Ambedkar’s legacy

Rajnath Singh‘s statement “Because of the rampant misuse of the word (secularism), there  have been instances of tension in the society” was the second most hilarious thing I have  heard this week. The biggest misuse in recent times has been of words ‘Hinduism’ and quote ‘Bhartiya Sanskriti’ (the phrase never stops being funny) – we all know who is misusing them. Rajnath Singh also holds credits for the third most hilarious statement – that BR Ambedkar had never thought of putting the term ‘secularism’ in the Preamble as it was “in-built in the Indian system”. I mean, if it was in-built, the amendment only made it more explicit – far easier to understand. Right? Why is so much concerned about it? To think that this guy is our Minister of Home affairs! The statement topping the list of hilarious statements of the week was, of course, when N. Modi announced a ‘debate’ on increased incidences of intolerance. I mean what is supposed to mean by word ‘debate’ – is he denying any increase in incidences? Or, whether or not his government will take any actions? Ask him any questions and his answers are obscure party slogans; you will never see

Zeno had no conscience

(review of Zeno’s conscience, a novel by Italo Svevo First written on April 22, 2015) The comparison to James Joyce and Franz Kafka frequently made is a kind of throw off – Joyce was author’s tutor alright but both Kafka and Joyce is supposed to be difficult-to-read authors. Italo Svevo presents no such problem; it is actually one of most humorous book I have read in some time. Zeno’s Conscience is a straight forward story – correction, confessions of a man not in any way special. He has his issues – is an extreme smoker, jealous, pervert, infidel, indecisive, hypochondriac, failure in business, egoistic etc; but he doesn’t impress us anywhere. His life story is just too ordinary. Italo Svevo The book begins with a preface from his psychologist who has chosen to publish this confession to revenge on Zeno because later had stopped taking this therapy just when it had started showing results. Now, Zeno was in his very right to stop the therapy and psychologists code of conduct doesn’t allow him/her to publish his/her patient’s private information without later’s approval – the doctor could have lost his practice because of this revenge. This is one thing hard to

Stepping into madman’s shoes

(Review of ‘The Sound and the Fury’ , a novel by William Faulkner First read on August 24, 2015 ) “Caddy smelled like trees.” William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury) Hritik Roshan in a still from movie Guzarish There is a bollywood movie Gujarish about an ex-magician who meets an accident and is now suffering paralysis from neck down for several years. Finally he requests an amendment in law to make Euthanasia legal, so that he could kill himself. In one scene when he is asked if he wishes to say something before the verdict is given; he says he wishes to show a magic trick to the court. When it is allowed, his assistant brings in a box. The magician asks the lawyer of the state to volunteer, judge orders the lawyer to do so. The magician requests the lawyer to sit in the box and his assistant locks the door upon him. A few moments pass – as people expect magician to do something. He just sit calmly, till the lawyer starts screaming from inside the box. The magician starts talking about some random subject(weather) and thus further frightening the lawyer. After a couple of minutes,the magician

Morally Dead

(Review of Dead Soulsa novel by Nikolai GogolFirst written on September 28, 2015) Serfs in Russia were often referred to as souls which provides for literal meaning to the story. The symbolic meaning of title is easy to guess – people whose conscience is dead (in the story, they are mostly landlords) The first part reads as a light satire on Russian landlords and society. The tone is of gentle humor and conversational nature (often referring to ‘reader’ and ‘author’) and makes a fast read. Almost all landlords in the book are caricatures of their personality type – and so there are sentimentalists, stupid old widows, spendthrift bullies who are prone to lying, misers, intellectual without common sense, beautiful damsels just out of school with golden hair and cheek dimples and so on. Nikolai Gogol often leaves off telling-story to talk about a particular subject (servants, women, government offices, highways, horses, Russia etc) but mostly it is something humorous. Although it fails Bechdel test, it makes up for that by giving enough space to servants … And not to forget horses. Anti-hero It is when Nikolai Gogol finally started analyzing his hero, Chichikov that the book earned the fourth star.

Funny Noise

(Review of ‘Dead Noise’, a novel by Don DeLilloFirst written on November 23, 2015) Let us start with an analytical question – How many question-marks per page do you think an average novel has? The book made me curious. Anna Kareina has 1800 odd question marks in about 1300 pages; i.e., about one and half ‘?’ per page- same rate as that of ‘If on a Winter Night’s soldier’ while in Arabian Nights it is approximately 1.3 question marks per page. Proust’s Swann Song had a little less than one question mark per page. In case of White Noise, it was over 1200 question marks in about 300 pages. That is 4 question marks per page, more than doubled the rate in Anna Kareina, the highest contender here. And it shows, and shows enough for me to put in my mind the silly curiosity. I kept on wandering why there are so many questions. Is this a novel that asks unanswerable questions? Or is it some new literary technique to bring out existential issues? Or some kind of joke or satire? Or some kind of annoying habit that author thinks is cool? Has anyone else felt like throwing nuclear bomb

The Left-overs

(Review by Sidharth Vardhan of Death and the King’s Horseman: A Play by Wole Soyinka ) “Not I became the answering-nameOf the restless bird, that little oneWhom Death found nesting in the leavesWhen whisper of his coming ranBefore him on the wind.Not I has long abandoned home.This same dawn I heard him twitter in the gods’ abode.Ah, companions of this living worldWhat a thing this is, that even thoseWe call immortal Should fear to die. ” Wole Soyinka (Death and King’s Horeseman) It is based on a true incident and has in its roots, a Yoruba tradition that death of a chief must be followed by ritual suicide of the chief’s horseman because horseman’s spirit is essential for helping the chief’s spirit to ascend to other world (or it shall wander the Earth and harm people.) I think this explains the title. The king is dead and, Elsin, his horse-man is more than willing to kill himself. He feels duty bound to it – and would rather die than have his honor questioned: “Life has an end. A life that will outliveFame and friendship begs another name.What elder takes his tongue to his plate,Licks it clean of every crumb? He will encounterSilence

The Urgency

(A short story by Sidharth VardhanFirst written on October 5, 2015) “We have to be there as soon as possible.” That was objective. The idea was clear. It was never officially stated but it couldn’t be clearer – a natural deduction given the urgency everyone had shown would tell you that they knew it too. After all, it was natural to reach the destination as soon as possible. They all had to dive as fast. He did. He was really fast, ahead of them all. The others, it seemed, had lost their focus in chattering. He had just finished giving them fifth phone call – and they were still so far away. Moreover, it seemed from their tones that they think of him to be really pushy. He had reached there first, all alone and started waiting for them. The urgency shown at the beginning of the journey was still fresh in him, slowly turning into frustration with time. Why would they stop so regularly and start chatting when they were always behind? Was there the unstated rule that one must entertain oneself while on the way? But that didn’t seem to be the truth – you can’t be doing

The Monkeys by fire ; The Old Man in the Woods

(A short fiction by Sidharth VardhanA tribute to KafkaSeptember 24, 2015) We monkeys have sat by this ever-burning fire for generations because we are afraid to go outside the perimeter of its light into the dark. Although we have tried to look beyond into the darkness every day hoping to find something; yet all of us are afraid to go outside in dark. And this fear is not baseless, for whoever has entered the darkness has never returned. Thus this fire has a very central role to play in our lives. It has been there for as long as memory goes back into the past. One is often tempted to ask who created it in the first place – you can depend upon monkeys to let their curiosity rule them. While over the years, the organized efforts have been made to increase it by feeding wood and thus increasing perimeter of its light – one must add ‘quite successfully’; the question of its origins remain debatable. Some argue that it was always there – but the imagination finds it hard to deal with infinities. These days it is even contested that it was a result of an explosion. However, a

An Unwanted Friend

(A short fiction by Sidharth Vardhan First written on November 8, 2015) There is this man who seems to have taken the notion in his mind that I’m his friend …  which I’m not. To be honest, I’m scared of him, don’t like him, wish to run away at the mere sight of him. Still, he manages to find me – and starts telling me about his sufferings, he doesn’t seem to be able to talk about anything else. I found myself incapable of consoling him, though I do really feel sorry for him whenever he is around – I’m thus left sad without helping him an ounce.  His listlessness is contiguous, sometimes it makes me go without food for days. I guess you will understand when I say I feel frustrated with all this. And he is always finding me only when I would be alone. Not always, of course, I still find my moments of blissful solitude which as you know I treasure above all else, though those moments are becoming increasingly rare. Still, I’m always scared of him finding me and so continuously seek company. I find his pity – whether it is self-pity or pity on me

A Disease You will Love

(A review of ‘Love in Time of Cholera’ –  a novel by Nobel laureate  Gabriel García MárquezFirst read on May 16, 2014) Probably the only time that I will rate a book with word ‘Love’ in its title with five stars but there are very few stories so completely told – I love every single word in this book. From very first sentence Marquez captures your attention and starts a story that is like pure music, moving in perfect rhythm, moving between scenes in a perfect flow, so that you move through pages without stopping to think – the way you carry on listening to good music without trying to focus on lyrics. The tribute to love is obvious from the very beginning, “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. ” Gabriel García Márquez (Love in Time of Cholera) However, even the urequited love is better than no love at all. “It is a pity to still find a suicide that is not for love.” Gabriel García Márquez (Love in Time of Cholera) and later, “The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.” Gabriel García