Saturday, November 20, 2010

Missing Artefacts

In my saner moments I think i must be mad.

Mind-boggling philosophies that'd dethrone Nietzche
Shed blood at the altar of paradigms.

No hoax, this sacrifice.

Clinging to roots that clutch
And to the steel bar with a toe on the footboard
While eyes dart frantically
Now the clock, now the milk about to spill over,
Now the name boards on superfasts.
Wincing at the ‘over’ signal
Of the BPL washing machine,
Jumping out of the skin
At the whistle of the pressure cooker.

Seismic rumblings erupt and flow
Into shapeless scorching lava.
No moulds to trap the molten flow
Into Artefacts.

Words fail.

In my saner moments I think I must be mad.

Written on July 11, 1994

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sister Jesme of AMEN Fame at the Hay Festival

I had not reacted to Sister Jesme’s Amen ‘cos it was not worth reacting to. The book has no literary value – at least that’s what I think. It’s a very pedestrian forgettable piece except for the sleaze and scandal about convents. To tell you the truth, the book bored me to death.

I’m glad that the Nuns and the Church did not ask for the book to be banned. I’m glad that the Catholics did not go on a book-burning spree. The truth is, the book is not worth the trouble.

So, why do I choose to write about it now?

Well, The Hay Festival is happening in Trivandrum. A few of my friends who attended it called to find out from me if it was true if all nuns were liars and lesbians or practicing heterosexuals.

They told me that Sr. Jesme, in her talk, said something to the effect that all nuns lie in both sense of the word. 1. They utter falsehoods and 2. they are lying with someone or other all the time. It is to this that I am reacting.

Strange that a person who was a nun for 30+ years should come out with something like this. Does it mean that she was doing this for three decades?

Regarding the book Amen- There may be some truth in it. There may not be any truth. I do not know. But common sense tells me that every organization has a bad apple or a few bad ones. But to say that the entire bunch is rotten is to miscarry truth.

Now, I have a reason for sticking up for the nuns. I am a beneficiary of the service they have been traditionally rendering to society.

All my education – from Baby class to Masters - was in convents. They were a great influence on me in my formative years. (I guess I owe my prudishness to this influence J.)

I learnt a lot from them, and I’ve had to unlearn some of what I learnt from them too. But the gains are greater – the loss, negligible.

The education they imparted to me gave not only knowledge and skill, but wisdom too.

They taught me the virtues of love and forgiveness.

They taught me to value human life, human rights and human dignity.

They taught me that honesty is a virtue that cannot be compromised, no matter what.

They taught me to stand firm in the right , and to ask God for light to see the right.

They tried to make a disciplined human being out of the total disorganized person that I was. They succeeded enough in this effort so as to enable me to get on with this business called life without much hassles.

I know that I’m not the most virtuous person on earth or the best specimen of our species. Those who know me will agree wholeheartedly to this admission. I do fall. Often. But each time, the values the nuns imparted to me and which I have internalized, set afoot a correction that, I hope, has stemmed me from stooping to irredeemable depths.

Isn’t all this reason enough for me to stand up for the nuns?

And I have always been most comfortable with most of them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that those I am not comfortable with are liars and lesbians and highly libidinous people, as Sister Jesme claims. Just as I am comfortable with some human beings and not with some, so too with the nuns.

The point I’m trying to make is nuns are human beings. And you find all types.

They too fall like all human beings. They too try to correct themselves like all human being do, though their benchmark, which is unrealistically high, makes the task difficult for them. It makes the fall appear greater – and our criticism too.

But then who are we to judge?

Enough that they contribute substantially to the well being of human beings.

Enough that their level of commitment to the service of mankind is very high.

Enough that society has benefited hugely from them.

One rotten apple does not make the whole bunch rotten.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deliriously Disgusted

The Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Apartments and the mind boggling G2 scam – too much.

Rot has entered the soul of the congress party. Time it reinvented itself or got ready for its own requiem.

Disgusting – absolutely.

How much are we citizens supposed to put up with?

How much do we have to get looted before we kick this party out ?

We look back at those days when a Shastri resigned as railway minister on account of a train accident, and a Krishna Menon, because of the unpreparedness of the India army when the Chinese invaded.

The party has lost its conscience – but it has discovered a new mechanism for survival – the spokesmen who can talk crap and make it sound like divine wisdom!

Wish Mainsh Tivwari’d put his eloquence to better use.

And the Gandhi family - suddenly one is getting sick of them.

Suddenly one remembers – Ms Sonia Gandhi had greatness thrust upon her and now her word is the law. Like many Indians, I too was willing to give her a chance – but her country cousin Quotrocci going scot free after looting India disillusioned me. Now when we see her soft pedaling on the scamsters, one begins to wonder - - -

so also her son - another case of greatness being thrust upon. I don’t think we want to see him as the Prime Minister.

The Congress Party of India is over. It should be rechristened as The Corrupt party of India. And believe me, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

If BJP is less corrupt, I wish they ‘d rule – on the imperative condition they bury their communal agenda. After all people and organizations can change - --- . but the recent drama in Karnataka makes us think they are no different when it comes to power mongering and corruption.

The left? They are a confused lot. Their ideology is in a state of flux – dangerous to entrust the country to a party struggling to find an ideological foothold - --- -

About the Janata Dals, the less said the better (except perhaps in Bihar).

The regional parties? The Raja of the telecom scandal gets the protective cover of the Congress for fear of a regional party.

Coalition might be the mantra of the 21st century – but it breeds corruption on a whopping scale.

The only redemption for the country lies in the voting out of the present decadent breed of politicians, the stalwarts and all.

A simplistic solution, I know.

A dream solution? An honest clean messiah launching a new party with transparency, cleanliness and accountability as its ideology, a training school for the voted representatives of the people .

But again, it's just a dream - -

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Obama's Indian Visit - The English Channels - and India's Children of Tomorrow

With the arrival of Obama in India, the English national channels blocked out everything else. It appeared as though the whole country ground to a halt with the arrival of the American President.

Then Obama made his first speech at the Taj – and BJP reacted. Obama didn’t utter the P word (Pakistan). When he spoke of 26/11, he didn’t put the blame at Pakistan’s door. Then the party felt it had overreacted – and retracted. Rudi began to make ahem – ahem sounds and said that he didn’t mean this but he meant that! Maybe the party leadership must have told him that to resist the euphoria might be a mistake. BJP might come to power in the next parliamentary election and Obama might still be around in the White House – so let’s keep him happy sort of a thing. Anyway, what is interesting is that BJP recanted.

But the Channels approach was really really interesting.

NDTV’s Barkha Dutt was as usual trying to project an image of total neutrality, but was actually egging on the expert commentators to come out with tangy statements. But none really obliged. The P word issue had actually begun to look silly.

TIMES NOW took the cake. Arnab in his usual style went hammer and tong after Obama. He pointed out how Clinton during his visit ‘gifted’ India with a condemnatory remark on Pakistan, and Obama should have taken at least a ‘baby step’ in that direction.

Arnab, you are incorrigible!

CNN IBN’s Sagarika Ghose concluded her efforts to sensationalise the absence of the P word with a sensible remark that one should understand that Obama is tight rope walking in south East Asia, and so we should tone down our rhetoric.

HEADLINES TODAY was thoroughly immature. Was totally displeased about Obama’s deafening silence about Pakistan.

Among the participants, i could agree with that outspoken bureaucrat turned politician Mani Shankar Iyer. Why should we expect Obama to say anything about Pakistan, he asked. We know Pak is behind the attack, and it is a bilateral problem. Why drag America into it? He was dismissive in his language and body language about this avoidable storm in the tea cup,and made the BJP and the media look silly.

While the inane politicians and stale media made fools of themselves, Young India did us proud. No slavishness, no applause at the slightest compliment about India that dropped from the lips of the US President (unlike the CEOs the day before). The young crowd at St. Xavier’s carried themselves with utmost confidence, and dealt with the President of the United States on equal terms.

When Obama declared that India has risen, there was no thunderous applause. It was as though we don’t need anyone to tell us that. We know. The response of the young girl who stood behind Obama epitomises the attitude of young India. Obama’s acknowledgement that India has risen elicited from her an approving nod accompanied by a poised smile.

About Obama's dialogue with the students at St. Xavier's - guess when Michelle Obama asked the young men and women to field tough questions to her husband, she didn’t think they’d take her so seriously.

For it was young India that forced him to utter the P word.

What’s your take on jihad, was the first question?

Why don’t you declare Pakistan a terror state? asked another.

Of course, Obama handled the questions well and the youth were impressed.

The young India, a sample of which Obama met at St. Xavier’s, is ushering in an India set free from the colonial hangover.

The schriszophrenic India has been cured.

I get a gut feeling India is safe in the hands of this healthy generation.

Friday, November 05, 2010

That Terrible Divali Day

The stray isolated crackers of Divali down here in Trivandrum takes me twelve years back to an evening in Mumbai when sheer terror seized me on the festival of lights.

It was evening and the condominium was celebrating divali with crackers. My husband Sunny got ready to go out into the Mumbai streets to see how the city was celebrating Divali. Normally, i don’t accompany him on these trips to “experience’ the real Mumbai which he said breathed in its vibrant streets flowing with humanity. It always fascinated him that the mighty city could accommodate the poor, the homeless, the middle class and the reeking rich, and he often went out on these expeditions to explore this city with ‘such a large heart’. I stopped accompanying him after a couple of trips ‘cos he’d send away the car and go about on foot, by BEST or the train. I found it too tiring - -

But on that day, i decided to accompany him. Cos, there was no vehicular traffic that day and the inhabitants of the foot path were bursting crackers right in the middle of the streets. I was afraid that in his fascination for the sights and sounds of Mumbai, he’d step on an exploding cracker.

I accompanied him and played my role as his guardian angel so perfectly that he decided to call off the adventure and return home.

We found our apartment empty, cos the children had gone out to where the condominium was bursting crackers. Ten minutes later my daughter Renu came home, cos her friends had gone to their home towns for divali and so she had no company. The three of us were talking over a cup of tea and snacks when the door opened and in walked Mathew with his eyes shut tight, led by two of his friends.

“Uncle, the crackers burst into his eyes”, his friend explained.


Something seemed to hit me real hard in the pit of my stomach and the impact was deadly. And then I felt my heart wrench itself out of the chest cavity and relocate to the skull to pound explosively there. I went numb all over and my thought process was suspended totally.

I became dead to the world.

“Open your eyes, Mathan, Mathan open you eyes’. I heard voices from some space i had taken leave of briefly, and they yanked me back to the sofa where i saw Mathew sitting, and Sunny and Renu bending over him and shouting down at him.
The numbness fled and a terrible sensation – fear, fire, terror? – coursed through my blood and i felt weak. My legs felt as though a ton of weight was tied to them and my mouth felt as parched as dry bones. Terror seized every inch of my being.
Next thing i remember was finding myself shouting along with Renu.

“Can you see, Mathew?’ i pleaded.

“I can, but i have double vision”.

“Oh, God”, i wailed, “What do we do”.

Sunny was already on the phone.

“Who are you calling?”, i shouted hysterically.

“Dr. Ratnaparkhi”, he threw over his shoulders.

“Wash his eyes with plenty of water but don’t rub. Do it till the car comes”, barked sunny, putting the phone down after talking to the doctor.

“No serious damage done”, said the doctor. Just superficial singeing. It’ll be ok in a couple of days”. Then turning to Mathew, she asked. “How did you manage get crackers into your eyes, my boy?”

“Yes”, i almost screamed. I was unwinding, and wanted to cry and laugh. “Yes, Mathew, that’s what i want to know. There were so many others and how come the crackers chose you eyes?” A bit too loud, i knew.

“Molly!” said Sunny sternly and i fell silent. I sat there and thanked God for taking care of my son. I vaguely heard him say that it did not burst, so he went examine the cracker to see what was wrong.

“And then it proved to you that there was nothing wrong with it, eh Mathew?” said the doctor smiling.

Sunny and i laughed, a little too loudly.

On the way back home, i lay back against the seat and felt drained. Thoughts, disconnected and irrelevant, drifted in and out of my mind.

“Instead of playing my guardian angel, you should have gone with Mathew”, i heard Sunny saying.

I said nothing. I was too exhausted to talk and as i drifted off to sleep, a voice seemed to whisper in my ear “Unless the Lord keepeth the city - - - - -