The Donkey Lane

Small words of encouragement from teachers can often have dramatic effects on young minds. In Miss Peters class there was a segregation of the smart students from the slow: the smart students were to be kept away from the laggards lest they bring the smart students down. Hence the laggards had a special lane in her class called the “Donkey Lane,” of which young Sonny was the “head donkey”. When Sonny graduated to the next grade, his new class teacher was the warm and sincere Mrs. Ryan, the complete opposite of Miss Peters. A word of encouragement from Mrs. Ryan on his essay restored Sonny’s shattered confidence and makes him want to become a writer when he grew up.

Charvaka

The Charvaka system of philosophy  was an extreme materialistic system of philosophy that predates Buddhism. The Charvakas rejected all indirect methods of knowledge (hearsay, holy books, inference etc.) They said that  consciousness is a property of matter that comes with the body and goes away with it, nothing mystical about it. Consciousness meaning awareness, the ability to know…

The Encyclopedists

The French Encyclopedia (from which the name “Encyclopedia” is derived) , had a great influence on the 1789 French revolution, and was essentially an atheist document. The Encyclopedists, led by Diderot & d’Alembert challenged religious authority. They doubted the authenticity of presupposed historical events cited in the Bible and questioned the validity of miracles and…

When the Gods Leave

Set in a small residential locality in Delhi, this short story explores, through the viewpoint of a fifteen year boy, the issues of fundamentalism and cultural policing . The “L-Block” boys have for many years staged the “Ramlila”, the traditional street play that re-enacts the life of the god Rama, in their park. However, there is now a fundamentalist party in power who, with their cultural policing, manage to bring to an end this long standing tradition.

Baijirao Mastani

Baijirao Mastani is a Bollywood movie about a great Hindu Brahmin Peshwa (Prime Minster) who is credited with expanding the Maratha Empire to almost all of present day India. This movie panders to the seemingly newly found “Hindu” pride,  subtly packaged as the nationalistic “Proud to be a Hindu”  message of  a Hindu  Brahmin Peshwa who promises to bring the concept of the Kingdom of  God, the Ram Rajya to fruition. What was not shown in the movie was the treatment of the   “untouchable” castes, particularly the Mehar class, during the time of the Peshwa.   The flip side of a Ram-Rajya is an unequal caste based society (the Chaturvarnya) , sanctified by scriptures.

The Un-Patriot

M., the protagonist of this story, unwittingly gives the”up-yours” salute to the Great Leader (instead of the patriotic V for Victory salute) and faced with the prospect of being sentenced to the “Un-Patriotic Zoo”, pays it a visit. There he acquaints himself with different grades of un-patriots: the freshly interned “Doggies” fed on a diet of noodles; the famished “Ghosts” being trained for their “Patriotism Certificate” examination by virtuous and patriotic children; and the sacrificial “Goats”, who are soon to be fed to the lions and hence have attained the status of gods, for with their sacrifice, it is believed, they will take the sins of the devotees on their own heads…

Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Poem: BOL (Speak)

Speak! for the tongue is still yours. Speak! For life is still yours… Faiz Ahmad Faiz was an Urdu poet and this is his poem “Bol” (speak!) which I have translated into English.

Reading of Kafka’s Trial in light of Foucault’s writings

The Trial seems to suggest that we as a society willingly accept surveillance, create our stereotypes, accept registries of discipline and so forth and refuse to accept that it is us doing all these things. We blame it on the other, we “transfer” our own negative traits on to others and then blame them. This is our societies “shadow”.