Antisocial Media

I am having a phase of withdrawal from Facebook, and social media in general.

While the main reason for this is that I want to avoid wasting time on pointless browsing and facile discussions, I think that there is also another, deeper motivation – the amount of hostility and verbal violence I see there disturbs me.  Each and every opinion running counter to one’s political philosophy is a reason for some people to simply attack the proponent of that opinion in the vilest terms (that this is done mostly by conservatives is no surprise).

Vigorous debates with people arguing on both sides of a question is the sign of a healthy democratic society, and is to be encouraged.  However, our so-called media debates focus entirely on personalities, and all arguments are ad hominem.  For example, when Kamal, a prominent leftist movie director from Kerala criticised the actor Suresh Gopi’s decision to join the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, he was immediately targeted as a Muslim on social media (his full name is Kamaluddin, which was used throughout the posts insulting him to pinpoint his religion).  In such a scenario, any healthy debate becomes impossible, and the core issue is bypassed.

Another worrying factor is the “information” shared by people on FB as though this were the gospel truth.  Half-truths, hearsay, urban legends and outright slander are posted by amateurs who want to play investigative journalist.  This is immediately shared enthusiastically by their friends and people of a similar political persuasion until they attain a certain veracity in the minds of the uninformed, who never bother to check the credentials of the original poster.  (On the converse side, experts who are quoted on FB are sometimes attacked – I saw a post in which the poster urged the eminent historian Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan to go and learn history!)

Social media can be a live force – in the recent Jisha murder case in Kerala, outrage on FB caused police to wake up and launch an investigation with vigour.  But more often than not, it degenerates into a town square where bullies slug it out.

My reason for withdrawal is not that I am afraid of the bullies.  I am afraid that, the more I interact, I will slowly turn into one of them.

 

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Thoughts in the Afternoon

vanaprasthamThis year in August, I will turn fifty-two.

For the past few years, thoughts of my eventual demise have been persistent at the back of my brain. It is not actually fear of death – it is more like the certainty of an unpleasant fact of life which cannot be avoided; something you would like to put off as much as possible, but which will have to be faced ultimately. The aspect of death which makes facing it so worrisome is that there is no getting over it and continuing with life. Life ends there, full-stop. The entity that is “I” will vanish. (Maybe there is an afterlife: I do not know, neither do I believe.)

The thought of the total annihilation of consciousness is such a traumatic event to contemplate that we shy away from facing it. In the Mahabharatha, there is a famous dialogue Yudhishtira and the God of Death, Yama in the guise of a Yaksha, where he questions the prince on various aspects of life and the universe. In answer to his question on what is the most surprising thing in the world, Yudhishtira replies:

Ahanyahani bhootani
Gacchantiha yamalayam
Seshah sthavaram icchanti
Kim ascharyam itah param

(Every day, countless number of living entities go to the abode of the God of Death. Yet, the remaining aspires to live for ever. What can be more surprising than this?)

Indeed!

***

Most mythologies of the world have tried to grapple with the grim fact of death – mostly by creating some kind of eternal realm where life never ends. The Levantine myths, with their linear concept of time, have created worlds where souls are rewarded or punished according to their behaviour on earth – for eternity. The Eastern myths (notably Hinduism) with their cyclical concept of time have life renewing itself continuously: for a Hindu, death is the merger of the individual soul (atman) with the universal soul (Brahman) until rebirth, until ultimate knowledge frees it from this cycle. It is only in Buddhism that annihilation of the soul is accounted for; but then, for the Buddha, the soul does not exist anyway.

Ingmar Bergman says he made the movie The Seventh Seal to counteract a sudden fear of death which gripped him, and that the fear left him after he finished it. The symbolism in the movie, drawn heavily from the plague years, shows death in form of an unwelcome visitor – the grim reaper with his scythe. The iconic Malayalam writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair has called death a “jester with no sense of stage”. But what of the death that comes at the end as a welcome guest – a fitting finale to a life lived to the fullest? Should not be one prepared to meet it gracefully?

In this context, I am reminded of the first lines of the poem Rabbi Ben Ezra by Robert Browning. I read it first in my teens, when old age and death were far, far away, but those lines have stayed with me:

Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be,

The last of life, for which the first was made:

Our times are in His hand

Who saith “A whole I planned,

Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

The best is yet to be: here, the poet puts forth a startling theory – youth is made for old age! The carefree days of the morning of our life and the sweat and toil in the harsh noon are but preparations for a peaceful evening, when we can sit back on the easy chair with a drink at our elbow, contemplating the approaching night and eventual blissful sleep.

Needless to say, as a teen, I could not appreciate this philosophy. However, as I grew older, I found it reflected in Kazuo Ishiguro’s beautiful novel, The Remains of the Day; in which a butler, Stevens, contemplates his life on a motoring trip through the West Country. In typical “Jeeves” fashion, Stevens reflects on his life with his employer Lord Darlington who was most probably a Nazi sympathiser, the death of his father, and his unrealised love for the housekeeper Miss Benton. In his spare prose, Stevens muses upon his lost opportunities – his life could be well considered misspent. However, towards the very end of the novel, a casual encounter with another retired butler at the pier provides him with a totally new point of view. After hearing about Stevens’ disappointments of the multiple wasted opportunities of his life, of the memories of what could have been, he says:

“Now, look, mate, I’m not sure I follow everything you’re saying. But if you ask me, your attitude’s all wrong, see? Don’t keep looking back all the time, you’re bound to get depressed. And all right, you can’t do your job as well as you used to. But it’s the same for all of us, see? We’ve all got to put our feet up at some point. Look at me. Been happy as a lark since the day I retired. All right, so neither of us are exactly in our first flush of youth, but you’ve got to keep looking forward.” And I believe it was then that he said:

“You’ve got to enjoy yourself. The evening’s the best part of the day. You’ve done your day’s work. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy it. That’s how I look at it. Ask anybody, they’ll all tell you. The evening’s the best part of the day.”

Yes, indeed: the evening is the best part of the day…

Sunset_pier

***

Indian culture tells us that there are four parts to a man’s life: the four ashramasBrahmacharya, Garhasthya, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa. In the first part, you spend your life as a student, concentrating only on the life of the intellect: in the second, you live as a householder, taking care of the family and bringing up the children: in the third, children all grown up and all responsibilities discharged, you leave for the forest for a life of contemplation: and in the last, you become a virtual ascetic in preparation for death. I don’t know how implementable these are in the modern world, but I think this model is much more peace-enabling than the current one, where we keep on working till we drop dead.

I realise that I am now in the afternoon of my life. My son is in the ninth grade: in seven to eight years, he will develop his own wings and fly away to his own future. My time for Vanaprastha is approaching. Even though I do not plan to physically move away to the forest, for all practical purposes, I shall withdraw from social life to one of reading and contemplation.

Because evening is the best part of the day: I want to put my feet up and relax.

Grow old along with me.

By nandakishorevarma Posted in General

The Magical Landscape of Childhood

A couple of days back, I caught my son watching “Bob the Builder” on TV. He is thirteen going on fourteen, has the beginnings of a moustache under his nose, and has started reading Agatha Christie of late: so this was a sort of regression, and it surprised me. My son was acutely embarrassed.

This was one cartoon he used to watch in KG after coming back from school, as my wife fed him by hand. It was not the cartoon as such, but those memories he was trying to revisit. He had finally come to the realisation that his childhood was ending, never to return. It was a poignant moment.

I left him to it and walked away. I could feel my eyes moistening.

***

Does childhood really die?

I don’t believe so. There is a child in all of us – this is the world that writers and artists cater to. A world of make-believe, a world of wonder: because this is what childhood is all about – the sense of wonder.

Incidentally, I am reading the complete set of Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. For those of you who don’t know, this enormously popular comic strip was created by Bill Watterson and was syndicated from November 1985 to December 1995. Calvin is a six-year old with a supercharged imagination (sometimes dark and sadistic) and Hobbes is his stuffed tiger toy which magically comes to life when they are alone. Calvin is an attempt on the part of the cartoonist to imagine the grown-up world through the eyes of a seriously weird kid.

In one way, Calvin is the natural successor of Charlie Brown of The Peanuts.

The world of “grown-ups” is many a time incomprehensible to children – the same way, a child’s world is often a closed book to many adults. A great many writers, however, carry a child within them, and is often able to look upon the world from both angles – from within the child and without.

The most touching story in this regard is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This is a magical fable of a pilot (the author) crash-landing in Sahara desert, and coming upon a little prince who has arrived there from a distant asteroid the size of a house. He is on the lookout for a goat to eat undesirable plants such as baobabs on his tiny home so that they don’t overrun and engulf the place. The author draws a goat and cage to keep it in, so that the goat does not eat a rose which grows on the asteroid, the one love of the prince’s life. The prince is overjoyed and the author gratified because his drawings have never been taken seriously by “grown-ups”.

The beauty of this small fairy tale is the amount of rich detail it manages to pack in. On his travels, the prince meets many people on other asteroids; their homes are as small and limited as his, but their concerns are much more grand and global and, ultimately from the prince’s point of view, extremely foolish. But these grown-ups never realise that. The pilot, with his child’s imagination, can easily empathise.

Here, as well as in the Calvin cartoons, the child’s naiveté is used by the author to point out the stupidity of the adult world: the child has his illusions, but he does not consider them absolute. He’s quite happy to live in his little world provided the grownups let him.

The world becomes not only incomprehensible but frighteningly so in the hands of the horror writers – Stephen King’s The Shining comes immediately to mind. Danny Torrance is blessed (or cursed, depending upon how you look at it) with ESP, the ability to see into other’s thoughts. Isolated with his recovering alcoholic father and mother in the snowbound hotel Overlook, Danny is pursued by the phantoms of the evil dead within the hotel – they want him there as a permanent resident. For this, they try to get his father to murder him. Danny’s claustrophobic effort to escape the unspeakable evil pursuing him makes for a gripping story, but underlying the out-and-out ghost story is the demons that plague all of us: alcoholism, failure and domestic violence. Children see much more than we think.

This motif of the “lost child” is used by Ingmar Bergman in his movie The Silence, which also features a child trapped in a hotel in a strange country with an unintelligible language. The movie straddles the line between reality and fantasy, and is much more disturbing than The Shining. But the underlying theme is the same – the child’s eye view.

Moving on to more pleasant matters, there is one area of fiction where we adults can let our imaginations roam without feeling guilt – science fiction and its sister, fantasy. Here, all stops are pulled, and the author can take us millions of light years away to “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”. The trappings of science are often just props to build a rip-roaring tale. The suspension of disbelief, a gift of childhood, is assumed the moment one picks up an SF paperback (even when the author is someone like Isaac Asimov, who goes to great lengths to provide “scientific” bases for his fantasy worlds). The fact is that the child does it all the time – like in the movie Jurassic Park 2, when the tyrannosaur walks into the backyard and the adults are frozen in fear, the child takes a photograph.

***

My son is leaving this magical realm. This transition is painful, like all rites of passage: but at some point of time future I am sure he will understand (like I did) that one need not leave permanently. The land is always there – we need to only believe in it. It may be sometimes frightening, but that is also part of the thrill. We can be grownups in our “official” lives, and escape to childhood the moment the shades are drawn.

I do it every night.

By nandakishorevarma Posted in General

The Role of the Vidushaka

Seeing my posts on Facebook, people are confused as to which party I support, as I make fun of everybody. My standard reply is that I am a liberal leftist as far as political leaning is concerned, with an intense hatred for fundamentalism, be it religious or secular. However, that does not prevent me from cracking jokes at liberal leftists also – because I tend to see the absurd and ridiculous in all things, myself not excluded. This is the way I am built.

Miss Marple, Agatha Christie’s spinster detective, says often: “You know, I don’t usually find people either good or bad – just incredibly silly.” This happens with me quite often, especially when I listen to the pompous and self-important speech of politicians. Once you pull back from your emotional reaction and detach the words from their rhetorical context, the first thing I feel is a need to laugh.

The world is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think – Aristotle.

Yes indeed!

***

The Vidushaka is the “Court Jester” in Sanskrit drama. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

The vidushaka (clown) is a noble, good-hearted, blundering fool, the trusted friend of the hero. A bald-headed glutton, comic in speech and manners, he is the darling of the spectators.

Chakyar in his distinctive attire (image courtesy: The Hindu)

Malayalis are familiar with the Vidushaka in the guise of the Chakyar. The “Chakyar Koothu” is a famous form of satirical drama in Kerala, where the distinctively dressed Chakyar narrates tales from Hindu mythology on the stage, many a time acting out the various parts himself. The distinctive feature of this performance is the funny twist he gives to many stories. All the mythical figures (especially the villains of the piece) are interpreted in a satirical way. Even the great tragedies become comedies.

The Chakyar also makes fun of the audience, comparing them to mythical characters, sometimes addressing them directly and making pithy statements. There will also be plenty of social satire: mythical situations are interpreted in the light of current political realities. The significant point to be noted is that the Chakyar is beyond criticism. In earlier days, kings used to be present for the performance, and many a time they were openly ridiculed – but none of them talked back. If one does so, the Chakyar will no longer perform at that venue.

One can see how this must have served the purpose of feedback to the ruling class. The things people were afraid to say in public, the Chakyar told the king to his face: and he had to bear it with a stiff upper lip. And the humour took away any possible rancour which could have spoiled the situation. By laughing at himself, the king presumably was allowed revisit his policies with the emotional baggage stripped away. Because, as H. L. Mencken said: “One horse-laugh is worth ten-thousand syllogisms.”

***

I try to imagine myself in the role of the Vidushaka on the internet.  So laugh with me (and at me), while I laugh at myself and the world! Rest assured, it will improve your mental and physical health.

The Chakyar has spoken.

By nandakishorevarma Posted in General

The Enduring Charm of the Outlaw

While watching the Malayalam movie “Drishyam”, which is essentially about a man outwitting the police, I was suddenly struck by a thought: why are we entranced by outlaws? Most of us would prefer a country where there is a rule of law. We would not willingly support a thief or cheat in real life, and would like to see them jailed. Yet the Outlaw remains an abiding romantic figure in myth, legends and literature – and I am speaking not only about India.

The first outlaw I remember reading about is Robin Hood. I initially thought that he was a historical figure, and only later on came to know that evidence for his existence was very tenuous. The story of Robin is scattered over many legends, literary allusions and ballads; however, many of the details are standard knowledge.

Robin Hood robs from the rich and gives to the poor. He roams the Sherwood Forest in Nottingham, dressed in garments of Lincoln green along with his band of outlaws called “The Merry Men”: Little John (a giant of a man!) and Friar Tuck are two of the well-known members. He is a skilled archer and valourous fighter, and he fights against the evil Sherriff of Nottingham. His love interest is the Maid Marian. Apparently, Robin met his end when he was treacherously bled to death by nuns (bleeding was a common form of medical treatment in those days), and he is buried where his last arrow, shot moments before his death, fell.

Robin Hood is also portrayed as a loyal subject of King Richard the Lionheart, spoiling the schemes of his evil brother John to take over the kingdom. The Sherriff of Nottingham is sometimes portrayed as a henchman of John.

Not many people know that Robin Hood has an almost exact replica in far away from his native Nottinghamshire, in the backwoods of Kerala, other than Malayalis (who would know I am speaking of Kayamkulam Kochunni immediately). He is most probably based on a historical personage (19th Century), even though most of the stories about him have to be of legendary origin. It is surprising how many of his exploits closely resemble that of Robin, like a mythical cycle getting repeated.

Rob Roy MacGregor is another outlaw in the Robin Hood vein, although he was certainly a historical personage – a dispossessed Scottish landowner who fought against the English. I first read about him in a Walt Disney comic book, which later I discovered had taken a lot of liberties with history. However, the story enthralled me, and I was ecstatic earlier this year when I had chance to have a boat ride on Loch Katrine, on the shores of which he was born (they still show the place where his house originally stood).

A lot of these “outlaws” were branded thus because they fought against foreign occupation – in the face of an overwhelming military power, they had to resort to guerrilla warfare. Veera Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja was a heroic king-turned-outlaw in northern Kerala, who fought against the British East India Company from the forests of Wynad. His army consisted mostly of aboriginals. Pazhassi Raja’s story has thrilled countless generations of Indians, and has recently been revived by a blockbuster production on the Malayalam screen, with veteran Mammootty in the lead role.

It is a big question mark whether these people were actually outlaws or whether the occupying foreign power was the lawless entity. Taken in this sense, even Gandhi was an outlaw, although peaceable!

Some other outlaws are of purely literary origin, even though they have virtually become historical personages through popularity. Zorro is the example that springs to mind immediately. I first encountered him through (again!) Walt Disney, and immediately assumed that he was based on a historical personage. However, he is the creation American author Johnston McCulley.

Zorro is the type of outlaw who leads a double life: during daytime, he is Don Diego La Vega, nobleman and lover of arts – a pacifist and something of a coward. By night, however, he dons his black mask and jumps on his horse (“Hi-ho, Silver… away!”) and fights corrupt politicians and tyrannical officials in Los Angeles at the time of the Spanish rule.

This kind of double identity is common for most of these “righteous” outlaws – The Scarlet Pimpernel, created by the Baroness Orczy, is an English nobleman Sir Percy Blakeney who saves innocents from the guillotine under this alias. In fact, this character seems to be the original inspiration for all such heroes including Zorro.

Another literary outlaw is one of my favourites. Simon Templar, known by the name The Saint, strikes terror into the hearts of corrupt politicians, warmongers and international criminals in turn-of-the-century England and Europe. He is the masterly creation of the gifted writer Leslie Charteris, whose prose is a thing of beauty to behold. The Saint is an irreverent, humourous, swashbuckling hero (reminding one sometimes of James Bond as portrayed by Roger Moore) and Charteris’s language is equally funny – worthy of P. G. Wodehouse.

Simon Templar attacks, robs and sometimes kills (yes, he is not averse to committing the odd murder) villains; their money is distributed to charities or victims, after a certain amount for his upkeep. He always leaves a stick figure with a halo at the scenes of his crimes – it’s his trademark. In the middle of the series, however, The Saint changed from outlaw to detective after receiving a pardon from the Queen.

 

***

What is the charm of the outlaw? As he keeps on defeating the minions of law and order, why do we keep on rooting for him?

The simple answer is that these people are not really outlaws – they have been made so by a system which is evil and corrupt, and which is too strong to defeat in a straight fight. The outlaw is the common man, who only has his wits to help him. (In this context, the Hindi film A Wednesday! has to be mentioned: Naseeruddin Shah’s unnamed “common man” who takes on the might of the Mumbai Police became such a hit that the movie was remade into Tamil and Telugu.) Since most of us have felt the injustice of the system at one time or another, we subconsciously identify with him.

But I believe the matter goes deeper. There are some similarities between the outlaw in legend, history and literature, and the Trickster figure which is common in the mythology of the primitive peoples. The Trickster is a Jungian Archetype, who has been described as part of “The Shadow” – the part of our psyche which we prefer to keep hidden deep in the well of the subconscious. He is an agent of chaos, often maliciously attacking the established order – he is of ambivalent nature, both good-evil and cunning-foolish. He is an earlier god who has been submerged as human beings became more “civilised”.

If you look at the stories of the trickster cycle in many mythologies, he is more or less amoral – there is no righteousness to his actions. For example, see the character of Coyote in many Native American stories. However, as humanity evolved, god became more righteous, and the trickster changed into an actual figure of malice such as Satan, or got absorbed into the playful mischief of a god – Krishna being the prime example.

I believe that the outlaw also falls in this category. When society becomes too oppressively conformist and suffocating, we need the outlaw as an agent of chaos to free us, to remind us of the primitive freedoms we once had; that is why we lab-abiding citizens keep cheering him on while he rushes across our pages and our movie screens.

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

The romans had a god Janus. He has two faces on either side of his head – an old one on the back looking into the past, and a young one on the front looking to the future. Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, of gates, doors, passages, endings and time. The month of January is fittingly named after him.

As we sit on the threshold of 2014, I am thinking of this god: does he not represent all of us? Even though we exist only in the transitory present, the present is the only thing we cannot feel: our memories look back into the past, while our intellect looks to the future.

A year is an arbitrary thing. As long as it contains 3651/4 days, it can be started from any point of the earth’s orbit around the sun. The reason we have the Gregorian calendar is only chance, since Europe colonised most of the world after the industrial revolution, their systems were imposed. And the Gregorian calendar being the most mathematically precise helped its almost universal adoption in the modern era.

We ring in the New Year with festivities and rejoicing. These celebrations are mostly secular in nature. Apart from the universal human need to celebrate anything and everything, I cannot any reason for these: unless it is to be thankful that one more arbitrary unit of time has passed by, and we are still here.

As part of a new beginning, it is customary to resolve something for the New Year: getting rid of a bad habit, learning something new, etc. Given my miserable track record, I have not had any resolutions in the recent past. However, this year will be different – I have taken three resolutions which should be reasonably easy (!) to keep.

  • Start Reading the Mahabharata

    I have been planning this for a long time – read the Mahabharata in the original Sanskrit. I know the story, have read many condensed versions, read various types of analyses and interpretations… but not the original. It will be a Herculean task; I would need to brush up my school Sanskrit and stick to a strict regimen of reading, a certain number of verses every day. I don’t know whether I will be able to finish it in my lifetime. But I will definitely start – that’s a promise.

  • A Critical Reading of Das Kapital

    In my opinion, people (including myself!) often discuss and argue about communism without knowing the fundamentals. The book which started it all, Karl Marx’s Capital, has taken on the status of a holy book which can only be worshipped or reviled (depending on which side you are), and never analysed critically. I have set myself the task of reading and analysing this epoch-making work in the light of changes in the structure of production and consumption since Marx’s day – within my limitations, of course. I shall be sharing my viewpoints on this blog.

  • Read More of World Literature

    Like the average Indian booklover, my exposure of world literature is limited to Western Europe and America. I will make an effort this year to search out more and more books from the Far East, Africa and Eastern Europe. I have already started with Japanese literature.

    Happy New Year, all!

By nandakishorevarma Posted in General

Some Thoughts on Education

A few of my friends had shared the above cartoon on FaceBook.  Even though it is apparently poking fun at the Indian educational system, I found it applicable to all educational systems relying on passing an examination – you know, 39 marks means failed and 40 means passed.  It is almost like a cricket match where one run can mean the difference between victory and defeat: unfortunately, life is not a cricket match.

Of course, educational systems have improved since my school days.  Those days, there was a kind of unofficial class system in schools where the children were more or less expected to follow in their parent’s footsteps: so the children of the quarry workers and day labourers were delegated to the back benches as “dunces” because their academic performance was poor: a fact which they accepted, because in their chosen walk of life, education was not a necessity.  Many of them failed multiple times in various grades and were quite grown up by the time they reach the tenth grade; I remember that in my class, there were some guys with fierce moustaches and sideburns, and a few of them were not averse to trying their luck with some of the pretty young teachers!  They usually failed SSLC and dropped out, and most dutifully joined their fathers in their menial trade.

Things have improved now (at least in Kerala): parents have understood the need for their children to get an education, the general economic climate has improved and new educational tools and methods have been introduced into most schools (of course, our government schools have enormous room for improvement, but that’s another subject).  The farm labourer and quarry worker can today dream of their children becoming doctors and engineers.  However, has our concept of education improved?

Sadly, in my opinion, it is a no.

For most of us, it is the passing of an examination which is still seen as the test whether one is educated or not.  And the examination, in most cases, comprises memorising information: data, prose or equations.  The specific skills required for a profession are not tested – the onus is always on who comes out on top, based on his/ her skill at mugging up.

Another important factor is the professions which are considered important: the current ones in India are Engineering and Medicine.  Children are pushed towards these professions without any consideration for where their natural talent and inclination may lie: and the entry is through gruelling competitive examinations where children are forced to jump through hoops (many a time, parents too: I have seen most parents withdrawing from social circles once their children reach tenth grade).  If they fail to make the grade, they are beset by such feelings of inadequacy that often lead to extreme steps like suicide.  One wonders what the children would have accomplished if they were free to choose their own way, and allowed to study something which they loved.

The fish, forced to climb trees again and again, die from lack of oxygen.

Also, we have an education system which is cruel to misfits and mavericks.  I have been even more acutely aware of this since my wife became a Remedial Educator about 15 years ago.  The educationally challenged children who lack a traditional skill required for academic performance (for example, reading in the case of dyslexics) are often marginalised, even though many of them possess above average intelligence.  Einstein was a dyslexic – he was expelled from school due to under-performance – but all the world knows where he reached.  His was a success story.  However, I always wonder – how many Einsteins have we lost through an unimaginative and insensitive educational system?

Do not force the fish to climb the tree: take it to water where it can spread out and express itself.  Each child is special in his/ her own way.  Let us recognise that – and not lose any of these ‘taare zameen par’  (stars on the earth).

By nandakishorevarma Posted in General

Vidyarambham

After a hiatus of some years, this is my second attempt at blogging.  And I could not have picked a better day than Vijaya Dashami, when Indians traditionally do Vidyarambham  (commencement of learning), when we start out by writing the alphabet in rice or sand.

This blog will contain book reviews and general musings on literature and myth.  Since I have no credentials, these shall be purely personal and have no claim to scholarship.

Joseph Campbell said: “Your sacred space is where you find yourself again and again.”  This, in a musty cloistered room amidst books and thoughts, is mine.

You are welcome to join me, fellow reader.

By nandakishorevarma Posted in General