmas too. Don’t you remember Ammachi?” She turned excitement dancing in her face to Kochu Maria.
  “What do you know of her, her family? All that you know of her is in the few months she was in the school with you. And you decide to hitch your life to her fantasies? She is an Anglo Indian. A chattakari. They are very different from us. They claim to be more English than the English themselves. It doesn’t matter to them what others in the society speak about them.”
  “But Appacha, there is nothing to be worried of, besides I will get a job to begin with. She has promised to help me out. You see, her family has been there for a long time now. I could do a secretarial course and move on. The apprehension you have will be short-lived. I assure you that.” Sarah was now using her guile and persuasive tool.  Kochu Maria was uncomfortable and was unsure what she should say to dissuade the child. She was not happy with Sarah’s audacity. The looming retirement of her husband was scary though as her daughter’s proposal to travel to foreign lands in search of living. She fervently prayed that the girl gains reason and sense. She was different from the rest. She volunteers to take up responsibilities, she decides on matters that are at hand but the impetuosity of youth can lead to pitfalls. Yet she has been a yoke. Kochu Maria reminisced that time when Sarah ran to fetch the mid-wife in the blinding, rain five kilometers through the hilly terrain in Peeremade early before dawn. Kochu Maria had slipped into labour of her boy Cain and Sarah brought the nurse on the pillion of a bicycle well in time to assist Kochu Maria in her final wailing pushes to get out the child. She was as helpful in assisting in the parturition as the midwife herself. For her three younger children Sarah was like mother except she did not suckle them. How could they as parents let this young girl of eighteen, in fact she is a woman now, travel far away from home alone and live in a strange land with no one responsible to fall upon if need arose?    

Ousepachan was grim. “What do you think of us Sarah? That we can sit back idly, listen and enjoy the innuendos and slander people will throw at us for sending alone a young girl to Bombay?” No, certainly not. I will see if we can find you a job with some traders in the kambolam or even in Allapuzha. After all they will need someone who could handle English and their accounts. This is not America or England; this is a tiny village in Kerala. And we are not living in a western society. This is a little small town where even walls and lamp posts breathe, see and talk,”    
Sarah, from early childhood developed a close bond with her parents. Though Ousepachan would cane her when she was young for the many infarctions she was adept at, he did not let go a chance or a moment to be reproachful and showered unrestrained affection upon her.  But she was aghast at the prospect of having to spend the rest of her life marooned in that tiny village, where people still have medieval mind set and whose lecherous upper caste men folks are a bigger nuisance  than the vicissitude and  vagaries of life in a distant and foreign land. She was not sure if just being fortuitous is helpful. She shuddered at the prospect of having to run errand or commit to clerical work in the shadowy, smelly, narrow claustrophobic places at one of those many traders in the market.
Ousepahan asked Kochu Maria for a glass of water. He stood up from his chair at the table and went around and held Sarah around her shoulders and caressed her head. Sarah felt she would choke, the nerves from her toes tingled up to her forehead and she felt the blood gush about faster through her veins.

Esthappen coughed and called out from his capacious chair in the verandha. “KochuMariey, Ousephe,. don’t hold her back.”
Sarah stood up and looked pleadingly towards her father. He held her close and kissed her forehead. Sarah looked up into his eyes and her eyes widened seeing her father nod approvingly what her grandfather advised a moment ago. Before she could know she let out an ululation. She heard a muted murmur from her heart. “Really Appacha?”She kissed him in the cheek.                                                
 Ousephachan said, “If it is your wish, your destiny, yes my dear. God will be with you my child. I heed to your wish not with a quiet heart, but how can I decline my girl?” He walked towards the verandah and went down the steps, stood in the still night and inhaled a lungful of the cool night air. The wind blew across the paddy fields with a sough. He repeated the inhalation and exhalation as prolonged as he could so that he would not choke uncontrollably. He has never lost to his emotions, not when the children where around. He sensed that the courage and resolve that were his companions in youth seem to have deserted him. The long years of being a beast of burden- the commitments, the daily tussle to bring home bread, ensuring shelter and clothing for his seven children has taken its toll. His orphaned childhood life doing meanly works at workshops, earning about enough to sustain him and his widowed mother; at the young age he had to begin running for errand jobs, an age when kids are cavorting in their adolescent exuberance. Those periods of loneliness, isolation, rejection had whetted him and his resolve. Then his mother died. And suddenly he was left with nobody to call his. He had never known his relatives; his memory of his father was abstract. Later, he could get a permanent job as the errand boy at an automobile workshop owned by a Parsi. That gradually turned around his life. It gave him hope and the old Parsi was good teacher- a master of mechanics and an artful teacher of life. He learned a skill, the skill that would help him walk into any mechanical shop and ask for work. The skill that he mastered required just his hands and mind to finesse work. Tools were only an aid. He could even set up a shack by the road on the highway and offer his skills to earn enough to sustain him.  He   lived and worked with the Parsi for fifteen years. The Parsi had two sons, the elder a noodle and the younger who was not keen about the greasy business inside of a mechanical workshop. When the Parsi died and his son decided to close shop and move into newer pastures, Ouseph packed his canvas bag slung it across his shoulders and boarded a bus, a bus to nowhere. He did not care to notice the destination the bus would travel. The journey, nevertheless deposited him in the faraway hills of Idukki. There he began his new life. After a few days of wandering about in the town, he could found a job as the mechanical assistant in the workshop of Harrison & Cross Fields Plantation Estate. The life there was to take him to the convent and to Kochu Maria and later, one day he walked into Esthappen’s house boldly and proudly proclaimed that he had the capacity and will to take care of Esthappen’s daughter Kochu Maria, till death does part and hence he  ask of him , Esthappen, his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Now, soon in less than two months he will be retired. And he has been feeling for some time now that his knees where buckling, legs going weak. He looked up to the sky; the sky was undefiled by clouds and clear. The stars where twinkling or where they winking at him? The Southern Cross was in the south west horizon as he walked through the gate towards the fields; he needed some time alone, to himself. The soft and billowing green fecund paddy fields had a lambent shade in the dark blanket of nox.

Ousepachan walked along the hedge in the paddy field towards the, the althara  where the ancient Kalvilakku stood now for years. The solitary electric bulb on the leaning wooden post near the Kalvilakku emitted a hazy light. Did he yield to Sarah’s entreaties rather soon? Was he being a nincompoop, a careless father? She is just past eighteen and going on nineteen, Is he doing her justice by letting her go? Is he being too cushy a father, acquiescing to a daughter’s wish? Or is he being selfish? Is he foisting on her his burdens? What if she would one day accuse him of letting her wade into the squelch of life before she knew what life was about? What if she accused him of not being a persuasive and caring father to discourage her, talked her out of intemperance and the impertinence of youth? Yes, he will be jobless in a couple of months. He will be sixty in a month and with profuseness of jobless young walking around in desperation, young people who are willing to work for lesser wages and put in longer hours if need be, which employer would fancy a middle-aged man? His retirement savings were already spent in buying the land and putting up the house. He was unsure of how his pension would suffice in meeting the needs of the house.

Ouseph sat on the dark rough granite steps of the althara and looked into the horizon. It was dark yonder as dark as his thoughts. It will be a sometime before day breaks with streaks multi coloured linings and like a kaleidoscopic canvas.  The lush leaves of the pipal tree hustled and rustled in the wind. But mundane thoughts continued to perturb him.

It was his decision to ask Kochu Maria to politely decline her father’s offer of sharing his land with her and Rahel. “You should not accept heirloom from your father. Your foster mother and her children are the rightful heirs to that. I did not think of, nor did I enquire about your father’s wealth when I asked him your hand, because, my wealth is my will and the limbs God provided me to achieve my will- to work. God willing we will have enough to live.” People who knew Ouspepachan , scoffed at his bêtise. They decided he was naïve and blathering. Some of them warned him that he was being a dullard by declining his wife’s rightful share of her father’s estate. They advised him he should understand that he has seven children and five are girls. Where is he going to found the money to secure their future if he brushes aside what was coming to him rightfully?
He could not decide if he was hasty in the face of Sarah’s doggedness. Is he being mentally enervated? He cannot tell what Kochu Maria would make of all this, his decision. Will she think that he was weak and not caring? Why did he not discuss with her? Perhaps he should have let the subject lie and slept over it! The excitement in the girl would have ebbed and she would have cast away the fantasy. Maybe Sarah is right her life should not be tethered to the morass of this village. But yet…!

The shriek of a Screech Owl coupled with the frightened squeaking of a filed mouse from somewhere near in the fields woke Ousepachan out of the slumber and the wanderings of his mind. He could not tell how long he slept on the althara. It was quite late in to the night, must be past midnight. The stars have moved their positions. New constellations were in place. Nothing is constant. Movement is inevitable to survive and when you cease to move you are as good as dead- quietus! He began to walk back home in slow, measured steps. A veil of mist had fallen low over the fields like gossamer silk. There was slight nip in the air. The sough of the wind persisted. When he turned in the direction of his house, he saw the shimmering lone light in the verandah. As he entered through the wired gate, there was rustling in the stables. Daisy was awake and has noticed him come back. The bells on her neck jingled. “Calm down Daisy some hours to go before Kochu Maria is ready to milk you”, he mused. Kaiser must have dozed off tonight or he must be in the backyard sniffing rats in their boroughs.                                                                    

  “Why did you risk the chill, outside? Do you know what time it is? It is well past 2’o clock. If you have not come now, I wanted to send  Able to fetch you from the althara.” Kochu Maria was awake all this while. She never sleeps until Ouspeachan was in bed and he slept. He could not remember a day in their lives when she was not awake until after he slid into sleep and he cannot imagine of a day when she is not around to wake him at dawn.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dystopian Kerala & Modi's Somalia

Mr.Modi’s Somalia comparison has for the past one week caught up much attention in this strip of land called Kerala (which , I’m sure historiographers(sic) of the Hindutva party would want to believe was allegedly carved out from the sea by a dreaded and conscientious  warrior, a Brahmin who detested Kshatriyas). The now infamous comment of Mr.Modi, who excels in sonorous rhetoric, laced half truths, innuendos apart from blatant lies and malarkey effectively aroused outrage in the State, but that seldom crossed the Western Ghats .Folks up north and elsewhere in the country wondered what the hullabaloo was all about and some may even have scampered to their computers to Google and find if Somalia in far away Africa suffered any tectonic shift. However  the chorus of protests over the PM’s comments  did create  some reverberation in distant Delhi among the minnows in the Modi government.

It was fun days over the past week, with an abuzz social media lampooning Modi and caricatures of his faux pass aplenty flying all over. I must admit that I missed no opportunity in sharing and commenting from my part- a contribution towards increasing the misery if I can, of one of the most disagreeable and detestable person to wrest  the Prime minister- ship of this country. Strong words? Cannot find any stronger ones, I must confess.

Now what I must address here is the allegation that Mallaus false pride was hurt by the comparison Mr.Modi made of Kerala with Somalia. Eventually Mallus hit bed with pleasure after satirising Modi’s comments with the economic and social index statistics of Gujarat.
 How true is the accusation? Indeed it is true to an extent. It is truer that than the truth of the hurt Malayalee pride, in fact it is the Mallus hypocritical heart that has been offended and hurt.

Keralites live in a house of wax- a house that is bedeviled with castes, superstition, sleaze, voyeurism, environmental destruction, cantankerous qualities and what not!  On the flip side agrarian and land reforms that communist ethos heralded, the social emancipation of a vast multitude of low caste, an universal education system, commendable health care, yet, I wonder if any Mallu even in his most ludicrous moment exclaim that Kerala is an epitome of Shangri-La. Century and more ago Swami Vivekananda painfully exclaimed that Kerala is a land of the insane. Many monsoons have since poured down on the land- communist social revolution heralded social and economic paradigm shift in the milieu, the Gulf boom created a tectonic transformation in the economics of the State. Today Keralites contribute 40 percent and more of the foreign remittances (i.e. Rupees 1 lakh crores). Ironically 3 million plus expatriates from other northern and north eastern states work in Kerala. All from States where IMR is abysmally pathetic let alone the plight of infants among Scheduled tribes.
Where does this place the Somalia of India?

As I mentioned I reveled in lampooning Mr.Modi. But the act was not out of hurt pride or obsessive hypocrisy , nor did I go to bed pleasurably for having mocked Mr.Modi, his gauche and inappropriate misleading comments, thus hoping to veil the supposed veracity of his statements. I savoured the pleasure of mocking a man who have apparently befooled the country and whose malarkey was laid thread bare by his own foul and boorish mouth and actions. A man who rode on to become the PM of the most populous country through means that was heart wrenching, and thrives on dispensation that is distasteful ,divide and rule.

The foremost issue that Mr.Modi raked up and which en masse the State took up in indignant chorus- was the mischievous and spliced , selective comparison with one of the most dystopian territories on the planet, “Somalia”. He claimed that “The unemployment in Kerala is at least three times the national average. Infant mortality in Kerala among Scheduled tribe community in Kerala is worse than that of Somalia. The State can meet only 13 percent of the requirement of their agricultural products. Even after 70 years after Independence, Kerala depends upon other states for 70 percent of its power requirements. Most of Kerala youth are forced to leave the State in search of jobs. Only through overall development can the State be brought back to its past glory.”      
 Past glory? I wonder what he was referring to.

It only requires little intelligence to understand that such has been Mr.Modi’s shenanigans and ploy, whereby he subtly proclaims wrong statistical data and spliced, selective data to mislead the audience. Instances during the previous general election were abundant. The specious statement over what black money stashed abroad can do to an individual Indian – who may stand to get Rs 15 lakh. More than a mouthful to fool the gullible!

The current plight of the Adivasis or the indigenous  forest dwellers of  India- the original inhabitants of the country even before the fair skinned Aryan invaders and later, the sacerdotal Hindus and the lesser ones  usurped their land is well documented statistically. The glaring indifference that Adivasis face in India is not an isolated case to be foisted on Kerala alone. True the mortality rate in Kerala is high among adivasis, but less than the national average (though that is not a status to pat one’s back). The fact is indifference to the original inhabitants has been not endemic to political parties or to Kerala.  And this Government with its mad Hindutva mind set has no reason to shed tear for the aborigines. Once electoral exercise is done with, scheduled tribes, scheduled castes and other non entities (as the RSS would see them) will be relegated into the septic tank. For, for a racial and religious purity that the Hindutva ideology calls for, there is no room for lesser beings.

Orchestrated bludgeoning of Universities & centers of learning and higher education is something that has been consistently practiced by fascists’ mobs (governments). This government under Mr. Modi has taken that exercise to newer levels. The matter is afresh in our minds and the process of clubbing into silence is going on.

As for the other falsehood Mr.Modi trumpeted, statistics on the Central Govt’s web sites of the economic survey gives enough information to rubbish his allegations. So copying them here is of less importance. A bakth yesterday stated indignantly that he doesn’t believe the statistics I quoted to rubbish Mr. Modi’s assertions. I   conveyed my empathy and told him that indeed with the Government headed by Modi one cannot even trust the official statistics to be true. For this government excels in rewriting and concocting everything and anything from cows to videos to economic data.

 This is what irks any conscientious person especially a Mallu , in the current context when a man with notoriety for presiding over a State government that did nothing to stop fanatic, religious madmen and marauders killing innocent people, goring and wrenching out entrails from human bowels, under whose watch gruesome killings which would shame Attila the Hun happened;  under whose watch his State actually went further down in Social Index parameters; a person who nonchalantly compared the Gujarat killings to a puppy being run over by a motor car, bays sententious statements and anguish at the plight of a Adivasis who have been hounded out in every State in India. If this is not hypocrisy , well what then does the word mean?

No, not over- his present government incessantly uses paramilitary and regular forces in the central heartlands of India to drive out the indigenous forest dwellers from their forest land so that the land can be given on a platter to his corporate benefactors. Why doesn’t Modi weep for the many tribes driven out of the Narmada valley when the monolith of a dam came across the Narmada to cater the over indulgence of Gujarat’s big cities and to quench the insatiable needs of big businesses?
Where is the inclusive development he speaks of? Rubbish utter, utter falsehood this comparison to Somalia!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Father Alexander

When I finished watching the movie “Spot Light” I could only think of Father Alexander, a priest who I have met a few times- that was long ago. More still, of whom I have heard quite a bit- of his sensational exploits and intriguing escapades.

“Spot Light” tells us about the cover up and intrigues that is the culture within the Catholic Church. That doesn’t mean that prelates of other denominations are angels in pristine white. The autobiography of  the catholic nun, Sister Jesmy , titled, “Amen” narrates in detail the abuse and utter violations that was inflicted on her while in the nunnery  and which eventually gave her the courage and  will to castaway her ordination. Devout Catholics would abuse her and call her renegade, an apostate and a charlatan hoping that would safeguard the sullied name of the church.  The difference here in this country is that mendacity and unsavoury conduct inside religious abodes, be it a Hindu ashram a Christian Seminary or a Madrasa will be covered up by the authorities and the whistle blower will be hounded.

The hamlets and villages in the mountains in the Western Ghats have always fascinated. More than a quarter century ago they were picturesque beyond words and laid back places, where often one felt time seldom moved forward. Where the weather was always cool & pleasant and electric fans were a strange and wasteful invention even at mid noon in the months of April and May.

When one drives up into the mountains and hill country in Kerala the ubiquitous cross graved out of wood or concrete beckons you like detritus monolith radiating a powerful evangelical image and sorcery. It is in one such hamlet that Father Alexander foraged as the custodian of the local parish and the sole mediator between the mortals and the Lord up in the heavens.

He was stout, may be 5’ feet 7, wheat complexioned, pretty large forehead and bald plate with remnants of hair on the back of the head. He was always clean shaven, his forearms where thick almost grizzly like and with dark hairs. His eyes, I felt glinted with cunning. The fellow seldom wore the frock outside church, wearing it to only on occasions that demanded his priestly   interventions such as the holy mass, prayer congregation or other religious functions and duties. That meant when one saw him in the village market in his trousers and slacks he would pass as just another guy. He was a speed demon behind the wheels and not many those days owned a jeep. He sped across the sharp bends in those mountain roads and the narrow stretch of roads crisscrossing the verdant tea bushes raising halo of dust behind him. God fearing folks, both labourers and the more affluent stood respectfully by the sides letting him whizz past. After all, this guy was the sole mortal who could petition and intervene for them with the saviour and his dad cocooned in heaven. That automatically gave him priority in their life’s and their personal or family affairs. It also assured him the head table at every dinner and feast in homes in the parish. And father Alexander was a regular guest of honour at the prominent houses in the village.

I often thought that the reverence he was shown by folks was nauseating and condescending. Well, that is what would happen when you have intermediaries between you and your creator!
Father Alexander was quite indulgent when it came to food and he relished meat, be it from the bovines or fowls. I heard the story that the Father also relished wild boar and deer meat. He had a coterie among parishioner who would fetch him meat of exotic animals and jungle fowls even though hunting those beasts was banned. There was a hushed statement murmured among parishioners that the priest loved exotic spirits and voluptuous women.

Indeed that was the truth. Such worldly munificence as sumptuous exotic food &wine and patronisation alone did not make the world of Father Alexander turn around. It was a known secret in the parish that he had liaisons with a couple of women folks in the town and I guess his flock surmised that was a divine benefaction bestowed on him and they would turn a blind eye to such escapades!

The few occasions I have had with the guy were over dinner and the intervening prelude when he was feasting on some imported spirit arranged by the host, he seldom picked conversation with me. Neither did me. Indeed, it was a case of mutual dislike even without speaking much. He would sit like a Noble in grandeur and hold the other guests in conversation, moderating their opinions and closing the topic with his assertion and opinion. All that while also relishing the patronising of the host and his wife. I would sit watching the group and would wonder about the King-size life of a catholic priest in such remote villages. I have exclaimed to myself what splendid rollicking life they have.

Father Alexander showed the gamut of his priestly powers when he churlishly refused to give Holy Communion to my wife for she wed a non-Christian. Though she was taken aback a bit by the prelate’s arrogance she understood the frivolity of accepting the holy sacrament from a dissolute person as he. Worse still Father Alexander without batting an eye used his writ and powers to send my father-in-law back and forth  a dozen times from the faraway place he then lived and refused to give the baptism confirmation for his son who was to be married soon. The justification the man gave for his conduct was that the daughter married a non-Christian. That was the depths of Christian hypocrisy, piggery and prudishness.

The last I heard of this guy was he was ensconced in some church in the Coonoor hills and had moved in with a Muslim woman and was in live-in-relationship with her. That was some years ago and I ‘m wondering if he continued to be harboured by the Church or whether he lives on even today. However when sleazy stories of Christian priests and their exploits are told I muse about this guy Father Alexander who lorded over a flock of gullible folks in a picturesque village surrounded by verdant forests and vast acreages of tea bushes; where time almost stood still and life was ethereal like!

Thursday, March 17, 2016


If one must see the artistic side of hypocrisy then one must attend a memorial service, a requiem. It is amusing and at the same time quite disgusting too. Often, the eulogies sung for the departed is delivered with the same effectiveness as the invectives showered when the person was alive.

I indeed was amused at some of the words and pretentious phrases that were offered at a memorial service I went to, the other day. The service was in remembrance of people in the Malayalam film industry who died in this year since January. “Good mother of God” someone exclaimed rightly there were more than a dozen of them. Not just old blokes but mostly in their mid life. Pretty early to have gone, I thought.

Of the many eulogies that were offered, I felt that only a few, very few sounded honest, sincere and matter of fact. Reserving kindness for the dead after they have departed is rather an exercise in waste and dishonesty. But then the departed seldom come back to comment and express on the encomiums sung at memorials.
Personally, I dissent with the law of Nature that is quite cruel and sadistic that many who are in the threshold of life and thereabouts are pushed down stiff and dead. But one cannot go afar in these matters as the mystery gets curiouser and curosier when you think about it.

Of all matters what was annoying was the speakers at the memorial leaving the venue once their bit of eulogies were said. It was direct smacking of those dead cheeks with their extended limbs of insincerity a specious interlude. I wondered what it could be in their mortal life that was pulling them to some other destination. It was obvious that their presence was just an exaggerated exercise in pretension.

What is putative misery about such gatherings are the wishes and remarks, that the departed have safe journey to the celestial world and their “souls” rest in peace. Goodness gracious what the heck is that -“soul”?

I once read a statement of the late Rajneesh comparing death to orgasm. The later, he may have experienced many times over, but wonder how he could equate that pleasure- to the feeling in death.  One can never know or tell the feeling outside biological existence! Mr. Rajneesh hasn’t come back since he died to narrate the orgasmic enthrallment he experienced in death.  I suppose he was being metaphorical here or may be euphemistic.

Isn’t this talk of soul and peace unto the soul plainly false and simply quibbling? A desperate attempt at trying to satisfy the hankering for mortality?
Come on, as I mentioned elsewhere in some post no one has come back from dead to write a travelogue. Feeding ourselves on fatuous matters is helping us no where further. Attributing truth to something that has not been proven or is simply preposterous is stupid mistake. If the mystery cannot be solved as Bertrand Russell observed suspend judgment rather than mystify and mythicise it.

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