Tag Archive: contemporary culture


love songs and Horcruxes – The Hindu.            http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/love-songs-and-horcruxes/article4493435.ece

………………………..The Internet is powerful. It might just be one of the most powerful tools that mankind has created. In an age where we put a price on water and extra oxygen, the Internet still belongs to everyone, and no one. Sure, you need money to access it but, once you are in, all the goodies in the mini-refrigerator are yours. ………………..

……………when a person wants to live forever, he uses dark magic to split his soul and put a part of it in an inanimate object; this is called a horcrux.This way, if he does die, the little bit of him in a pencil or a rock or a ring lives on…………………………….splits his soul in several little bits just to make sure that things don’t go wrong. This is all very well, of course, but the bit of his soul in his own body keeps depleting and he lives in several places at once.

………… people get addicted to their choice of virtual drug………………………….. how dissatisfaction can creep in when your life is suddenly thrown into a virtual rat race, with all its good and bad bits under scrutiny, mostly your own. I’ve been one of those people. I will probably be this person again………………..T.S. Eliot, in his very famous, very quotable poem, ‘Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, said, “There will be time, there will be time. To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet…” I don’t think even he knew that, decades later, he would still be hitting bull’s-eye.

The despairing countryside – The Hindu.

…………………….A quarter century has lapsed since, opting for life as a farmer, he resigned his job as a banker and returned with his wife Uma Sankari and two daughters to his village Venkatramapuram in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. He tried to farm in ethical ways founded on multiple solidarities — with earth and water, with crops and trees, with his workers, and with dalits and women.

Until the 1970s, a third of the farmers irrigated their fields, with dug wells in which water was easily found at 30 to 50 feet, or through small tanks. The rest relied on rain-fed agriculture, and the soil was moist. But since then, the electric pump literally became a watershed in the history of their village. People started drilling bore-wells, and dug deeper and deeper to strike the elusive ever-receding water. In Venkatramapuram today almost all bore-wells have run dry. Some people in insane desperation have tried to drill bore-wells up to 700 feet without striking any water.

Until the 1970s, a third of the farmers irrigated their fields, with dug wells in which water was easily found at 30 to 50 feet, or through small tanks. The rest relied on rain-fed agriculture, and the soil was moist. But since then, the electric pump literally became a watershed in the history of their village. People started drilling bore-wells, and dug deeper and deeper to strike the elusive ever-receding water. In Venkatramapuram today almost all bore-wells have run dry. Some people in insane desperation have tried to drill bore-wells up to 700 feet without striking any water.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/a-goldfish-minute/article4373985.ece            – We find causes to fight for and then, just when we have stirred up enough talk to get something going, we open another tab.

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………………………………, if you ask me, it all boils down to this: we get bored too quickly and too often. We’ll try everything once, but the problem is, we’ll also usually try it only once. Or twice. Sometimes, we might even stick to it for a whole month or year but, sooner or later, we move on to something shinier or, like it is nowadays, darker. Everything catches our attention. A good-looking face, an emotionally manipulative Kony video, a really happy South Korean man. We find causes to fight for and then, just when we have stirred up enough talk to get something going, we open another tab..

Let’s face it: today, when we have Google and Wikipedia to tell us everything, Poirot’s favourite little grey cells are severely under-worked.

Like a lot of people out there, I feel strongly about a lot of things. A parched beggar knocking on my car window leads me into a lengthy, involved and modestly sensible debate about the state of things today, with respect to our homeless, unemployed and poverty-stricken population. A sickening gang rape and murder in my adopted city sets me off on a short, but very charged, warpath. A homophobic statement on the news makes me want to grab and shake the next person with even the slightest reservations about LGBT rights. I am not apathetic, not even a little bit. I could pride myself on that. I think I even did, once upon a time.

Not now though. Not after I’ve realised that I’m surrounded by almost identical people, cardboard cut-outs with big hearts and a short attention span. I’ve been where almost everyone else has been. I’ve held an issue close to my heart, fed it my anger and sadness and ideas and solutions, and then left it out there in the cold to fend for itself.

The cathartic, almost numbing effect words can have, the way they fool us into thinking that we’ve done our bit. And so, after a well crafted debate, whether on or off paper, most of us stop. The weight is off our shoulders. Some other, more pressing, more demanding issue is waiting to be looked after. And so, we level up.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/republic-of-the-offended/article4373986.ece      –  We are becoming a nation of individuals and groups who get offended at anything and everything. If it is not the out-of-context remarks of well-known academic Ashis Nandy at the Jaipur Literary Festival then it is the presence of Pakistani writers at festivals and sportspeople on playing fields………….For instance, when we read news day in and day out about little girls, some as young as three years old, being raped, do we get offended? Recently, in Mumbai, there was the story of a five-year-old girl in Dharavi who was lured by a man who offered her chocolates and then raped her. Her parents went looking for her and found her crying outside a public toilet. She was bleeding and could barely explain what had been done to her. Such stories should outrage us. What is happening to our society that even little girls on their way to school have to be protected from these predators?

Look at our cities. All of them are turning into giant garbage heaps. The authorities claim the mess is beyond their control. And citizens, the very same who take offence at so much else, seem not to mind as they add their might to enlarging these mountains of garbage. It never occurs to them that perhaps they too need to reduce the amount of waste they generate. So we live in the midst of this filth and do not get offended. We point fingers. Or we simply look the other way.

Here is my list of things about which all of us should be “offended”: that in this “free” country, where our 63-year-old Constitution promises women equality in all spheres, they continue to be second class citizens; that they continue to be denied the right to even be born; that they continue to be denied the right to education if they are poor; that they continue to be denied the right to have control over their own resources; that they continue to be tortured and killed for not bringing enough dowry; that they continue to face verbal and physical abuse inside their homes if they so much as dare raise their voices; that they continue to be assaulted and raped irrespective of their class or creed and that they continue to be abandoned and isolated if they become victims of sexual assault because they are deemed “spoiled goods”. Yes, take offence by all means but on issues that a civilised society should not tolerate.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/why-have-you-forsaken-me/article4373988.ece   –

Rejection happens to everyone, but the person isn’t being rejected as a whole.Some experience a sense of relief, some others bewilderment, but most are hurt, sad, angry and maybe even hostile. And, mercifully only occasionally, some may find the pain and mortification too much to handle and end up coming to the drastic conclusion that their lives have no further value and may harm themselves. Or they may angrily plot and even execute a vengeful act against the rejecter, like throwing acid on an unresponsive object of desire or affection.

Rejection happens to everybody. Certain severe forms of rejection such as child neglect or abandonment, social ostracism and oppression on account of caste, social class, religion and the like, are more intensely painful, are more closely related to hierarchical power equations, result in feelings of unimaginable helplessness, have deeper psychodynamics and merit being considered separately. I will therefore confine this exploration to the more quotidian forms of rejection which, for the sake of convenience, can be classified as taking place in the inter-personal and social spaces.

‘need to belong’, the second tier in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Although in the animal kingdom, social exclusion often results in extreme consequences, even early death of the excluded creature, it’s not always as catastrophic for the human race, only because there are a large number of social groups we can belong to, unless the group that rejects us defines our primary social identity, as do groupings like caste and religion to many of us. Inter-personal rejections, as in being rejected by a parent, a child, a lover, a spouse, a friend, a sibling, a co-worker and so on, take place in the context of a specific one-on-one relationship in which we have invested our emotions, expectations, time and energy. As a result of this investment, we start looking at ourselves through the eyes of the other person. When, for whatever reason, the other person disinvests from the relationship, particularly when our investment remains intact, we experience a sharp stab of rejection for our self image takes a beating. For, after being rejected, when we look at ourselves through the eyes of the rejecter, we don’t any more like what we see.

In other words, it’s not a rejection of you, but an assessment, right or wrong, of the perceived differences between you and me. If we keep this in mind, and never allow anyone else that much of control over us that we feel completely devastated when they distance themselves, we might never need “rejection therapy”, an online game that gets you used to being rejected by rejecting you over and over again in hundreds of simulated situations. And just as we value pleasure more when we have experienced pain, or profit more when we have suffered losses, so too do we appreciate the joy of acceptance more when we have mourned the grief of rejection.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/lone-warrior/article4473319.ece             -……………  Unfortunately, society’s penchant for topsy-turvy is still going strong.

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We still live in a country of dichotomies. Not least among these is the irony that often, those who spend their lives in training, practice and discipline of various genres of dance are assessed by those who know nothing about the art. As a result, financial support for art is dependent on the whims of such non-aesthetes!

No wonder a celebrated dancer like Astad Deboo speaks of having to search for platforms despite over four decades in the profession. If he finds himself answering the tactless questions of “young marketing geeks” of the corporate world who quiz him about numbers and mileage and try to get the best deal for the money they might invest in his productions, he has also recently declined an invitation to perform at the prestigious Khajuraho Dance Festival because of the “ridiculous kind of money they offer.” He adds, “The sad part is, dancers accept it.”

That, he explains, has been his journey, and he is “not feeling sorry for it.” He takes pride in knowing that “nobody can point a finger and say, ‘He’s there because so-and-so helped him’.”

http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/in-search-of-ramasseri-idli/article4269105.ece  What strikes you first is the unique shape of these idlis. The Ramasseri version is a trifle flat, unlike the more common ones; it is almost like a mini dosa. It feels fluffy, spongy and soft.

http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/art/showcase-dreamscapes/article4269245.ece   –  https://i0.wp.com/www.thehindu.com/multimedia/dynamic/01319/06smmeitei2_jpg_1319757g.jpg          Her paintings are songs of praise, celebrating life and nature.”

Maïté’s works have an almost fantasy-like touch. Her canvases manifest a paradise that one conjures in an idyllic dream; a world where lush green trees are laden with plump juicy fruit; birds chirrup happily as they flit from one branch to another; and babies bask in the tender attention of their mothers.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/wellness-read/article4278371.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/more-coffee-breaks/article4278365.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/for-richer-for-poorer/article4278361.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/the-secret-illness/article4278369.ece

 

 

How to stay creative etc.

http://zenhabits.net/fb/ –    Walled-in: Life Without Facebook

http://zenhabits.net/7y/ Create the Habits of Being Lean, in 7 Years

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The Hindu : Arts / Magazine : Are we facing an evolutionary crisis?.

It seems that the human race is beginning to lose its intellectual and emotional abilities.

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years, warned us not to trust our intellect because it had no conscience though it had muscles.

But the suspicion that the attributes of mind — intellect, intelligence, wit, et al — are proving to be increasingly less dependable for the fundamental needs of life (peace, happiness and a certain stability of faith in the very purpose of life) has been felt for sometime now.

Concrete cases were cited that could lead to the hypothesis that deep within man a hitherto ignored constituent of consciousness was demanding recognition and its suppression could lead to several problems, mental, emotional and physical. What had been for ages an experience only with Yogis and mystics, an aspect of consciousness that was its very basis and which sustained the whole structure of our being despite its other constituents like mind and emotions constantly fighting among themselves, was probably at last trying to assert itself, slowly but surely, in the life of a greater number of people.

According to Sri Aurobindo, “At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way.” Sri Aurobindo envisions a future when the mind could be transformed into a Supramental gnosis.

Dr. Crabtree’s thesis leaves us with a choice between two attitudes: we resign to a future when technology would mould our fate, our mind growing cipher, or we cultivate a collective aspiration to release what remains involved in our consciousness. To a professor who was logically convinced of Sri Aurobindo’s vision but wondered if the ugly man of today could really grow into something beautiful, a rustic school teacher told, “If a wonder like the lotus could bloom out of mud with the Sun’s Grace, why cant out of our muddy mind bloom the Supramental with the Divine’s Grace? We may replace Divine’s Grace with Evolutionary thrust, if we please.

carnatic music today ……

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/article2861805.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/article2861793.ece            When parents enjoy parenting, they ensure happy years of growing up for the children.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/article2861789.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/article2685706.ece  –  Whether the shawl draped on this singer by this sabha came about because of an envelope stuffed with distinctly non-musical notes. How Carnatic music has suddenly become a cool lifestyle statement for a new generation, with kriti -laden iPods tucked into its jeans.        This informality, perhaps, will offer him a clue to the ever-increasing popularity of a music festival that, unlike Glastonbury or Bayreuth, doesn’t advertise itself, and is driven largely by word of mouth and an undying love for the art. He doesn’t need to have heard of the performers. He doesn’t even have to know the music. And if he doesn’t get tickets to a concert, there’s always another one playing down the street. Every year, he will eventually realise, Carnatic music makes its grandest statement with a festival that feels as intimate as a gathering of family.

An annual ritual Every year, around the Tamil month of Margazhi, some 60 organisations (or sabhas) cast a spell of music over Madras, with over 200 performances every day. These performances include vocal and instrumental concerts, lecture demonstrations about the intricacies of Carnatic music, walks along historic sites of musical importance, and talks about events and personalities. If the December Music Season is not the largest music festival in the world, it’s certainly a top contender for the spot — and, with every passing year, it only keeps getting bigger. And better.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/article2685708.ece

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/article2685727.ece   –  How not to get diabetes

Here’s an emergency plan to shield you until the weight comes off. Besides maintaining a healthy weight, four factors keep diabetes at bay. If you combine any three, it’s like throwing up a force field between you and diabetes. The combo is more protective than the individual parts, a fact that has startled the experts. It gets better: If you combine all four, you’ll start losing weight without half trying.

Walk 30 minutes a day. Start slowly if you need to, but start. Buy a pedometer, and add a few more steps every day.

Drink lightly. Up to two drinks a day for men, one for women.

Eat smart. Lots of fruits and veggies, plenty of 100 per cent whole grains, very lean protein (including at breakfast; it’ll curb your appetite later), a little low-fat or no-fat dairy, some nuts, a bit of dark chocolate.

Don’t smoke. If you do, quit.

Then kiss diabetes goodbye.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/article2685734.ece

crises…..

The same philosophy can apply to not-so-famous women facing infidelity or other crises that destroy their dreams and upend their lives. These crises can be opportunities to find your true calling, says Susan Piver, author of “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart.” If you don’t remember what makes you happy, imagine figuring it out and starting the seeds of a new life. (Again, this advice doesn’t apply if you are facing threats to your safety.)

Wait to make big decisions. If you’re not facing financial ruin or the threat of violence, wait at least a few months for the pain and anxiety to settle down. In the fog of pain, people make rash decisions. One of  author Laura Munson’s friends was so unhappy in her life that she decided she had to get out of her marriage. She didn’t realize she didn’t really want out until she was gone. You need to figure out what you want.

Focus on the present moment. When the crazy thoughts are going through you head about who did what to who, and why didn’t you say that perfect comeback line, Piver suggests taking out a piece of paper and writing down five things that you notice are actually happening around you.

They’re usually pretty ordinary — cars driving by, the dog barking, a child playing with dolls. Go a little deeper and notice three things a little more carefully. Write those observations down. That list, part of a group of exercises in her book, isn’t ever as crazy as what’s in your head. It can have a calming effect.

Create something now. Take charge of your own joy. Munson didn’t simply plan a summer of fun for her family. She thought deliberately about what she could do to make herself and her two children happy during their financially strapped summer in their Montana town.

It was often as simple as taking three deep breaths or walking down the block. Sometimes she walked to a beautiful place or visited friends who helped keep the focus on herself, instead of trashing the husband. She turned on the sprinklers and watched her kids get soaked. She bought many tomatoes and canned tomato sauce. “Do something that is positive and nurturing to you,” she says.

Give up on the dream. Many people create a storyline or myth for their lives that says they will be powerful when they are pretty or handsome, skinny, married, a parent, or have the “right” job or salary.

“If you’re only powerful when it goes a certain way, then what happens when you lose your job?” asks Munson. Do you not matter anymore? Figure out the myths you tell yourself about your definition of success before you can move on.

Look for your truth. Take some quiet time in prayer or meditation to get through other people’s voices, and what the culture says about what your life should be like, to your essential truth.

“The advice for anyone going through a trauma is to allow the sorrow and vision for what you thought life should be to dissolve and see what’s left,” says Piver. “You have all the knowledge you need to solve your problems inside of you.”

Choose your own feelings. It’s incredibly hard to do, but Munson says it’s essential. After all, we only truly believe other people’s mean comments about ourselves when we think they’re true — that we’re unlovable or fat or nagging or mean-spirited.

“What if someone told you when you were 12 that nobody can make you feel mad, make you cry just by what they say?” she asks. “What if we had really understood that no one could make you feel emotionally anything?” Repeat after me: Those barbs are not necessarily true.

Do not play the victim. You are only a victim in an emotional crisis if you choose to be. “When we get into reaction and escalating the drama, it only hurts us,” says Munson. “There is a time and place for anger, but I want to powerfully choose those moments — I don’t want to feel like they’re choosing me.”

http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/2007/12/18/the-5-best-techniques-to-control-and-calm-your-mind/

You are not your thoughts.

What is the biggest obstacle most people face in achieving personal mastery?

Your mind; your thoughts. When you master your mind, everything else begins to fall into place.

But the moment we look at our mind, we begin to see how wild it is. Modern psychology estimates that we have 40 to 60 thousand thoughts a day, and most of them are repetitious, useless – and often, unhappy.

In my quest to control our monkey mind, I’ve taken from the best systems – from modern Cognitive Psychology, to the ancient spiritual systems – in particular, the Buddhist Sutra on the Removal of Distracting Thoughts.

Here are the results – five levels, arranged according to how unruly your thoughts are. First a warning – it is easy to get anxious and jump ahead to the more advanced levels, thinking that your mind is wilder than it really is. Please don’t, and give each level an earnest effort over a few days.

The first level – Reflect on the positive counterpart

It stands to reason that the thoughts you most want to remove would be negative: fears, anxieties, anger, lust, revenge, pride.

And therefore the easiest way to counteract them is to reflect on the opposite. What is the positive counterpart to your affliction?

Just a few examples then: If you hate someone, then reflect on love. Think kind and loving thoughts about them . Visualise yourself in a calm environment, a mental “happy place”.

On the deeper level, feel the counteracting emotion completely. Simply drench yourself with it. Imagine it as an energy, a light, a waterfall – anything that works best for you – and imagine yourself being surrounded from the inside and outside with it. This might be hard initially, but that’s normal. Keep trying, and you’ll get it.

Often, it is good to get your body into it as well. Get some exercise, put on some music and relax, or take a break from whatever you have to do.

The second level – Reflect directly on the misery

The next level goes a touch deeper. Look past the thoughts themselves, and see what they are costing you.

…………………………….. What would happen if you didn’t stop, if you indulged in your thoughts?

Maybe you would get fired for doing a bad job. Maybe you would actually go and punch your boss in the face. Maybe your wife would divorce you if you slept with your neighbour.

Simply realise how much misery it is already causing you, and how much it can cause you if you kept on doing it. Feel it. Feel the hatred or the lust or the jealousy or the fear totally.

The Buddha used the metaphor of a well-dressed young person, who finds him or herself with the carcass of a snake around their neck. The disgust is sometimes enough to make them throw the dead animal off them.

The third level – Letting them slide

This level is about simply letting your thoughts slide by without attaching to them. Thoughts are just thoughts. You are not your thoughts. You don’t have to believe them; you don’t have to fight them; you don’t have to cling to them. They are just thoughts, and they only have power if you give them power.

Visualise a large blank screen, and see your thoughts as little ants scurrying across. Prodding or playing with those ants make them lose their way and they can’t find their way off the screen. So: don’t judge, don’t analyse, don’t hate. You don’t have to believe them, if they are saying you are stupid, or weak. You don’t have to cling to them, if they are saying you are brilliant and handsome. These are all forms of playing with your ants.

Think of a spoilt brat who is jumping up and down, trying to make you angry while you are trying to watch the television. The more you get affected by it, the more he enjoys it, and the more he will do it. Just tune it out and enjoy yourself. Or smile at the child, let him know he can’t affect you, and after a while he’ll give up and find something else to do.

The fourth level – The source of the thoughts

The first thing we have to realise is that thoughts always have a source – our emotions. The two are inextricably linked; they feed each other in one giant cycle.

What is causing your thoughts? If your mind is filled with images and thoughts of lust, then there is the emotion of lust behind it. If you think a lot of cruelty and hatred, then the emotion of anger is right there underneath it.

Emotions are your body’s reaction to your mind. At this level, one of the most powerful, we shall simply cut to the root of the issue.

How do we deal with our emotions? The most simple way – and yet no one ever says it! Simply feel it. Bring it to the surface, find the emotion, and feel it.

Feel it, simply as an emotion, a sensation. Emotions and feelings are not wrong or right, good or bad. They simply are. They are just emotions. Even the most murderous rage is not wrong – it is only bad if you act on it. Just embrace it, let it be there. Don’t push it away or judge it. Relax into it, loosen any tightened muscles, and remember to keep breathing normally. Ride the wave, and let it pass. Don’t think about it – thinking about it will make you want to act on it.

Often times, these emotions run deep, and can take a lot of work to uncover and heal with your conscious embrace. But the journey is worth it – it is one of the best ways, perhaps the only way, of dealing with your emotions.

Heal the emotions, and the thoughts they cause will disappear.

The fifth level – Beating down the bad thoughts

This level is the hardest, and draws upon the techniques of modern psychology. It is hard and painful, and should be reserved for the most extreme cases. Think of this level as a big strong man beating down a weaker man, with pure brute force.

At this level, simply force yourself to stop thinking about it.

1. The Howitzer Mantra. Any time you catch yourself with a thought you don’t want, interrupt it with a prepared mantra. Make it a forceful phrase, one that works and feels right for you. “Stop!” “Enough!” “No more!”

2. The Rubber Band. Wear a rubber band around your wrist. And every time you catch yourself with a negative thought, snap the rubber band. It hurts a little bit, and you are telling your system that such thoughts hurt. Like a puppy that has been punished, it will eventually stop.

3. Filling in the gap. An important thing to note is that once you stop your thoughts, a space is created. If you don’t fill that gap in, the distracting thoughts will return to fill it. So find something nice to think about. A pleasant memory or perhaps an affirmation to fill that hole. A final option would be to simply focus on the gap, enjoying the pause in your thoughts, the silence. Doing so will slowly expand it – making the next gap, when it comes, even longer.

http://www.hindu.com/lr/2011/02/06/stories/2011020650220400.htm

To present Manashi Dasgupta’s (1928-2010) legacy involves pulling together the academic, cultural and critical strands of a vision that cherishes friendship and intercontextual conversation. It is at this crucial interface, she suggests, that the democratic imagination must make interpersonal sense of institutions.

Dasgupta’s 1962 Cornell University doctoral dissertation brings social psychology to bear on what makes somebody seem interesting to others. She proposes that we imagine narratives about people we meet; perceiving a half-story leaves us intrigued and interested in the protagonist.

She argues (especially in Jiggasa 11:3.287-301, 1990) that we make friends where we find it possible, in principle, to initiate joint projects.

Dasgupta’s interpersonalist vision identifies a democratic, anti-hierarchical imagination as a prerequisite for modernity. The point is to fashion a friendship-based institutional format outside the patriarchal family paradigm.

The academic flows into the cultural in Dasgupta’s work.

Few of the friends who picked her brains, however, recognised that this was one of her ways of nurturing intercontextual conversations and thereby feeding the democratic imagination.

http://www.hindu.com/lr/2011/02/06/stories/2011020650200300.htm

Then in the space of weeks her marriage broke up and she discovered she had breast cancer. But although it might seem a wretched incongruity that such a full life should suffer such a swift fall, Rich’s own view is that it only made sense. ‘I smoked two packs of Newport Lights a day’, ‘I drank, a lot’, ‘I ate like shit’, ‘I worked out… hardly ever’, and thanks to a ‘high-drive, adrenylated job’, ‘mostly, I inhaled stress’. It is intelligent, articulate ideas like these that make for the attractiveness of Rich’s writing.

She also presents a grim picture of the American medical establishment. The history of her treatment abounds with dodgy diagnoses, overlooked symptoms, adversarial tussles with dispassionate doctors, who are too afraid of being sued to properly care. It is easily inferred from this book that market forces and health-care are a dangerous mix. Also, that while New York may be a wonderful place to be young and healthy, it is not so pleasant to be sick there, and dependent for support on a paid therapist. For Indian readers, this book should also lead us to appreciate better the personal touch of our own culture, the familial networks that we sometimes take for granted.

http://www.hindu.com/lr/2011/02/06/stories/2011020650160200.htm

Looking back, I think the writer in me was born somewhere in the dark interior of my ancestral house, about which there had always been a mysterious silence. Being the only male child in a joint family, I grew up lonely in the midst of unbelievable things. What moulded my childhood mind were stories of gods, goddesses and the dead, told at untimely hours, splashing and bathing in the tharavad pond; scenes of country oracles, or komarams; and sorcerers performing poojas and black magic.

Terribly lonely, also obviously scared, I developed a habit of talking to myself. Not just to myself, but also to trees, animals, birds – and, sometimes, to the ghosts and gods too. They were my companions then. It might be that those interior dialogues developed into my writings, be it poetry or prose. My writing still remains an attempt to come to terms with what otherwise appears indefinable in life. It’s all about relating what is within and without.

Poetry today is a form where boundaries are pushed to the point where readers are confused about why a particular work is judged to be poetry. For you, what defines a poem?

Primarily, it’s a feeling of being incomplete, together with an irresistible discontent, rather, disquiet, always growing within. Poetry, for me, is an attempt at overcoming the depressing human condition and giving a meaning to it. Devoid of this, even if a work of art is technically perfect, it will invariably be soulless.

If you had to deliver a sort of State of the Union address about the world of poetry, what would be some of your thoughts?

There’s something in poetry that doesn’t allow it to die. There isn’t any literary medium that has undergone as much misuse and abuse as poetry; still it survives. The most ancient of all human expressions, it’s still as fresh as something just invented. Poetry nowadays has almost become a personal medium. Often, it’s not the medium of the winner, but that of the defeated. At least like that, I think, it’ll continue.

Who are some of the poets who continually “speak” to you?

Those whom I read to recharge my writer-ly batteries include Kumaranasan, Vyloppillil and Edassery in Malayalam; Vacana poets, William Blake, W.B. Yeats and Wislawa Szymborska in other languages. I read Kumaranasan and the Vacana poets for the way in which they address the metaphysical dilemma; Blake and Yeats for their prophetic but simple articulation; and Szymborska for the dexterity with which she transforms a thought into a poetic experience.

Do you have a daily routine into which you slot in your writing?

I don’t have a routine. I can live doing nothing for days, I can work continuously for days without sleep. I enjoy unpredictability and believe that everything in my life is an accident; sometimes I even feel that becoming a writer was an accident.

This is not to mock Rich — anyone with cancer might be so desperate — and indeed she chastises herself for the fact. Just as she chastises the ‘talk-show honesty’ of her generation (‘self-revelations about sex or degradation…but never venality or arrogance or the other, more banal sins that actually made us look bad’). But it is one thing to be perfectly aware of a shortcoming, and another to overcome it. The truth is that The Red Devil does feature a kind of talk-show honesty, where splendid insights are dragged down from their rightful pedestal and mixed up in the shallows, and where the aim is not so much to share one’s courage, as to have it confirmed. In the nicest and discreetest way, it is a showy book, one outstanding proof of which is that it reads like a novel. The dialogue is all within quotation marks, conversations are described in implausibly cinematic terms, and the love stories are weaved in like sub-plots. This ‘fictional’ treatment helps the book read easily, but it also hides the absence of real, helpful content, that a more mundane and less stagy style would not have been able to. To sum up, I think ‘ The Red Devil’ will have you genuinely liking and rooting for the author, but I doubt it will have you thanking her.

http://www.hindu.com/lr/2011/02/06/stories/2011020650190300.htm

I am hardly the performance poet, preferring to focus on what I express on paper rather than on the stage. I read a lot of poetry to myself, out loud, but that is because I enjoy how a piece tightens or releases my breath; I am interested in exploring that. My early readings likely had a performance aspect: I would look at an audience member at just the right turn of phrase, at just the right moment and make her feel exactly what I wanted to. That sort of attitude can easily corrupt, so I backed off. I want to vanish and be unimportant during a reading; so if the audience stays engaged, it is due to the poem not the poet.

I am some sort of a ‘reverse traveller’. I don’t move around to get inspired, but the other way round. I hear or read about a particular place and that stays with me. A year or two later, if that memory hasn’t left, I start making plans. The sort of poetry I prefer to write cannot be written on a tourist visa, so I much prefer to stay at a place for a month or two at a time. It helps me find stories I would miss otherwise.

Music is just another form of expression, another method of self-exploration. There are things I cannot express with poetry alone, so there is certainly an opportunity to merge both media. I haven’t been very successful at it so far, but I am trying. For example, right now I am working on a set of poems that will read in sync with a few Chopin nocturnes, the narrative, the punctuations, and line-breaks allowing the poems to ascend and descend with the music.

Absolutely. I find what I do as an engineer very challenging and enjoyable. Also, it pays the bills, allows me to travel on whim, and to take creative risks. I know there are writers who are inspired by poverty, but not me.

http://www.hindu.com/lr/2011/02/06/stories/2011020650040200.htm  Almost taking a hint from Pamuk, Hindi writers and those from other Indian languages made hay at the festival, speaking their language, their way. If Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi had to host a session on Hindi film songs almost twice over, Mrinal Pande made her presence felt too. At the session, “Aisi Hindi, Kaisi Hindi”, she quietly tore into the host Satyanand Nirupam’s argument that expletives are a form of expression too! “People use ‘gaali’ when lacking words. An intelligent man does not abuse. He uses measured words. When a child picks up an expletive on the street, the mother always scolds him. If abuse were really a form of developing expression, the mother would have probably hailed the child!” Pande left co-panellists speechless and the audience clapping in appreciation.

articles

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2011/05/01/stories/2011050150110400.htm

But the amazing part was the absolute calm that pervaded the face of the Japanese airport officials and workers and its contrast with the terrified look on the foreign tourists’ faces. It was almost as if it was a daily routine for the Japanese. One unforgettable image from the ordeal was the person at the currency exchange counter, who in the midst of the violent quake, was calmly imploring me to pick up the money that I had forsaken in my desperate attempt to run out of the airport!  And what more could have been expected  from a people who could not have seen anything worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Contrast this with our own attitudes to disasters when more people die from the panic following the disaster rather than the disaster itself.   

Quiet efficiency

The same stoic efficiency was seen in the distribution of sleeping bags to all the stranded passengers in the airport within no time, and the orderly fashion in which people were herded into queues when train services resumed from the airport the next morning. There was not a sign of chaos. One has to bear in mind that Tokyo city has a mammoth population of 1.3 crore people.

While all public transportation was suspended, what was remarkable was that it, including the express trains, was resumed in less than 24 hours. A tremendous achievement considering the scale of assessment needed to ascertain the damages to tracks and roads. Travelling by train to the city was an experience, for, the city, full of skyscrapers, did not show a single broken windowpane on any of the buildings!  Nor were there any bent electric poles.

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2011/05/01/stories/2011050150180600.htm    Even the most Spartan of contemporary weddings costs not less than Rs. 5,00,000. All of this, you would imagine, should directly translate to more marital bliss than ever before. Unfortunately, this is not quite the case.

Often, the issues are not related to just the minor niggles that are part of any large event. Sometimes jewellery is stolen, lechery is in evidence, passes are made and sexual peccadilloes discovered. The end result is that many couples take this wedding-related baggage into their marriages and, since neither partner is willing to cede ground and since there is rarely any hard evidence to support any of the allegations that generally float around, issues are usually carried forward unresolved and are dredged out again when marital fights turn nasty.

One of the interesting offshoots of globalisation, Internet and television is that Indian cultural mores, far from being threatened by Western influences as many people fear, are becoming more pan-Indian. Nowhere is it more in evidence than in the Indian wedding.

In the final analysis, a wedding should be something that couples remember fondly for many years to come. What makes a wedding special is not how exotic it was or how much it cost but the joy that the couple felt on coming together. I have nothing against big, even obese, weddings. But what everyone needs to remember is that when large events are organised, there are going to be a lot of slip-ups even if you hire an ISO-certified professional to do it for you. So, there’s no sense in personalising and attributing malafide intent to lapses or making a big deal about wedding bloopers. They just need to be taken in one’s stride and laughed over. And most importantly, it should be remembered that special weddings don’t always make special marriages. Only special people do.

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2011/05/01/stories/2011050150140500.htm

“I was out in the heats and one Sreelatha was the winner in the 100m and 200m. I watched her winning from a distance and told myself that I would win the next year,” says Usha. “The 1982 Asian Games champion M.D. Valsamma’s coach gave a statement in the media that if Valsamma had some 15 days training on a synthetic track, she would beat me. I was very interested in the challenge. I kept that paper cutting under my bed and used to read it often,” reveals Usha.  “A lot of top athletes let me down with their statements in the media. Some said I had betrayed the nation. They stoned my house. I used to lock myself in a room. I never used to talk to anybody; I was very, very hurt,” explains Usha. For a girl who put the country before self, who probably lost out on an Olympics medal because she had to run in too many events, it was too much to bear. “That was a period when I hated sport.”

Her parents were her only source of support during those painful days. “When the 1989 New Delhi Asian Championship came, I wanted to win, to be happy once again. I was in good form and for the first time, my sisters came to watch me in an international meet.” She was happy too with the golden haul.

http://www.rediff.com/sports/2000/sep/11usha4.htm  Usha was always a very hard-working and meticulous athlete. She was always confident and optimistic. She rarely got depressed. But I should say that she was very sensitive especially when it came to her abilities. She performed her best always and always wanted to break her own records.

http://www.hindu.com/lr/2011/02/06/stories/2011020650180300.htm 

Usually, I do not attempt to qualify the works of my peers. To me, poetry, as well as all other artistic expression be it music, painting, dance or sculpture, is best when it’s consumed and experienced with the open mind of the fool and uninhibited empathy. To disengage and to rationalise, to dissociate and intellectualise is an exercise most of us know all too well. If it swings, it swings. If it rocks, well, then it rocks. Poetry, as all, human endeavour, in my opinion, is an expression that must yield to intention. And wisdom, insight as well as entertainment and a good laugh can be had, and gained everywhere. In the high as well as in the low. However, different from your own perspective, inclination or background it might or might not be.

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2011/04/24/stories/2011042450270600.htm

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2011/05/01/stories/2011050150120400.htm  – excerpts –

The forest cover is fast depleting and several species have become extinct and many more are threatened. The main reason is human greed furthered by machine. The culture of wealth at any cost and by any means has invaded forest land, the home of biodiversity as well as minerals.     Tagore saw this greed phenomenon clearly and wished that we draw lessons from forests. In Tapovan, he writes about the “culture that has arisen from the forest has been influenced by the diverse processes of renewal of life”. In the conflict between greed and compassion, conquest and cooperation, nature alone would “impart peace of the eternal to human emotions”.                In a poem entitled “The Sunset of the Century” written on the last day of the 19 {+t} {+h} century, Tagore observed: ‘the last sun of the century sets amidst the blood-red clouds of the West and the whirlwind of hatred’. The mood on the last day of the 20 {+t} {+h} century, however, was one of hope. Many viewed the termination of the Cold War as the end of major conflicts in global politics and emergence of a harmonious world. This was short-lived. The attack on the United States of America on September 11, 2001 established that religiously motivated violence is going to pose a major threat to world peace.

Rabindranath Tagore was opposed to every kind of religious fundamentalism and cultural separatism. He writes :

‘While God waits for his temple to be built of love men bring stones’.

The building of temple of love remains mankind’s unfinished agenda.

Tagore was never lacking in judgment or resolution in siding with the forces of peace and harmony, spirituality and freedom against religious discrimination, nationalistic arrogance, terrorism, and social discrimination. He wanted Indians to learn about how other people lived, what they believed in and so on, while remaining interested and involved in their own culture and heritage.

Rabindranath Tagore believed that true democracy and freedom alone would lead to realisation of the full potentialities of human beings. It was in this context, that he emphasised freedom of the mind. A poem in Gitanjali catches this ethos admirably:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words comes out from depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit…

Tagore wanted education to be an instrument of realisation of human potentialities. He raised Visva-Bharati as an international university aimed at assisting students realise the true character of our interlinked humanity and deeper unities of our civilisation in the West and the East. Could we not build a better world by teaching love and not hatred?

http://www.hindu.com/lr/2011/05/01/stories/2011050150210600.htm

A wise aunt recently shared with me her mantra for happy families: the acceptance that there are only two things you can give your grownup children – unconditional love and freedom. The rules, the values, and the corrections taught by parents must be internalised by this stage, and not vocalised.

As with many mantras that sound simple yet offer an essential truth of contemporary life, this one is anything but easy to practice. It is the failure to understand this mantra that results in the hurt experienced by many central characters in Jonathan Franzen’s dazzling new novel Freedom.

The early part of the Berglunds’ 20-year stint there sees them as the perfect Norman Rockwell family; successful, seemingly happy, well-intentioned and just worthy enough not to have real friends among their neighbours.

Over the course of its 562 pages, Freedom reads as a forensic examination of the disintegration of baby boomers forced to inhabit the disappointing skins of middle age in contemporary America. Which begs the question: why are we interested in the novel in India?          In part, it’s because the much-debated idea of “freedom” is universal, and has reference points with middle-class societies in all countries with a reasonable degree of social stability. The freedom attained upon becoming a sovereign country is much more easily defined than the freedom pursued by the now-free middle-class. The latter freedom seems unable to provide the contentment we thought it would bring – whether due to our inherent competitiveness, or to the grass-is-greener syndrome, or to human selfishness. Whatever the reasons, the Berglunds invite us to examine them.

Gorgeous prose  

Also, one cannot deny the novel’s gorgeous prose, a breath-taking display of the novelist’s art. Patty is one of the more knotty aspects of this sprawling examination of individual, familial and social issues. Both men in her life talk of her attractive qualities but in her interactions with them, we only see a woman who is becoming increasingly depressed and unhinged.

Franzen took nine years to write Freedom. But unlike multimillion-dollar films in which you can’t figure where the money went, here you absolutely know how and where the nine years were spent; it’s visible in every line. Like me, you may not like the people being written about, but they are written up in prose so meticulously crafted, it’s to be lingered over.

While Freedom has its flaws, the very fact that we wind up thinking so intricately about the people and issues in it is a testament to its quality. It’s not a book you would want to speed-read because much of its appeal lies in the detailed writing; the medium is — a substantial part of — the message.

THE LETTERS OF MADAME DE SEVIGNE

THE LETTERS OF MADAME DE SEVIGNE “There is none In all this cold and hollow world, no fount Of deep, strong, deathless love, save that within A mother’s heart.” — Mrs. Hemans. Again, the times themselves in which we live call for the exercise of just such an influence upon the mind and style as might be wielded by these letters. We in America are almost all educated up to a certain point ; few of us, unfortunately, are educated be yond it. The national character is pushing, energetic, ambitious ; setting great value upon money and material luxuries, but without appreciation of the refined enjoyments that consist with a moderate purse, or the delicacy of feeling that marks a sensitive but well-balanced mind.

  The vortex of politics or of business draws into it all our energies ; we have nothing to spare for reflection, for the observances of friendship, for the amenities of social intercourse. A life so vulgarizing alike to the mind and to the style, finds its best antidote in the letters of Madame de Sevigne”. Here is a beautiful existence centred in home and friends ; here are thoughts occupied by love for the dear ones around, and by sym pathy with their joys and sorrows.

The tumult of the outer world is heard faintly. The writer’s mind is busied in a calmer sphere, and the exquisite tenderness of her heart gives that transparent grace to her style that has been the wonder and the despair of two centuries. We are a letter-writing people ; and no better models for let- ters exist than Madame de Se’vigne^s. We are a practical and energetic people ; and no better complement to such virtues can be found than the tender affection and delicate refinement of Madame de SeVigne. Philadelphia, Nov. 26, 1868.