Onward 2023🎉

Some years start with looming clouds and dark news. But then the frogs croak in the rain bringing memories of a time when I fed frog spawn in a small fish tank. That time my sons were small and we were living in a country which has become very different now. I enjoyed living there as it seemed to be teeming with inclusivity for all human races. But that is another story. Having returned to safe harbours, I can recollect my journey in tranquility and even write humour. 

That was a time when my children were children and had not grown into adults. Catching tadpoles instead of fish was much in vogue among young men from across the world — they were a mix of Nordic, Thai, American, Indian, Singaporean and Chinese — and they gathered around a stream that ran through the gated community. The artificial stream would turn pink with cherry blossom blooms in spring. But given the time of the year, it just ran like a little brook. After much time spent at the side of the little stream and attempts to “ fish” with butterfly nets, the boys returned home with tadpoles. The young gentleman from Finland filled his bathtub with spawn driving his mother frenetic with his newfound pets. 

I found a small plastic fishtank in the garage and homed the tiny squiggly creatures there. We placed that on a table in the patio overlooking their home, the stream. What to feed them was a major issue. My then eleven-year-old googled and told me to boil lettuce for ten minutes for the creatures. My housekeeper refused to go near them. I boiled the lettuce, fed the tadpoles and cleaned the tank till they started growing bigger, and looking more menacing. 

I am not an animal activist or particularly fond of animals, so the prospect of frog princes did not excite me. I realised I had to get rid of the tadpoles before they hopped around my home, my teacup and perhaps even bed or kitchen. Imagine a frog jumping into a pot of boiling soup mistaking it for a spa! 

One day, when there was an announcement for a storm, I convinced my twosome it was best to let the tadpoles, now growing tiny legs, go. We put them back in the stream when my four year old was finally convinced that strong winds could upset the frog’s homes and they could not be given shelter in the house or the garage as it was uncomfortable for them. 

I should be pardoned for that one as I feared having half a dozen frogs jumping on their sofa, accompanying us on cross country drives or serenading us! Though every time frogs croak in unison across the river that flows outside my window, my husband swears it was my culinary expertise  at boiling lettuce that makes them spout lyrical in praise of my skills.

Being a mother to youngsters is what I enjoyed most in my life! I am a mother and homemaker. That I write is because I breathe. I wrote about these frogs in a book in 2014. And this year, I have another anthology to recreate in reality the inclusive world of my childhood, a world that we can only dream of for our children and their progeny, if only all of us can dream of belonging…

Let us write ourselves into a world where humankind sees itself as one race on their home, the Earth, which might need to expand into a larger cosmos, that includes stars, moon and planets streaming across the Milky Way. Living in harmony with nature and setting out to find new homes in outer space is part of our heritage, our instinct for survival. We would merely be emulating many of our ancestors when they walked out of Africa, where the bones of our primal mother, Lucy, were laid to rest…

Onward to  a future we can look forward to in 2023! 

— A Mother & Homemaker 

To access the 2022 book, Monalisa No Longer Smiles: Writings from Across the World, click here. A huge thanks to all the authors who made this book a reality. To those who endorsed us, thank you. To all our readers, thank you. And a most heartfelt thanks to our publisher, especially the editorial.

Access to reviews on the anthology can be found by clicking here.

Click here to visit Borderless Journal. Again huge thanks to all our team members, to our contributors and readers. We exist because you are. Thanks to all our well wishers.

Click here to access the book with stories of bringing up my children

Click here for the India link (The other version of the book published from within India is a pirated version. The link below takes you to the genuine book.)

Click here to find the book’s free updated version in an online journal


Happy reading in 2023! 

A Love Story

First Published in Different Truths

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Despite the Bard’s declaration, and that line[1] being one of the most popular among the literati-glitterati, cab drivers fail to appreciate it. If I think of one place, and name another because after all in the spirit of the bard— one name or another, how does it matter— they get angry and scold me! Of course, in all justice, they may not be familiar with Shakespeare. And I would be a Mary Antoinette[2] think-alike to bank on their familiarity. You do know the story of Mary, who asked the peasants to be given brioche[3] (not cake) instead of bread, when they did not have food — that was right before the French Revolution?

It is interesting to see how the Bard’s creation Juliet Capulet addressed this question — what’s in a name? She had fallen in love with Romeo, from the family of Montague, the sworn enemy of the Capulets. She was questioning the human construct of enmities between two families. Now, the funny thing is when I was in university, more than three decades ago, I had questioned the construct of languages and beliefs — why is an A called as such and not a B? I was told if people took my stand, they would need to re-invent the wheel! But getting back to Juliet — she was questioning constructs that her family believed in. I was questioning constructs that humanity believed in because all of humanity was my family. We all originated in Africa — that is an undeniable fact — and walked out to populate the whole world. Eventually, I agreed reinventing a wheel would halt progress and digress towards a world which might be difficult to live in. We are so habituated to the use of wheels and gears that accepting them as such is probably the best way to go forward.

Having matured enough to accept languages and wheels, I am now confused why historical names and constructs are being called into question in the current world. It started with my being told I was misspelling Calcutta.  Calcutta was given its name by its founder Job Charnock. Oops, I forgot, academics said Job Charnock had not founded Kolkata and it was self-made. Bit confused by that one because, I thought history cannot be altered. Where I live now, the population — who may be unfamiliar with the bard and therefore regard my confusion over names with irritation— agree that it was founded by a colonial. My confusion about names sets in because so many things are named after the founder that it can get as confusing as roads named after peach tree in Atlanta[4]. Of course, I have read in novels and in historical texts that the Orang Laut[5] or Malay boatmen actually populated Singapore along with pirates of varied origins before the advent of the colonials and piracy has always been a multinational profession… Though I am a little confused again about the roles of both, pirates and colonials for obvious reasons.  But getting back on track…

Click here to read the full narrative

[1] Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare, Act 2, scene 2 . https://doorshakespeare.com/general/whats-in-a-name/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Antoinette

[3] Brioche, a rich bread with eggs. In French, she asked the hungry peasants to eat brioche https://www.britannica.com/story/did-marie-antoinette-really-say-let-them-eat-cake

[4] https://www.gpb.org/news/2018/08/06/whats-in-name-why-everythings-called-peachtree

[5] https://www.visitsingapore.com/travel-guide-tips/about-singapore/

The Festival of Homecoming

First published in Different Truths

As I listen to the strains of the songs from Agomoni[1], my heart travels to a time when the fragrance of shiuli, togor and malatilata — all flowers indigenous to Bengal — filled the season with the excitement of the Durga Puja. I look out of the window — the landscape is not like the one of my childhood. Here I can see yellow blooms of angsana, golden orioles and a sea inlet that has been converted to a rainwater reserve and goes by the name of a river. Nature is beautiful here too — birds, otters, turtles, fishes, frogs and monitor lizards are all residents near the river where I stay. But there is no shiuli or togor.

I do not have any regrets for what I have left behind, but I cannot deny missing that whiff of flowers and the pujas as I knew them almost three decades ago.

Traveling around the world, I have in the past sometimes missed participating in pujas altogether. Though the festival evolved about two hundred years ago in Bengal, it is largely celebrated as a community-based event. Living overseas there have been times when no one who celebrated Durga Puja lived in the town we were stationed. We celebrated it in our own way and spoke of it with friends from other cultures, tried to create the sense of joy we had for our children. The experience of not having anyone from one’s own culture can lead to creative ways of celebration of traditional festivals, a sense of liberation which can be a bit lonely too. Did I regret that? I am not sure. I was too busy to be unhappy and there were too many exciting experiences to savour.

Now as I move forward, sometimes memories from more distant times waft into my mind. I get an imaginary fragrance from when my grandmother was alive, and I would go with her for the pujas. It was a family event. We had fun visiting various pujas, looking at the statues of the deities in various pandals, trying different snacks— especially the traditional chops, cutlets and Mughlai parathas linked intrinsically with the flavours of Puja. The festivals being mostly community-based events, were hosted separately by each colony for five days in special pavilions created for the festival. We looked forward to hopping through a series of such marquees decorated in different ways all over town.

My grandmother smelt of talcum powder and zarda[2]. I miss her still though she died more than eighteen years ago. She had paan reddened lips for as long as I can remember. She was the glue that held our large extended family together. We lived in a joint family. That was fun. As children, we never really cared who looked after our needs as someone or the other took care of them. Cousins made up for my lack of siblings….

Read the full essay by clicking here

[1] Songs to welcome the Goddess Durga that are traditionally played at the onset of the season, when the Goddess is said to begin her descent from Heaven towards Earth .

[2] Scented tobacco that is eaten with betel leaf or paan

Monkeys in my Life

First Published in Different Truths

When I tell you stories of animals, never for a minute think I like them. But they mostly like me. They sit near me, follow me, chase me and one even tried to share my cardigan.

I remember, we were visiting my maternal uncle, an artist in Simla. In those days, back in 1970s, Simla was a quieter proposition. You walked to places. It was not so crowded. Therefore, one found many animals that grazed, birds that fluttered living amicably with humans. We all shared the same place, even plants. There were hills around the house one could explore. That, to a curious youngster who was from a town with orderly gardens in homes, in itself was an adventure.

The day we reached, I stepped out into the wilderness that fringed the garden with its fecundity. My aunt and uncle lived in an old colonial bungalow with huge lawns. Simla, after all, had been the summer capital of the Raj from 18641. The house might have been younger than that. I am not sure. It was partitioned into different units. One of the units on the ground floor belonged to my uncle and aunt. I do not remember meeting the other mysterious residents, but I do recall the house had a tennis court, a small clearing surrounded by the most interesting looking plants by the side of the lush garden with bird baths.

The garden gave way to uneven wilderness. Within a few hours of my arrival, to stretch my horizons, I had stepped out to explore this fascinating jumble of greenery. One of the plants had such beautiful leaves with spikes on them, that I had to touch them, feel them, caress them. I was, like any town-bred of that time, curious. In Delhi, my friends and I would make regular forays into parks and vacant lots to play and look for natural adventures. A heap of rubble could become our next Mt Everest. As I touched the leaves growing in wild abandon on hills, my hand burst into painful red sores. I ran back home, learning never to touch all plants, great or small, without knowing their properties. It made for an amusing anecdote for the family!

Against this backdrop of wonder, I found myself trekking up to the Jakhu Hill Temple2 one day with my mother and aunt — we called it Jacko3 after the colonials. The highest peak at that time housed only a temple of the Hindu Monkey God, Hanuman. This was almost three to four decades before the Bachchans of Bollywood invested in Jacko with a 33metre statue of the simian divine (2010), which is said to have beaten the Brazilian Christ the Redeemer’s statue in height, though I do not understand why such a comparison has to be made. Perhaps, comparisons and confusions contribute to human lores. In China, I found people from outside Asia confuse Hanuman with the Monkey King of Chinese descent. This was no stranger than Indiana Jones (acted by Harrison Ford in the 1984 movie) eating monkey brains in the Temple of Doom4 where Indian actors who acted in the film, Roshan Seth and Amrish Puri, went with this strange portrayal of local cuisines!

I, of course, told the expats in China that Hanuman, the progeny of the wind God, originated in the Ramayana (written somewhere around 100 to 500BCE5) and was the giant monkey who followed Rama and set the whole of Lanka aflame with his bandaged tail. The Monkey King6 was born in the sixteenth century Chinese story called Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. Sun Wukong or the Monkey King was born of a stone, became powerful practising Taoism and was imprisoned under a mountain by Buddha. Eventually, he was freed five hundred years later to travel with a monk to get Buddhist scriptures from the West — probably India. New Zealand and Australia recently made a serial on the same Monkey King in Netflix7 — that is how interesting it was. The story had travelled from China to a popular Japanese serial8

Read the full essay by clicking here

How Do I Fish…

By Mitali Chakravarty, First Published in Different Truths

How do I fish? Let me count the ways.
I love to fish to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.

(With due apologies to Elizabeth Barret Browning1)

Fishing is an activity that has always fascinated me.

After reading Huck Finn2, I realised the best way to meditate would be while fishing. You would put the bait in water and wait. Wait. Wait for the fish to bite. And when they bite, you would drag him or her (fishes have males and females) out and then roast them on slow fire! Or fry the creature, as my father would have recommended, in hot mustard oil after marinading it with salt and a smear of turmeric — typical Bengali cuisine! He even had that implemented at a family wedding in an air-conditioned hall without cooking or special exhaust facilities. As he was given responsibility for the menu, he wanted the very best for his beloved niece. So, the hotel staff was ordered to fry fish in mustard oil in front of the guests and serve it fresh! That the guests had to put up with gusts of smoke indoor and had streaming red eyes provided fodder for humour and very importantly, also served to imprint the wedding dinner in the minds of all the attendees. But we are not indulging in a discussion of wedding memorabilia or culinary recipes. We want to focus on fishing experiences!

In front of my house now, there is a river or a sea inlet — in Singapore most rivers are sea inlets. Now it is a freshwater reserve. They dammed the sea to collect rainwater — we have a number of them on the island. These collect not just rainwater but run offs too. I do not want to go into the water systems of Singapore but what I mean to say is, people fish there too. They stand with lines and the river is literally teeming with piscine life, turtles and otters. Sometimes you see the otters munch a whole fish. They just catch the fish with bare hands, rather paws, and have it uncooked, unsalted swimming in the river. You can hear the bones crackle as they bite. I watch some of them at play. They dive and disappear into the greenery on the opposite shore. They reappear again this time near their friends who are munching on fish. Their whiskers quiver when they eat. The latecomers try to grab the fish from him/her. The munching otters push them off and dive. The hungry bunch follows. Sometimes, the otters fight over the fish! Kingfishers and cranes too, dive down to fish. I do not know if the Brahmani kites ever eat fish, or, do they soar high to looking for mice or moles? Rodents scare me. But again, I remind myself, we were talking of fishing.

The monkeys I do not think fish. But they do occasionally swim in condominium swimming pools lining the river — like humans they prefer the privacy of clean chlorinated water to river water where monitor lizards, snakes, otters, turtles, fish live and eat. They once went into a home with open windows after a swim in an empty pool in the middle of tall stack of flats and munched on bananas on the table!

No. They definitely do not fish. But humans fish in the oddest places and postures. Sometimes, I have seen them leave their lines embedded in the sand by the sea or at an angle pitched on the shore while they sit nearby chatting with their friends or families. I have an uncle who I believe went fishing and he took lines and baits and wore a fisherman’s cap. He went, he fished, he returned home — except there were no fishes that rose to his bait!

My belief is fishes like humans are getting smarter as they evolve. While frogs continue to serenade me even in Singapore for cooking lettuce for tadpoles in China3 — that is another story where my sons told me to boil lettuce for ten minutes for the squiggly creatures they had adopted — fishes never react.  Or maybe, they have a grudge against me because I was part of a fishing crew!

Long ago, while attending a summer school in Oslo University, I was invited by one of my father’s local friends to Fevik4, a beautiful seaside town in Norway where people keep summer homes. At least, my father’s friend did. They would go there and catch fish and eat and relax over the summer. They had a toilet with a long drop that catered to all the residents of their summer cabin. Brought up with plumbing in India’s multi-layered society where homes like ours had multiple bathrooms in marble, I found living with a shared common long drop tough! But they were very kind and made the most of my quick one-night sojourn. They took me fishing. It was on a motorised boat that…

Click here to read the whole article.

Thy Filmdom Come…

First published in Different Truths. Click here to read…

Photo courtesy: Different Truths by Anumita

I was watching a movie — a Bollywood take on the grand Mughal emperor, Akbar1. A romantic one I guess as it was a movie about how he found acceptance in the heart of his Rajput bride, Jodha. I am not going to go into the historicity or the non-historicity of the movie or the quality of acting or music or recommend or unrecommend it to my readers, but I am going to raise another issue. An issue that is unique and practical and would hold perhaps for all stars of Bollywood, Hollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood and basically, all-wood named filmdom.

As the actor playing Akbar bent over the actress enacting Jodha to express an intense moment of meeting of hearts, as his face lowered on hers, inch by millimetre, a thought came to my mind, and I could not help but laugh out loud. If he had bad breath or body odour, what would the actress do? Would she continue for the sake of earning her daily bread or walk off the scene? Or it could be vice versa… what would the actor do if the actress had BO etc…?

You see I have this problem. When movies or serials become too long or emotional, I find my mind wander into other dimensions. As others discuss technical skills, acting and cinematography, I wander into the area of either somnolence or the ludicrous. My family gets upset for my conscious self leaves them watching the TV show or film. They grumble when after a refreshing nap on the sofa in front of the screen, while expressing my opinions in loud snores (a legacy inherited from my father), I wake up to ask them to fill me in. Or I am filled with a craving to re-watch the show. Sometimes, I have huge memory lapses and forget I have watched a film.

I am told — that is because I slept through most of it! What people do not understand is —my eyes close of their own volition! In any case…

Click here to read the full article.

The Philosopher’s Stone

First published in The Thumb Print. Click here to read.

“…the destruction of what you people call evil, is less just and desirable than the conversion of this evil into what you call good…”

 — The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

Is it possible to change evil to good? Are we the right people to judge what is evil or good and go on a witch hunt and start a riot that disrupts lives? The words above were mouthed by a humanoid robot at the end of the novel — in a society where differences among humans persist despite technological advances. Human nature then seems similar to what it is now, though in a futuristic setting.

Recently, reading Devaki Jain’s autobiography, The Brass Notebook, made one thing clear. If you really want something, you can get it. But the desire has to be strong enough to override the feeling of having lost out because one often needs to pay a price. The other thing that is noticeable is Jain’s ability to override societal values with their judgemental outlook of good or evil, of what is acceptable and what is not. A South Indian Brahmin, born in 1933, she cast aside the patriarchal norms surrounding her to reinvent her life in the way she wanted. In the process, she was touched by many great lives and she touched many lives with her own work. She was a woman who with her convictions helped many less privileged and went on to prove that economics needed to be redefined beyond the reaches of patriarchal and colonial thought processes. 

Jain was sexually harassed a couple of times — the kind of molestation which could well be fodder for the ‘me too’ movement or for a less vocal woman, the incident could result in a feeling of being abused and losing self-worth. But she treated them as events to be merely brushed aside and moved forward to live the life she wanted — a strong woman and an influencer. The most impressive thing is that she published her autobiography after having crossed her eighties, at a point when most are obsessed with geriatric issues. Would she have been judged evil by the patriarchal society whose norms she upended? Would she be judged good by the people whose lives she changed with her open outlook and daring theories?

A woman similar to her was created by Aruna Chakravarti in her novel Suralakshmi Villa. Suralakshmi found her own groom late in life — a married irresolute man who she dumps when she finds him sexually molesting and trying to rape her ward, a young Muslim girl. She goes on to open a thriving hospital in rural Bengal and helps the less privileged. Suralakshmi would probably be living in a time parallel to Jain. Again, a strong woman not given to regrets and with the ability to brush aside smaller issues. 

One of the features that is truly inspiring about Chakravarti’s women in novels like Suralakshmi Villa and Jorasanko, her story of the Tagore family, is the strength she portrays in her women, who despite being surrounded by patriarchal values are able to stand for themselves and hold on to their sense of self-worth and independence, as seen in the character of Jain in The Brass Notebook. This is a recurring theme in Chakravarti’s short stories too, like Through the Looking Glass, where the protagonist despite being a victim of patriarchal abuse lives a life of struggle but feels like a princess near the conclusion. The “old, ugly, unloved Pomo Dasi had vanished. Rajkumari Promoda Sundari, only daughter of  Sreel Sreejukta Raja Raghobendra Chandra Rai, seventeenth in line from the Chandra Rai dynasty of Garh Bishnupur, was sporting with her companions in the royal gardens.”  

What could be this philosopher’s stone that makes a human regain their self-worth? 

(Click here to read the full essay)

The Escape

First published in Gorkha Times. Click here to read the full story.

The first time I met Isa and Lisa was when I woke up from a dream at midnight. I could not see Isa much… She faded away from my vision, a wispy, silvery-white haired child with strange light eyes. But Lisa grew vivid. She was a dark girl sitting on my bed with her braided hair looped on the sides of her head and tied with bright orange ribbons. The ribbons were made into florets. She solidified into a dark young girl of about six, wearing a bright orange cotton blouse and a stiff white and rust skirt with big floral prints. She had tawny eyes and they were tear-filled as she vehemently cried to be sent home.

Home was Lahore.

She had been there more than seventy years ago. She should have been an old woman by now. But, no, absurdly, she was a child who insisted on being a part of the story I was trying to write. I could not see her fit in, but she cried — one, to return home and, two, to be allowed into my novel.

I asked her to tell me her story. Like a spoilt child, she shook her head and refused to cooperate. I offered her a candy. She took it but did not tell me her story. Then I struck upon an idea and told her that I would help her get to Lahore if she told me a little about herself and also gave me some details of her life. Finally, I think I managed to convince her.

Lisa stopped crying. She had a small bag with her. She took out a slate and a chalk from her bag, wiped the slate and drew a picture, the picture of a two-storey house. ‘Is that your home?’

She nodded vehemently.

‘So, that is your home. How do we get there if you don’t have the address?’ I asked.

Lisa took my hand and made me touch the door of the house.

(Click here to read the full story.)

Potatoes and Chillies in the New Year

First Published in Countercurrents.org. Click here to read

“Oddly enough, it (potato) was introduced to the Himalayas by two Irishmen, captain Young of Dehra and Mussoorie and captain Kennedy of Simla, in the 1820s. The slopes of Young’s house, ‘Mullinger’, were known as his Potato Farm.  Looking up old books, I was surprised to learn that the potato wasn’t known in India before the nineteenth century, and now it’s an essential part of our diet in most parts of the country.”

— Rain in the Mountains (1993), Ruskin Bond

Potatoes thus, unified the gastronomic history of mankind as did the writer Ruskin Bond, who adopted a country that suited him and wrote of the love, kindness and warmth he found in local hearts. Or, perhaps, did the country adopt him? I do not know which would be the right perspective. The basic thing is that even chillies, which make Thai, Indian and Vietnamese cuisines not just delicious, but also add to the zest or spice of these, existed only in Latin America till 1492, when Columbus bit his first chilli! Food has actually connected the whole world together and spices have been added to create a wide array of cuisines that tempt our palates. Now potatoes grow everywhere as do chillies!

Despite the world being united by chillies and potatoes, as this year draws to a close, I am left wondering at the way humankind has got clumped into little boxes because of the mutations of a tiny virus. But if this virus is to survive, it will have to mutate to become endemic, and continue to share the Earth with man, as do other viruses. However, more than the dangers posed by the virus, the thing that really frightens me is the change in global perspectives towards foreigners and the acceptance of leadership that is questionable. The fact that the global community continues mute over the ‘annexation’ or ‘take over’ of countries by those who were considered extremists earlier is alarming. This silence does not do away with the mute suffering of the people in those regimes. I do not know if and when history will smoothen out the rough edges and give an opportunity to these challenged victims to rise up in rebellion against might and intimidation. How much will the people suffer before they speak up and rebel to come to their own? Do they even realize that some of the world, which is better off, views them as sufferers and worse off than those who totter under inequalities while servicing the privileged?

This lack of realization is something that has been written about earlier. Alex Haley’s Roots (1976) puts the muteness and unawareness of those who suffered quietly in perspective through the voice of his ancestor, an African slave called Kunta Kinte —“ It took him (Kinte) a long time, and a great many more parties,  to realise that they (his master or owner and their friends) didn’t live that way, that it was all strangely unreal, a kind of beautiful dream that the White folks were having,  a lie they were telling themselves; that goodness can come from badness, that it’s possible to be civilised with one another without treating as human beings those (slaves) whose blood, sweat and mother’s milk made possible the life of the privilege they led.”

Let me put it in further perspective. That the slave owners were ‘kind’ and ‘good’ to the slaves but would not allow them the freedom to live outside the boxes defined by their own rules which allowed the owners to treat the slaves as their personal property, was something that many of those victimised by slavery did not understand till much later. The concept of xenophobia was widespread as both the Africans and the Americans suffered from major biases rooted in colour and an inability to accept different or foreign ways of life. In Roots, Kinte was from a highly regarded and respected family in his village in Africa. To them the ‘toubab’ or the white man was as much of an alien as the Africans were to the American slave dealers, who stole and sold them as property. Do we have instances of such xenophobia and unacceptance now — long after the outlawing of apartheid and slavery ? How much have things changed in a world unified by potatoes, chillies and spices? An interesting question to ponder.

These days, when democracy takes precedence over all else (even human needs) and huge conglomerates employ many workers, social media is said to be creating an awareness among all people connected by it….

Click here to read the rest

Waiting For the Dawn

First published in SETU. Click here to read.

As I watch the setting rays smear the sky with hues of gold, red and mauve, the orange sun moves towards the darkness of night. I have been reading about another sky that had lit up with strange vibrant colours under a mushroom cloud to collapse into blackness, wrecking cities and destroying generations of humans. It had happened more than seventy-five years ago, but the residues impact the world and humans to this date. That fateful day, the Little Boy fell from Enola Gay’s womb to bring “peace”. Then, a couple of days later, there was the Fat Man…
I look at the river ripple reflecting shades of the sky and wonder why people miss out on the beauty of life and nature… Were the sky and the water any different that August in 1945? Why would we need nuclear warheads to maintain peace on Earth? Their toxicity destroyed both nature and humans. Was this the ‘peace’ that the last century leadership had brokered for us? 
Long ago there lived a man who tried to get justice as a citizen of the British empire for the unjust treatment meted out to Indians in South Africa. He was incredibly spirited. He wanted justice and he had faith in British fair-play. He returned to his own home country, India, with much fanfare for the young barrister had become a politician. 
That was in 1915. I read his biography. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He was an ordinary man who became extraordinary to meet his need for a just world, a society where people were treated as equals. He said some good things. But was nationalism one of them? I think he wanted freedom from abuse and exploitation for all mankind.
He popularised Satyagraha. Satyagraha, to my limited understanding, is using truth to overcome violence with non-violence, through peaceful resistance and non-cooperation towards abusive laws.
An exhausted man, unhappy with the use to which his ideas were being misconstrued after his return to India, Gandhi wrote that he had made a “Himalayan miscalculation” in his autobiography, My Experiments with Truth.  This is how he described his “Himalayan miscalculation”: “A Satyagrahi obeys the laws of society intelligently and of his own free will, because he considers it to be his second duty to do so. It is only when a person has thus obeyed the laws of society scrupulously that he is in a position to judge as to which particular rules are good and just which are unjust and iniquitous. Only then does the right accrue to him to the civil disobedience of certain laws in well-defined circumstances. My error lay in my failure to observe this necessary limitation. I had called on the people to launch upon civil disobedience before they had qualified themselves for it, and this mistake seems to me to be of Himalayan magnitude.” Can this view be that of a nationalist? 
In any case, I do not understand this word – nationalist — or too many like it for ‘ists’ and ‘isms’ confuse me. I do not know much about Gandhi really or anything else. I am not a specialist….

Click here to read the whole article.