AAP and I

Who defeated Arvind Kejriwal?  Himself or us?
His party ruled for just 49 days.  They were momentous days.  He implemented his promise on setting up a number for reporting corruption; in two weeks instead of the promised two days.  He met people to discuss corruption issues, though the crowd was beyond his control.  He did what he could.  He would have done more if he could. 
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We disturb ourselves

“People are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them,” said the Greek philosopher Epictetus 2000 years ago.  20thcentury psychologist Albert Ellis [1913-2007] said the same thing in slightly different words, “People disturb themselves by the things that happen to them, and by their views, feelings, and actions.”
It is facile to argue that Salman Rushdie or Wendy Doniger disturbs us with their books.  The fact is they don’t.  There are more people in the world who are not disturbed by their books than those who are.  What makes the difference?

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“The poor are poor not because the rich are rich,” says Robert J. Samuelson in his Washington Post column reproduced in The Hindu

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Kundan was returning home after his monthly entertainment of a night show in the city.  It was past midnight and the heavy downpour had put out the street lamps on the village road.  But Kundan knew the road like the back of his palm and so neither the pitch darkness nor the battering rain slowed him down.

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The Devil

Father Joseph woke up from sleep with a tremor running down his spine.  His body was drenched with sweat.  This had become a routine now: a nightmare would kill his sleep halfway through it.

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Is Kasab in Paradise?


According to the lascivious promises made in the Islamic scriptures to the martyrs, Ajmal Kasab must now be in the blissful paradise reclining on “a raised throne woven with gold and precious stones,” wearing “silken garments,” “bunches of fruits hanging within reach,” jugs of wine at hand, served by “Houris with wide, lovely eyes (as wives for the pious), like preserved pearls, a reward for deeds that they used to do”…

Probably, Kasab was not aware of such heavenly rewards when he agreed to hold up the Kalashnikov against the teeming multitude in an Indian railway station.  Somebody with nothing more than primary education and abject poverty as the only resources, Kasab could not have been aware of even the voluptuous aspects of Islamic jihad.  When he was questioned by the police soon after his arrest, Kasab, lying in a hospital bed, said clearly that he had done it for money and nothing else.  He said his father must have been paid lakhs of rupees.  It is that earthly paradise that Kasab was interested in.  And that too, for his family, rather than for himself.  He knew he would die.

He also knew he would die a “martyr.”  So it is not unlikely that he was unaware of the paradise that awaited him in the life hereafter.  His masters must have conjured up a vivid picture of that paradise in the process of brainwashing him.  (One such picture, provided in wikiislam, is what I have given as a link above.  Such paradise cannot be anything but tempting for a young man deprived of even the money to buy a new pair of dress for Eid.)

It is more likely that Kasab died in despair, without even the kind of wisdom that one acquires in solitude or at least the terrifying realisation of one’s depravity.  According to a front page report in The Hindu [Nov 22] which quoted a police official who was present during the execution, Kasab probably did not even understand exactly what was going on.  “It’s also possible he’d ceased to care,” the report quotes.

Perhaps his mind had become numb.  Unable to feel, think or react.  A state that may be called “spiritual aridity,” a state that results from inner emptiness.

Will any god reward such emptiness, aridity, with paradise?  I don’t know.  My knowledge about the supernatural is zilch.

But I know that the kind of thinking that underlies the creation of people like Kasab should change if life on this earth (which can be a paradise too!) is to have some semblance of peace.

Tariq Ali, writer and film-maker, suggests the following: “We are in desperate need of an Islamic Reformation that sweeps away the crazed conservatism and backwardness of the fundamentalists but, more than that, opens up the world of Islam to new ideas…. This would necessitate a rigid separation of state and mosque; the dissolution of the clergy; the assertion by Muslim intellectuals of their right to interpret the texts that are the collective property of Islamic culture as a whole; the freedom to think freely and rationally and the freedom of imagination.” [The Clash of Fundamentalism: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, Rupa & Co, 2003, pp: 338-9. Emphasis added.]

Alas, a similar suggestion can be made with respect to quite many religions today!

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Was Thackeray an Anachronism?


Bal Thackeray was the Hitler of Maharashtra.  He not only admired the ‘Great Dictator’ but also tried to emulate him by fighting the non-Marathis with all resources available to him.  The number of people in various parts of India who must have celebrated the death of Bal Thackeray at least in the privacy of their hearts may not be minuscule.

Just as Hitler wanted a Germany of pure Aryans, Thackeray wanted an India of pure Hindus.  His blinkered vision rankled with inveterate hatred for Muslims and Christians, a hatred which went to the extent of getting even cricket matches and pitches dashed to wrack and ruin if the Pakistani team was in the vicinity.  His men, mostly antisocial elements, went around assaulting people who celebrated the Valentine’s Day.  He hated people for loving people.  He did not hesitate to wield his cudgel against Sachin Tendulkar merely for stating that he was a Marathi but also an Indian.

This very same Thackeray had, however, no compunction about forming a political alliance with the Muslim League during the Bombay Corporation elections in the 1970s.  Many of his friends till the end of his life were Muslims who had political or financial clout.  One of the physicians whom he trusted most was a Christian, Dr Samuel Mathew.  He was overjoyed to have Michael Jackson perform for his Shiv Sena.  When Michael Jackson condescended to use his toilet, Thackeray’s bowels moved with ebullience.

Was he a bundle of contradictions?

I think he was a blatant anachronism: a Hitler born a century late.

Thackeray lived in a time when nations opened up their borders not only for trade but also for migration.  But he chose to live in a small world guarded ferociously by his puny-minded Cossacks.  When the whole world opened up gates, Thackeray chose to close gates.  He asserted that the land should belong to the sons of the soil.  Who had built up that land as an economic fortress, however?  How many Marathis were responsible for the emergence of Bombay as the economic capital of India?  Of course, such questions do not matter of dictators.

Like every dictator, Thackeray loved to impose his views on others.  He justified his perverse inclination by projecting Shivaji as his patron saint and inspiration.  Hitler was the second most important idol in his pantheon.    He admired Indira Gandhi when she imposed her dictatorship on the country in a foolhardy venture called the Emergency.  This admiration also won him the support of many Congressmen in his state.

It may be a mere stint of irony that Thackeray lost his voting rights from 1995-2001.  After all, he didn’t believe in democracy.  Yet that punishment, for rousing communal passion during electioneering, must have hurt him much since he thought his vote was more valuable than a million others’.

Speak no ill of the dead, says the adage.  Let me conclude by saying that Bal Thackeray was a brave man.  Like Hitler.  Like Narendra Modi.  Even like Joseph Stalin whom Thackeray didn’t like because he was Leftist and not Rightist.

Let me conclude this obituary with Modi baai’s words in honour of the dead: “Balasaheb Thackeray was an epitome of courage and valour.  He was full of life.  He fought like a warrior.  I’ve lost someone who always guided me.”

Alas, leaders like Modi, Thackeray, Hitler, Stalin… don’t need any guiding light.  Aren’t they their own lights?  Like William Blake’s Tiger that burns bright in the forests of the night…?!

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