Sartre and the human reality of existentialism

I know it’s a funny topic to write on, when the world around is running after profits, cuts and commissions, jobs and promotions, and cashing in on every opportunity to capialise on every conceivable difference in caste, class and status, and its jealousies and low self-esteem. Human reality – For the poor, it’s two difference concepts – man and reality. To the middle classes, an argument or a joke over coffee. For the rich, another excuse to get richer? No one, I assume, will bother to ever look inside, until they get banged on all sides by reality itself. This is the true world that we can now witness in the making. A vast school for scoundrels, that it always was. So if we are to believe Sartre, man can “exist” before he is anything at all. And where he goes depends on his will and actions. And the paradoxical conclusion of this: that there is no such thing as human nature. That’s...
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Wendy Doniger and the Hindu revisited

A reviewer refers to the book ‘The Hindu’ as ‘one experimental hippy-trippy toke-toke giggle-giggle sprawl’. It should not hence ruffle feathers with readers browsing book shelves lined up with dozens of other works devoted to the glories of this religion. It would, if this turned out to be a closer to truth, non-sugar coated pill. I gave my young niece a copy of the Mahabharata when she visited us last year from UK. Written by a renowed author, it had an introduction by Ruskin Bond. Was I giving her a tome full of ancient wisdom, a compendium of folk tales, characters and myths that every Indian knows and ought to know? Or had I handed over, unwittingly and in utter naivete, a tale of no other than God preciding over mass genocide, and a chapter (Gita) that is “dishonest”? I do believe we are utter naives when it comes to our religion. We are happy to splash colours and burst crackers and observer the...
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Review – Musk poem | Caravan magazine

About poetry – I am not too much into this noble activity of the human soul, nor do I understand it much. But it never fails to fill me with wonder… what a medium! You can’t call yourself really educated if you don’t appreciate poetry. Viyogi hoga pehla kavi, Aah mein upja hoga gaan. Coming to the poetry review, the first on this blog! Its  not a real review, but just some comments and observations from an amateur. So the poetess need not take it seriously. And a little adult stuff here. The Musk, by Nabanita Kanungo Here is the excerpt: But they’ve not been able to corner the man’s face against the whereabouts of her thoughts. Most of the women hate this stench. They may even will their eyes to grow fingers and draw some of that rain blooming from between her thighs, hold it to her nose in the clouds, expose her for the whore she is. . . She is disgustingly divine. She is in love. via Two Poems | The Caravan – A Journal...
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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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The World as Madhouse – deMause and historical personalities

Wise or Crazy? (Photo credit: Wikipedia) THE SEVEN STAGES OF HISTORICAL PERSONALITY via The Evolution of Psyche and Society by Lloyd deMause. If we refer to the table of historical personalities, the world that has gone behind us would appear to be a madhouse. It almost appears to be quite so. The 21st century, post-modern, is perhaps the healthiest and happiest of all them all. (Why is ‘retail therapy’ in vogue then?!) The author seems to make too much of child-rearing practices. What about our growth via thinking and reasoning? Looking back at our culture and traditions, there is no doubt our myth and religion is influenced strongly by parental figures. No Hindu discourse is ever complete without reference to these. Yet, our personalities are really in the making as we grow up.  The role of the subject in grooming his/her own personality is an important factor. No father has as yet succeeded in killing children who wish to follow their own way (I am glossing...
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Shelley’s Poem – The Flower that Smiles Today

I was in my high school when I came across this famous poem by P.B. Shelley. It left some impression on me, and made my adolescent gloomy outlook on life even darker! Recently I revisited the verse with fresh eyes, and uplifted spirits, and saw the silver linings for the first time – that we could learn from the flowers. I guess the poet himself felt the same way, and the verse tapers appears to taper off on an optimistic note, albeit with gravity –  enjoy the delights, then wake up to weep. The poem begins with an analogy — a very terse statement. The flower that smiles today, tomorrow dies. It goes on to point out the transitory, ephemeral nature of the delights of this world, all so very tempting but momentary flashes of pleasure. And if pleasures are such, then equally so are even the higher value of life – love, friendship, virtue too, all beset by an inbuilt mortality.  Soon, an optimistic note takes over. Let us...
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The Good Doctor

Review of play ‘The Good Doctor’ Watching a classic master’s play is like listening to a soul stirring melody, an experience that moulds the recipient’s sensibilities toward what is most basic and human. Neil Simon’s ‘The Good Doctor’, based upon Anton Chekhov’s short stories (Chekhov was trained as a doctor), is one such enthralling experience. Directed by Salim Ghouse, the play is an ensemble of six short pieces that entertain and ennoble with their directness and focus on human frailties, eccentricities and simpleminded wisdom. Human frailties The first piece, ‘Sneeze’ (based on ‘The Death of a Government Clerk’ by Chekhov), is a tragic-comedy of a small officer, Ivan (Salim Ghouse), who sits in a theatre gazing through the opera glass, “at the acme of bliss”, as Chekhov writes in the original story. What brings him down from bliss to ruin in a matter of two days is his loud sneeze that accidently spatters the bald head of a high ranking official from a...
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Rafta Rafta

Review of play Rafta Rafta. An overbearing father and mother from Punjab, and their band of relatives and friends go berserk on the son’s marriage, ignorantly strangulating the married couple’s own new, private life, to the extent that the latter can’t even…..consummate their marriage. Interesting facts and stories emerge out of closet from this absurd situation, that keep the audience glued to the proceedings in this Akvarious production. The trouble begins on the wedding day itself, when the father throws his wit and weight around, and picks up a fight with the son. The disagreements between the two however run much deeper. A week later, things do not change, and the news of dry chemistry between the two leaks out. It is then time to bring out the issues, stories, attachments and sentiments that define the Indian family. Is it mamma’s love and daddy’s affection that has spoiled the boy and the girl? Is it physiological? Will a man-to-man chat work? Is...
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Love on the brink

Review of play ‘Love on the brink’ published in Epic India Love on the brink is a tragi-comic play about three people and their quest for love, happiness and success in life. Overcoming adversities and trials to reach adulthood in varying degrees of material wealth and comfort, two school friends meet after a long gap at a sea promenade. Can love, with all its celebrated powers, breathe new life and change their prospects? Can it help a rich married couple survive divorce and live happily? These are some of the major questions of life and relationships explored in Primetime Theatre’s adaptation of Murray Schisgal’s script. Sudipto Bandopadhyay , orphaned in childhood and jobless for years, is about to take the plunge into the sea when his old school friend Pankaj Chopra , now a rich and successful stock broker, pulls him back. Fifteen years have changed their fortunes for better and worse, and they go on to share their childhood trauma...
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Voltaire – some stories and snippets

It would be easier to subjugate the entire universe through force than the minds of a single village. ~ Voltaire Voltaire was an 18th century French writer of the Enlightenment period, a liberal thinker, and a proponent of tolerance and reason in the world. He wrote Candide, and a number of short stories that describe his views on various issues that were of concern to him and the Europe of his times – religious tolerance, faith in reason, abhorrence of superstition, and a free life. Some interesting stories In Bababec, a muslim traveler visits India and meets fakirs engaged in self-denying and torturous acrobatics, like sitting over nails, and meditating. One of them is persuaded to give up all this and live like a good man. But he returns back as he loses his social status and influence over women. Voltaire asks whether it is not enough to live like a good man and reach heaven? In The story of a Good Brahman, an honest and learned brahman admits his ignorence –...
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