Archive for the ‘essays’ Category

‘…the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.’ (Wilde-the Preface/The Picture of Dorian Gray)

In the recent times no other ruler would have come close to absolute power than Joseph Stalin, who forged the shape of Soviet Russia. By 1929 he had complete control over the lives of his people and till death he was their undisputed leader. Did such power make him complete? He was vain enough to want be immortalized in verse. There were poets, writers like Ehrenberg and Pasternak but he avoided them lest they should see through the small man with bad teeth and pock marked face. A dictator’s rage at being made ridicule of is like the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass. In his case his power is the face. Stalin’s rationale in not sitting for a painter who daubs in his warts and all is understandable. He has to be made a Colossus or not at all. Do you think the praises sung by bad poets are anymore remembered than the thousands of larger than life statues, all bad art? Power does not necessarily make good art.
“I can make lords of you every day, but I cannot create a Titian,” said the Emperor Charles V to his courtiers who complained that the monarch spent more time with the painter than in their midst.

Michelangelo was another who faced the envy of the powerful because Pope Julius II had him brought over to Rome. However the Pope was too busy to see him. After days waiting in the antechamber of the Papal Palace he had enough. “Tell his holiness, if he wants me, he must look for me elsewhere,” and he left for Florence. Thrice the Pope wrote for his return to no avail. The wilful Julius II threatened war with Tuscany if the celebrated artist didn’t immediately return.
Return he did. As he came for that awkward audience the artist knelt at the Pope’s presence and waited in silence. One bishop dared to mediate on behalf of the artist saying, ‘ these artists are a proud lot’. As Vasari in his Lives tells us, the Pope observed reproachfully, “You speak injuriously of him, while I am silent. It is you who are ignorant.” Raising Michelangelo, the Pope embraced the man of genius. It takes a genius to recognize the patent merit in another. To the eternal credit of the Pope we have works of this genius enshrined in marble. Michelangelo will not go out of fashion even after punk artists clutter galleries with their works, merit of which are encapsulated in its immediacy and shocking value. Like the newspaper of yesterday who cares for it once read?

Art at its best has the power to communicate. What is true for us if stated clearly can touch another no matter if he were far removed in time and place. Poets with their words and artists with their medium delineate truth. The Great masters are who hold a true mirror to our own inner self. Power that Stalin wielded did not really speak for his true self. Nor did in the case of Hitler. The rage of Caliban was not seeing his face in a glass. Their power factor, outrageous in its falsity cannot be captured in art. Why you might ask? For the simple reason it is not the true state of man who is, as King Lear would say,’poor forked animal.’ Even as I write this I am listening to Ombra mai Fú from Handel’s Xerxes,- and it is a consolation for anyone who has lived and longed for perfection and knows that life is a mirage. Art is the blessed salve administrated by man for his kind. He knows truth as seen in a glass darkly but must somehow dare to hit at it in a consistent way. He has dedicated his life, perhaps it is quixotic, and yet he cannot do otherwise.
An artist is foolhardy to think he will buy himself with art into affections of the world. The world in its own muddling ways shall not recognize man but truth has a way of settling accounts. Consider the life of Charles Baudelaire. Two years before his death the author of Les Fleurs du Mal took inventory of his poetic capital. (In this context let me point out that he had, at the age of 21 inherited a modest fortune of 100,000 francs.) Having squandered his inheritance very early on he found he had earned only 15,982 francs and 60 centime from more than two decades of versification.

Baudelaire is still read while fashions of age like clockwork rise and fall. Those who prostituted their art for praise of the mob are forgotten. Art of Baudelaire, Balzac and Van Gogh are for all time. Every generation in coming to terms with the human condition, – of darkness in men to work evil or be agents of that darkness, will discover in Baudelaire something useful and apt for its needs. Our nature makes us find in Baudelaire, ‘not a kindred spirit but a twin,’ the same he described of Edgar Allen Poe. The French poet seems to have also said, ‘if Poe had not existed, he would have had to invent him’. No one can invent what is not there in shadows and as tokens. Baudelaire was grateful there was his alter ego in another continent and he merely served as a medium. Truth shall call to account man’s works and proves from life of man that no sacrifice of life on the altar of truth shall go to waste. Power as wielded by Stalin or Putin shall always be shown by posterity for what it is.
(Ack: 1.Literary Characters-Isaac Disraeli, Pub: Fred. Warne and Co 2.Melvin Maddox review in Time Feb,14,1977 -Alex de Jong biography on CB)


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Socrates never claimed to have wisdom but he sought it very keenly. Because he walked about the streets of Athens talking to any one who cared to look for truth was a likely figure of fun. His ungainly figure and simplicity did not strike a casual observer as anything worthwhile. The fact that he never seemed to have visible means of support other than a virago of a wife made him a convenient target for comic poets of his time. Aristophanes who knew Socrates used him in his play The Clouds ( 423 B.C) to represent the new breed of philosophers who doubted the traditional teachings of poets. Unlike the ‘ Socrates’ in the play Socrates did not teach for money. Despite many differences between the real and that of the play the public came to confuse the two.
When the play was staged Socrates was present one evening along with his friends. After the play there was a cry, Socrates, Socrates!. The playgoers went on chanting his name. Socrates was about to get up but Alcibiades advised him not to. The elder said that he saw among those who called out a few who were seekers of truth as he.
“They may be full of Aristophanes now. Here is their opportunity to compare the false with the original.” With that he stood up for all spectators to see.
Twenty four years later when he stood before the court of 501 Athenians he could not convince them that he was not that dishonest and irreverent creature whom they had seen in a comic play.
From whence arises such confusion? The Athenians knew a play from the man. One is a make-believe and the other is real flesh and blood. Even so those who tried him had a problem. Their unconscious mind knew unconsciously,- instinct you call it, as long he lived their position to control the mind of the public was shaky. Here the philosopher was teaching the young never to take anything for granted.’ Question the powers- that-be what makes them curb civil liberties? Under what authority?’These were dangerous times and whoever set man to think was stepping into the unknown. The Establishment feared the unpredictable.
In the mind of the Aristocratic party that wanted war and chaos to keep their position secure, Socrates was the enemy of state. The trial was as they decided already in mind. Unconscious mind the Will made it a necessity to silence Socrates. Only the conscious part of the judges had to supply reason. Thus legally Socrates was found guilty. How can anyone convince another who has unconsciously made up mind to follow his own course? You have to offer him things that he value more than following his own voice. Wordsworth the poet rejected the revolutionary ardor of his youth and became part of the Establishment. Robbert Browning’s poem describes it well( see below: The Lost Leader)
Some change and some don’t. Socrates could not change from what he believed as right.
The Lost Leader
Just for a handful of silver he left us,
  Just for a ribbon to stick in his coat—
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
  Lost all the others she lets us devote;
They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
  So much was theirs who so little allowed:
How all our copper had gone for his service!
  Rags—were they purple, his heart had been proud!
We that had loved him so, followed him, honoured him,
  Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
Learned his great language, caught his clear accents,
  Made him our pattern to live and to die!
Shakespeare was of us, Milton was for us,
  Burns, Shelley, were with us,—they watch from their graves!
He alone breaks from the van and the freemen,
  He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!(excerpt)

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I shall begin by quoting Churchill and also end with him.
India is not a geographical reality anymore than as Churchill had observed,’the equator is’. In short India is what every Indian would make of a concept of union of certain states. Of course historically is a reality since we won freedom ‘at midnight’ in 1947 and subsequently we passed the Constitution by an act of Parliament into law. The Constitution is a visible proof of the will of people and it enshrines the union of all citizens; as such an union would expect every Indian to preserve it.
But how did we celebrate it for the past 61 years?
There has been without let up every community playing a communal card to serve its narrow ends. No cabinet was workable without giving adequate representation to the communities that considered themselves a power unto themselves. Of course Government passed some laws to give hitherto untouchables representation. We have even a Chief Minister who is a Dalit and what does she do? She shows she has indeed ‘arrived’ by spending crores of the public Exchequer for elevating herself in public memory. We have Taj Mahal built by a Mughal emperor to perpetuate his eternal sorrow for his queen and was she moved by such archetypal emotions as love and bereavement? Ms. Mayawati knows she would not be missed by the end of her term in office. Naturally she has safeguarded the lapse of public memory by the powers bestowed on her. The charter of Constitution means many things to many and to the ilk of Ms. Mayawati it is a license to indulge in the worst excesses of vanity.
The other day I read a news item that a DSP who is in charge of her security detail stooped himself to wipe her sandals. Remarkable to see officers in India who has completely effaced their dignity to this level. Having seen the manner politicians bend backwards to please narrow vested interests and represent them I am immune to such abject abasement. Constitution means securing power and some are willing to pander to it totally!
So we have a Constitution but who I wonder has ever read it with care as to understand its intent? 28 percent of MPs as the CVC PJ Thomas claimed the other day, are criminally charge-sheeted. Of course he has, as implied in his words, been under a cloud and a charge-sheet has been served on him. How come the Center has let him to be Chief Vigilance Commissioner? The Caesar put away his wife on the principle ‘Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.’ Julius Caesar as we know ‘was wife to everyman and husband to every woman.’ But then Romans loved their Caesars to be above every rule including moral laws. A Caesar can flout all laws of middle class decency but in the modern India even Chief Vigilance Commissioner ought to be clean, absolutely. Anything less would be like taking the millions of Indians for granted. The elected representative does not think of himself bound to be a citizen, laying the highest example in honor of his position. It is in a way showing his courtesy to the people he is called to serve. Whatever may be their shortcomings both Morarji Desai and Sardar Patel had rectitude and courage of their convictions. The latter even forbade his sons from wheeling and dealing from his official residence. The iron man didn’t even want a smell of suspicion cling to him. Instead we have politicians extending both arms to shield those who are criminals. Politicians who are partial to the lawless and ‘tainted’ individuals with a view to votes and advancement in their political career are laying ground for every sort of mischief possible. They even condone ‘contributions’ as means to secure votes. It is thus how all good intentions are slowly eroded. Mr. PJ Thomas as an individual forgets himself that he with a criminal charge against him he cannot be an arbiter, and the Cabinet pretends everything will turn out all right if no one makes a fuss about it. This is how citizen and his elected representatives govern the nation, with their minds not fully engaged.
From that stirring speech from the ramparts of Delhi Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of a tryst with destiny.’ Then came a license Raj as a sop to some business houses. Nehruvian model was not homespun like Khadi but from ‘socialism’ that he imbibed in his school days in England. If our national life is blighted by missed opportunites and puerile ideals of our leaders what have we done to counter them? Those who toadied upto the British and stirred the base passions as to religion and community, they now openly pass for the voice of ‘moral order!’
Is it to be wondered then that we are ‘according to Transparency International, the world’s 87th most corrupt nation with an integrity score of 3.3? ‘
If we cannot live upto the highest ideals that we swear by we must not wonder why we have criminals laying our laws and speak platitudes. Our spiritual fathers were not living in the best of times but their highest standards set for themselves came out inspite of the worst excesses of their times. Mahatma Gandhi didn’t ape the British in order to become the father of the nation. Living as he did among conflicts his ideals connected with a great soul of ancient times. Gautama Buddha didn’t live when non-violence was the norm. But his spiritual strength to find a Golden Mean made millions of men in Asia find a standard to live by. Paradoxically India is his birthplace and we allow violence as a matter of course. If one group will right the past wrongs by destroying an old archaeological landmark those who were in power pretended as though did not see it.
If the Center cannot ensure religion to be kept in its place our secular claims are suspect and of little worth. If our leaders do not have courage of their opinions how can the Constitution be held up as a venerable article?
Here is a mail received this morning from one of my friends:

Sir Winston Churchill argument against granting india / Pakistan Independence 

“Power will go to rascals, rogues, freebooters. . . . 
All leaders will be of low caliber; and men of straw. . . 
They’ll have sweet tongues; and silly hearts. . . 
They will fight amongst themselves for power; and the two countries will be lost in political squabbles. . . . 
A day would come when even air and water will be taxed. 

He wrote this 64 years ago. . . 
Incredibly we’ve worked very hard to prove him right. . .
 (Funny I was checking the Google for this particular quote without success and to get it as soon as I wrote this piece! Is it not something fortuitous? Coincidence pure and simple!-b)


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My sense of wonder even as I approach the very wrong side of sixties has not lessened. Seventy is like a sudden drop in the landscape and approaching it I haven’t reigned in my beast but dug my heels saying Tallyho! I have never got on top of a horse but I can feel still imagine what it is like. I am not a fancier of horseflesh but I can really understand horseplay. It is imagination pure and simple.
I was brought about up in many places where life went about in its humdrum fashion. Thrissur, Kozhikode(Calicut), Alleppey, Kollam( Quilon) are merely points on the map of my life but are starting points to exercise my life in my imagination take to wings. My eldest brother is still so rooted to Kerala whereas I am utterly indifferent to its culture and arts. Even as I first learned to read stories of Aesop, Homer appealed to me much more than Mahabharata. I have wondered often how I could trace my path as though I knew well beforehand the path I should take, everything that one would say was alien culture. I first traveled outside India when I was 46. It was as though I would be testing the veracity of my impressions I had gathered from reading.
I crawled through museums and listened to music that titillated me by its strange rhythms, color and strangely I was at home there and then. I knew I was vindicated and also finished all the more rounder to accept my Indian as natural and nothing to feel disquiet about. I am a citizen of the world in my imagination and while the sun warms my skin (browned by the Indian Sun) there is something familiar and kinship. I am thankful that life has made me quite at home whether under the sun or under the shade.My friends of my youth are still mine to keep and I can converse freely with my friends in the spirit and enjoy their art as though they were right by my side.
Greatest companions of my life and age are accidental and are held close as with hoops of steel by some chance that I took early on.
Straws in the wind can well break the boredom that life brings in every life if properly applied. At least it worked in my case.

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Petrarch in his ‘Epistle to Posterity’ after lifetime of literary creativity, in his ninetieth year could say thus, “My works are many, and I am old; yet I can still fatigue and tire myself with writing more.” David Hume, the philosopher found in his old age that only death could interrupt the pleasure he was receiving from Lucian. He summed up his feeling of old age thus, “ Happily on retiring from the world I found my taste for reading return, even with greater avidity.” For Edward Gibbons writing the History( The Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire) was even more reason to change his tack and immerse himself in the writings of Homer, Aristophanes and Plato. Adam Smith who made his fame secure with Wealth of Nations also found great pleasure, with same ardor of a student, in the tragic poets of Greece.
Is it possible to rekindle the same passion for literature as in youth? Petrarch who not long before his death had written to a friend “I read, I write, I think; such is my life, and my pleasures as they were in my youth. Death came finally while he was busy with making notes on a book he wanted to take up next. His servants found him slumped over his books as before and they didn’t think it amiss. It was long before they discovered he was no more.
The life of Sir. Robert Walpole (1676-1745), the first Prime Minister of England offers us another insight into ‘the hoary age that cracks the weak- / Life holds for them no meaning yet/ What is left for them but seek/
Death that is slow in coming?’
When the first minister of the crown was, in a cloud of scandal, dismissed from his position he returned to his library at Houghton. Looking at his collection, which was his pride he pulled out one book and he pored over the page, then another. He put it back in its place and took out another. After handling them in this fashion he turned away and burst into tears. “I have led a life of business so long, cried he, that I have lost my taste for reading and now,- what shall I do?”
How sad it is to see lives of some of the brightest and fertile minds joining the crowd that want to make a success and leave what is their real bent. They make a killing at the stocks or play up to the power so they may also display their symbols of success like every one else and dispense favors to seekers of power and status. Yes they succeed and then they realize the road less traveled could have added to their lives the very key that was to the true riches. It is easier to trivialize life than adorn it with the true greatness of character. It is what you may find in your youth and invested wisely so it has power to move those who are around you and also open others to alternatives to letting life lead you where it will.
The irony of life is wisdom of old age come from certain intimations of youth that is a hunch proved right.

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The Pleasure of Books

Books are one way of communicating with the dead and the past. It is a mystical experience pure and simple.
There are those who are, as Isaac Disraeli the father of the British Prime Minister would describe, men with one book. Sir William Jones read the works of Cicero every year. Demosthenes felt such delight in the history of Thucidides, and in order to obtain a familiar and perfect mastery of his style he copied his history eight times. Selim the Second had the commentaries of Caesar translated for his use; and it is recorded that his military ardor was heightened by his reading. (Ack: Curiosities in Literature-vol iv)
Charles Laughton in recent times was known to write down in long hand the specimen works of an author before he played the role for the screen. By this method he had spiritually put on the mantle of Rembrandt or any other as it were.
Napoleon in his youth read Plutarch so extensively that it showed. When he visited his homeland on a furlough he had long chats with General Paoli, whose adjutant his father had been long ago. At the end of their conversation once, the old General shook his head and said, ’There is nothing modern about you, Napoleon, you come from the age of Plutarch.’ Harry Truman as a fledgling senator found use for Parallel Lives by Plutarch,- and human nature being such, he found Greek and Roman counterparts in the modern senators he came to deal with,- and thanks to his reading, he was forewarned to survive the Washington political jungle.
Reading an autobiography has all the charm of conversing with a mind that is very much before you and whether he has come down to your level or you have been lifted to his does not spoil the mood. You are open for impressions of his time and his train of thoughts. It is no wonder a book, imaginary or true when it is well written has the power to break down the illusion of time and place. Even after Arthur Conan Doyle’s death, letters have come in for his brainchild, the immortal sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Much earlier when Samuel Richardson wrote Clarissa it created a sensation.
One day Mrs. Barbauld was going to Hampstead in the stagecoach, she had a Frenchman for her companion. In chatting with him she realized he was making a trip to Hampstead for the express purpose of seeing the house in the Flask Walk where Clarissa lodged.
Recently Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code made droves of visitors follow the route that the hero had taken to crack the code.
An appeal of books whether formatted in electronic ink or on paper is what it contains. Life of man and woman may be a constant search for meaning around which each may arrange his or her days in order. Unfortunately reality allows no such easy way out. Powerful books serve as a mirror where we see our lives reflected back to us complete with much needed insight, even though much of details have undergone some changes. Balzac’s imagination was such he could invest in them reality needed enough. When an admirer, one day brought news of a common acquaintance who was ill Balzac heard him for a while and asked, ’But let’s get back to reality. Who is going to marry Eugenie Grandet?’
Oscar Wilde in his own characteristic way summed up effect of Balzac’s books on a reader. ’A steady course of Balzac reduces our living friends to shadows…;who would care to go out to meet Tomkins, the friend of one’s boyhood, when one can sit at home with Lucien de Rubempré(one of Balzac’s characters)? It is pleasanter to have an entrée to Balzac’s society than to receive from all the duchesses of Mayfair’.

An alderman of Oxford religiously read Defoe’s classic each year and believed Robinson Crusoe was a real person. Great was dismay to be told by a friend it was not so. He also said it was based loosely on a true incident which befell a Scottish sailor by name Alexander Selkirk.
He replied that he wished that he were not informed the truth ‘for in undeceiving me, you have deprived me of one of the greatest pleasures of my old age.’
Benjamin Franklin
At a dinner party where Benjamin Franklin was one of the distinguished guests he was asked by Abbe Raynal, ”What kind o f man deserves the most pity?”
Franklin answered, ”A lonesome man on a rainy day, who does not know how to read.”
Harry S. Truman had a lonely childhood, made worse by his physical debilities. He took to wearing glasses since he was six years old. He was a voracious reader mostly of history. Later in life he would say much of his political acumen and understanding of people he had gathered out of Plutarch.
In 1957 Truman during an interview asserted that Alexander the Great died as a result of drinking 33 quarts of wine.
The interviewer was puzzled at the figure and checked up with the Library of Congress. With great difficulty the researcher unearthed in an obscure and long out of print volume of the Ancient Greeks he found that the President was right after all.
John Dryden(1631-1700)the Poet Laurate was unhappily married and his literary pursuits annoyed his wife all the more.
Once she faulted him,’Lord Mr. Dryden,how can you always be poring over these musty books? I wish I were a book and then I should have more of your company.’
‘Pray my dear,’ was his answer, ‘if you do become a book let it be an almanack, for then I’ll change you every year’.
Their conjugal life must have been strained for the poet to compose the following epitaph for her.
‘Here lies my wife: here let her lie!
Now she’s at rest, and so am I’

Mark Twain was traveling through Europe and at one point he had an Englishman in his compartment. Having introduced himself Mark Twain turned his attention to his reading. His companion startled him by saying,’ Mr. Clemens I would give ten pounds not to have read your Huckleberry Finn.’
And when the author looked up, awaiting an explanation of this extraordinary remark, the Englishman smiled and added: ’So I could again have the pleasure of reading it for the first time.’


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Kashmir has become the petri dish of the 21st century and thus it shall be viewed by political scientists of the future. What would challenge their concepts of a modern state is not where state and religion may cohabit neither detracting from the other, but to what extent a state may let religion its free exercise of its hold on their believers. Religion is self expression of belief and it must remain where it belongs as springboard for impulses and actions that which could be best expressed for the common good of the society. If prayer is a cornerstone of one’s belief- system praying to his god or Allah or whatever that he may be instrument of peace to all and conducting himself to live at peace makes him serve his private belief and the requirements of the state. Instead to use certain passages from here and there and sow discord and disaffection to all and sundry must be practicing a religion of hate. Looking at what goes on in Kashmir I wonder if a mixture of state and religion have not been applied wrongly. As a preface I only need to compare her early history and now.
Kashmiri culture,melting pot of many faiths
Historically The Muslims and Hindus of Kashmir lived in relative harmony, since the Sufi way had much in common with the Rishi tradition of Kashmiri Pandits. Hindus and Muslims revered the same local saints and prayed at the same shrines in the former times and this was but one example that their culture didn’t require man’s belief as a hurdle for acceptance. Their culture, I mean Kashmiri culture, had absorbed from various belief-systems Hinduism, Buddhism. Later in 1349 Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. For the next five centuries, Muslim monarchs ruled Kashmir, including the Mughals, who ruled from 1526 until 1751, then the Afghan Durrani Empire that ruled from 1747 until 1820. That year, the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh, annexed Kashmir. In 1846, upon the purchase of the region from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar, the Dogras—under Gulab Singh—became the new rulers.
We can see fortunes of this state followed the turn of history as followed elsewhere- and the only pivot that history revolves upon in true sense of the word, is on changes.
If under the rulership of Hindu kings were grievances by any particular section the aggrieved parties had recourse to change what was evil. History shows Kashmir tolerated their rulers both good and bad and their culture, arts and literature were never in danger of annihilation. From all records set down by the historians, travelers and officials we do not see systematic extermination of the minorities and their way of life in the state as we have seen of the Jews and Gypsies under the Nazi Regime.
Law is paramount-The Act of 1947
It is true Jammu and Kashmir has a Muslim majority population. As with changes being the only course of history it is neither special if at present Islam is practiced by about 67% of the population of the state and by 97% of the population of the Kashmir valley,. Against this in order to put the demographical changes in perspective, we need to account for Buddhists and Sikhs as well. According to political scientist Alexander Evans, approximately 95% of the total population of 160,000–170,000 of Kashmiri Brahmins, also called Kashmiri Pandits, (i.e. approximately 150,000 to 160,000) left the Kashmir Valley in 1990 as militancy engulfed the state. According to an estimate by the Central Intelligence Agency, about 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits from the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir have been internally displaced due to the ongoing violence. The state of Kashmir under the union of India cannot be treated as altogether another entity since the Indian Independence Act 1947 gave rise to the creation of two new nations: the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. This Act had validated Pakistan and India as well as voided the British suzerainty over the 562 Indian princely states. According to the provisions of this Act these states were left to choose whether to join India or Pakistan or to remain independent. Jammu and Kashmir, the largest of the princely states chose India and the provisions laid in the Act have been met. Period. The fact that there is a predominantly Muslim population or it was determined by a Hindu ruler (Maharaja Hari Singh) do not invalidate the union. To sum if Pakistan is a nation so is India and the state’s choice also legally correct.
In October 1947, Muslim revolutionaries in western Kashmir and Pakistani tribals from Dir entered Kashmir intending to liberate it from Dogra rule. Unable to withstand the invasion, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession that was accepted by the government of India on 27 October 1947.
Shifting focus
Now in order to understand what ails Kashmir we need to separate those players who have no right to be there whether in the form of ideologues or as fighters. For example what is the interest of Al-Qaeda in a purely internal issue? If they want to organize a campaign of terror in Kashmir the only way that can be done is with the help of Pakistan. Apart from the majority of Jammu and Kashmir being Muslims there is nothing that legally binds India to entertain the interference of Pakistan. When Mujahiddins were being armed and trained in Afghanistan against Soviet Russia in the Eighties it was known that the Talibans were largely helped by Pakistan. We see its repercussions even now. Only that Pakistan is forced into a false position where they have to fight Al-Qaeda elements hiding in northwestern Pakistan. (Their collusion with Taliban in Afghanistan then has now created homegrown Taliban forces.) Therefore Al-Qaeda wants Pakistan to fight India on the issue of Kashmir. Thereby they reason it will force Pakistan to move its troops to the border with India and relieve pressure on them. (US Intelligence analysts say al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan-administered Kashmir are helping terrorists they had trained in Afghanistan to infiltrate Indian administered Kashmir. There is nothing that can verify reports from the media of Al Qaeda presence in the state. As it seems now it is a proxy war waged by Kashmir militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed in Pakistan. It must be noted that Waziristan has now become the new battlefield for Kashmiri militants who were now fighting NATO in support of Al-Qaeda. Kashmir issue has now owing to run of events that originally had nothing to do with Kashmir state or India as a Republic have become free for all. It is not politics but religion as interpreted by some that hogging up the headlines.
After Islam what then?
From experience it has been brought home with regards to the Kashmir issue in a chilling manner, terrorism has completely kept away the focus so a new trail is impacted into the sub-continent where religion may if allowed would do away with geographical boundaries that was sacrosanct earlier. An Islamic crescent from Europe to Russia straddling Asia is what some extremist Islamic groups harbor in depths of their hearts. (Instead of tolerance and harmony that were natural impulses in the hearts of Kashmiris irrespective of their religion we see hardening into set opinions and ill will. Under such a mindset mischief of extremists is easier done than cured.) What happens to such nations wrenched out violently from their political history when Islam finally becomes a spent force as Christianity is now. ( It is my belief that religions may have two millennia to run their course). This is what would interest the political scientists in future.
I hope the present Indian government will take the lesson of the blunder of the Vajpayee government when on Dec 24th, 1999 Indian Airlines IC 814 from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked to Taliban-controlled Kandahar airport in Afghanistan. The drama lasted a week exposing the weak kneed approach of BJP led government and it has caused more serious damage in the years to come. Five high profile terrorists in Indian prisons were released to secure the lives of the Indian passengers on the flight.
One of the released terrorists, Masood Azhar, went on to start the terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, that killed hundreds of Indians — security personnel and innocents — in later years. Also it gave another innocent victim, the American journalist Daniel Pearl. India need to know that appeasement of terrorists is not an intelligent option.

Finally much has been said about validity of Jihad as legitimate Islamic requirement to turn the world into Darul Islam. Al Koran do speak of Jihad but its interpretation as intended would mean different for different people. My essay is with special reference to the state of Kashmir enjoying special privileges under the Union of India as no other states enjoy. On what basis shall these know-all apply? Is Jihad to be waged against the past and for hospitality of the host nation? Those who are sure of their Koran may ask if hospitality of people,- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and their way of life that allowed Muslims to prosper and live in amity are to be paid back with ill-will and rancor?

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Nothing ever remains static: the face of the earth changes with seasons and continental shelves move. Such changes take place in matter of time and it goes without saying man is of no exception. How relevant is a man who holds the most powerful job on the earth? History does that while tastes of the masses may be manipulated to certain extent. History however has the last and more enduring word on him.
What with the mass media and TV we have become a visual generation. Recalling the Andy Warhol quote each of us holds the right to fame though it may be for some fifteen minutes. It may be through reality shows or as a witness in TV coverage for 6 o’clock news. Television has killed the art of conversation and instead we have talking heads whose style and contents are what matter for the ratings. Yes fifteen minutes of fame is enough for the audience whose attention span is correspondingly becoming shorter.
Looking at the appeal of the US presidents history judges them as tastes govern the appeal of fashion art and literature.
The Presidency of Andrew Jackson(1829-37)has undergone swings in popularity. Jackson presided over American expansion as well as subjugated the American Indians. The New Englanders and the Eastern gentry despised him as a frontiersman and a dangerous demagogue about money and banking. The historians of the early 20th century saw him as a democratic hero, coming out of the West to fight the moneyed Eastern interests. Thomas Jefferson is another. Jefferson, had his bitter critics to whom he was ‘Mad Tom. Of his prodigious mind and its wide sweep no one had doubts. John F. Kennedy once invited a group of Nobel Prize winners to the Executive mansion and said thus: ‘the most extraordinary collection of talent… that has ever been gathered together at the White House-with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.’ His personal stature or his qualities are not what makes his relevance count. His policies or what he stands for must mesh with the mood of the times like teeth of gears so history on its march keeps his relevance as obvious. No president or king is as relevant as to be in step with mood of the times all the time. Ronald Reagan came to power on the belief ‘Politics is just like show business. You have hell of a opening, coast for a while and then have hell of a close’. He edged out Jimmy Carter from the Presidential race with the promise of getting the nation out of depression. ‘I am speaking of depression in the human sense. A recession is when your neighbor is out of work. Recovery is when Carter is out of work.’ Reagan was elected the President. His covert interference in Afghanistan to arm the Mujahiddins and break the back of the Soviets seemed to succeed. History however shows its terrible consequences even this day. As for his economic policies paved the way for the economic meltdown and recession of 2008.
Power is always a potent tool in the hands of a President in the US or anywhere else to shape destinies of people; and politics is the means to get the policies across but then they are on their own.(Ack:Hedley Donovan-Time/essay Nov 9,1981)


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Representational Man-essay ©

It is said no man is a hero to his valet and those whom we look up as extraordinary betray their ordinariness when caught off guard. It is a truism not even a Caesar could escape from. Julius Caesar may have to all and sundry seemed ‘like a Colossus who bestrode the narrow world’ but to Cassius he really was ‘ a man as I myself.’ Caesar is a Representational Man despite of it.

A Representational Man is one who by his life holds key to our own nature. Some made their mark in the history of mankind by fire and sword. The names of Alexander or Napoleon come to mind. Some chose less violent methods to impress upon many or change lives. Their fame as printed in newspapers must have been limited to the finance, entertainment or art section yet no matter. They represent us to the extent their drive, – in ambition no less focused than Alexander, and their fame allowed them to reach a higher level than we. Representational Men hold a key, a symbol to us. It is not without merit the name Waterloo is still in usage: ‘the little corporal’ became too big for his boots so hubris had to cut him to size. In short anyone who has met his Waterloo has Napoleon for a symbol.
A Representational Man is one who by his life has set a standard for others to take measure from. Diogenes stripped his life of all superfluities so he could live in a tub. On the other hand Andrew Carnegie amassed great wealth in order to give it all away. Alcibiades cut the tail off his spaniel just to spite the Athenian folks who made much of the animal. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the dramatist went in the adjoining pub and could calmly drink a glass of wine by the smoldering ruins of his Drury Lane. Despite the great financial loss he chose the occasion to make a joke of it. He observed in his characteristic humor, ‘A man may surely take a glass of wine by his own fireside’.
The representational man holds a mirror to our nature: he has his uses whether alive or dead. He serves as a guide and key to understand mankind.
Granted that man find it easier to analyze his own nature because another representing him did great things. Does that speak much? After all success is not to be reckoned to one because he had a far greater canvas to work with but how he added to the whole with the piece that was no bigger than a postage- stamp size.. Even an unseemly speck of defect could spoil the overall effect of the whole. Besides in judging mankind with a scale that has an inherent flaw will only multiply when used to judge the whole species.
It is in our nature to point out with pride our rich relations than those who are poor. Of course the Greats are also key for us. Alexander of Macedonia found the kingdom he inherited too small for his over-sized ego. So he set out to conquer a large part of the globe. Lives of you and I are no less real on account we stayed on our familiar ground. A woman who runs her hearth is as great as Catherine the Great. Her world may be considerably reduced that only speaks of her circumstances. Even so the Empress of Russia is a representation of Everywoman.

A Representational Man is one who has had control over circumstances far more than you and me. We spend our lives to unravel the skeins of our limited resources; Credit is hard to come by because the times are bad. So what we do? We tighten our belts and hope to go with the flow. When faced with the Gordian knot Alexander cut it as if it were the most natural thing to do. We work within our circumstances not daring to cut the knot of our times. Alexander was a genius in that he opened up possibilities after his own fashion. Vasco da Gama who opened a sea route to the East was another. We are armchair seafarers while he braved the stinging spry of sea and untested dangers to set foot on a fabled land of unlimited opportunities. The Portuguese mariner is a representational man for the reason he made it possible for many to follow him.

A Representational Man is a genius in that he can purposefully give in to many defeats in order to win one victory that he counts as his due.
“The centipede said to the snake, ‘with all my legs I do not move as you with none. How is that?’ ‘One’s natural mechanism,’ replied the snake, ‘is not a thing to be changed. What need have I for legs?’
The snake said to the wind, ‘I wriggle about by moving my spine, as if I had legs. Now you seem to be without form, and yet you come blustering down from the North Seas to bluster away to the South Sea. How do you do that?’
‘’Tis true,’ replied the wind, ‘that I bluster as you say. But anyone who sticks his finger or foot into me excels me; on the other hand I can tear away huge trees and destroy large buildings. This power is only given to me: out of many minor defeats I win the big victory; and to win big victory is given only to the sages’”. (Chuangtse -tr: Lin Yutang)
There is a kind of success that you have the whole world breathing down your neck and when you see their fawning manners you think, ‘O boy, is success this cheap to make their rank breath fall on me?’ Whereas success for some is that they can hear their own thoughts and do as they please and are not called to account at the end of the day. Only that we need to decide well ahead what success means to us.

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It was Adolf Hitler who once posed the question: “What is life?” He himself answered it thus:”Life is the nation.The individual is the nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the life of the individual is the Nation.”( Shirer:The Rise and fall of the Third Reich. p.933) I owe this article to Wm. Shirer’s excellent analysis of the Collapse of the Third Republic.
Individuals make up the nation and a House divided itself cannot last. So individuals do matter. Which is more important? a chicken or the egg? Or the city or a citizen? There is nothing that can stand by itself as far as anything that is organized to serve a purpose. Man makes the city and is in turn changed by it. One need only visit a city like New York to see the frenetic pace that keeps her denizens moving about. Whereas if I were to set the same pace in a place like Perar, a village in the Hills, Tamil Nadu, India I would be viewed by the locals as one wanting in intelligence. Man exudes a certain energy level, call it his intrinsic worth and when it connected with another it raises him to an altogether level. One only needs to watch a young man trying to interest a young woman. Seen how their making out hits an altogether new patch when another young man appears in the scene?In short synergy of an individual is infectious and it makes all provide their own and lo, the rules of the game will be changed once and for all. A New Yorker if he were to go back to his roots say a hick town will he not feel out of place? He has given his energy for a common purpose and has benefited from the common pool so much that he is changed forever.
The Nation is set up by so many individuals who may be migrant workers, citizens and ethnic groups absorbed into the mainstream for the development,maintenance and support of the Nation. No matter a Nation is doomed in the long run if these bodies of individuals are divided and pressed down by laws that are aimed to protect a a particular group.

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