Wendy Doniger and the controversy over Hinduism

This is a controversy that had been brewing for over a decade (mainly on the internet), but came to mainstream media attention after the book, ‘The Hindu: An alternative history’ by Wendy Doniger, a US academic, was recently withdrawn from circulation by its publisher. I wished to know what Doniger had to say about Holi, and found this reference to a now retracted note, which used to be on the Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia. “Holi, the spring carnival, when members of all castes mingle and let down their hair, sprinkling one another with cascades of red powder and liquid, symbolic of the blood that was probably used in past centuries.” The problem with Hinduism, based on whatever I know, is its own syncretic history — it appears to have accumulated countless layers and sub-spheres within itself to lend to a single framework. And Tantric practice is a sphere where few tread. So practices like the rooster sacrifice of Kerala become a problem if it were...
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The art in movies

– The setting – The scene – the play of light, angles and visual effect – Characters and dialogues set in the above Together, they create the visual equivalent of the literary effect. It is story telling thru visuals. If done well, it is a novel in its visual, moving form. To understand the scene, think of its literary equivalent while watching – does the visual speak a similar artistic language? ...
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India Remembered: Review

‘India Remembered’ gives us a glimpse into the moments just before the new nation was born, all through the eyes of a young eighteen years old teenager, none other than Lady Pamela, the daughter of the last Viceroy and first Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten. Illustrated with rare photographs of the Mountbatten family with Indian leaders, Lady Pamela provides us a first hand account of the behind the scenes happenings of this important family, who adopted India and its people as their own, unconditionally and as part of their larger personal mission. Edwina, coming out of her wild days and tragedies, found her life’s work here, and her husband succeeded in a most difficult endeavour, a success subsequently marred by tragic events. The Mountbatttens do not turn away with disdain at the poverty and sometimes horrifying conditions of the people around. They don’t make fun of its problems, or look down on its people. Rather, they take up the challenge to...
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Controlling ‘Rage’

Rage (Stephen King novel) I planned to write this post a few months ago, and it was about the association of campus shootings with a novel called ‘Rage‘ published in 1977. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the influence books have on adolescents. I still fondly remember the impression ‘Resurrection’ had on me in high school. The movies hold an even harder grip on our imagination, and it’s horrible to think what today’s youth are getting from, say Bollywood movies. There is a writer by the name Stephen King, who published this novel under a pseudonym. Rage is about a college student holding his classmates hostage and killing a teacher. The story ends with the protagonist not being tried for reason of insanity, and getting committed to a hospital. It ends with a sweet and innocent line: ‘I have to turn off the light now. Good night.’ Surely enough, the lights were put out of the lives of many students and...
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Review: End of Nana Sahib by Jules Verne

It indeed comes as a surprise that the classic sci-fi writer Jules Verne should have written a story centered around a political figure  of the mutiny of 1857 in India.  Nana Sahib was a much wanted man after the mutiny, and could never be found. The story is made interesting by its other major thread – the steam powered elephant chugging along two full houses to traverse the route from Kolkata to the base of the Nepal hills. The Frenchman Maucler, an adventurer, Colonel Munro, engineer Banks, Captain Hooks who is obsessed with hunting, and three of their subordinates thus take us along their intrepid journey through historical Indian cities of Gaya, Benares, Allahabad, Kanpur and Lucknow. The prime mover of the plot is the strange connection between Colonel Munro and Nana Sahib. It was Munro who killed the Rani of Jhansi, the friend of Nana Sahib. And it was Nana Sahib who was involved in the killing of Munro’s wife at...
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The End of Nana Sahib

It came as a shocker — a book by this name, from none other than Jules Verne!! This is going to be my next read, and the book is on the way. Who was Nana Sahib? More intriguing is — what happened to him? He disappeared in 1857 after playing a prominent role in the battles. Some said he had fled to Nepal, and there were rumours that he had escaped to Constantinople. Many people turned up claiming to be Nana Sahib. As it happens in India, no one knows for sure. And no one knows what happened on that fateful day on the ghat of the Ganga in Kanpur. I went and saw the graves of the soldiers at the All Souls Church. And spent a  harrowing 3 hrs walking around the army camp in search of that ill fated well where the British ladies and children had been dumped. I couldn’t locate it, but then exhausted I walked into...
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A premonition unfolds

A fine story from Steve Wilson of UK on his blog. An IT researcher develops a chip that allows people to visualise their fantasies. He begins to get premonitions related to him. The premonitions relate to future events that are seen and can’t be changed — they grip the researcher so thoroughly. He tells us all about it in first person, till we arrive at the present moment, when he tells us what he would do next…as seen by him hours earlier. Interesting and engrossing. Unchangeable – A Fantasy by Steve Wilson ...
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