Library laid waste

Here is a link to an article by Aravindan Neelakandan on the death and decay of a nearly century old library established by the erstwhile Travancore ruler Balarama Varma.

The library, that was established to preserve Hindu cultural books, is being systematically laid to waste by the Hindu Religious Endowment Board, Tamil Nadu. Rare books are dumped on the floor, termites are feasting on the books, rain water seeps in and washes away the knowledge repository under the ‘secular’ eyes of the government of Tamil Nadu, India.

And the usual Christian evangelical activity in Nagercoil, its colonial backing based support structure and its continuation even 70 years after independence, are evidence to the gradual dismantling of the Indian state by vested ideological and evangelical powers.

I fail to understand how Saraswathi Mahal Library is able to function and preserve its rare collections despite being under the government while the HR & CE, yet another Govt arm, is not able to request the services of the former on preserving these decaying libraries.

Private universities like Sastra, Asoka, Jindal, Reliance and Chinmaya could also come forward and restore these gems.

I request the National Library Board of Singapore, the Library Authorities of Australia, the Smithsonian Libraries et al to make a plea to offer to restore the now decaying century old library in Nagarkovil, Thiruvattaar and the other ones described in this article.

I would go a step further and request the National Library Board of Singapore to offer to purchase the entire collections and preserve them in Singapore in its state of the art Victoria Street Reference Library.

India has lost much of its treasures in Nalanda and Takshasila to the Islamic invaders of the past. She continues to lose her current ones to the new-age invaders under the garb of ‘secular’ Hindu Religious Endowment Board in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Are authors any good in contemporary analysis?

Ravi Velloor is the author of ‘India Rising’ – a book on India from a Singapore perspective. It is a well researched book and showed the author’s efforts.

But the author is also an Associate Editor with The Straits Times.

It was Doklan crisis time. Ravi Velloor wrote an extremely below-standard article that said the following:

  1. China would attack India.
  2. Pakistan would join China in attacking India.
  3. Singapore Air Force, that has its training facilities in India’s Kalaigunda Air Base, should look at other options for its training. 

None of the above happened. The article was under-researched, alarmist and lacked details. 

How could the author, who writes a great book, write such an article that reeks of arm-chair analysis and advertises lack of clear thought processes?, I thought.

I got the answer. Arun Shourie, author of many exemplary books, and importantly of a book on China that brought out how and why Nehru prostrated to China and allowed the 1962 disgrace to happen, said during the same Doklam crisis, that India was preparing to get yet another slap on the face. And we know what happened in Doklam.

I got my lesson – Authors are good at hindsight, but, are not pragmatic and not worthy of contemporary analysis.

May be I am wrong. Point me to journalist-authors who are right in both roles at the same time.

Here is the article that I had referred to.

The book launch

The front office opulence floored me so much so that I didn’t realize I was glaring at the receptionist who had apparently asked my name for the third time. ‘Err, I am Ranga,’ I stammered, trying to hide my south indian accent in front of the suave north indian receptionist.

Looking at the office and the lady, I was determined to clinch the publishing deal. I didn’t dare to speak to her for fear of appearing coquettish. She ushered me to a lounge looking waiting room where I was given a cup of tea. Why did the tea taste so out of the world?

‘Finally I have made it,’ I said to myself not knowing that the lady had overheard what I had said. I had toiled for this day all through my life. How many rejections? I wondered what the publishing houses would do with rejected manuscripts. Would they bin them? I checked myself so that the inauspicious thoughts don’t creep in.

The meeting with the editor lasted 2 hours and ended in an envelope that contained a $100 cheque as an advance payment – whatever that meant.  I was moved and realized that I was moved when things started to look blurred.

I spent the next two weeks in informing Facebook friends on the impending launch of my book under the famed ‘Anshul Publishing House’ tag. My chest swelled to 56’ (Modi forgive me).

His Excellency the Governor is launching the book tomorrow at 4 PM in ‘The Ritz’ hotel. Please do come over. The book is titled ‘The Madrasi’. Author: Anshul Sharma. Publishers : Anshul Publishing House.

No, I won’t be in the function. Why? Didn’t you see yesterday’s obituary page?

My name is not Konnichiwa – book review

my name is not konnichiwaThis book consists of hilarious accounts of fellow Singaporean blogger Rodney EE’s travel travails.

Rodney, whom I envy, has been fortunate to travel to 44 countries and many more exotic locations in those countries. The countries range from Norway to USA to Vanatau to China to
Japan to India and everywhere else that the earth has land.

He strikes some poses on the great wall of china, gets chauffeured around in China, nearly gets to buy exhorbitantly priced carpets in the middle east, almost gets run over in Vietnam, gets his body turned around and squeezed multiple times a.k.a. getting massaged and in the process tries to learn what female tightness is, watches aurora in the company of polar bears, and tries to speak to the spirits of Shah Jehan and Mumtaz Mahal in India. And he explains all these in great detail with generous doses of humor and mirth.

If you feel down and are in need of mental rejuvenation, read this book.

If you love mild satire, you are in for a treat.

Christianity and Caste – book review

Brahmin Christians should adhere to the following :

  1. Should not eat out of the hands of Velala and Nadar christians
  2. Should not eat beef, fish and eggs in public
  3. Should sport a sacred thread
  4. Should Apply sandal paste on their forehead
  5. Should employ only upper caste Christians as their servants
  6. Should not eat or drink in public view.
  7. Should not be seen consuming alcohol.
  8. While on travel should eat and drink from behind a screen.
christianity and casteism
christianity and casteism

The above are the injunctions prescribed to Hindu Brahmin converts  who have become christian priests. And who prescribed these ?  Rev. Roberto de Nobili an Italian missionary in AD 1609. Don’t be surprised at the term ‘brahmin-christian’. These improbable classes did exist during the origins of Christianity in India and continue till date.

These and many more of such shocking truths are made evident by Prof. Sivasubramanian, the Marxist scholar and researcher in his Tamil book ‘கிறித்தவமும் சாதியும் ‘ ( ‘Christianity and Caste’)

You might think that the very purpose of getting converted to Christianity has been defeated if one still is a brahmin even after becoming a christian. That is precisely the case. Caste system has reigned supreme in Christianity in India, as it had been reigning supreme in Hinduism then and now. Caste has been a major classification even in Christianity. While seemingly opposing the caste system in Hinduism, christian missionaries have covertly and overtly converted hindus en-masse on caste grounds.

Prof. Sivasubramanian has done pioneering work in this regard. He exposes the depths of caste classification in Christianity and provides clinching evidence that spans 500 years of documentation. He is un-biased and objective and never deviates from the main point – Casteism and Christianity.

He compares the caste system in Hinduism and Christianity and concludes that caste behaves in the same manner, irrespective of the religion it is associated with.

He takes the case of a village called ‘Vadakkankulam’ in South Tamil Nadu, India and traces the history of the village church and the changes that happen to the church as time advances. We are treated to many pages of amazing evidence of the different caste based discrimination that was prevalent in the parish, how each community fought with the other on caste basis irrespective of the fact that Christianity was not supposed to have helped the cause of caste system, how different communities filed cases against one another and the case details and in the end, the stupidity of all that.

Vellala Christians file a case against Nadar Christians asking  Nadars not be seated in a particular place inside the church. Sakkiliar Christians appeal to the Fench / British authorities alleging discrimination by the Parish priest. Pillaimar Christians file a case against Nadar Christians asking them not to use their street. Prof. Sivam quotes as evidence many such cases and also provides detailed judgments to substantiate the prevalence of caste system in Christianity in India.

The learned prof also provides some interesting details on the methods used by the missionaries for conversion of caste hindus like the brahmins. He particularly quotes De Nobili, the Italian missionary who wore a sacred thread like the hindu brahmins. While hindu brahmins wore three threads across their body, De Nobili wore five – three to signify the father, son and the holy ghost and two more to signify Jesus’s body and soul. He ate out of the hands of upper caste converts, was vegetarian and sported a sandal paste on his forehead like caste hindus. Additionally he wore ochre robes and had a stick with a flag ( the stick is called ‘dhandam’ in Hindu ascetic order ). In every way, he wanted to resemble a brahminical sanyasi ( holy man) and thereby attract hindu brahmins into his fold.

De Nobili went further ahead and created a fifth Veda in addition to the four Hindu sacred texts. He called that ‘Yeasu Sura Vedam’. He wrote in Sanskrit so that Hindu Brahmins would get converted based on that feature as well.

Prof. Sivam’s book is a worthy read for anyone interested in the early origins of Christianity in South Tamil Nadu, India.

If you are encountered with a story that Christianity didn’t practice caste system and un-touchability, offer this book as answer.

The English translation of this book is available as ‘The crusade against caste domination in the holy family church at Vadakkankulam’ by Dr.Balasubramanian.

Churchill's Secret War – initial notes

Madhushree Mukherjee’s ‘Churchill’s Secret War’ is a damning account of the British Raj’s handling of India in general and Churchill’s handling of the great famine of 1940-43 in particular. Churchill’s hatred for India and disdain for the hindus are well known. But his lack of concern for the thousands of hapless Indians that perished in Bengal and elsewhere as a result of the man-made famine caused as result of massive export of food grains to soldiers fighting for the British elsewhere has not been adequately recorded in India’s history books.
Madhushree’s well researched book provides un-deniable insights into the period when India was plundered for the final time by the British.
A sad read that makes one’s blood boil considering the opulence and wealth that Britain and the other western powers exhibited for a long time as a result of the loot from their erstwhile colonies.
Detailed review once I overcome the melancholic effects of the book.

Churchill’s Secret War – initial notes

Madhushree Mukherjee’s ‘Churchill’s Secret War’ is a damning account of the British Raj’s handling of India in general and Churchill’s handling of the great famine of 1940-43 in particular. Churchill’s hatred for India and disdain for the hindus are well known. But his lack of concern for the thousands of hapless Indians that perished in Bengal and elsewhere as a result of the man-made famine caused as result of massive export of food grains to soldiers fighting for the British elsewhere has not been adequately recorded in India’s history books.
Madhushree’s well researched book provides un-deniable insights into the period when India was plundered for the final time by the British.
A sad read that makes one’s blood boil considering the opulence and wealth that Britain and the other western powers exhibited for a long time as a result of the loot from their erstwhile colonies.
Detailed review once I overcome the melancholic effects of the book.

Why New York Rocks

New York amazes every time. The energy and the spirit of being on the move amazes me. I have seen this energy in Mumbai. But New York is special in that the city is without pretensions. People walk and speak fast and seem to hurry up even to the cafeteria. You get a sense of the world coming to an imminent end and hence push the food as fast as you can.

This does not stop with the cafeteria. The rush to the subway – the underground train network – is equally fast. People don’t walk; they sprint even on walkways. And the energy is contagious. You get on soon and start sprinting.

And I sprinted to ‘The Strand’ book store, one of the oldest and grandest that boasts of an 18 miles book line up. And boy, it was worth the sprinting. It sure had the 18 mile book line.

The Strand, NY
The Strand Book Store, NY

The book store starts from the outside. There are $1, $2 books on sale. They are the used books and are some of the books are too good to ignore. I spent 30 mins ogling at this treasure trove. There were books from 1920 to 2014. I was so mesmerized by this impressive lineup that I forgot to get into the store. I made a note of the books I needed to buy and stepped into the store.

Inside the store, it was magical realism at work. Virginia Wolf , Thoreau, Malala and  many others stared at me from their books. I moved to the second floor that had books on the art and architecture.

I stepped into the third floor and entered a Victorian hall, or so I thought. The air smelt of ancient books. The aroma of Victorian vintage was in the air. And then I saw shelves and shelves of classics that date back 100 years. From Shakespeare to Milton to Frost to Hardy to Edgar Allan Poe to Shelly, everybody was there, stacked in the form of leather bound and hard bound books. Many books were signed copies as well. Religion, Philosophy, Economics, Poetry, Literature and Medicine lined the walls in the form of yellowing books.

Vintage Books at The Strand
Greying and yellowing books of a bygone era

I was unable to take my eyes off many of those masterpieces. I took many of those and tried to smell them – a practice from childhood days. I seemed to feel the age of the book. In many handwritten notes of the erstwhile owners of the books, I tried to live their lives and feel their feelings. The ageing books transported me to times unknown. In the book by Churchill, I felt world war two happening. I thought I faintly heard bombs falling over London.

In a copy on Jewish Holocaust, I saw the shivering handwriting of one Mrs.Rosenthal saying ‘Gift to my grand children Robin and Mathew dtd 29 Nov, 1973’. I was one year old then. I just imagined the number of times the book would have been read by then. If Mrs.Rosenthal had grandchildren in 1973, where would she be now ? Why did Robin and Mathew give up this treasured copy ?  I was feeling history in my hand in the form of an ageing book. There were old copies of first person accounts of holocaust survivors and their flight to freedom in America and elsewhere. I never knew that so many books on holocaust existed.

I opened a 1903 edition of ‘History of Westminster Abbey’. I had indeed opened history. I was looking into the very page where the original owner would have looked in more than 100 years ago. I felt a presence near me. Probably the rightful owner was also looking into the page, standing beside me. I read a couple of pages and returned the book to its place.

When I was with history
When I was with history

There were many elderly people who were particularly interested in historical books. I saw a 70 year old gentlemen who, with a walking aid, was trying to reach out to a higher shelf to lay hands on some vintage book. What inspires this man, to braze the cold , walk with an aid and come to a book store, of all places, to try and get a vintage book ? The undying passion for books probably grows with age. The more addicted to books you are when young, even more addicted you would be, when older, so I thought. I helped him reach the book that he wanted and that turned out to be ‘Nixon’s Defense Papers’. ‘Nixon didn’t get justice, my son’, he said and walked to the counter to check the book out.

Vintage books in a Vault @ The Strand
Some original copies of Mark Twain and Shelly inside a vault.

I was astonished to see whole racks of books devoted to Nixon, Abe and Kennedy. How many authors have analysed the lives and times of the past Presidents?, I thought. While some focused on Jacqueline Kennedy and her affiliations, there were others that spoke about the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’. ‘The Killing..’ series on Kennedy and Abe was all over the place.

Much to the consternation of the wife in Singapore and emboldened by her absence in New York, I splurged on some rare topics and bought a bundle that included a comparison of Marx, Darwin and Wagner. Under the garb of buying for children, I made with quite a lot.

I shall write more on the books that I had bought in the series of reviews that I plan to write.

If you are in New York, never board the return flight before a visit to The Strand.

Did you have similar experience in The Strand or in any other book store ? Do share your experiences.

The End of Absence – a review

  1. Do you check your email every one hour or even within a shorter duration ?
  2. Do you feel left alone if your Facebook post is not ‘liked’ by at least 10 people ?
  3. If your Tweet is not ‘RT’-ed ( Re-Tweeted ) at least by 10 people, do you experience panic attack ?

If any of the above is true, then “The End of Absence” is for you.

Michael Harris amazes with this masterpiece. He talks about the absence of ‘absence’ in our lives. No doubt being connected has its merits but its de-merits merit attention.

Absence should also become part of our lives when we get to connect with ourselves. But in our zeal to be connected with all others, we seldom connect with ourselves. And that has disastrous consequences.

The post-1980 generation has become so used to the internet and the devices that they are seldom aware of a world out there that still continues to function normally without the necessity of internet. This generation would suddenly cease to exist if they are cut-off from internet.

Harris compares his life before and after the birth of internet and writes a compelling story of life with and without being connected.

The number of examples that he cites, the volume of documentation that he has researched, the number of people he has interviewed – all these amaze me as a fellow writer.

I am left wondering -‘What drives this humongous effort ? How much driven should the author be for accomplishing this feat of writing such a book that touches upon neurology, history, psychology and computer science?’

I am touched when he quotes from my favorite authors Henry David Thoreau and Wordsworth.

What if you read this book :

  • You would want to listen to your inner voice and correct your course of daily life.

What if you don’t read this book :

  • You would continue to exist in the virtual world oblivious to the real world and to the beings our there.
  • You wouldn’t know the difference between living and existing.

The Cubicle Manifesto- book review

Well, a marketing manager by day, who spends his waking hours working in a cubicle and leads a miserable life at a personal level by not even being able to pay attention to his wife and kid, turns a new leaf with the help of a computer virus. How does that happen and how does his life as well as that of his family and his immediate reports change is the crux of the story.

Very well written and lucidly presented, this short novel, if I may say so, is so entertaining and down to earth that any cubicle dweller would be able to relate to the content.

As the story progresses you begin to realize that you are the protagonist and the life that unfolds is that of yours. That is because of the manner of narration and sequencing of the events and real world situations that modern workers a.k.a. ‘Slaves’ undergo in the corporate world.

A must read for everyone in the corporate world irrespective of the position that one might be in. You will cherish the time spent in reading this book and who knows your life might be changed too, sans the virus.

The author ,Mainak Dhar , deserves a great round of applause from the cubicle dwellers of the world.