Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas and ‘The gift of the Magi’: Sacrifice and joy amidst suffering.

O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), was a writer par excellence who could put across his message powerfully. It is indeed seen in the short story ‘The gift of the Magi’1 which is a story about a couple, Jim and Della, who love each other so much but are too poor to buy gifts for each other for Christmas because of the difficult times.

Even in trying times and the poverty which can’t be wiped away, the young couple decide to sacrifice the only things they truly own. Jim decides to sell his pocket watch to buy Della a comb set and Della decides to sell her beautiful hair to buy Jim a chain for his pocket watch. In every sense O. Henry makes each one of us think about what celebrations like Christmas are all about. Are they times to flaunt our wealth, or are they opportunities to sacrifice what we have for others?

Jesus makes a similar reference when he says that the contribution of the poor widow has much more significance than other contributions. It is important to understand how some people spend a part of their income and others have to make significant sacrifices to be a part of a celebration. In every sense Christmas and every other celebration should be just this. It should be a celebration of love, sacrifice and the importance of living beings rather than anything else.

Go here to read the entire story.

Picture from

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wishes for Christmas

Life is a mix n’ match of the good and the bad
It’s about just misses and unexpected kisses
The scales are tilted from one side to the next
Swinging in one feverish mishmash

One day you’d call me God and dog the next
You’d thank me for the rains one moment and curse me the next
Like a silent spectator I would get hit
In the violent cross fire and fighting

Then again I would be hailed during Christmas
Brought out from the manger into the glossy churches and homes
The cries of the children would be camouflaged by the hymns n’ crackers
The world would celebrate the celebration

What then is Christmas? Is it just me and you?
Is it doing good in a time of evil and closing wounds?
Feeding the hungry and sharing the loot?
Thinking how we can play our parts during Christmas?

Let there be peace, love and justice
Let human respect human and celebrate life
Let far become near and many, one
Let us congregate in the manger

Christmas wishes

Friday, December 19, 2008


(Picture: MailOnline)
I never really understood why?
Why shoes n sandals n slippers
Were kept out of worship and high places
Keeping our eyes on the shoes and not the idol

I thought they would scratch the marble n tiles
Making the investment a second fiddle
And take the shine off the fable
Leaving the heart in shatters of cradle

The light then shone from the box of rituals
Stark pictures of the shoe in flight
The powerful bowed before the powerless
Missing the target by a whisker’s helplessness

It then struck me like lightning
That shoes were kept out of powerful places
To save the powerful from acts of survival
Coming forth from the shoes of repulsiveness

(The poem is a result of the (by now famous) shoe throwing incident at President Bush and Dr. Rudhran who blogged on the same)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Time up: Stop writing!!!

We are running out we are told
Of time and opportunities galore
Socks they have to be pulled up
Equipped to shake away tranquillity

There’s no time for growing up anymore
We are born with fighting qualities you know
What is the need to test and grow
With all the fun and 20-20 in tow

Waiting and curing, that is but past
Today we build, tomorrow we blast
Who cares about nature and her cast
Tomorrow will iron out today fast

Time is but used now to measure our speed
Of what we can quickly achieve
Wiping clean our slow and steady life indeed
With fast and quicker laps to feed

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Humans are story tellers: The power of the narrative and the Mumbai attack.

‘Tell me a story mummy’, she said as she was being tucked in to sleep. And then her mummy did just that. Every night it didn’t matter whether the story changed a lot. Mummy just had to be sure that there was a twist here and a turn there. As children we loved to hear stories from our parents. Mostly our sweet mom’s would take the burden upon themselves to entertain us. It is a fact that we like and love stories, that everything of essence which is of value to us, is in the form of a story. Our scriptures, our history, our talks are all story telling.

The November, 2008 Mumbai attack has brought everything into the open for a reluctant but precise post mortem. The media joined the elaborate exercise only to realise that it could not escape from being the object of scrutiny. The allegations against the media are that it made the attack into a soap opera, it sensationalised this particular event while ignoring others, the emotion of the people was commoditized and it put the army and commando’s at risk.

I won’t go into all this but would rather like to talk of what humans like to do and want to hear. My journalism teacher Fr. Michael Traber would keep reminding his class that ‘humans are story tellers.’ Keeping the initial objection to this aside, we realised that it was indeed true. As preachers and teachers it helps a lot to tell people stories as they want to hear them and relate with them.

The coverage of the Mumbai attack by the media was also a case of story telling to entertain and make us think as well. The story teller has mainly two things on mind. One to make sure we listen. Two to give a message. For this, tried and tested narrative formula’s are used. The Mumbai attack coverage followed a simple formula. One, the attack itself, the hostages and the pain, tension and sorrow related with it. Two, the wait for justice through a saviour/s. Three, the coming of the saviour/s (in the form of the black clothed NSG commando’s). Four, tilting the balance again in favour of good as over against evil. Five, debating the lessons uncovered from the narrative. (This could take any form).

It is then true that after we criticize the media we should also look at ourselves. There is a saying in Malayalam which is translated as ‘What the patient desired and what the doctor prescribed is milk.’ So, we have to debate the collective responsibility we share in the running of our country rather than blaming one group after the other and then forgetting all about it again. It is also a time for studying the stories and narratives we propagate and whether they serve the purposes that we need or whether it is time to think about counter narratives and stories.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Achuthanandan: Yesterday’s hero, today’s zero???

(Picture: India Today: Saurabh Singh)

If ever the media needed a quote, he was there. If ever the media wanted a controversy, he was there. If ever the media wanted a winner, he was there again. Kerala is a state which is a table tennis match between the Left Democratic Front with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) being a major constituent and the United Democratic Front, with the Congress party of India being a major constituent. For five years the ball is in one court and for the next five years it is in the other court. There is no alternative.

Two years ago, it was the turn of the LDF to come to power. But the UDF was not willing to let go easily. The LDF needed a face, a sure score winner. The leader of the opposition, V.S. Achuthanandan and his one liners became the darling of the media. Achuthanandan was denied a ticket initially but the public outcry changed that. Not only did he lead the alliance to victory, he then became the only choice for the post of the chief minister.

In the more than two years, Achuthanandan’s defining moment came in the form of the Munnar action plan, where illegal land holders where evicted and illegal constructions where demolished. (Mind you the illegal evictions did not include the small land of the poor). One of his most trusted and controversial lieutenants was Suresh Kumar, a bureaucrat who helped him implement this action plan.

The rich and famous cried foul. The enemies grouped together to form a formidable alliance. The action had to be stopped and the plan was dismantled. Many of you would have been introduced to Achu mama (as he is fondly called in Kerala) in the context of the Sandeep Unnikrishnan controversy, where it was reported that Achuthanandan made a statement saying if not for Sandeep not even a ‘dog’ would look in the direction of his house. This after a so-called rebuff by Sandip’s father which also included the use of the three letter word. But Achuthanandan is much more than the three letter word.

In this context it is understandable that people inside and outside Kerala look at Achuthanandan as an insensitive, old, and foolish man who is running things with a coterie rather than in a democratic way. (His own party has come up with this allegation). In the haze of all these allegations and counter allegations, one must not forget that a majority of the people in Kerala saw him as the leader they wanted. He did what no one dared to do, by taking on the rich and the powerful in Munnar. In a matter of months he has become a monster.

The media are hand in glove with the powerful, be it the politicians or others. Many are created and then pulled down with a few words. It is a much larger plot which we should see through. Many are working together to pull Achuthanandan down and this is a result of this. Yesterday everything he said was good, because the media wanted him to be a hero. Today everything he says is quoted out of context, because he must be made into a zero. This is a construction in which the media also has it’s own part to play. We should go beyond the newspaper reports and see the truth of it all. I am not saying that politicians are good as a group. What I am saying is that this man needs to be seen in the context of something else and not on the level of a three letter word.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Shame (less)


How long will we celebrate?
How bad can we get?
Who all have to die?
Where will we end up?

Today I cry for my mother
My land and all the people
Women, men, children of all colours and castes
From all states and religions

I can’t say what is wrong and what is right
I won’t take sides and preach
But I’ll fight for what I’m worth
To prevent blood shed and destruction

What is a structure worth you may ask?
Isn’t it just lime and brick?
It is till our roof is slick
Intact with our blood, life and memories in sync

(Dec 6 is the anniversary of one of the most terrible days of Indian democracy. As we mourn those who lost their lives in the recent Mumbai attacks we should also make sure that the lives lost to communal violence should be remembered and worth their weight in gold. It also asks for a response from us to go beyond our religious, caste, class, and geographical identities and be more responsive to human life).

Friday, December 5, 2008


(Picture from Brisbane Times)

Serious and vilifying through tried and tested genres
Predictable and yet dramatic in presentation
Strong one day and fading away the next
Fighting for space and TRP ratings

Loves to fiddle in the muddle
Throwing muck on white mettle
Confusing and dividing right down the middle
Playing pied piper to all who are doodle

Tricking is indeed an art perfected
Used to arm twist the weak
And give a short in the arm to the strong
All the while making us cry wrong, wrong

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tera kya hoga kaliya?

(Picture from

The year 1975 has been etched in the history manuals of Indian cinema. That year Ramesh Sippy’s ‘Sholay’ (Flame or Embers) was released and ever since the movie set and broke records in India and all over the world. It grossed in atleast 60 million U.S. dollars and ran for five years consecutively in the Minerva theatre in Mumbai. Truly it is a movie which has been unmatched in it’s public acceptance.

The movie as such is about hero’s and one specific villain, Gabbar, played by Amjad Khan. He is on the one hand a dacoit, a rule unto himself and feared by the nearby villagers. In the absence of a rule by law, he himself becomes the rule and the law. My aim here is to see the commonalities between Gabbar and the present mode of functioning of the government in India by highlighting four critical dialogues in the movie. In the event of a public outcry in our country in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, it is noteworthy (in a satirical way ofcourse) how we can draw a similarity.

Gabbar’s henchmen get beaten up by two people (played by Dharmendra and Amitabh) and they come back to the dacoit's den with their heads hanging in shame. Gabbar questions them and is angry that they were beaten by two, whereas they were three in all. He points his gun at the main person in the three and tells him, ‘Tera kya hoga kaliya?’ (What will happen to you Kaliya?). Kaliya the dacoit answers, ‘Meine apka namak kaya.’ (I have eaten your (salt (literal)) food and remain loyal to you). Gabbar answers, ‘Ab goli ka.’ (Now, eat my bullet). After shooting all three men, Gabbar says, ‘Jo dar gaya, samjo mar gaya.’ (Those who are afraid (fear), will die. Death is imminent if fear overcomes you).

The Mumbai attacks have opened a can of worms. Everyone is blaming everyone else. But who thinks of the common person? The one who can’t even complain because of fear and lack of resources. The common person who is used in every election for votes and to stand in big crowds and clap for the leaders. The silent ones who listen to every bid of their so called masters. After a life long following and unrelenting loyalty, there comes the time when they need help from the ones that have used them so much. In true Gabbar style, the politician/leader will say, ‘Tera kya hoga kaliya?’, followed by the frantic cry by the commoner, ‘Meine apka namak kaya.’ After an eerie silence the leader says in total disrespect, ‘Ab goli ka.’ And then the electioneering will continue and people will be galvanised and ghettoised with the war like slogan, ‘Jo dar gaya, samjo mar gaya.’

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day

Luke 6:20-22
Blessed are you who (have)1 are (AIDS) poor , for yours is the (fellowship) kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who (have) are (AIDS) hungry now for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, revile you and defame you
For surely your reward is great in heaven (and earth)

Yesterday I was a fortunate person with friends and relatives
Yesterday I glowed with pride, my accomplishments did with me lie
Yesterday I dreamt of a life, of happiness, love and care
Yesterday I had everything…today I have memories of yesterday

1 Brackets mine.


(Picture by Anoop Negi)

What is a colour by itself?
Does it have a name or an address?
Will it by itself do anything or harm anyone?

And yet we give it different names and attributes
Attach it to violence and hatred one day
And peace and harmony the next

Huge is the weight we put on it’s head
Much more than it can carry on it’s own
Hanging in the burden of it all

When will we take our portions?
How will we weigh our actions?
Who will anchor the pain?

Colours will always be there
In shades of red and white and green
Taking on the responsibility which never was to be