Friday, August 29, 2008


The CPM stands for the right to strike by the working class as a fundamental right, said the party statement. This was an embarrassed reaction to Buddhadeb Battacharya’s landmark pronouncement “I DON’T SUPPORT ANY BANDH’.

Ok. We agree with the CPM that the right to strike, which is the right to protest against deprival of rights, is a fundamental right.

But all those ugly accompaniments of a strike – are they also fundamental rights?

Do fundamental rights include the right
• to terrorise the denizens into bringing normal life to a standstill?
• to destroy public property?
• to pelt stones at public transport?
• to indulge in arson ?
• to beat up law abiding people who choose to exercise their right to work?
• to commit murder?
• to deprive citizens of their right to medical help ?
• to deprive students of the education for which they and the tax payers foot the bill?
• to disrupt exams scheduled by the universities for which hundreds of thousands of students prepare themselves for years, and for which crores of rupees are spent by the government?
• to cause a loss of crores of rupees to the exchequer and public and private enterprises?

I earn my livelihood by the sweat on my brows. Don’t I have my rights? Does the CPM stand by the right of working class( please. who constitute this?) to deprive me, a law abiding and peace loving citizen, of my fundamental rights?

What/who is CPM to decide who should have fundamental rights and who should not? or do they think that the red is more equal that the rest of mankind?

Buddha has spoken at last. The CPM had better pay heed to him or many more Budhas will surface.

A silver lining is, at long last, making itself visible behind the dark cloud created by the muscle power of trade union politics of the bully called CPM.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Print Media : On the Decline?

There is no dearth of prophets of doom making predictions about the immediate life threat to the print media. I am an avid fan of both print and electronic media, but of late there has been a change in my consumption of the print media.

There was a time when I used to sit with a gigantic cup of tea and the newspaper in the morning for no less than an hour, and then another half hour in the evening with an equally gigantic cup of tea, going through the editorials which I always kept aside for my evening tea. Today, consumption of one cup of tea in the morning- not necessarily gigantic - is enough to cover the entire newspaper. If a newspaper accompanies my evening tea, it is definitely a different newspaper which I read just out of curiosity to see the how it fits in the events of the day within its ideological frame.

The reason for this change in the pattern of reading the newpaper is obvious. The channels exhaust all news. The local channels exhaust local news. So this makes newspaper reading a little tedious - I always have that deja vu feeling without the supernatural element attached to it. The discussions provided by the channels with various experts usually discuss the issues threadbare, with the newsreader's position (left, right, extreme right) reflecting the agenda of the channel. But that does not take away from the charm of the editorial, which , I find always offers a unique perpective and some good language encounter(sometimes they slip here. very sad.

This explains the way the print media has given itself a make over in the recent times. It now targets readers who are hooked on the entertaintment and serial programmes in the electroninc media. This category of readers has to to be mesmerised by sheer sensationalism. Hence the sensationalizing - sometimes ugly, sometimees indelicate, sometimes indecent, sometimes totally unsanitised, sometimes totally irresponsible - of news.

Another starategy employed by the print media(malayalam local papers) is the expansion of the obituary space. I know people who read the newspapers only to check out the obituary pages. Of course this is a service rendered by the media, and the print media in Kerala has discovered that this service will keep it alive for a long time. So one can expect another page added to the orbituary section.

Allow me now to add my drop to the ocean of predictions - though Cassandra like in my case, I know - regarding the future of the print media.

With the ever increasing reach of TV and the internet, the print media will have to micro focus on local news, local events and local services. Then there would be a minimum three pages of orbituary, sports pages, entertainment pages and one page of national and international news. How they will order it, I have no idea. Since the consumption of sports and entertainment pages will remain high for a long time, these pages would indulge in novel ways of sensationalism, perhaps highlighting sectarian interests in the spotrsworld where the local sportspersons will always be shown as underprivileged, or peeping into the bedrooms of adullterous relationships or deviant sexual practices of film personalities and other celebrities. In short, the newspaper of the future will be tabloids in the vernacular and English Language.

Friday, August 22, 2008

To Hell With God’s Own Country

The August 20th hartal, the 82nd in 2008, went a step further than all the previous hartals. Needless to say, the usual occurrences were there. To mention some
• A child suffering from cancer died without medical help as he could not reach the hospital
• A bank was invaded by CITU led by no less a person than the panchayat president himself. Of course, destruction of property and assault of employees followed. Three employees including the manager were beaten up, with all sustaining injuries. And it goes without saying, the policecomplaint filed by the bank dared not identify the miscreants.
• And of course, the Police looked on (they don’t even look the other way any more) while this attack on the building and the employees was going on.
• In Trivandrum city, the commodity most conspicuous by its absence on the streets was the police.

But then these are all very very normal things on a hartal day, and we should be taking them in our stride. By this time, we Keralites ought to have learnt how to deal with hartals.The bank got what it deserved. Didn’t the manager know there was a hartal? He ought to have gone, the day before, to the super market to frantically stock things for the day of the hartal and queued up before the liqour shop, and then sat at home on the day of the bandh , watching cricket and Olympics instead of daring to respond to the call of duty. The boy who died should have chosen another day to die. Didn’t he know that the left trade union had called for a national bandh?

If someone got hurt, they themselves were to be blamed. After all, it’s only on a bandh day that the indolent trade union guys get to do something and expend their overstocked energy. Our part is to keep out of their way, duty or no duty.

But this time, like I said before, the strikers made an improvement on the usual meal. The CITU stormed into the hitherto protected areas- the IT sector and the SEZs. The CI of Police, Kazhakootam issued a written warning to the Technopark officials the day before. “Shutters down please”, it said. “We wont be around if something untoward happens”!! Kinfra was invaded by the striking trade unions. The result? Crores of rupees loss to the protected companies.

Kerala was just beginning to find the answer to the mammoth unemployment problem that had been beleaguering the state for decades. The huge number of students coming out of the engineering and management schools were being absorbed by these IT companies.

This 82nd hartal, I guess, spells the doom of IT industry in Kerala. And the present government is trying to woo foreign investors, and set up a Silicon Valley in Kerala!! What a joke!!

The foreign investors who are already here, should get the hell out of this state. There are places in India other than this strip of land where IT parks can be set up and run without any hassles.

Let Kerala go to the devil its own way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Decline and Fall of Kerala - Just Round the Corner

Can Kerala situation be described as a total breakdown of governance?

The youth activists are on the rampage again. The SFI in Mahatma Gandhi University, and the KSU in Kerala University!

In Mahatma Gandhi University, the victim of their assault was none less than the Vice Chancellor herself. She was coming out of her chamber when these rowdies pushed (!) her violently back into the room ( she didn’t fall, ‘cos the security officer was at hand), back into her seat and then forced her to listen to their grievances - despite her pleas of ill health and promise to discuss the issue the next day.

What a shame! What an utter disgrace?

And this is the second attack on her.

How come these goons get away with it again and again?

Isn't there any one to throw the book at them?

An interesting angle to this story is that the activists were lead by a female student. Yes. Kerala women have achieved gender equality. They have proved that they stand shoulder to shoulder with the males, at least when it comes to indulging in violence.

The Vice Chancellor of Kerala University , who is embroiled in a corruption case regarding the Assistant Grade posting, retired two days back. The matter is subjudice. The verdict is yet to come. Yet, the KSU activists pasted wall posters all over the city of Trivandrum with his photo and the caption "Azhimathi veeran, Lal salaam". This was planned to coincide with the day of his retirement.

Indecent, disgusting behaviour. Are no codes of behaviour applicable to these youth activists? Are they above the law of the land? In the case of the SFI, they can be booked on two counts - manhandling, and wrongful confinement of a person. In the case of KSU, it is a case of defamation - while the matter is still subjudice.

The provisions are there. But who will bell the cat?

They will get away scot free, as they always do. If you belong to the youth/student wing of a political party, you can get away with murder – literally. The arms of law do not seems to be long enough, fast enough and committed enough to catch up with these anti social elements.

And these are the future citizens of Kerala! These anti social elements. They are tomorrow’s promise!

And the universities, where education has taken a backseat, have become the breeding ground for these antisocial creatures.

The leaders of the parties are doing everything in their power to whet the appetite of their youth wings for violence. Or, to be a little more charitable in judgement, is it that they can’t rein in their youth workers? Quite possible, cos the leaders themselves appear to be so rudderless. The rage for power and pelf appears to divorce them from all vestiges of a sense of direction, responsibility, accountability, nobility, decency and integrity.

Today, an all India bandh is declared by left trade unions. The predictions are that Kerala will the state worst hit by it. And it is the 82nd hartal of the year in Kerala!! And with four more months to go before the year ends, Kerala might hit a century and get into all record books.

Somehow I get the feeling that the political parties are vying with each other in having to their credit the highest score in calling for bandhs, disrupting normal life, bringing the state to a standstill, indulging in shameful, barbaric acts of violence and in committing murder. It is similar to the way a country at war has the psychological advantage if the figures of enemies killed are bigger than the enemy's.But here in Kerala, who are the political parties at war with? With the people? if that is true, all the parties should be disqualified, and the state brought under President’s rule.

What a terrible condition for a state to be in!

But, can we, the people of Kerala, be absolved from all blame? I think not. People get the leaders they deserve.

These leaders, perhaps, are a projection of what we are - our alter ego?

I think we Malayalees need to look into our souls to find an answer to what has brought Kerala to this pathetic, shameful condition!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Compensation for Suicide?

This is online news:

Thiruvananthapuram,Aug13 (PTI):Kerala Government today decided to sanction an amount of Rs.Two lakh to the family of sister Anupa Mary of St Mary's convent at Kollam who committed suicide allegedly due to 'sexual harassment' by a senior nun.

Speaking to reporters after cabinet meeting here, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan said crime branch would probe the death under the supervision IG Haridas Nath Mishra.

Why is the government offering compensation for suicide? Does it supect murder? If so, surely it can wait till the crime branch's probe is over? Or is the compensation a tacit way of telling the crime branch what result the government wants the investigation agency to arrive at?

Why this indecent hurry in rushing to give a compensation? Was the nun an earning member of the family?

Will the government give compensation to all who decide to take away their lives, being unable to cope with the problems of life?

By the way, if the nun had not not succeed in her attempt, wouldn't she have been arrested for attempted suicide, which is a punishable crime according to the law if the land? So is the compensation meant for the successful completion of a crime?

The government should have weighhed the pros and cons of the issue before this impulsive decision.

The truth is, when it got a chance to nail its arch enemy - the Catholic Church in Kerala - it threw all logic tho the winds. The haste with which it decided to compensate the suicide was an absolute giveaway.

Goverments should be above vendetta. True, the Left has a five decade old score to settle with the Church. But this is a brainless way of doing it. While the messing around with education can be explained in terms of ideology, what ideology is there in compensating suicide in a state which already has the highest suicide rate in the country? is it an incentive? Will the government oblige if all families of suicide cases apply for compensation?

How can they refuse since a precedence has been set?

An angle the crime Branch should investigate: When did the government make the offer for compensation to the parents? before they spoke to the media or after?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Most Unforgettable Day In My Life

It was the day my son was to join school. My husband gave him a bath, dressed him in his best clothes, handed over to him the new colourful backpack with the accessories for the first day at school. The little fellow hoisted it onto his back immediately, and sat in the cane chair, his face shining from the shower and eyes sparkling with excitement. The rest of us in "Vivien Villa"– my husband, daughter and I- stood there for a moment looking at him, and then we broke up, my husband to the bathroom for his shave and shower, my daughter to her books till the school bus came and I, to the kitchen where I was usually caught multitasking at that time of the day(my niece who has a terrific sense of humour and a way with words always used to tell me that looking at me in the kitchen at that time of the day is like watching a fast forward clip).

I hurriedly put two large frying pans on the stove, poured ghee into them and arranged soaked slices of bread into the frying pan – ten of them –to make Bombay toasts (some call it French toast-but I’m mulish about Bombay). Then I whirled around and laid out four lunch boxes on the kitchen table and then was at the filter filling water bottles. Just then the delicious smell of Bombay toast frying in ghee came wafting up and I whirled around again towards the stove to turn the toasts over. I had just turned the last toast over, looking with satisfaction at the golden brown toast when I heard a loud yell from the bathroom.

I have fixed in my mind certain decibel levels as normal for each member of my family, based on their temperament, age and voice quality. That yell was way above the permissible mark set for my husband, and so, I did a magnificent hop, skip and jump through the rooms, my heart in my mouth.- Geyser shock? Fall? Accidentally cut the jugular vein while shaving? (always imagine the worst - that’s me)

“What’s wrong”, panic, fear in my voice.

“The lock is stuck”. He discovered this trying to come out of the bathroom after the shave in order to get the change of clothes. ”Try opening from outside”

I tried the handle twice. No good. I panicked. I tried it several times repeatedly. No good. I whirled around, and was about to break into a run towards the neighbour’s place when I saw my children standing at the door of the bedroom, looking anxious and scared. Click. I switched on a plastic smile. Then let out a peal of laughter “Papa has got himself locked in. He he he!”

They were not amused. “It’s OK.” I persisted through my plastic smile. “I’ll get Vinni’s father. He’ll open it. Don’t worry.”

My daughter went back to her books (a cool customer and I love her for it). My son went slowly back to his cane chair, with a somber expression in his eyes. “Math", i crooned, "you’ve seen this book? It’s soooo funny”. Avoiding my eyes, he took the picture book from me,looking very serious, his face immobile.

I walked out into the compound nonchalantly, but the minute I was out of his range of vision, I sprinted to the gate, out of it, into the neighbour’s compound and up the steps on to the verandah, all in my duster coat!

“My husband‘s got locked in the bathroom”, I blurted out between gasps. “It’s my son’s first day at school. I have a presentation at 10. He has a meeting at 10.30”

The neighbour, who was a civil engineer came with me immediately. He looked at the stuck handle as though he were a lock psychologist and tried it twice. Then turned it several times noisily in rapid succession. Nothing happened. Hearing sounds of shuffling feet, I turned around and saw all the male members from our immediate neighbourhood entering the room. All of them tried the handle in turns. No good.

They stood around the bathroom door, discussing animatedly.

“Basic rule”, that was the lock psychologist. ”The bathroom locks should be weak. Should open with one kick. Nobody observes the rules”

“What’s to be done now?” neighbour A

“Try removing the lock?” neighbour B

“DO you have a tool kit?” neighbour C

I give them the kit (I am briefly slipping into the present tense for special effect). The lock psycho is trying out the tools. I then take a quick peek into the drawing room and see my son craning his neck to look into the room where we are. His eyes meet mine and click, my plastic smile is on. He drops his eyes.

”This won’t do”, declares the civil engineer turned lock psycho, shaking his head.

I suddenly notice that neighbour B is crinkling his nose and sniffing into the air. “Something burning?”

“Must be some one burning the waste”, I suggest.

Then I find all of them crinkling their noses and sniffing.

“Something on the stove in the kitchen?”

“Oh my God, my Bombay toast”, moaned I clapping my hand over the forehead, and charged towards the kitchen. The frying pans were smoking like a coal engine, and there lay my 10 slices of Bombay toast, black as black can be. I quickly switched off the burners and turned around to return to the scene of the stuck lock drama – and, Oh heck! there at the kitchen entrance stood all the male neighbours and my children looking over each others’ shoulders, anxiety written large on their faces!

Out came the plastic smile to my rescue. “It’s Ok, it doesn’t matter” drawled I in a high pitched voice, and laughed heartily as though burnt Bombay toasts were the funniest things on earth. Just then another yell from the bathroom. Dangerous decibel level and all of us charged in a group to the bathroom door.

”What’s burning? Is something burning in the kitchen?” Panic in the voice from the bathroom.

“It’s ok, ok” I said soothingly “I’ve taken care of it”.

I looked at my children and smiled. My daughter went back to her books. My son walked slowly, gravely back to his seat and looked into the picture book.

Then I heard the sound of water falling in the bathroom. Apparently, my husband had decided to make the best of the bad situation, and started his shower. Another cool customer!

Another ten minutes passed while the trouble shooters debated.

And finally, the neighbour A asked,“Shall we get a locksmith?”

“Yeah better”, opined the lock psycho, carelessly putting his hand on the lock and turning it absent-mindedly - and lo and behold! The lock opened!

There was great rejoicing. My plastic smile metamorphosed into an organic one, rising from the bottom of my heart, streching from ear to ear and travelling to the eyes.

And my son came into the room and stood there, looking at my husband whose turn it was now to sparkle from the shower.

The somber look vanished from the little fellow’s eyes which were now dancing with sheer joy.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tagged Again

Am tagged again! And again by Sujatha!(

Here are the tag rules
Items on your walls:
Look up from your computer and stare at all the walls in the room surrounding you.
List each item on the wall and its origin (for example : Faded landscape print from _ , Family photo taken in Portland, Andy Warhol soup can poster, Starbucks neon sign, whatever...)
If you are in the great outdoors blogging, the tag will settle for a brief description of the flora and fauna (scientific names would be much appreciated, naturally).

Items on the wall:
I look up from the computer and stare at the walls. Blank. All of them. Origin of blankness? WOW! what a philosophical poser! Am not competent to undertake the history and origin of Soonya. Am not willing to rush in where angels fear to tread.

But this I can say. Blank is beautiful. But is difficult to attain. Have tried to while in savasanam ( my favourite yogic pose). "Concentrate on the sound of the fan" that's my yoga teacher. "Cut out all the other sounds-listen only to the fan (her aniquated fan had the most awful droning sound!). Listen to the fan, only fan, only fan--fan--faaann----faaannnnnnn---after sometime you wont hear it anymore. It will be soonya - blankness of the mind-a near - - - that's how far I hear each time. No. No Nirvanic experience. Only sleep. Gentle sleep. Somebody prods me. It's time for the concluding sloka.The next batch will come. I avoid the teacher's eyes. Sleeping is against the rules.

You are right and wrong Sujatha. A Ravi Varma waits with a few other facsimiles for someone to drill the walls, fix nails( this is Kerala), and release them from the bubble paper and baseboard packing material imprisoning them. Yes . There are a lot of activists in my house, very vocal in their demands for their release from such unaesthetic confinement so that they can take their rightful place on the walls.

Know something? Blank walls are beautiful. Empty walls make you feel less cabinned , cribbed and confined in the apartment existence. A little reluctant to let go of that sense of space.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Slice from Childhood Memory

This morning, I was having breakfast in the company of a nonagenarian. Seeing him struggle with the food not really meant for old people (puttu & kadala), I asked him not to force himself to finish it. “I should have been asked before I was served. Now I’ll finish it. Waste not. Want not”

My generation was also taught that rule. Waste not, want not. And my mother went a step further in order to drill this virtue in me. Amma told me that for every grain of rice that I wasted, I’d have to spend 10 years in purgatory. My catechism classes took care of frightening me about the horrors of purgatory. It was as bad as hell where tortures were concerned, I was told, but the only redeeming feature was that there was an end to the sufferings in purgatory. Once we serve out our term there (the duration determined by our sins, which included the wasted grains of rice),we’ll be taken up to heaven where all our dear departed will be waiting for us – that is, those among them who escaped damnation!

And so I was terrified about wasting food. I always made sure that nothing except curry leaves and chilly from seasoning were left on my plate, which the cook (ever ready to clarify my spiritual doubts) had told me would not be factored in for calculating the term to be served in purgatory.

An incident comes to my mind, an incident which took place when I was around five years old, and which still makes me feel yucky after all these years.

During the vacation when all the children were at home, kanji (with kadala or payar thoran and curds and pickle) was served for breakfast on a particular day every week. That was my favourite breakfast but my brothers hated it. On one such kanji day, I was the first to enter the dining room. I took my seat, mixed the kanji with curds and kadala, and was beginning to enjoy it when my brother with whom I had quarreled just before breakfast took the seat next to me. I wanted to enjoy my kanji in peace, with no one needling me. So I picked up my plate and moved with it slowly, careful not to spill the kanji almost up to the brim of the plate. Just as I reached my chair far away from the enemy – of-the- day sibling, he shouted out explosively to upset my balancing act – and the plate tilted violently and there lay my kanji on the floor!

I panicked. Images of purgatory with me in it and tongues of flame licking at me rushed to my mind. I dropped on my knees, and with my cupped hands, scooped up all that liquidy (sorry for the usage-but am no longer an English teacher) kanji from the floor, put it back into my plate and started eating it hastily.

As I was finishing, amma came around to see how we were faring at the breakfast table. When she reached me, her foot slipped on the kanji mess on the floor.

“What is this?”

No answer. We continued to have our kanji breakfast with great concentration.

‘I asked you what this is”

No answer again.

Then to me: “Milly. What is that?” Not fair, I thought. No fun being a girl. Always gets picked on first.

I spilled the beans. Had to. No one fools around with amma when she is in that mood.

“How could you do it Milly”, her distress was too much for me. “Eating things from the floor- you must have taken in millions of germs”.

“But I didn’t want to stay forever in purgatory”, I blurted out. My brothers burst out laughing – and so did amma.

I wanted to kick myself for having believed her. Apparently my brothers hadn’t. Why had I been I so gullible?

Then followed a lecture on hygiene, about the dangers of not observing the rules of hygiene (punctuated by the enemy- of- the- day with remarks like “or you’ll have worms crawling out of your nose and ears and mouth” – I wanted to hit him, particularly when I saw amma suppressing a smile at his remark) and a few stiff remarks on my lack of common sense. My enemy -of- the-day brother suggested that I be given a dose of castor oil which amma thought was a good idea.

That did it. I started bawling at that and made for the originator of that idea. Amma got in between, sent me firmly back to my chair and gave me a dressing down; another lecture followed, this time on ladylike behaviour, to which the villain sibling nodded his head in agreement.

It always ended up like that – with that reminder that ‘after all you are a girl - - - -

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hiroshima Day

Hiroshima day

What can one say about that terrible crime against humanity perpetrated at 8am, on the Sixth day of August in the year Nineteen Forty Five?

Time, it is said, is a great healer. But this wound, no time can heal.
It should not heal.
It should remain raw and fresh in the human consciousness like a festering wound.

Hiroshima represents the failure of Science,the failure of Enlightenment.

It represents the perversion of human intelligence.

The world has changed since the atom was split. That was Einstein.

Yes. The coming into possession of destructive powers of such magnitude released man from the civilizing chains of love, non violence, respect for life.

A limerick I picked up from somewhere during my school days keeps coming back to me today. It goes like this:

To break a single atom
All mankind was intent.
Now any day, the atom may
Return the compliment.

Yes. Annihilation - that's the promise it holds forth to us. Is it for this that we evolved from primates to what we are now?

The end of life.
The end of imagination( a la Arundathi Roy)

To be one among the other uninhabited heavenly bodies in the cosmos. Was that the ultimate purpose of the existence of planet earth?

Futile ramblings, I know. But I stumbled upon this interview of Paul Tibbets, the man who piloted the aircraft Enola Gay on its mission to Japan to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima. The interview appeared in The Guardian, on Tuesday August 6 2002. Paul Tibbets was then 89 years old, retired brigadier-general

The interviewer: One last thing, when you hear people say, "Let's nuke 'em," "Let's nuke these people," what do you think?

Paul Tibbets: Oh, I wouldn't hesitate if I had the choice. I'd wipe 'em out. You're gonna kill innocent people at the same time, but we've never fought a damn war anywhere in the world where they didn't kill innocent people. If the newspapers would just cut out the shit: "You've killed so many civilians." That's their tough luck for being there.

! ! !

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Pseudo Secularism Again

It was extremely distressing to see the nature of the cyber reaction to the bombing in Bangalore and Ahmedbad. The blame game is on, among the bloggers. If the blog and the comments represent the voice of the educated, privileged sections of India, then we have something to worry about - seriously.

A lot of blogs and a lot more comments blame the government and its pseudo- secularism.

Pseudo-secularism! How I hate the term! A term invented for political expediency, which subsequently gained respectability, and is now creating havoc in the minds of even the enlightened!

The term which provides a protective armour to those who want to launch a violent assault on the sacred value of secularism.

A term which validates the denial of the right to be called Indian to members of certain communities in the nation.

A term which rationalizes the putting back of the clock of history.

I wonder if those leaders who use this term liberally will have the courage to go on record to explicitly define the concept, and then explain how, according to them, it has permeated the Indian polity.

And also change it once/if they come into power with an absolute majority (God forbid)?

Jammu & Kashmir are burning; but, thankfully, India remains calm.

But the virtual world is aflame.

When will we Indians bring down the narrow domestic walls of our minds?

When will we learn to think Indian?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Sethu Samudram Project - Building Bridges

The Centre, the ASI and their legal outfits are fighting to clear the way for the Sethu Samudram Canal Project which proposes to connect India and Sri Lanka with a tunnel. The project has become highly controversial as it involves the destruction of Ram Sethu, an undersea formation, believed to have been made by Rama. This structure is sacred to the Hindus.

The government is being extremely insensitive and foolish – insensitive to the religious sentiments of the majority, already smarting under the appeasement given to the minorities. Surely there cannot be any world-shaking economic gain to warrant the building of the Sethu Samudram that might let loose another Rath Yatra, culminating in another Barbri Masjid and Godhra and post Godhra carnage and bomb blasts? Is the centre out to create issues and test the secular fabric of india? Don’t we have enough already on our hands?

During the trust motion. the PM accused Advani of triggering off terrorism in India by masterminding the demolition of Babri Masjid. Why does he forget that the issue was reopened by Rajiv Gandhi by permitting worship in a long defunct place of worship? Isn’t the Congress once again indulging in the same mischief with Sethu Samudram bridge?

Or, does the congress have a clandestine arrangement with the BJP? Is it a double edged strategy to provide an issue that will land BJP in New Delhi in the 2009 elections, and the Congress too but 5 years hence, by creating a situation where it can cash in on the minorities' sense of insecurity, and play the secularism card? Anything is possible in the present political scenario peopled by self seeking men and criminals, totally divorced from their conscience. We live in days when principles and ideals have only political utility.

And so, coming back to Ramasamudram controversy, it is immaterial whether Rama or Budha or Christ or Mohammed are historical figures or not. Cultures and religions have grown around them and their teachings. All of them are close to our hearts and minds and spirits. Myths, conventions, customs and rituals constitute the stuff that identities are made of. Our consciousness is pervaded by them and what they represent. Our value systems on which theories of social coexistence are based, come from them. In short, they have become inextricable part of our identity. Challenging them amounts to subverting that which gives us our identities, and therefore, our identities per se.

Nothing can be more foolish than using scientific opinions as trump cards to negate the religious sentiments of the the Hindus regarding the Ram Samudra. Faith and belief are not things that can be put under the microscope. By its very definition, faith is something that transcends reason. If something can be proved scientifically, what is the need for faith? And which scientists, or which organization or society can dismiss faith as superstition on the grounds that there is no proven ‘ truth “ in it. What is truth? Scientific truth? Is there no truth other than what is confirmed by science? True, science searches for truth; but can TRUTH be contained within the limits of science? Are there not truths which lie beyond the reach of science, outside its frontiers?

How plain and poor life would be if ‘yes’ was the answer to the last query. How insipid life would be if it is totally demystified. How incomplete life would be without the Scriptures, the myths, the rituals and cunstoms which hold forth truths of their own that science have not succeeded in annihilating. Perhaps, over a period of time, science has been theoretically challenging these truths - but has not driven them out of the hearts and minds of the people. For faith is rooted in the sixth sense which still remains a grey area for science.

The state must be sensitive to the faith of its people. It should not offend their religious sensibilities. The alternative path for Sethu Samudram is the answer, no matter how much more expensive it might prove. If the government can divert some of the mammoth funds it has in its custody that enables the type of horse trading we saw recently, ten bridges, I am sure, can be built across the Palk Straits.