Yoddha from Jaico Publishing House

Book Review – Rajat Pillai’s Yoddha

The new arrivals section in most bookstores these days are overflowing with mythological fiction, making me want to run at the mention of fiction. The social media has barely recovered from the hailstorm of Padmavati (or should I say Padmavat?). So, I wasn’t sure if it was a safe idea to start reading a historical fiction at this juncture.

I looked at the title of the book again. It said Yoddha. I couldn’t help being reminded of Jodha (Akbar), who was a forerunner for the likes of Padmavati in terms of controversies. The subtitle of the book read, “The Dynasty of Samudragupta”.  The author Rajat Pillai must have thought, “Why should the Khiljis, Akbars, and Aurangzebs have all the fun? Let us also wake the Guptas up, from their forgotten graves”.

A friend who saw me reading the book, asked if the book speaks of the wars that Samudragupta had won during his time. Given that the title of the book refers to ‘a warrior’, one would expect the same. However, you get to see more of Samudra, the retiring king and doting father and less of Samudra, the warrior. The story starts after the point in history when the Ashwamedha horse sent by Samudragupta returned unconquered, invariably crowning him the King of Kings. The book begins with Samudra and ends with him but there are many a Yoddhas in the pages in between. While Samudra remains the glorious historical backdrop for the story to unfold, the book is more about the ascending of Chandragupta II. The book does deal with battles but most of them doesn’t involve a sword or an armor.

The challenge with historical fictions is that the readers always know who lives and who dies. The success of such books lies in the narration that keeps the reader hooked to the book even after knowing what is to befall their favourite characters. That way Rajat Pillai chose a rather unconventional plot to keep his audience’s attention. Who would have thought that the future king of the Gupta Dynasty had to be treated for mental illness? On the hindsight, I am wondering if the author tried to create awareness about mental illness through his book. The book has all the usual elements of a historical fiction – war, love, sibling rivalry, treachery and more. An important chapter of the book almost reminded me of a scene from the blockbuster movie ‘Bahubali’, but the later chapters made me realize that there was more to it than what I had assumed.

The chapters dedicated to the amorous adventures of Chandragupta are akin to a Bollywood dance number in the middle of a fast-moving thriller movie. It disrupts the flow of the story, but being an Indian audience, you are used to such fully-packed entertainers. So that way, the book caters to classes and surely is an entertainer. An interesting part of the book was the inclusion of the intriguing Kumari Devi (Kanya Devi) or the Living Goddess in the plot and touching upon the significant role these women play in a kingdom. When you have almost forgotten about Samrat Samudra after the first few chapters, there come the dark secrets from his past weaving some exciting subplots before the grand finale. From Vyom to Madhavasena, the book is quite engaging. However, I do personally think the editorial team could have done a better job.

I come from the creed of people who still can’t get over the Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Ponniyin Selvan (1950) after all these years. 2400 pages and five volumes, one can imagine the amount of research and historical data that would have gone into the making of a book of such magnitude.

With Ponniyin Selvan as the benchmark, it becomes difficult to appreciate any new age historical fiction. However, I am also aware that it is unfair to the author to put his book against the mighty Ponniyin Selvan. So, I must warn you that if you belong in the Ponniyin Selvan fan club, then this book might leave you unquenched.  But, if you are a light reader and are tired of the mythological fictions or if you are looking for a page turner, then this is an excellent choice of read for you. I must also credit the author for choosing the Golden era in the Indian history that usually gets overshadowed thanks to all the political controversies. Even if the book doesn’t bring out all the true history of this period, I hope the book will rekindle the interest of the reading population to unearth more knowledge about these rulers and their administration.

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Jasmin-Waldmann-Change_Me

Jasmin Waldmann’s Change Me

One of the protagonists says that the idea of life coach is relatively new in India. It’s a point to ponder upon. A lot of formulations have been known in our country from the longest period of time man can remember through culture and literature.
However, through years of self deprecation and looking for joy in west-imitation, we have let those formulations rust away in the dingy corner of our forgetful mind. Should we seek support from outside in times of need? Can an external force drive us to help ourselves to become a better version of what we are? Or is the external force just a misnomer for someone who reminds us of our internal energy which in turn drives us to change ourselves? In the Mahabharata, Krishna himself didn’t fight. However, he did become that external force for Arjuna to remind him of his duty, responsibility, skills, and power. Krishna who himself is known as the Yogiraj (King of Yogins) taught Arjun lessons in JnanYoga, KarmaYoga, and BhaktiYoga. Arjun channelized his own energy and went on to win the war of both the external and the internal world. Bhagwad Gita was perhaps the first book written for the ‘Self-Help’ shelf.

As with the Bhagwad Gita, we tend to forget our own worth and dreams in the rat race of the world. Change Me enters a chaotic world with an objective to impart a sense of purpose to all the rats. Calmly but assertively, this book tells the rats to stop, breathe, enter their mind palaces, and observe their ratness. It maybe that they are not rats after all and are running a race of someone else. Natalie Kofman is arguably the Krishna of the book and Amit Malhotra is her Arjun.

The author Jasmin Waldmann, life coach and fitness expert, speaks to the readers through the character of Natalie. Amit Malhotra represents the set of readers who are willing to change themselves. Published by Jaico Publishing House, Change Me is life coaching made palatable through storytelling.
I have read quite a few books on self help. Most of the times, I have put them down after reading a few pages or even half of the book because of the monotonous preaching of the author in the books. So, the bait of storytelling in Change Me worked for me. The author lays out the focus areas of her chapters through the titles and goes phase by phase into Amit’s transformation. The journey from Recognize to Resurrect is a story many of us would relate to. On the way, Jasmin has packed up quite a few practical lessons on physical exercise, breathing techniques, and meditation which makes sure that the book is more than just a marketing material for the author and her coaching programs.
However, you must bear in mind that this is a self-help book and hence, you must not look for an epic story in these pages. The characters and their conversations are sometimes clichéd, the plot is often predictable, and the text is at times ordinary. It doesn’t help that there are a few typos as well. However, what the book loses in such shortcomings, it gains in the pace of storytelling and the practicality of lessons imparted through conversations between its protagonists.

My favourite part of the book would be the dialogue between Amit and other characters when Natalie takes Amit to his childhood to heal some wounds from the past. I would have liked a few more practical points or To Do things in the book but I believe that there is only one test for any self-help book. Did the book inspire enough to invest more time into my self-improvement? The answer for me is Yes. This is a good, earnestly written book and ends at a sweet length for you to read less and do more.

Sunil Mishra’s Transit Lounge

A lot of us who are bitten by the bug of wanderlust, often envy those who are privileged to travel across the skies, as a part of their job. So, it goes without saying how green I was with envy when I read the blurb of Sunil Mishra’s ‘Transit Lounge’. It reads, – “An Indian’s account of travelling to thirty countries across six continents”. The envy turns into a smile as he explains how International travel from India has drastically changed in the last 20 years.

Sunil begins the book with a disclaimer that the book is a “non-expert’s account of capturing the world-view from personal experiences of travelling” and that his observations could be “partial, in pockets and non-exhaustive”. I think it was very thoughtful of him to mention that because as Roman Payne says “Depending on the city and on the traveller, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”

Sunil is an IT professional and has been travelling on business to various parts of the world. While some of his travels have been short stays, there are places he had revisited, some even multiple times over many years. So, while some accounts have limited information owing to the short stay, there are others that let you peek into these cities through various times and understand how they have changed. When you are a traveller, few of the first things that help make an impression of the place and its people are the airports, the taxis, the taxi drivers, the roads, the rails, the traffic on these and finally, the hospitality at the place of your stay. Sunil invariably talks about most of these in all his travel accounts giving you a taste of these places.

It is interesting to learn how some countries have evolved rather too quickly, while some have conveniently remained stagnant in their glorious past and some have shattered beyond recognition thanks to political turmoil and extremism. Sunil also talks about the various stereotyping that exists, how the dominant media paints an incorrect picture of the other parts of the world and how travel has made him see them all in a different light. You will also find the author constantly comparing the place that he is visiting with the state-of-affairs back at home, in India. He also records the appalling disparity in the standards of living among various countries.

The book is a mixed bag of travel tales. While few stories will introduce you to the culture or historical significance of the place, some of his stories will surely help you prepare for international travels especially to those countries with stringent and difficult immigration processes. There are stories that warn you of the fraudulent elements and there are stories that reassure you that the world is a better place than you thought. You might even get to relive the anxiety of your first travel and all those times when things went wrong with your travel plan and also those times when you got lucky.

The language of the book is free-flowing. It is an interesting and light-hearted read. While I empathize with the author’s trouble in getting a publisher, I feel the book could have used another round of editing. For a travelogue, the book is lacking in photographs, but then you must remember that some writers give you better stories than any picture will ever give you. That is true for this book as well. Also add to it, the fact that some of these stories are from before the mobile camera/DSLR era. In the words of Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” The learnings that Sunil talks about, at the end of his book proves how true those words are. After finishing the book, I am left with just one question – When is Sunil planning to cover the seventh continent?

 

Richard Rothman’s ‘Master Opportunity and Make It Big’ from Jaico

I have never been a great fan of self-help books, even if it is about business. I always believed that ‘’one man’s food is another man’s poison”. Our strengths and weaknesses are different and so are our secrets to success. So, when I picked Richard M Rothman’s ‘Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Master Opportunity and Make It Big’, I was skeptical if I will enjoy reading. However, the author did put some of my doubts to rest in the very first chapter where he narrates a very interesting anecdote from Essel Group’s Chairman Subash Chandra’s life. No matter how delicious your recipes are, you need to learn to plate them well to appeal to the target audience. How can Richard who is one of the world’s leading experts on Business Opportunities go wrong when it comes to his own readers?

I was expecting some more anecdotes in the chapters that followed, but every chapter surprised me and the reader in me was all excited. Each chapter painted ‘opportunity’ in distinct colors and I realized that the book is not trying to be a singular rule book to success but rather an encyclopedia, chronicling the paths to success. You are free to pick and choose whatever suits you. Have you always wanted to establish something that puts social welfare before profit? Do you want to work on areas you have absolutely no knowledge about? Are you worried that you have been trying for years with no real profit? Fear not. Richard’s book seems to have answers to these and a lot more of such questions. If there is one huge take away for me from the book, it is that money or the lack of it won’t stop you from achieving your business goals if you learn to play around with opportunities.

The Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book has two parts to it. The first part covers the success secrets of India’s Opportunity masters. From Subash Chandra to Sasha Mirchandani, there about 18 success stories that will inspire you to march towards yours dreams. These do not merely talk about the success stories, but also about how they perceived opportunity, persevered through tougher times and had the courage to venture into unknown territories. At the end of each chapter, he also summarizes the golden rules of success for each of these masters. In the second part of the book, Richard talks about forty-four opportunity sutras which includes Opportunity Accelerators, Opportunity Activators, Opportunity Evaluators, Opportunity Expediters.

The Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book has arrived at a time when the Indian market is abuzz with startups. The years 2016 and 2017 saw a lot of seemingly promising startups shut down. A study by inc42.com reveals that “50% of the founders, post-shutdown, have joined another company and are working on leading positions such as category head, CEOs, VPs and more. But only a small chunk has made a comeback as founders”. I believe this book would provide the impetus to turn that number around. The insights that this book provide makes it, a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur even those with a string of failed attempts. It does have its own cliched 3Cs, 3Ds, 5Ws etc. but if you can take them on your stride, this book is a good place to reach for some encouragement. Even if you are a non-reader, you can still try the book because the presentation of the book is simple and keeps you engaged. You can read in parts or may be just the golden rules.

I was a tad disheartened because all the Opportunity masters listed in the Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book were all males. I do really hope Richard would care to tell us about the masters from the other genders in the next edition of the Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book. Not that any of these secrets to success are gender-dependent, but there are gender-dependent challenges. Bringing out the stories of Opportunity master from the other genders will add an extra boost to the aspiring entrepreneurs from the other genders. Having said that, irrespective of your gender, this is one of those books, you can read and reread multiple times.

 

Disha’s Corporate Avatars by Jaico

What was the need for such a book?
The book Corporate Avatars was needed because yet another of the bright alumni of IIMs wanted to become a writer and dump all her management-experience borne gyan on us hapless chaps who have nothing better to do than to listen to the rant of a person who is frustrated with everything going around her in the corporate world. In short, this book was not needed.

 

Or wait a minute, am I just being a whining kid here? All the bosses had a fight at my workplace about a couple of days back. It was loud, it was public, and it was ugly. I am not speaking of the Supreme Court Chief Justice controversy here, though that sticks for an example as well. Somehow a fight between seniors or the elders is always uglier when compared to that between the relatively younger ones. A tussle between younger people can always be swept under the rug with a nonchalant – ‘Don’t fight like kids. Grow up!’ But what do you tell these senior-most people in the team who can’t keep their volumes in check while having an altercation or a difference of opinions. They have all the right in the world to fight and I do not in any way mean to take away the child inside them but there are children outside too and that they are taking keen interest in their behaviour is something they should give a thought about. Disha has a name for at least one of these members of the corporate fight club – Mr. Matchstick.

In her book, Disha has a long list of people you will encounter in a corporate world. She explains the symptoms, gives a name to the disease, and also provides antidotes. Whether the antidotes work is for you to try them out and decide. The book is an easy and short read. It will keep your funny bones tickling every once in a while.

I would have liked the book to be a tad more humorous than it is and also a tad more serious than it is. Also, the usage of Hindi words and phrases in Roman for characters may confuse the non-Hindi readers, thereby limiting its humour quotient for somebody who doesn’t understand a phrase like Mr. Gadha Prasad and its connotations. Maybe a footnote with meanings would have helped. Also, the book needs a sharper editing as I could find multiple occurrences of spelling error and word repetition.

In the initial days of my corporate journey, I had a colleague who used to get extra touchy while working. There were times I would find her feet almost tapping my toes while having an intense discussion about some product requirement. I couldn’t understand this behaviour. Initially, I presumed it to be an act she was not aware of and ignored it. However, things didn’t stop. I didn’t want to escalate this to the HR department and tried to take control of the situation. I decided to always keep a distance of about four feet from her during any discussion thereafter and things got better. Ms. Stand Closer & Closer finds a place in this book and I could easily relate it to my personal experience. For anyone out there preparing to enter the corporate world, reading Corporate Avatars can help you transition better in a world of ironies and hypocrisies.

While a lot of issues that have been spoken of in the book remain a challenge for researchers in the field of human psychology and behaviour, and while their answers are rarely simple, Disha has managed to pack easy-to-implement solutions to the anthropocentric problems that we face everyday at our workplace. The book manages to preserve its wacky tone throughout.

Whether we are a new entrant to the industry or have spent long years working inside it, we walk into or are put into situations with people where we hit a deadlock. Either we fail to reach a solution or act in haste to damage our working relationships at workplace. In such times, this book can provide some cursory, plug and play if not foolproof solutions. The objective of the book is to prevent you from coming in harm’s way and it keeps its promise.

I would have loved a note on the avatars the author is seen in by her colleagues. It could have added some self-deprecating humour to the book and would have made an interesting read; to Jaico and Disha, if you are reading this, in the next impression perhaps?

To the Survivors – From the Survivors

Do you know somebody who has been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives? Most likely you do! In India, a child under 16 is raped every 155 minutes and a child under 10 every 13 hours. Over 53% of children who participated in a Government study reported some form of sexual abuse and about 50% of abusers are known to the victims. In 95.5% of cases, the attacker was known to the rape victim in 2015. In the US, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.

If those numbers clutch you by your spine, know that rape also remains the most under-reported of all the crimes. In the US, about 63% of cases are not reported to the Police.

Robert Uttaro hasn’t written a book about numbers and figures because numbers are perhaps irrelevant to a survivor. Going by the percentage of unreported cases, they are also misleading at their best precision. Robert prefers the word ‘Survivor’ for a rape victim. The word victim is defeating and gives more power to the perpetrator whereas survivor gives the control back to the ones who are trying to overcome a tragedy. To many people who have suffered some form of sexual violence, identifying as a survivor is empowering. These numbers may move you, trouble you, or inspire you to do something about the problem. However, you would have started on the wrong foot because numbers don’t present to our mind and consciousness the real stories of these survivors. A victim has no use of such statistics. To understand an affected, we must listen to them when they choose to speak and that’s what Robert has managed to do successfully throughout this book.

A poem to start the book - by Jenee
A poem to start the book – by Jenee

The book starts with Robert’s own story of how he volunteered for THP (The Healing Place), understood that he didn’t understand a lot of things about rape survivors, and went about learning from his seniors and colleagues at THP. Robert works in the Outreach and Education wing of the center and the nature of his work has allowed him to ‘interact with, learn from, teach, and help a lot of people from different walks of life’. A major part of the book entails the stories of survivors who chose to volunteer for survivor speaker engagements. The author has recorded their stories as told by them voluntarily in conversation with him. While the survivors have spoken about how they were violated and what they did to heal themselves, the author has deftly steered the conversation to stress on different aspects of sexual violence through these narrations. While one conversation discusses the inadequacies of the legal system, another one talks about the role of one’s faith and spirituality in the healing process, done tangentially to the story being told so as to not dilute them. Robert Uttaro comes across as a great listener and a master conversationalist. It is a matter of fact that most of us don’t understand this crime well enough and such an arrangement of conversations fills the knowledge holes in our head.

The stories as told by the survivors take us into the deepest and most difficult chambers of their being. They speak about the assault, the assaulter, response from the family members, the realization to get healed, and the healing process. No two stories in the book are same and yet they are similar in more than one way. Stories differ because they are the stories of different individuals who have lived through the horrid experience. Their approach to life in the aftermath of an assault and the healing process is unique to them. However, the reader might feel similar pangs of pain in their gut and heart because all these survivors had to undergo something that shouldn’t befall anyone in the world. The stories are also similar because they all exude hope and help. These stories have been shared by victims who have chosen to become warriors against this crime.

Most of the people who saw me reading this book and had a look at the cover came up with one common response – “This is too heavy for me, I can’t read this book.” I’m not sure how Robert would react to this. Robert has tried to change this very approach to the subject of rape and sexual violence through this book. Our society must acknowledge that our legal system is inadequate in handling this problem. Instead of the perpetrator having a difficult time in the courts, the survivors have to live their assault repeatedly in the course of investigation and litigation. It is for us to understand that when a mere male voice can trigger a survivor who was raped by a male and send her into regression (read the book for the complete story), what does the reliving of the assault in open public do to them. The second point that our society must accept is that we as individuals and communities are miserable in our response to such incidents. We don’t teach this at school, we don’t teach this at university. The field is largely left to researchers and activists to explore and work in. When the crime is so common as to occur in every 6th individual’s lifetime, why are the most common people in our society not trained to respond with care, trust, and empathy if some survivor gathers courage to talk about the assault? With all our advancements, this unwillingness to talk about sexual violence in family, friend groups, schools, universities, or workplace is an unfortunate fact. Not only this creates a hostile atmosphere for anyone to speak out but also gives rise to a conducive environment for such assaults to take place and remain unnoticed. Mankind was perhaps born with a disability from the beginning. That we are not capable of empathising with the victim of a crime until we face it ourselves is a great bane and whenever there is somebody like Robert Uttaro who conquers this disability, it comes off as an exception rather than a norm.

The book could have used another iteration at the editor’s desk. However, that doesn’t take away from it the fact that it is one of most important books to have been published in our world and must be in our hands for us to understand this problem better. The most special part of the book for me is Jenee’s story and her thoughts on forgiveness. The book would have remained incomplete without it. If you’re trying to decide about getting your copy of the book, my suggestion would be to buy it and read it in silence with yourself, though Robert has another take on this.

I stepped into 2018 reading not only about one of the most heinous acts human race knows and indulges in but also about that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re a survivor reading this, know that help exists, inside and outside and it is possible to encounter light well before you reach the end of the tunnel. Robert Uttaro has penned down a book titled To The Survivors and the most remarkable thing about this book is his sincerity. I wish that human race presses the reset button and eliminates this act for as long as it inhabits this beautiful planet that is today dotted with the physical, psychological, spiritual scars of rape survivors. That they can’t be seen from within our tinted glasses by no means warrants that they do not exist. We are a bleeding race and the book tries to soothe and heal some of the deepest wounds we have inflicted upon ourselves.

 

 

 

References

crowdvoice.org
nsvrc.org
https://www.robertuttaro.com/

Nationalism, Intellectualism, and Us – Makarand Paranjape

Makarand R. Paranjape, has been the Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla since August 2018.  Prior to that, he was a Professor of English at JNU, New Delhi. Mr. Paranjape is a scholar, critic, poet, novelist, and columnist. He read English at St. Stephen’s College before getting an MA & PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA). He has published over 45 books, 170 academic papers, and 500 newspaper/periodical articles. His recent books include Cultural Politics in Modern India (Routledge, 2016), The Death and Afterlife of Mahatma Gandhi (Penguin Random House, 2015), and Transit Passenger/Passageiro em Transito (University of Sao Paolo, 2016), an Indo-Brazilian book of poems. Makarand is currently a columnist for Swarajya, DNA, and Mail Today. The Seer (formerly Bookstalkist) spoke with him on sidelines of the Bangalore Literature Festival, 2017. 

Tagore’s essays on nationalism are really about the dangers of ideologies and the people who get blinded and brainwashed.

 

 

Going through the works of Swami Vivekananda and then the literature of Tagore, do you think there is a conflict between them when it comes to the idea of nationalism?

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There is no conflict and that is because Swami Vivekananda did not write about nationalism. People aren’t aware of this but he hardly said anything directly on nationalism. He passed away in 1902 and by that time, the national movement had not yet really arrived at a tipping point. Bengal partition took place in 1905 and he passed away before that. He did see himself as a great awakener of the Indian conscience as well as the dormant force of the nation but he never made a lot of remarks about nationalism whereas Tagore really engaged with nationalism. However, even Tagore had a context, the context was the first world war. What people often do not understand is that Tagore’s comments on nationalism were actually a critique of imperialism and he had a different idea of Indian nationalism which he set forth in Swadeshi Samaj, an essay he wrote long before. There, he talks about, like Gandhi did a bit, about self sustaining communities which are able to look after their own needs  without the intervention of the state. One reason that he became a bit cautious about this ideology of nationalism is that during the Swadeshi Movement when Bengal was partitioned, some people think that it was the source of partition of India and that’s where the idea has come from. British wanted to partition India and Bengal was the first experiment. This experiment was done in Bengal and luckily it was also undone because there was a huge uprising  in Bengal. However, during that time, Tagore was disillusioned with the kind of nationalist ideologues or leaders he saw. He found that they were dividing the community’s unity and causing a lot of havoc. He wrote about this in a book called ‘Ghare Baire’  where the whole family gets destroyed because of the intervention of a demagogue. Tagore’s essays on nationalism are really about the dangers of ideologies and the people who get blinded and brainwashed. Then, they lose their humanity, they lose their sensitivity, and they lose their capacity to be human. For Tagore, as a poet, that was a disaster.
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In his lecture on nationalism, Tagore mentions the conflict of nations. There is a reckless competition between nations for making profits and it works like a machine and has been successful in robbing humanity from people. So, when it comes to the subject of this whole capitalist idea of making profits for countries and organisations, is he on the same page or closer to Marxism?

I don’t think that he had anything to do with Marxism. Marxism is about collective ownership of land, goods, and of means of production.  It’s against individually owned property. It’s about the proletariat owning all the resources. So, I think it’s an entirely different ideology. If you want to create some kind of connection, you will have to say that in Tagore, we find some sympathy for the poor, for the underdogs, or for the oppressed. But again our Bengali friends don’t like it but Tagore is a very bourgeois writer and this is what exactly a leading Marxist critic whose name is György Lukács who was a Hungarian and at his time, the leading Marxist literary critic, denounced Tagore as being a charlatan, a minor and a sentimental writer. This is because in Tagore’s writing, the revolutionary impulse is viewed with great suspicion. Tagore was quite obedient to authority. Though he was critical of authority, he was not a revolutionary, he was not a Rebel. He didn’t have rebel characters in his novels in good light. They always came out looking really bad and Lukacs catches this. He says, “you know this Tagore, he is a petty bourgeois. He is not at all a progressive writer.” Our Bengali friends often don’t like this because they have deified Tagore. But there’s one thing, speaking about Bengal, Bengalis, and Bengal Renaissance, there is a major difference between the trajectory of Tagore on one hand and that of Vivekananda on the other. That distinction is clear and the reason for that is that while Vivekananda was definitely for pluralism and respecting diversity, he also wanted to make India strong and his idea of virtue was that ‘weakness is sin and strength is life’. So, this emphasis on  empowerment in Vivekananda’s literature is then picked up by people who are also looking for role models for a more muscular nationalism whereas Tagore is meeker and accommodative. The way that Vivekananda then gets picked up by different factions is essentially in the service of this sort of more militant Hindu self-assertion of identity. But what is interesting about Vivekananda is that love him or hate him, as it were, everybody wants to appropriate Vivekananda. Whichever political ideology you represent they all say that we considered Swami Vivekananda a Hero. So, there is something universally acceptable about him which is not true even of Gandhi because a lot of people don’t like Gandhi But go around asking who doesn’t like Vivekananda, you will find hardly anybody, even the Marxist and the communist have tried to appropriate him.

I would like to go to fundamentals here.  We see that currently most of the writers that we read on social media or otherwise, have boxed themselves inside the Right or the Left.  So, according to you, what is Left and what is the Right?

These are misnomers, specially in the Indian context because according to the more classical definition, if you look at the European context, the right authoritarians were the fascists and the left totalitarians were communists and in a way, both are highly avoidable. The experience of Europe has shown us that. So, you have Stalinist totalitarian regime.  In the east, you have Maoist and North Korea and other varieties of these. These  regimes don’t respect freedom, individual rights, liberties, and due process. Freedom is not very important for them. That is one extreme. In the other extreme are so called fascists, the Mussolinis and others who enjoyed power for sometime. Then, Nazis  were actually  nationalist socialists, that’s what the Nazi party called itself.  So, these are varieties of, you might say, the bad guys but after that the rest of the spectrum is broadly democratic in at least western democracies. In the Soviet sphere of influence again, individual rights and liberties were curtailed, there was no economic freedom or competition. That was the left. The right was capitalist. Now, most of the greater Indian intellectuals or thinkers have been telling us that none of this is suitable for us. They are saying that we should find another path and hence, for some time we tried a mixed economy model, then we tried for sometime other more dharmic economic model which may be they are still trying.  Long and short of this is the same thing –  we can’t be out and out capitalists, when making money becomes be all and end all. Capitalism without humanity or on the other hand, command and control of economy completely under the state can’t be our way. That’s why I am saying left and right in that sense have hardly any meaning. But the political configuration has become this – you are  pro current ruling regime or you are not, that is a very big divide. I think, not just social media but India I feel and I would say Hindu society is going through a huge civil war and some of the other communities are watering from the sidelines but they’re going through their own civil war and so the problem in India is not left and right at all. The problem is something different. It’s about two competing narratives. Which one is to capture the national imagination and through that capture and enjoy power, enjoy dominance, enjoy economic benefits is the question today. And that is why the battle is so vicious because so much is at stake and a particular elite which enjoyed  earned and as well as unearned privileges and benefits is now being pushed aside and when you get pushed aside you will fight, you will fight for your turf.

…I were a Muslim, would be a completely idiotic appeal. I would look what are you doing for education.

 

 

In your poem, Tipu’s Fall, have you referred to Tipu Sultan as the first Indian nationalist?

tipu-sultan-bookstalkist

I didn’t say that. That’s not actually what I have said. Tipu Sultan has a divided legacy and his own historical record is deeply divided. He fought against the British and that makes him from a modern standpoint,  anti imperialism but he did not see himself necessarily as an anti imperialism person. He wanted to protect his kingdom, a kingdom which his father had  usurped. So, the thing that we don’t want to understand about Islamic conquerors is that they are basically people who go and invade  areas and through the power, through the weapons, and the armies, they control and then  they rule. Then, they also use Islam as a  legitimating device. They present an ideological justification and the ulema is harnessed to  support them. This is the template and this is followed, we are talking 1790s and this is still followed, look at Bhopal, look at some of the recent examples, a few hundred thousand horsemen come in and invade and then they establish the Darul Islam, whether the population is 100 percent Hindu or 80 percent Hindu or 70 percent Hindu. And certain things are followed. Certain temples will be taken over, Khutpa will be read from there and all such things happen. So, this has happened for hundred times and hence, you can’t deny this either.  So, when the Indian nationalists were looking for some role models against the British, they went back to 1857. It was Savarkar whom the leftists don’t like who called it the first war of Indian independence. It was called the sepoy mutiny otherwise. He said that the British were the enemy, let’s make a common cause against them. This is something very interesting that we don’t know about Savarkar which is that he did not start off as an advocate of Hindutva. His book on 1857 was published in the same year as Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj in 1909. Hindutva comes much later  in the twenties because his thinking had changed and he found that the composite nationalism was not going to work.Finally Gandhi realized this same thing in 1947.  He is conceding that we tried and tried and tried.  So, what I wanted to say is that certain narratives were created to make a common cause against the British and in that process Tipu becomes an anti-imperialist force, that’s how he is taught  in history and elsewhere. The Sword of Tipu came, all this is done because of the state sponsored media. They are funded by the state and they don’t tell you that how many  people were converted, how many temples did he destroy, or what his policies were. Also, like all rulers, he also had to make compromises. He had to make a compromise with the Sringeri Mutt. That is also a fact.  So, there was some arrangements there but at the same time, little south of Sringeri in the Malabar, north of Kerala,  he was  totally vicious because those people went against him. In other words, we have to see these figures in the context of their own times and their own compulsions. We can’t superimpose upon them or project upon them or own problems. Right here in Karnataka, the problem is partly because they want to use Tipu to get the minority votes. So, every year they want to celebrate some Tipu Jayanti which is actually a way of dividing  the  voters into vote banks,  saying look we are doing Tipu Jayanti so the muslims who are at 10% , 12%, or 20% of the constituency, they should vote for us. Why? Because we will do a Tipu Jayanti which to me if I were a muslim, would be a completely idiotic appeal. I would look what are you doing for education. There’s no Muslim  road and Hindu road, no Hindu electricity and Muslim electricity, but yes they will say Hindu schools and Muslim schools. What I am trying to say is that to divert  from the real issues they do this.  So, the moment you have a celebration, the other guys will say but he was a tyrant, he was a murderer, they are also using the same figure divide and not just divide but to appeal to another bunch of people. This is what’s going on.

Should there be no resistance?

My point is these fights are not at all about Tipu. Similarly, left and right is not at all about left and right. These are power struggles between competing claimants to both national and regional power. So, when we think it’s about Tipu we are so misled. And I think this is true of much of the debate that is happening in India today because we are not able to read them symptomatically. They are symptoms of something else. But we get fixated on these issues and then we started debating them.

If I  add to the same vein, a major portion of the history that is probably inconvenient to some people, has not been taught to students or scholars. What I see is that the entire Mughal tyranny has been whitewashed.  I also see that the partition pain has been whitewashed. It’s not there in history textbooks. All they mention is that India and Pakistan were divided in 1947. Do you think such sections of history should make an entry into the text?

Absolutely. We should have many many histories but I’ll tell you what I worry about and why this is again a problem which we don’t properly understand. The debate is not just over with what happened. I wish it was. The debate is what is the official history to be taught. So, again, it’s about mind control. They want to substitute one narrative by another but I am interested in finding the truth. Now why are they doing it once again? Seeing the potential to indoctrinate young people, from school you will be raised on a particular ideology, like they have already done in Pakistan, or like they did in India, everyone was raised on some kind of secular diet. Though I am in favour of corrective history, I am more interested in seeing that the power of indoctrination in schools and colleges is reduced through the plurality of sources. This requires deep thought which is that there are no simple truths in such subjects. However, these subjects are being taught in such a way that only one answer can be right. Because of this, you are going to force people. In other words,  what I am really so concerned about is the attempt by our political establishment to use the coercive powers of the state to influence our populace. Here, they are doing it now by making Kannada compulsory. I don’t think states should make things compulsory or not compulsory, it’s not their business.  And it has become their business because they are taking your money and my money, and deciding how to spend it. And because they are controlling the budgets, they are enforcing their own political ideology on the passive populace.

Imagine what would happen if governments let people decide, let communities decide, and this again this whole issue of one certification, SSLC,  so you’re controlling thousands of people. Why do we do this? Everyone knows this that SSLC doesn’t work, everyone knows this, but well CBSE is marginally better, but if you work for Infosys they will train you because they don’t trust your degree. So, the kind of reform that we need in India and the kind of transformation I am interested in Abhishek is not at this level, at the superficial level at which many of our debates are conducted. I am interested in deep change and for that you need a lot of smart people who really want to go into this and examine. You see the US, there is no central board of certification. Every High School gives its own high school leaving certificate and its own grades, there’s no one centralised system but people figure it out eventually, centralization comes during SAT,  that means if you score, that’s it. So, we should do that and forget these boards what are these boards anyway? That’s one way but they have at least got out of forcing everybody across US to study one textbook. Why not let every school decide?  So, I am all for decentralisation. You can’t  indoctrinate, but here both sides again, both sides want to use the power of state to control others. So, for us, unfortunately power is seen in how you can inconvenience somebody, how you can force your will on someone, not on how you can enable things. Even though so called assertion of the Hindu Right is often seen in terms of bullying or enforcing some notion of theirs on others, in not making many different narratives possible, I don’t blame them entirely  because because they have also been forced into this binary and I think it’s the purpose of intellectuals to  not succumb. I always tell people to resist, you may be drawn into either camp, it’s so much easier to be a camp follower  but at least intellectual shouldn’t function like that. We are not the sheep. I don’t know about the Dharma of the troll because I am not a troll or dharma of a party worker because I am not a party worker but I know a little bit about the dharma  of an intellectual, of an academic, of a writer, and of a citizen. All these dharmas require you to be critically aware, be well informed, be responsible, and to make decisions based on good evidence and not just on the basis of either populist measures or misinformation. Speaking of populism, it’s completely wrong to think that only one side is populist. All sides  are populists. Whenever you appeal to the sentiments of the people, often making them do things that are not there in their self interest including possibly Brexit, that is populism. So, how can you say only right is populist?  No, left is totally populist. Quotas, sops for women, all that is populism. It’s a way to hand out favours from the state. What I have been saying to people is , let’s create a system where you don’t need a quota because there are so many opportunities, hundreds of colleges; anybody can be a doctor. That is something the polity doesn’t want. They want to have a small set of goodies which they will control. You take 5, you take 3, I will take 10. Then, they distribute it. So, they just want to hoard and control the resources. But if you really want to see the potential of a country, let every society decide they need so many doctors and that’s the number they will support and the rest will fall by the wayside. Right now, it is the opposite and in the places you need doctors, you won’t find them. Where are the barefoot doctors? They are all in Bengaluru. Why? Because you make money here.  We have created the worst kind of combination of feudalism and heartless ultra capitalism. No person can get good medical treatment, no poor person can get their rights  and here we are, always speaking in the name of the poor. ‘Oh you are deprived, we are going to give you this!  O you’re underprivileged, take this!’  This is hogwash. So, what I am trying to say is for India to be, forget about India being a great country, I hope we are and we will be, but even to just live up to our potential, there is so much that needs to be done. One of the major changes needed is to get governments to stop interfering in all kinds of stuff.  You look after law and order. You are not here to tell people what to wear, what to eat, how to live their lives, or how to worship! That’s not your business. Your business is to make systems work,  maintain law and order, and develop infrastructure. You and I can’t build roads because they are big projects, but even that we should be able to build. In an ideal society, suppose we are a neighborhood, 20 neighborhoods can come together and make a road going through them. You don’t need some agency. These are deep changes and they can’t be sorted out immediately but here I think, the good news is we are in the process of a  huge churn and in this  churn, the creative energies of our people will be unleashed.

Coming to the question of intellectuals taking sides, intellectual’s being on the payroll of the king, it is a system that was there even in ancient periods of our country but I’ve also heard about examples where such advisors guided kings in the right direction in spite of the the payroll factor. Coming to later years during emergency, Advani made a statement, “..when the journalists were told to bend, they crawled”.  do you think anything has changed in the last few decades?

Things have changed in last 1000 years. You see, these things that we talk about belong to another era. Many of them are only in story books, legends and myths.  We don’t have very good historical records but yes, even if you in more contemporary times, we have seen the role advisor (Madhava Rao) to Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad played. Even in those times, there were a benign set of advisors who were very competent. Sir Visvesvaraya is an example from Karnataka. Sir Mirza Ismail is another example. So, the point is that obviously throughout the ages, the priests and the Kings were always the collaborators. That’s how power was maintained but the domains were well demarcated. However, that should not really worry us. The real point is this – every person needs to understand what their job is,  like today, we had a lovely session here on the Governor of The Reserve Bank. It’s an office which is obviously subordinate to the finance ministry. It’s a government office but it has its dignity. That is the point. How is democracy destroyed? It is destroyed when all these institutions are destroyed and that’s exactly what has happened in the last 60 years. Emergency is the classic case, but the gradual erosion of these institutions was already in place. Now when we come to the intellectuals, intellectuals traditionally and even today in the western world, they are not statists, they should not be statists. They should be independent. Statist intellectuals should be directly hired by the state and they should work on Niti Ayog or other government think-tanks but otherwise, intellectual should be independent. Sad thing is, in post-independence India, intellectual as a class was so degraded that they became either aligned to some foreign mission or foreign network of patronage or they got aligned to the state. They were patronized by the ruling party and very seldom were truly independent. That is true for regional ones as well.

Now, we have to recreate an ecosystem where intellectual competence is recognised, is rewarded, and independence of intellectuals, writers, journalists, thinkers is safeguarded and encouraged. We don’t want an ecosystem where everything is politicised and everybody has to fall in some political camp or the other. This is what happened even in Bangalore Literature Festival. It went through a huge churn because people said it was hijacked and used as a forum for Award Wapasi. So, what I’m trying to say there should be space for not just debate but to some extent dissent and the plurality of views that is supposed to emerge from these spaces.  We have seen that there is a systematic attempt to capture, control, and  infiltrate these spaces through well networked ideologically committed groups. And they work together because in solidarity there is strength. Everything is like match fixing,  everything is like an echo chamber and this we have to change and that is why we are coming back to to the Civil War. It’s very important to participate in this ‘uncivil’ war in a very civil way and take issue based positions and instead of blanket positions. This is for good intellectuals, there will be party intellectuals also, it’s important to maintain that autonomy because it is the autonomy of certain group of people who are sincere that is really Satyagraha. Satyagraha is the insistence on truth. It is not the ‘belonging to a particular political ideology’ at all.

You spoke about the Civil War in the Hindu community itself.

Just to clarify, it’s an uncivil war. In a civil war, people kill each other, so I’m just playing on the word here.

 

hindu-2628776_1920I see three kinds of Hindus right now. One is all for the strengthening and flaunting of muscles, there is another set which says no this is not my Hinduism, my Hinduism is more spiritual,  it is about my soul and introspection,  reflecting and knowing myself,  and then there is one more which is unaffected by this entire debate, they are immersed in their own lives carrying on their daily worship and rituals. Where do you see harmony between these?

This is very interesting. There have been different ways to try and define this. Some people say that there are secret Hindus, for them Hinduism is a private affair. In public sphere, they may be completely secular or non religious but they may also be marxists or scientists, nothing to do with their faith, that’s living like schizophrenics. You live in two worlds. That’s one Hindu. There is another kind of Hindu which is Hindu inside but is afraid to be Hindu outside. They say, ‘No, I am not a Hindu. I am secular’ or ‘I am just spiritual but not Hindu’. Then, there is a third kind of Hindu that says I am Hindu inside and from outside too, I want to be recognised as a Hindu. The third kind of Hindu has become a huge threat to certain other kinds of Hindus. Why? Because this third kind of Hindu, by flagging his identity in the public sphere, has also created the possibility of capture of power which is very threatening. So, this political Hindu is the biggest threat. All the other kinds of Hindus are not an issue. It’s only the political Hindu which everybody is criticising from left, right, and centre for the fear that this this political Hinduism will capture power, will displace all other people. That fear is expressed in the terms of fear of one religion, one language, one god, or one deity. This is what I would call a ‘spoiler’s mentality’. It’s not like look we ruled, let’s give them a chance, they have won. It’s like this, these are different from us. These are like the Nazis, once they takeover, that’s the end of democracy.  This is the kind of argument that was made even for Trump. The losing side never accepted him as the President. Here it’s not as bad. In a sense, Narendra Modi enjoys a widespread support . It’s only the intellectuals who don’t like him. That is partly because nobody cares for them anymore. So, it’s much more complicated than it seems and you’re right, I don’t know how this civil war will be sorted out but I suspect that it may be sorted out if this political party can continue to rule for a certain number of years. Then they are going to, I would like to think, bring in some lasting changes. But it will not end the basic issues which are endemic to Indian democracy – issues of pluralism and  freedom. I think they will just find out another way of saying yes we accept your views but don’t denigrate Hindus or we accept everything but Hindus will be a little bit superior because we are the majority.  So, they will come up with some kind of package which some people may not like. You ask many muslims, under the Congress as well, they did already feel as if they were second class citizens. To be the first class citizens, you had to be secular or you had to go to right colleges, speak good English but then they say they are not muslims at all. So, the problem that we’re going to face is definitely the dominance of certain classes or communities over others. In other words, if you consider a state to be something you want to enjoy, then certain sections seem to have a prior claim on the state and the other communities are already marginalised, and they are used only as vote banks. So, now you’re going to say well there is huge difference between official marginalisation and not so official marginalization, then you can make those arguments, if you like. But you know in any democracy the Demos which means the mob or the numbers will matter. How can you just evaporate the numbers? You evaporate them by saying no no, they are hindus only in name, but they are Lingayats, they are somebody else. That worked for a while, okay, but after a while for the sake of voting they will also come together. Now, they are caught with the same twist that they were trying to catch the other guys with. You create a Sikh vote bank, you create a Dalit vote bank, now, by the same logic, you have got a Hindu vote bank which is majoritarian and if you don’t like it, too bad for you. You’ve got to suffer the consequences, because it’s a logical corollary of exactly what you did for so long.

 

 

makarand-paranjape

After the Kanhaiya Kumar episode, and even before that, people have a certain kind of perception of JNU. Are you a minority at JNU?

Yes, of course I am a minority at JNU.

The book that came out from the JNU, ‘What the nation needs to know’, you look at all the talks there. You will see that I am certainly an exception. There may be two or three talks that are saying slightly different things but mine is in a way most different. So, definitely in that sense, I am in minority there. But JNU is also changing. The administration is now more aligned to the present government and the student unions, of course the left unions have won, but the right students are gradually gaining and who knows, things at JNU may change drastically, and then, the narrative that’s going around about JNU might also change once that conversion takes place. But I think the demonisation is also a little excessive because it’s based on a misrepresentation. Only those things are highlighted which are bad. The good is not highlighted and when the change happens, I do hope that all the good things are not lost.

Cover of the book Commando for the review on Bookstalkist

Commando – No Mission is Impossible

I don’t remember the last time I read a non-fiction that kept me on the edge of my seat while I kept turning the pages, one after the other. Commandohappens to be that rare-breed of a non-fiction which makes your heart skip a beat and won’t let you put it down until you finish a chapter. However, you will want to pause, take a breath and soak in what you just read before you move on to the next chapter. The next chapter is going to be another breath-taking ride. Written by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal, and published by Jaico Publishing House in India, Commando brings to you the real stories of some of the death-defying missions of the Israeli Special Forces.

The book starts with a scintillating narration of the legendary Entebbe Operation of 1976. But what makes it more interesting are the details of how this “insane” rescue plan was originally hatched, how it was improved and eventually approved by the cabinet, how the special forces impersonated Idi Amin and how they carried out a successful mission right under his nose within an unbelievable duration and how it was named Operation Yonatan eulogizing the courageous Yoni Netanyahu who laid down his life during the rescue. Although all these details must be available from the declassified archives of the IDF, one must credit the authors for knitting them into a gripping story. After this enthralling opening chapter, the book goes on to tell you about many such riveting missions starting from the Independence war in 1948 to the fight against Gaza terrorism in 2014.

Entebbe-Bookstalkist

Reading through each of these missions, one realizes how half the battle is won in the planning room far away from the battlefield. While the unfailing Israeli Intelligence and the far-sightedness of the commanders are commendable, the crazy ideas that these men came up with during extremely delicate situations are truly outstanding. But that is only half the battle. Even the best-conceived plans can go wrong and they did go wrong for the Israeli Forces. Some of these wrongs did result in tremendous loss of lives as in the case of Ammunition Hill. But their perseverance and presence of mind saw them through these glitches even when they were far away from home and they returned with great victory.

The book gives a peek into how Israel’s defence strategy has evolved with the ever-changing geopolitical landscape, the internal political situation, advancement of defence technology and the change of face of terrorism. The book doesn’t dive deep into the political reasons behind certain decisions but gives you transactional details of these operations. You also get introduced to some of the prominent figures of Israel, their interesting nick-names, their impressive careers, and how they together drove the fate of this Jewish nation.

In the beginning of the book, the authors talk about some of the important principles of the Israeli forces. In the words of the authors, “Israel’s army has been involved in two never-ending combats. A combat on the front lines with Israel’s enemies, who never give in, and an inner combat – the effort to conceive and apply strict moral and humane principles, unequaled by any other army.” They talk about “purity of arms”- referring to protection of non-combatant civilians on both sides of the enemy lines and “Follow me”- the battle cry of Israeli Army. Almost in all the missions curated in this book, one can see examples of how at every point during the mission, these forces and their commanding officers strive to enforce these principles. But the world hasn’t seen a war that has not claimed an innocent life. That goes for the Israeli Missions too. The authors do touch upon a few cases where civilians were killed and Israel was accused of human rights violation. However, if you are looking for a noble justification for these killings, you will be disappointed. You will instead find a defensive answer that says, “not too many were killed”.

The authors also talk about the Israeli principle of “Never abandon a wounded Jewish soldier”. The valour and spirit of medics and soldiers who sacrificed their own lives to rescue wounded soldiers is heart-wrenching. The book also ends with a fitting epilogue which speaks about the rescue of Jews from Ethiopia.

The book is an easy and engaging read, for the most part, giving you an adrenaline rush through every chapter. There might be an occasional drag but the authors make up for it with gaping stories from the battlefields. You might dream of MiGs, Mirages, Flotillas, Iron Domes, M-75 Missiles, handguns and Kalashnikovs in the days that follow. You might also lose sleep over devastating losses especially after reading Raya Harnik’s verses foreseeing her son Gioni “Goni” Harnik’s fate.

“That day I’ll stand, eyes wide open, facing the calamity

My whole life freezes before this tomorrow

A lodestone I am, iron doesn’t cry… “

Nevertheless, this is a book that must be read. This must be read, not just for the real scintillating tales, but also because it shows you the other side of the same truth. We live in times wherein we are constantly blinded by the stories and images carried by the newspapers, televisions, and other media. We almost always never get to hear the complete story. This book will be a significant piece in completing the story while studying the history of the Middle East.

Patanjali Yoga Sutras – Know Thy Self

“The simplest meaning of the word sutra is “thread”. A sutra is, so to speak, the bare thread of an exposition, the absolute minimum that is necessary to hold it together, unadorned by a single “bead” of elaboration. Only essential words are used. Often, there is no complete sentence-structure. There was a good reason for this method. Sutras were composed at a period when there were no books. The entire work had to be memorized, and so it had to be expressed as tersely as possible Patanjali’s Sutras, like all others, were intended to be expanded and explained. The ancient teachers would repeat an aphorism by heart and then proceed to amplify it with their own comments, for the benefit of their pupils. In some instances these comments, also, were memorized, transcribed at a later date, and thus preserved for us.”

From the Translators’ Foreword.

Continue reading “Patanjali Yoga Sutras – Know Thy Self”

‘Reviewing’ Poetry with Siamese Compassion

Is it possible to ‘review’ poetry? Every time I sit to write about poems or stand to speak about poetry, this question confounds me. A friend sent a poem of his about 4-5 years ago and asked for my opinions. I read it, a critic would have perhaps trashed it owing to its form. I asked my poet friend if he had written what he thought of and what he thought like. He said yes. I told him it was good. With poems as with any other form of writing, I try to see through the feelings and the honesty in expressing them. If there is a match, I am up for more from you. However, if I find a mismatch or if I feel that the work has become a matter of form over emotions, I am turned off. Continue reading “‘Reviewing’ Poetry with Siamese Compassion”

The Colour of a People (The Ivory Throne-Part 3)

“who hold the secret of a perfect barter…”

The Ivory Throne can also be imagined as a palace in Travancore with its many chapters as many gateways of the palace from where caressing breezes and strong winds went out and, in the palace bringing with it many a tales of origin, exaggerated orders, larger than life anecdotes, thrilling mysteries and many a truths. Continue reading “The Colour of a People (The Ivory Throne-Part 3)”