(A short fiction by Sidharth Vardhan February 17, 2018) It is only because of King’s James’ personal dislike for dogs that nobody knows about Canis and Chien – for no accounts of our parents can ever be complete without mentioning them. When Adam and Eve were exiled; Canis and Chien – the first dog couple followed them, trailing not far behind them. When out of paradise, the dogs didn’t look back longingly to paradise.
(Review of ‘Judas’ by Amos OzThe English translation by Raquel García Lozano was short-listed for Man-Booker in 2017First written on February 8, 2018) On Hurting God There must seem something paradoxical to some of the religious folks in the idea that anyone could in anyway hurt God or his relative. They thus want to argue that such people who might have done something against God were, in fact, folks who just wanted to give the God (and relations) leverage to create drama or God made them that way for drama. Many versions of Ramayana would have you believe that Ravana, in fact, was a devotee of Rama and, all he did, was to get killed from same ( talk about Machoist love!). Bible said God made Pharaoh refuses Moses’ offers so that he could bring plagues to Egypt to prove his existence (and then they blame me for creating scenes!) a Borges version said Pharaoh was intentionally serving God by refusing Moses’ offers (and letting his people suffer and die). On Judas It is thus natural that a similar argument should be visited upon Judas by some of Christians. How could anyone betray Jesus? No, it makes more sense to
“Only an animal worries all the time about the next meal.” – Naguib Mahfouz 1. How could he judge her? Who was he to judge her? Hadn’t she been patient enough? Mariah still remembered how she had lost her son, her only child, and it seemed to have only increased her faith – perhaps exactly because her son was taken away. Once when she was a young girl, she thought how strange faith was – the very reasons – the loss of a dear one, floods ruining everything one owns etc that should cause one to lose one’s faith often end up increasing it. Her own life had a similar trajectory – she first gave a serious thought to religion after the death of her mother who was killed by her master’s whip and by the time her father died a few days later of starvation, she was seriously religious. He had managed to marry her to John in his last days thus ensuring that she won’t be left alone.
(A short story by Sidharth Vardhan November 29, 2016) Rama treasured these moments of solitude. Away from people for whom he was a god, he could be himself – a human being. ‘The war has ended’ he told himself but the thought refused to cheer him up. What, with all the lives lost? And in his goodness of heart, he was feeling sorry for Lankans too. After all, how were these Lankan soldiers any different from anyone who feels duty bound to save his house from invaders?
(Review by Sidharth Vardhan’Of Africa’ by Wole Soyinka First written on October 14, 2015) The title itself was fascinating to me. Not ‘Of Nigeria’ but ‘Of Africa’. Anybody who talks of thinking beyond political boundaries quickly gets my respect. Africa’s Political map – notice political boundaries are straight lines. “The rise of extreme nationalism, often developing into outright xenophobia, barely disguised under legislative formalisms that never name their real goal – exclusion – is a symptom of the increase, not decrease, of the we-or-they mentality that appears to be sweeping across the globe.” Wole Soyinka (Of Africa) He thinks that national boundaries in Africa are all fiction. Of course, all national boundaries are fictional; but in Africa the situation is made obvious by the fact that it is a fiction created by outsiders: “Boundaries imply exclusion, and it is undeniable that this tainted seed of guaranteed future conflicts on the continent was sown at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884.” The thing is made clearer if you were to look at political map of Africa. You would notice many national boundaries to be straight lines, as if drawn by a ruler. That is exactly what Colonial powers did in Berlin
(Review of Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore – 4*/5*) The word Gitanjali means devotion songs and these are exactly that: “I came out alone on my way to my tryst. But who is this that follows me in the silent dark? I move aside to avoid his presence but I escape him not. He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger; he adds his loud voice to every word that I utter. He is my own little self, my lord, he knows no shame; but I am ashamed to come to thy door in his company.” There is something so pure in the very concept of bhakti – the submissive devotion to god; something so poetical, that it shall touch your heart even if you were skeptic, atheist or simply indifferent, as can be found in Tagore’s collection of devotion poems, Gitanjali. Perhaps it is complete lack of self-ness, of pride – an effort to gain innocence of a child. “They (children) build their houses with sand and they play with empty shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds.” I don’t
(Review of Selfish Gene – a book by Richard Dawknis 4*/5*) “ There are more possible games of chess than there are atoms in the galaxy.” Sometimes science books can become unintentionally funny: “What is the good of sex? This is an extremely difficult question for the evolutionist to answer. Most serious attempts to answer it involve sophisticated mathematical reasoning.” One of stupidest criticism here on Goodreads of Adam Smith’s Theory of Wealth of Nations’ was that he made the human selfishness as basis of his theory. It was stupid as Smith didn’t invented that ‘selfishness’ he merely showed us how our economy was already based on selfishness of individuals. It is same here. In fact, in this case ‘selfishness’ is apparently selfish behavior of genes (‘apparently’ because genes do not make conscious choices, selfless ones just won’t survive) and any effects on the individuals are subconscious. Dawkins shows how selfishness of genes can actually bring out what, at first, may look like altruistic behavior among animals. Also, we need not be slave to our genes. In fact, we do resist behavior imposed on us by genes. The best examples are people who remain without children all their life, contraceptives,
(Review of The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Donigner, Rating 4*/5*) In his book, the ‘The God Delusion, Richard Hawkins debated about the undeserved respect given to religious issues. This, very same undeserved respect is responsible for the genuine resistance, this book has met. It is undeserved because no religion or belief can be shielded from criticism. Much of the fuss is however made by Hindutava whose political agendas will be badly affected if Doniger’s version of history gains popularity – specially the parts relating to Ram-setu and Ayodhya Ram Mandir. The so called danger this book is supposed to have brought on Hindu religion is only a red hearing to mask their own little interests. To stop any book from being read is wrong but even if these fundamentalists feel so protective of their little gods then why don’t they fight against such books like Ajaya, Asura or Shiva trilogy (or – well Chota Bheem)? That Penguin group should remove it,is something which is scary for all of us. Arundhati Rai’s letter to Penguin group is something I will never forget: “Tell us, please, what is it that scared you so? Have you forgotten who you are?”
(This was first written as review of Charlie Hebdo’s controversial cartoons on Goodreads on May 6 – I haven’t edited out the parts talk to Gooodreads people. It was 1* of 5* because Goodreads didn’t allow 0 stars) Okay, I have spent a lot of time in making this review stoic but still I can’t help the ramblings that are to follow. I think I stand to lose a lot of friends ere. I’m a skeptic very heavy leaning towards atheism and an outspoken one at that – I love the works that are critical of religious beliefs and practices. Two of my best treasured books are ‘The God Delusion’ and ‘The Satanic Verses’. In fact last time I went to cinema was to watch a movie that makes fun of practices of different religions. I do think that religions bring terrorism – all the major religions do, including Hinduism and Christianity. It is high time we accept it. If religious authorities want to take credit when a person takes name of god while doing charities they must also accept blame when the same person takes name of god while killing someone. Also, no one it isn’t the west only
(Review by Sidharth Vardhanof Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel ‘The Idiot’First written on April 25, 2015’) An ideal idiot Most of my favorite characters are either pure evil or complex anti-hero type; the stereotype Mr. Goody-two-shoes has never appealed to me; however Prince Myshkin, the idiot in the novel, is now going to be an exception. He has suffered from idiocy due to epilepsy (FD too suffered from epilepsy attacks) all his childhood and early youth – and thus gets the technical title of ‘Idiot’. Perhaps it was due to this idiocy that he has not adopted the so-called common sense – the ‘normal’ way of looking at the world which is formed by slow corruption of our sense of compassion on pretext of what is called self-defense in a cruel world. Myshkin is full of compassion – which is very clear from stories he tells (the stories you tell, tell a lot about yourself.) His goodness (unlike Evegeine’s calculated goodness and Ptitson who allows himself only small evils) makes him indifferent to harm being done to himself if it means happiness of someone else. If you try to insult or hurt him; he would feel sorry for circumstances that made you do