Posted in Healthcare, India

The small tragedies of life in India

In a village in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, there is a woman who is ill, paralyzed and blind. My guess is that she is not very old, perhaps around 60, though she could be more, or less. Her eyesight had been failing for some time, and perhaps she had a stroke, the details are not clear, as I heard this story secondhand.  I thought of recording this sad story here, while searching for a possible solution.

After her paralysis, she was in hospital for a long time, then her family was asked to take her home. This they did, and as she lies in bed, unable to move or see, but able to eat, the family members have decided to feed her a small amount, only once a day. Why? They don’t know how to keep her clean. How to wash the sheets and clothes, so many times a day. Adult diapers must be out of the question because of the expense involved.

Is there no possible treatment? No place she can go? No home where she would be cared for? The family, at least, does not know of any. Nor have they received any advice on her care.

So there she lies…fed one small meal a day. Until she dies.

[The woman died on 1 May. I confirmed that she was just around 60 years old.]

Posted in Film, History, Poland, world history

The Jewish Cardinal–a French film

Le métis de Dieu (The Jewish Cardinal)[2013]

I saw this film yesterday on the French channel. It introduced me to Aaron Jean-Marie Lustager [17 September 1926 – 5 August 2007], born a Jew, who insisted on converting to Christianity at the age of 13,  and became a bishop, archbishop, and later cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. His mother died in Auschwitz-Birkenau, his father was never reconciled to his conversion, and Lustiger himself could not forget his Jewish origin.

This historical film also looks at aspects of the history of France,  Poland under the communist regime, the attitude of the pope, and the conflicts over the Auschwitz cross, and the occupation of a part of Auschwitz by nuns.

Here is the epitaph that he wrote for himself, enshrined in the crypt of the Notre-Dame cathedral.

‘I was born Jewish.
I received the name
Of my paternal grandfather, Aaron.
Having become Christian
By faith and by Baptism,
I have remained Jewish
As did the Apostles.
I have as my patron saints
Aaron the High Priest,
Saint John the Apostle,
Holy Mary full of grace.
Named 139th archbishop of Paris
by His Holiness Pope John Paul II,
I was enthroned in this Cathedral
on 27 February 1981,
And here I exercised my entire ministry.
Passers-by, pray for me.’

† Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger
Archbishop of Paris

For someone like myself, interested in both history and religion, the film was fascinating. There is a lot on Lustiger available on the internet for those who would like to read more about him.

Posted in Books, History, India, stories

The Peshawar Express

Rereading a book of Partition stories, I began to wonder whether there were any happy stories? Every story is this volume seems depressing. And once again one begins to ask that unanswerable question, why did it take place? Could it have been avoided? One million deaths would have been averted. Ten million would not have lost their homes. And India and Pakistan would not be constantly in a state of hostility. The book, Stories about the Partition of India, ed by Alok Bhalla, is one I have had for many years. It includes Manto’s famous story, Toba Tek Singh, and many more.

The Peshawar Express by Krishan Chander [translated from Urdu by Jai Ratan] is perhaps one of the lesser known stories, yet it is extremely poignant, a typical story of one of the many refugee trains. Here it is the train, the Peshawar Express, which tells its story, as it sets out from Peshawar loaded with refugees bound for India. The Hindu passengers looked like Pathans, says the train, fair and hefty, speaking Pushto or rugged Punjabi. Each coach was guarded by Baluchi guards. The passengers ‘ were bidding goodbye to their homeland with heavy hearts…I felt so weighed down under their cataclysmic grief that it slowed my speed.’

The first station was Hasan Abdal, where a number of Sikhs got on the train. But by the next station, Taxila, the carnage started. Taxila, once a great centre of learning, with a wonderful museum, where the Buddha preached….

The tracks were covered in blood and ‘I feared I would derail…’. Corpses piled up along the way, till finally the express reached Amritsar. ‘When I arrived at Amritsar, the joyous cries of the Hindus and Sikhs  shook the earth. Corpses of the Muslims were  piled high.’ Killings continued as the train crossed through Punjab. Even a young girl college student, reading ‘Socialism, Theory and Practice’ was not spared.

Finally the train returns to its shed in Bombay… ‘I have been given a thorough wash….I would never go on such a horrible journey again. … I want to pass through a land studded with barns of golden wheat, and swaying mustard fields on both sides of the track. I want to hear the Hindu and Muslim peasants sing the love legends of Punjab, while they sow their fields, while their hearts brim with love for each other and they are even full of reverence for women. I am a lifeless train—But even I hate to carry a cargo of blood and flesh dripping with hatred. I will haul food grain to famine stricken areas. I will carry coal, oil and iron ore…I will carry groups of prosperous peasants and happy workers….Then there will be no Hindus and no Muslims. There will only be workers and human beings.’

Posted in History, India

Narendra Modi and Indira Gandhi

I wrote this post on 29 December 2016 on another blog. Reposting here in the light of the election results in five states, particularly in UP.

Today, while working on a new book, I reread accounts of the 1971 elections, and began to see parallels between Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi. In that year, Indira coined the slogan ‘Garibi Hatao’, or ‘remove poverty’. The combined opposition’s main programme was to get rid of Indira. They failed, and she returned with 352 seats in the Lok Sabha. Yes, a few years later there was JP’s movement, the emergency, and her temporary downfall, but there is something to be learnt from this.
Catchy slogans have a great impact. Negative campaigns often do not.
In retrospect her policies did not remove poverty. Was bank nationalization a good thing? It could be questioned. What about the other economic policies? Those need more analysis.
Is demonetization a good thing? I may be wrong, but as far as I can see, it hasn’t served its purpose, and has caused a lot of misery. Even bankers are beginning an agitation against it. But if opposition parties want to win elections, they need to focus on some positive programmes. Merely condemning demonetization will not work. Narendra Modi’s policies may or may not bring results, but he is putting forward hope for the future. The opposition must do the same.
That is the lesson one can draw from the past. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress, Mamata Banerjee, Lalu Yadav, and others should learn from history.

Posted in Religion, Upanishads

Unreality: The Tejo-bindu Upanishad

That the world and everything in it is unreal is a theme of the Upanishads. Here are a few extracts from the third chapter of the Tejo-bindu Upanishad

‘The form of the mind is false. The form of the intellect is false. I am eternal, perpetual and originless…the three bodies are false, the three gunas are false, all scriptures are false, the Vedas are false, all Shastras are false, I the Atman of consciousness am true. The triad of murtis are false, all beings are false, all truth is false. I am Sadashiva, pervading all existing things. The preceptor and pupil are false, the mantra of the preceptor is false.. Whatever is seen is false, what is conceivable is false… all living creatures are false, all enjoyments are false, right and wrong action is false, what is lost and obtained is false, grief and delight are false, good and bad conduct is false. All form, taste, smell, cognition is false, every result of human existence is false, I alone am the absolute Truth.

A passage follows on the mantra ‘I am Brahman’ which supersedes  all others and destroys all duality, all diseases of the mind and all bonds.  This mantra alone should be used.


Posted in world history

The fossils of Antarctica


One hundred million years ago, Antarctica was covered in thick forests, inhabited by dinosaurs.  It was a time of warmth, when the polar ice-caps had practically melted. Robert Scott in 1912, was the first to notice fossilised plants. Later Jane Francis of the University of Leeds, as well as others, discovered more. Francis found stunted beech bushes, which were only 3 to 5 million years ago. These plants and trees survived despite unusual polar conditions of night or darkness throughout the winter, and sun and light throughout the summer.

Polar dinosaurs may have lived there throughout the year.  A complete dinosaur skeleton was found of Leaellynasura, which  looked somewhat like a small kangaroo, lived on plants, and had enlarged optic lobes, indicating it could see in the dark.

Another dinosaur known from its fossils was a meat-eating creature, more than 2 metres tall, living in the James Ross region of Antarctica. It was probably a Titanosaur.

There is also evidence of tetrapods living in Antarctica 245 million years ago.

A meteorite from Mars is believed to have fossilised microbial life.

Recently, there are claims of tiny humanoid fossils being found, which existed 600 million years ago!

Given what we know about human evolution, this is a near impossibility, and I am yet to see something about this in a scientific journal.

But obviously, Antarctica has many mysteries that are still to be discovered.

Posted in Books, Literature

Reading plans for 2017

I have already read a number of books this year. But my future reading plans are to focus on literature from India. I’d love to read all the Jnanpith award winners, and am hoping to find translations of all, in either Hindi or English. I have read some of the authors, but not many. Next I will focus on the Sahitya Akademi winners–some are common to both.

The Jnanpith Award is given for the best creative literary writing by any
Indian citizen in any of the languages included in the VIII Schedule of the
Indian Constitution.

Here is the list:
Year : Name – Works (Language)
1965 : G. Sankara Kurup – Odakkuzhal [Flute] (Malayalam);

1966 : Tarashankar Bandopadhyaya – Ganadevta (Bengali)
1967 : Kuppali Venkatappagowda Puttappa (Kuvempu) – Sri Ramayana Darshanam
1967 : Umashankar Joshi – Nishitha (Gujarati)
1968 : Sumitranandan Pant – Chidambara (Hindi)
1969 : Firaq Gorakhpuri – Gul-e-Naghma (Urdu)
1970 : Viswanatha Satyanarayana – Ramayana Kalpavrikshamu [A resourceful
tree:Ramayana] (Telugu)
1971 : Bishnu Dey Smriti – Satta Bhavishyat (Bengali)
1972 : Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’ – Urvashi (Hindi)
1973 : Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre – Nakutanti [Naku Thanthi (Four Strings)]
1973 : Gopinath Mohanty – Paraja (Oriya)
1974 : Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar – Yayati (Marathi)
1975 : P. V. Akilan – Chitttrappavai (Tamil)
1976 : Ashapurna Devi – Pratham Pratisruti (Bengali)
1977 : K. Shivaram Karanth – Mookajjiya Kanasugalu [Mookajjis dreams] (Kannada)
1978 : Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayan ‘Ajneya’ – Kitni Navon Men Kitni Bar
[How many times in many boats?] (Hindi)
1979 : Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya – Mrityunjay [Immortal] (Assamese)
1980 : S. K. Pottekkatt – Oru Desathinte Katha [Story of a land] (Malayalam)
1981 : Amrita Pritam – Kagaj te Canvas (Punjabi)
1982 : Mahadevi Varma – Yama (Hindi)
1983 : Maasti Venkatesh Ayengar – Chikkaveera Rajendra [Life and struggle of
Kodava King Chikkaveera Rajendra] (Kannada)
1984 : Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai – Kayar [Coir] (Malayalam)
1985 : Pannalal Patel – Maanavi Ni Bhavaai (Gujarati)
1986 : Sachidananda Rout Roy (Oriya)
1987 : Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar (Kusumagraj) – Natsamrat (Marathi)
1988 : Dr.C. Narayana Reddy – Vishwambhara (Telugu)
1989 : Qurratulain Hyder – Akhire Shab Ke Humsafar (Urdu)
1990 : V. K. Gokak (Vinayaka Krishna Gokak) – Bharatha Sindhu Rashmi (Kannada)
1991 : Subhas Mukhopadhyay – Padati (Bengali)
1992 : Naresh Mehta (Hindi)
1993 : Sitakant Mahapatra – “for outstanding contribution to the enrichment of
Indian literature, 1973-92” (Oriya)
1994 : U. R. Ananthamurthy – for his contributions to (Kannada) literature
1995 : M. T. Vasudevan Nair – Randamoozham [Second Chance] (Malayalam)
1996 : Mahasweta Devi – Hajar Churashir Ma (Bengali)
1997 : Ali Sardar Jafri (Urdu)
1998 : Girish Karnad – “for his contributions to (Kannada) literature and for
contributions to (Kannada) theater (yayati)” (Kannada)
1999 : Nirmal Verma (Hindi)
1999 : Gurdial Singh (Punjabi)
2000 : Indira Goswami (Assamese)
2001 : Rajendra Keshavlal Shah (Gujarati)
2002 : D. Jayakanthan (Tamil)
2003 : Vinda Karandikar – Ashtadarshana (poetry) (Marathi)
2004 : Rahman Rahi – Subhuk Soda, Kalami Rahi and Siyah Rode Jaren Manz
2005 : Kunwar Narayan (Hindi)
2006 : Ravindra Kelekar (Konkani)
2006 : Satya Vrat Shastri (Sanskrit)
2007 : O. N. V. Kurup (Malayalam)
2008 : Akhlaq Mohammed Khan ‘Shahryar’ (Urdu)
2009 : Amar Kant (Hindi)
2009 : Shrilal Shukla (Hindi)
2010 : Chandrashekhara Kambara – for his contributions to Kannada literature
2011 : Pratibha Ray – Yajnaseni (Oriya)
2012 : Ravuri Bharadhwaja – Paakudurallu (Telugu)
2013 : Kedarnath Singh – Akaal Mein Saras (Hindi)

2014 : Bhalchandra Nemade – Hindu: Jagnyachi Samrudhha Adgal (Marathi)
2015 : Raghuveer Chaudhari – For his contributions to Gujarati literature

Posted in Uttarakhand

Black Spot: A film on dam tunnels–Uttarakhand News-3

Sharing a news item on a new film on the dangers of dam tunnels in Uttarakhand

Darkness is the only end of Dam Tunnels

“Black Spot” – A film made on the impacts of Vishugaad – Peepalkoti tunnels on Alaknanda River released
“We have been ignored and treated merely as  characters to laugh at. The tunnel is being built beneath our houses. How much damage  it will do, nobody knows. The compensation for previous damages have not been made yet. If we protest then we will have to face the court cases. The Court has made restrictions on people’s visiting the Dams working sites. Now what to do?”, says Ramlal, a residence of Durgapur Village. Durgapur village is the part of Village Panchayat where dalit families reside. The THDC, Dam Construction Company, is building/ constructing tunnels for Vishnugaad – Peepalkoti Hydro Power Project Power House. Cracks have appeared on the walls of houses present above the tunnels due to high intensity blasts happened during the construction of tunnels, the future has become uncertain.
The condition of the Harsari hamlet of Haat Village is also the same. The other project affected villages are also facing the same threat and uncertainties. What is the guarantee that everything will be secure once the projects will be completed? The tunnel of Vishnuprayag dam has already brought disaster in Chai –Thai Village after years where NEPI Company had denied claims of any losses.
There has been no evaluation done of the impacts of these tunnel in World Bank fostered projects. This is how  expenditure on rehabilitation and other issues is ignored. ‘We get the threats of arrest if we resist and protest for our rights. Are the Ganga dam affected region not in India?’, questioned Rajendra Hatwal.

Narendra Pokhariyal have been struggling since years for security of his Village and constant flow of the River Ganga but got only false promises and increased confusion. World Bank and State government is responsible for not giving the right solutions of the issues. The film “Black Spot” made by Media Collective tried to cover all these aspects. This Hindi film with subtitles in English is made by Hagen Desa.

This film reveals the reality of tunnel projects through the issues prevailing in Vishnugaad – Peepalkoti Dam affected area. When there is planning to bind Ganga – Yamuna – Kali – Saryu and all their tributaries in tunnels, then this film reveals the grim realities and likely impacts in front of development planners, government agencies and financial institutions like World bank, we expect that they will learn a lot from this and bring subsequent changes in their attitude taking people’s and environmental issues on higher priorities.
This film has been released by the villagers in Gopeshwar headquarter of Chamoli district.

Posted in book review., Books, India

Book review: A good book on wrestling!

I was looking up details on the food wrestlers eat [in India], and came across a fascinating book, The Wrestlers Body, by Joseph Alter.

This was published in 1992, so it doesn’t include the female wrestlers, and the recent movies, Sultan or Dangal, but it explores all aspects of a wrestler’s life in an akhara.

What do they eat? Most are vegetarian. Ghee, almonds, and milk are essential along with normal vegetarian food. No alcohol or tobacco, no drugs. No sex, they are supposed to be celibate. There are a lot of guidelines on how they should maintain this.

Their daily routine, worship of Hanuman, celebration of Nag Panchami, and a lot more is part of this book.

‘This is a study of wrestling as a system of meaning, and it must be made clear at the outset that I have not undertaken to study the technical aspects of the sport.’ says the author in his preface.

There are chapters on the akhara, the guru-chela system, patrons, and the discipline a wrestler requires.

The book is well-researched. I am not interested in wrestling or outdoor sports, nevertheless I really appreciated the book, and its insights into the philosophy and spirituality behind a sport, and how it transforms the individual.

Alter, Joseph S. The Wrestler’s Body: Identity and Ideology in North India. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.



Posted in Poems

‘ No man has hired us’

‘No man has hired us’ are words we find in the New Testament, but to me they represent T. S. Eliot.

Ever since I first read these words in his poem, they haunted me. I remembered them whenever I passed labourers standing in groups, at crossroads or corners, with their paint brushes or bags of tools, waiting for someone to hire them. Some of them used to get hired every day, but now they wait in vain. So sharing these words, from a different time and cultures, but so relevant to us in India today.

The voices of the Unemployed:

No man has hired us

With pocketed hands

And lowered faces

We stand about in open places

And shiver in unlit rooms.

Only the wind moves

Over empty fields, untilled

Where the plough rests, at an angle

To the furrow. In this land

There shall be one cigarette to two men,

To two women one half pint of bitter

Ale. In this land

No man has hired us.

Our life is unwelcome, our death

Unmentioned in “The Times.”