Mark Zuckerberg’s East India Company

21 Apr

Mark Zuckerberg’s sudden passion for the upliftment of the masses to the benefits of connectivity and access to the enlightening services of Facebook is not merely to ‘include’ everyone in the Internet.  The undeniable fact is that he personally stands to benefit from the ‘inclusion’ of millions of young users who sign up for Facebook.

“With respect to the benefits which the British government actually confers on the people of India, and that those benefits have been uniformly progressive, there hardly appears to be an dissentient opinion. Let them consider whether the consecutive improvements which have taken place in the internal policy of that state, and which have succeeded each other with a rapidity scarcely precedented in the social history of mankind, could possibly have been brought to pass, if the grand operator of reform had been a living subject bound with a lifeless carcase…”1

– Right Hon. Charles Grant, President of the Board of Commissioners for the affairs of India, 1831

“This is why we created, our effort to connect the whole world. By partnering with mobile operators and governments in different countries, offers free access in local languages to basic internet services in areas like jobs, health, education and messaging. lowers the cost of accessing the internet and raises the awareness of the internet’s value. It helps include everyone in the world’s opportunities.”

– Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive Officer, Facebook, 2015

Both the illustrious gentlemen whose quotes appear above have something in common.  While they cry for the world’s poor and the downtrodden with philanthropic fervor, they shrewdly fail to mention a salient fact: that they personally stand to gain immensely from the monopoly which they attempt to foist under the garb of philanthrophy. 

El_Peligro_de_FacebookDuring the early 1800s, the East India question was a much debated topic in Britain and the crux of the debate was whether to confer monopoly trading rights in India to the East India Company or, as some proponents of free trade argued, to allow other mercantile companies from Britain to trade with India.   Charles Grant argued that considering the immense social benefits that British India enjoyed through the ‘grand operator of reform’ viz. the East India Company, and as an organ of the British government augmenting the British military with its own sepoys, the Company should be allowed to freely trade in India as a monopoly.

The Right Hon. Charles Grant served as Chairman of the British East India Company (also as a member of the British parliament).  His vigorous arguments in favor of restricting free trade to India and granting monopoly to the ships of the East India Company was not because of the benefits conferred on Indians as his speeches would indicate.  The simple truth was that he stood to personally gain from the profits of the East India Company.

Mark Zuckerberg’s sudden passion for the upliftment of the masses to the benefits of connectivity and access to the enlightening services of Facebook is not merely to ‘include’ everyone in the Internet.  The undeniable fact is that he personally stands to benefit from the ‘inclusion’ of millions of young users who sign up for Facebook. India is too huge and promising a market for Facebook to waffle about with notions like ‘net neutrality’ in 2015 (as ‘free trade’ was to the EIC in the 1800s).  

Edmund Burke once lamented the excesses of young officers of the East India Company: “(East India Company officers) drink the intoxicating draught of authority and dominion before their heads are able to bear it, and as they are full grown in fortune long before they are ripe in principle, neither Nature nor reason have any opportunity to exert themselves for remedy of the excesses of their premature power.”2

Had Burke lived in 2015, there is little doubt whom he would have addressed these words to. 

1  Source: “The Views and Opinions of Some Eminent and Enlightened Members of the Present Board of Control”, London: James Ridgway, Piccadilly, 1831

2  Source: “On Empire, Liberty, and Reform: Speeches and Letters of Edmund Burke”, ed. David Bromwich, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000

Written by: Gokul


Charlie Hebdo – The Laugh of Anarchism

26 Jan
This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.Translation from: by: Gokul
J sir,
When the attack on Charlie Hebdo happened, Louis was at the Paris airport; He was returning to Kenya after Christmas holidays and was waiting at departures after checking in.
The airport had become tense and security had been tightened.
Louis works in Kenya for a rose breeding company.  The company has leased a 2500 sq. meter greenhouse from us. He comes once every two weeks to supervise.
When he came this time, after conveying regrets, I was conversing with him for a few minutes. Some of the things he said were surprising.
When I asked what would be the population of muslims in France, he said the government doesn’t perform census religion-wise.  He said that it is a crime to inquire someone what his religion was and if someone asked it, one can file a case in court against him.
I asked him intentionally – ‘Louis, is the Government rethinking this after this incident – that such a census is necessary?  Are people distrustful of Islam?’.
He immediately replied – ‘No, there is no connection between these people and Islam the religion.  These are groups with a nut loose in their heads!’  He spoke with pride about the Paris parade.
Dear Venkatesh,
I am a bit frozen after reading all the stuff written on the Internet about Charlie Hebdo. Hence I haven’t said much.
European nations are not like us.  They have spilled blood for centuries to reach modern democracy, secularism and freedom of speech etc. They know the strength and value of these ideals.
Two hundred years of serious experiment in democracy can be considered as Europe’s contribution in civilization terms.  Europe’s politics which is focused on commerce, with an objective of ideological domination should not be considered along with this.  Many people commit this mistake.
In truth, there are two Europes.  At the same time when we oppose imperial Europe, we have to respect the Europe that was the cradle of modern democracy.  Each one opposes the other.  It is with the thoughts that democratic Europe offers us that we oppose imperial Europe.
It is my opinion that democratic Europe is the primary ideal for the modern world.  Even today, the writers and thinkers whom we worship come from there. We may disagree with them. Oppose them. We can confront their prejudices. But they are our pioneers.
In the course of such developed democracy, there are several levels.  There are two aspects which we haven’t still grasped.  One – extreme individualism. Two – anarchy.  It may take us even a century to reach there [At the current pace, it seem unlikely].
Anarchy can be said to be the height of an outlook of individual freedom.  The first principle is that every individual has the complete freedom to pursue his happiness, to quench his intellect and to fulfill his soul.
What stops an individual from completing himself thus are groups which identify him through caste, religion, race, language, culture, morality and government. They should be present adequately. Otherwise, the individual will not be safe.  But if they are not stopped and controlled by equivalent forces, the individual cannot be independent.
That is the reason why Anarchist thought is strong there.
Anarchism is a very sacred outlook.  It is a state of opposing everything that is established.  It is a state of renouncing everything that is organized.  This is not feasible for everyone.  One can see many who pretend to be anarchists.  But when their beliefs are hurt, their anarchism will fumble.
[For example, the devotees of EVR.  They call him an anarchist. And call themselves using the same epithet. They will garland the idol of Ram with slippers. But if a religious fanatic says he is going to hit EVR with a slipper, they will boil over with anger.  These are another sort of religious zealots. They worship another deity, that’s all.
A true anarchist lampoons everything.  Please underline the word ‘everything’ three times.  Its language is always mockery.  One who pokes fun at others will permit the same to be done to him.  He will upset everything that is holy. He will shock.  [The reason why we find many Charlie Hebdo cartoons atrocious is because the boundary of shock over there is several feet over our heads]
Travesty without any restrictions or boundaries alone can qualify as anarchism.  Because, once we admit restriction or a boundary, there is a necessity for an organization or principle which applies it.  Once it is accepted, anarchism ceases to exist.  Advanced democracies permit such a right and defend it.
This is the unavoidable peak of democratic civilization.  We have not been introduced to it yet.  Even our constitution has not permitted it yet.  We haven’t come together as a democracy yet.  Here we have very few ‘individuals’.  We are ruled by mob mentality.  That is the reason why modern anarchism is unfeasible now.
Hence we go up to anarchists and preach them to ‘maintain basic courtesy’.  We request censorship. We state that social harmony should not be harmed.  We do not even realize the simple fact that merely doing these will make them non-anarchists.
Many artists I respect are anarchists.  Great thinkers have been anarchists too.  Gandhi had a tinge of anarchism always.  That was the reason why many people considered him a madman who talked about impossible things.  Gandhi had direct contact with many anarchist thinkers who were evolving then.
I would rate M. Govindan as an anarchist.  That characteristic of his was present in P.K. Balakrishnan as well as Aatroor Ravivarma.  Govindan and Balakrishnan were alienated and were sent to private hells. Aatroor lives within his cave of cynicism.  Only this much is possible in India.
But it was possible for Nataraja Guru and Nithya Chiathanya Yati to live with their anarchism within Hindu religion.  The Hindu heart accepted all his jests and lampoons. It also took in his student Vinaya Chaithanya, a complete vagabond and even an international vagabond like Gary Davis.
It is because of the philosophical mindset here that has lasted from ‘The whole world is our village and all our brethren’ [a quote from an ancient Tamil text] to ‘We are kin and kith to everyone’.  Its the life of sitthars [ascetics] who live among us.  There exists a world around us whose inhabitants think that even getting an identity card or purchasing a bus ticket is not done.  It is an enlightened state which summarizes Indian civilization.  Our hearts permit this only in the realm of religion.  ‘They are all sitthars’, we say and move on.
In my fiction, I have created such completely anarchist characters.  Sudukattu Sitthar in Vishnupuram, Neeli in Kottravai, Ayyar in Kaadu.
Charlie Hebdo is an anarchist magazine.  There is nothing that has not been lampooned there. Not only racism, even righteous anger against racism will be lampooned there. Both right-wing and left-wing are ridiculed.  Everyone will brand it as the voice of their opponent.  It ridicules not only France’s secularism and democracy but also its anarchism.
Like many in Tamilnadu, I didn’t come to know about this magazine through this incident.  In India, the only state which permits anarchism and its outlook of complete ridicule, at least to an extent is Kerala.  Or it did till the 90’s.  Even though Bengalis have a better intellectual environment than the Malayalees, there is no space for ridicule there – due to left-wing brutality.
In the 1980’s there was a magazine in Kerala called Pakkanaar.  Complete satire.  Left, Right, Center, Across, Vertical – none were spared.  I remember a cartoon in which it mixed two important slogans of Kerala at that time.  With a sacred irumudi [Translator’s note: head gear of devotees on pilgrimage] on his head, a pilgrim shouts ‘Inquilab!’.  Behind him, with a red flag another man echoes ‘Saranam Ayyappa!’.  Many of its parodies were below the belt.
When the thorn of Pakkanaar stitched them personally, sermons like ‘The best satire is that which doesn’t hurt anyone!’ came up.  At that time, Charlie Hebdo was pointed out.  But Pakkanaar stopped.  But even today, its legacy continues on in television.
Even the name Pakkanaar can be stated as an example.  He was one of the twelve sitthars of Kerala.  The heroes of Kerala’s civilisation, they are called the twelve offsprings of a Paraichi [a low caste woman].  He is the second among the twelve.  A malayalam word ‘Thanthonti‘ fits him perfectly  – [he who behaves as he chooses]
Two sorts of stories exist about him.  High quality stories with philosophical content. For example, he made four beautiful winnowing fans. The villagers asked him ‘Why four?’.  He said ‘One, for selling and repaying his debts. The second, for selling and purchasing food. The third, for use by his wife and self. The fourth, for throwing away.’  The funny part is that story about winnowing fans is performed as a ritual for Pakkanaar in some Bhagavathi temples.  Out of four winnowing fans, one will be thrown away with a laugh.
Another sort of story revolves around in folklore. Bhagavathi manifested to bless Pakkanaar with three eyes, sixteen hands with a garland of skulls in a dreadful spectre. ‘Hey you devotee, what boon do you desire?’ she asked. ‘I haven’t seen a perfect girl till now. Show yourself with genitals surrounding your entire waist’ said Pakkanaar. Devi ran away in shame. [In folklore, they call this ‘araikkum suttrum pooru‘.  Village fables state that all women have it though only one is visible to the eye – and that for Bhagavathi all are visible. The learned of Kerala refer to this as ‘ACP’.]
The magazine that named itself ‘Pakkanaar‘ marked a beginning correctly.  Even Keralite society hadn’t matured that much yet.  But it was possible for an utterly anarchist comedian like V.K.N to arrive in Malayalam literature.  Had there been such a writer like VKN, Tamilians who always exist in an emotional state would have killed him with blows.
Charlie Hebdo is a magazine which exists in the far distance which we have to reach yet. France is a magnificent peak which it has reached through great experiments with democracy.  We are evaluating it from within an under-developed democracy, wandering with half-tribal mindsets. We lecture them.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo is an attack on the peak of humanity committed by the most backward section of humanity.  Indians like us [Hindus, Muslims, Christians alike] are living in this dark space.
Today, those who call themselves orientalists, like Tariq Ali write many things.  An important word which apologists for fundamentalism use is ‘But’.  There is nothing more double-faced than ‘I condemn, but…’
‘There are over fifty lakh muslims in France, they get offended’ is one argument.  It is only justice to say that they should realize the history and civilization of the country they live in and reach its heights.  There can be nothing more nonsensical than to expect that France should sacrifice the heights that it has reached shedding blood and tears during its two centuries of experiments with democracy.
I saw another ugly article. It extolled the muslim security person who was killed in the terrorist attack and that he as a hero died to protect the freedom of speech of Charlie Hebdo even though it offended his faith.  That security person was doing his job and was killed on duty.  He himself may not have realized what was happening. They are denouncing French values by deifying him.
Through what sort of deceptions does our mind work!  Maybe we do not achieve many things merely because most of the food we consume goes to provide for such deception.
Even now the magnanimity with which they say that census by religion should not be conducted, is an expression of their belief in democracy.  Gandhi himself would have said the same thing.  It may cause temporary complexities. But it can only be called noble. It can never succumb to defeat.
European societies which stood with Charlie Hebdo offer a great hope for the world. It is equal to the promise that modern Europe offered in the seventeenth century to the rest of the world.

New Year’s Resolutions

1 Jan

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:

Translated by: Gokul



I occasionally read New Year’s resolutions, birthday resolutions etc. Most of these usually start with self criticism/mockery about unfulfilled resolutions from previous years. It will be followed by further new resolutions. If the person has crossed a few such resolutions or if he is middle-aged, then the resolutions will smack of improbability.

I was like this during my youth. I used to sigh at the sight of brand new diaries purchased in January, lying unused in December. Nowadays, I do not even remember the first of January. This year, I had to speak about this as a radio station requested me. The question was ‘Were you able to achieve your last year’s resolution?’

I replied ‘I do not take up any New Year’s resolutions.’ The questioner was a young girl from Kerala. ‘The let me rephrase the question. Have you completed what you planned for last year?’ I thought for a while and said ‘In the last 25 years, I have never failed to complete what I set out to do. I have never abandoned something that I started.’

She was quiet for a while. Then she laughed ‘Jeyetta, isn’t this a very tall statement?’ ‘Is it so? I really looked back after your question – whether I have abandoned something midway. No, I haven’t.’

I may have postponed a few things. Because the time was not ripe for it. I may have stopped something after realizing the path chosen to do a task is wrong. I may have expanded on a few tasks. But I have not failed to complete something having planned to complete it within so many days. I have completed even huge projects. I have been with the spirit of activity every single day. I told her that. ‘Given my nature, I cannot be peaceful with a sense of in completeness’. She said she will broadcast that.

In reality, the problem with those who take yearly resolutions is that they are not fired with the zeal of activity throughout the year, they do not plan their activity well or they do not realize their own limits and possibilities. If someone considers a New Year or a birthday as a new beginning, it means that he has not begun anything really. For someone who has begun something, isn’t Life really a flowing continuity of zeal and activity?

There can be only one beginning in life. Once begun, life is merely progress. There is nothing more farcical than beginning life anew every year. That is hesitation at the startline, rocking back and forth on the swimming pool plank, hesitating to jump.

In truth, it is dangerous as well. How are these resolutions adopted? They arise from the self-pity that one hasn’t done anything that one thought of in the last year. Hence grand resolutions are taken up with gusto. They do not see whether the necessary conditions exist for their accomplishment. There are no clear plans to achieve them. One’s own abilities are not taken into account. No effort is made to list one’s shortcomings and attempt made to remove them. Most resolutions are merely ‘Do you know who I am? I will nail that thing easily!’

As a result, these resolutions do not realize. After a few years, they console themselves ‘How many times have I told myself this? Nothing will happen. This is my fate!’. That is the end, then there is no progress. Life ends.

What is called beginning? Finding out what to do in life. And then deciding to accomplish it. Its very basis is to estimate one’s own abilities. We usually over estimate ourselves a little bit. But when we estimate ourselves exceedingly high, usually we are aware of that. We should not make future plans based on such estimates. The first step we take towards it is what I call the beginning. Mine happened in Kasargod in 1986. I have never looked back.

Our dreams may be big. Dreams are themselves big. They should be frothing within our internal selves all the while. Otherwise life doesn’t become sweet. But we should be aware of the distance between one’s dreams and practical goals. Our dreams are an internal river. Our plans for the future should be grabbed as a handful from this river.

In truth, it is not the accomplishment of these goals that is important. It is Life. To fill this period of time that we have received as life, with happiness. Happiness is not in achieving something, not in winning something, but in Being completely. A successful life is that in which we fill our life with activity which gives happiness. Looking back, being able to say – yes, I am content. Goals and plans are for this purpose alone. They are required only to prevent Life being wasted in mundane things and being frittered away.

A life with a goal, which progresses according to plans towards the goal will be filled with zeal and activity. There are few things in life which keep us as content and happy as having the zeal for activity with a positive outlook. That is why activity is important. In reality, nothing of consequence will be lost by our doing or not doing something in life. What we do is for our fulfillment alone.

A positive outlook has to be re-emphasized. Activities done as a retort or against another thing never yield contentment. Mostly they do not last long as well. There are people who start something as a response to something, find themselves in it and reach a positive state of mind through it and move towards contentment. But starting something completely negatively, as a challenge against somebody or something and continuing it for long time and winning it – these are things that cinema teaches us. It cannot happen in real life.

People with a negative mindset will lose interest in it after some time. Because it doesn’t give the pleasure of activity. Everyday it adds to ego and anger. As a result, it will kill ability. It makes one weak and sabotages one’s activity. We really do not pursue things for long if they do not yield happiness to us. It results in a defeatist attitude. We become bitter and angry, prone to abusing and mocking others.

Those with a negative mindset will be observed by others for problems. They will support them in a few instances for a few reasons. But mostly, others will studiously avoid them. The net result will be loneliness. That loneliness will push one towards more bitterness. Hence, one should never mind about enemies or those who are jealous about us. They are much smaller than us. When we contest them, we become small as well.

Anybody possessing zeal for activity will suggest the maxim that any activity should be undertaken only for joy. Any activity can also be converted to a joyful one as well. It only needs to be approached with a positive frame of mind and a sense of enjoyment. Realizing its subtleties will yield the joy of knowledge. Small day to day victories will yield the joy of accomplishment. That alone is enough.

I myself realized that one should not perform any activity for short term gains. With such an objective, anything big or long lasting cannot be achieved. Working towards a small goal merely causes agitation. Even small setbacks cause dejection and make activity a torture. Activities that are undertaken for joy alone can be continued for a long period of time. Only such activities can become successful.

There is something which qualifies me to speak about all this – the fact that I am successful in my field. I am stating merely how I conduct my activity – not what I saw, heard or learnt from others.

Hence we should ask ourselves four questions 1) What activity will make me really happy? 2) What activity do I have the capacity to do? 3) What are my shortcomings in that? 4) What is my plan to do it? Begin. Continue throughout your life. Beginning like this is a sort of birth. It is a birthday resolution. This one is enough.


The Struggle against ‘Alcoholism’

9 Mar

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:

Translated by: Gokul



You might have read in the news about a Gandhian named Sasiperumal who fasted till death asking for complete prohibition. I expected you to write about it. Is it right to compel a government by fasting for such a demand? Is it Gandhian? Is it not interfering in the personal rights of another person?

Moreover, can we stop alcohol in today’s situation? Is it practical to have complete prohibition? Fasting like is without considering these aspects is a publicity stunt, isn’t it?

Ganesh Periyasamy.


Dear Ganesh,

Whenever a social movement happens, I find many people who find a strange happiness by writing something or the other against the movement on the internet. Opinions in the likes of – ‘That movement was wrong’, ‘Had it not been like this and etc., we all would have come to the streets and we would have settled the matter once and for all!’ etc.

When Anna Hazare started his movement against corruption, a majority of people found petty faults in his movement and abused him. They chuckled that he had failed. But none of them even lifted a finger after that against corruption. They couldn’t even gather ten people on the street after that. The Left-or-Right political parties here cannot take even a small step against corruption. Those who sided with them and criticized the people’s movement started by Anna Hazare should be ashamed of themselves if they have a conscience.

Hence there is no point in these sort of hair splitting arguments. These can be news-cum-entertainment shows on television. It might help those who appear in such shows to show themselves as political fighters.

I have written a bit extensively on what is Gandhian struggle. I would repeat it like this: its first stage is to present a righteous demand to the people in strong terms. The next stage is to gather public support on the basis of that demand; to make as much people as possible stand up in support of the demand. Having organized a strong front, to engage in talks with the opposite parties and to accept practical and immediate compromises as a solution is the third stage. Having made sure the success is there to stay, to again organize one’s front and to start the next step of the struggle for more success is the fourth stage.

Hence the first stage is to campaign by placing one’s stance based on righteousness in front of the people. The objective of Anna Hazare and people like Sasiperumal is this campaign alone. It is not stubbornness. It is the way of a wise person expressing his stance strongly. ‘This is my strong conviction. I am even willing to stake my life for this’, he says. It is not merely an opinion. Hunger-strike-till-death is a way to show that he is staking his entire life for this opinion.

If it were to become a people’s movement when people start organizing themselves around this demand, if it were to open up meaningful dialogue with the existing government, this might reach a compromise. This point of compromise will be the midpoint between a group which maintains that drink is necessary and another which says that drink should be abolished completely. This compromise will essentially say that drink has to be controlled in our society. Anybody with even the slightest social awareness will accept that this is very important currently.

That drinking is permitted in India is a half-truth. The truth is that the government has liquor sales as its foremost task. Politicians are involved in the liquor trade undercover and are earning crores of rupees. Government works as a henchman for this. For the sales of liquor, the Government has banned the sales of natural liquor like toddy. It establishes liquor shops extensively across the country and grows them. The government itself campaigns for liquor, which ruins health, family health and the economy of the country.

Our governments’ have the taxes and profits from liquor sales as their foremost source of income. With that money, our politicians and bureaucrats are becoming wealthier by creating fake welfare schemes to indulge in major corruption scams. Our government encourages drinking for this. It sets targets for liquor sales and campaigns for its growth.

The Government sets the highest tax for liquor. It is said that this helps reduce the sale of liquor. Instead it leads to grabbing the majority of the income of the average family man. Today, more than half of the income of an average family is spent on drink alone. Our governments grab several times more money as liquor sales than they give us as welfare schemes.

Yes, drink is not entertainment here. It is not celebration. It is not a habit. Nor is it individual’s right or freedom. All these perspectives are limited. Today, drink is the method through which the government here exploits the wealth of its people effectively. This is the central perspective.

Hence the struggle against drink is not against entertainment, celebration or against individual’s freedom. It is against the government which drinks the blood of its own people. Anybody who understands the current Tamilnadu society even a little bit will say that this is essential. They will consider this as a voice of protest that definitely needs to be raised.

Can we completely prohibit liquor? Even when prohibition was in vogue here, it was not banned completely. Drinking was allowed under the ‘permit’ system. Hence prohibition is in reality a way to control and watch over the drinking habit. Through prohibition, it will never come to pass that liquor is completely unavailable. Instead, it will become difficult to procure. There will be constraints. This will check the development of the drinking habit and its spread. During the sixties, M. Karunanidhi who revoked prohibition and opened liquor shops in every street laid the foundation for turning Tamil society into a crowd of alcoholics.

We can see that when any drug is easily available and when social sanctions against it are removed, it leads to its uninhibited growth. The campaign for the spread of any drug can only lead society to grave disaster. Tamilnadu and Kerala are being destroyed by liquor barons. People need to be saved from them. For this, liquor has to be controlled. These movements seek just that.

People who speak about individual freedom do not usually realize that nowhere in the world was any drug allowed without any check whatsoever. Even in America where drink is a commonly accepted cultural aspect, there is a ban on under-age drinking. That too, a real ban which is maintained scrupulously in practice. Here there is no ban. My teacher-friend spoke of seventh-standard boys coming to class after drinking in TASMAC. They argue that this is about individual freedom. In the matter of drink alone, I think we will end up teaching democracy back to Europe!

In our society where a majority of the people are poor, where the entire family depends upon the earnings of the man of the house, when the government is ditching all sorts of welfare schemes in every department including medicine and education, drink is only leading to social disaster.

Drink has to be controlled. What controls are to be placed can be found out step by step. As a first step, liquor shops can be closed during the day time by an order. Next, it can be laid out that people who drink have to get themselves registered and need to have a permit. The government can attempt to treat alcoholics who drink enough to spoil their health. There are several ways of going about this.

Today, south India is in danger of being destroyed by liquor. We need large scale people’s movements to stop this. We are not up against democratic governments. Today’s governments are conducted by politicians who are in the business of selling liquor. Hence only intense struggles can yield at least a little success.

In the midst of people who do nothing, the protests of people like Sasiperumal is worthy of praise. But it is more likely that in our current scenario where idiots who rant about everything are seated as intellectuals in important positions, his sacrifice too will be trampled upon and fade away as some contemporary comedy.

Gandhi and Rape

5 Jan

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:

Translated by: Gokul


Reading Gandhi, I felt he was again and again speaking about freedom of movement for women . Almost everyone knows his famous quote ‘the day a woman can walk freely at midnight on the roads, that day we can say that India achieved independence.’

One can easily make Gandhi look foolish by asking the orthodox question – ‘Why should a woman want to walk around at midnight?’. It is even possible to argue that Gandhi merely spoke for law and order and considers this as a metric. But Gandhi proposes this again and again as a measure. He estimates all other countries using the same metric.

One can understand this if one can closely observe the entirety of Gandhi’s writings and the socio-political movement which were its background (which he created). It can even be said that there was no other leader among his contemporaries who stood for gender equality like Gandhi did. Even in world history, those who spoke empty nothings on stage with nobody to follow Gandhi – I don’t consider them. I speak only of those who actually did something. In Gandhi’s ‘Ramrajya’ there was no distinction between male and female subjects.

Hence Gandhi says women should stand equal to man in three platforms – one is education, another is trade and the third is public service.

Gandhian education is not something that speaks of primary education for women, it speaks of complete education for a woman. In India, even before Gandhi, efforts for the education of women had started at the highest levels. But it was his movement named ‘National Education’ which went to the grassroots and brought women to education.

Secondly, trade. It is surprising to see what Gandhi has spoken on this subject. In Gandhi’s view, a human life should have learnt a handicraft to survive without another’s help. If this is not the case, it is not complete. Hence he keeps insisting that women should learn handicrafts. He emphasises Khadar and village industries on that basis alone. Whenever he walks into any organization, he asks ‘Do all the women here learn any handicraft?’ without fail.

Gandhi, while insisting on handicrafts for women also insists that women should reduce their house work including cooking from the same point of view. The means he suggests to achieve these are possible only to him. Maybe it is not so feasible today to reduce the amount of cooked food in one’s diet and to try communal cooking. But we can only understand his statement that women should come out of the kitchens like this only.

Today, Gandhi’s village development program’s most important outcomes is that it was the first Indian movement that created financial independence for women. What we see in the words of Sarvodaya followers like Kovai Ayyamuthu is that 70% of the Khadar we see is manufactured by women. It lead to direct income accrued to the women who made them. The change it created in society then is beyond imagination.

Thirdly, Gandhi speaks of the particiation of women in public life. He was the first leader in Indian politics to speak of women’s public life. More than speaking about it, he brought it to reality and achieved great success in it. For him, politics was about service. He says so actually. But the nature of service is to eventually be rewarded with social authority. Hence he speaks about women sharing this authority through political participation.

Wherever he goes, Gandhi speaks of women entering politics. To each of his volunteers, he asks ‘Why didn’t you bring your wife along?’. He orders all the women who come to meet him to enter politics. More than anything, he brings his wife and his daughters-in-law to agitational politics and makes this an example. The Dharasana Salt Agitation was one agitation in Indian Independence movement which face the most direct form of violence. In it, he made his elderly wife Kasturiba lead an almost suicidal force of volunteers. These instances went a long way in creating role models.

Gandhian movement was the one which brought most women to politics. If we compare the other political movements which happened around the world at that time, we can see that none of them had any significant participation by women. Be it the famous Russian Revolution, the political uprising by Sun-Yat Sen in China or the European political movements, none of these featured women.

None of the movements in India after Gandhi had any significant contribution by women. Leftist movements, Dravidian movements, Hindutva movements – all of these were primarily by men. Congress too was comprised of men. However, there was a person who was omni-potent in it whom women trusted and became Congress workers – Gandhi. Many women who accepted Gandhi as their leader have mentioned that they felt him as their mother – not as a father.

We can see this among the Gandhian-era political leaders who survive today. They all would have participated in agitations along with their wives; and gone to jail. In their entire village, in their caste – his wife would have been the first woman to have come out of the house. Even today, this is completely mind-boggling. I had thought that the enormous image of Gandhi and the identity it had of an ascetic was the reason behind this change. However, a Tyagi (freedom fighter, a renouncer) said to me once – his wife was called a ‘prostitute’ by everyone in his caste for the sole reason that she went to jail for the freedom movement. 

I think that Gandhi would have reached the need for freedom of movement for women simply as a practical necessity for women for whom he envisaged the basics of Education-Trade-and-Public service. It was only after 1923 that women started entering politics in India in large numbers. Women had to go from village to village doing public service just like any other Congress worker. They had to take part in processions, agitations and satyagrahas. More than anything else, they had to go to jail. For all of these to happen, it was necessary that women had the freedom to move freely.

Any obstacle to the freedom of movement of women would simply be an obstacle for women in education, trade and in public participation. Those who wish to subjugate women in these fields first attack a woman’s right to move freely. A woman who doesn’t have full freedom for education, for trade and for public participation would be a slave in her family too. Her personality cannot flower fully without freedom. Hence she cannot be complete in her spiritual life too.

It is on this basis that we should approach the underlying basis of the outbursts in the wake of news of rapes in India. A rape which happens in the open is more significant that a rape which happens at home. When it happens in an unavoidable bus journey at 9.30 at night, it becomes even more significant. When it happens in the seat of political power in Delhi, in the midst of barricades set by the police, it is a very significant symbol.

In reality, it is not a rape. It is an announcement ‘Don’t come out of the house!’. We should understand it as the voice of the insensitive political power which says this to the Indian woman who was brought out of the house by Gandhi. This protest movement is against that statement. It is a basic question whether this government and this society guarantees the freedom of movement.

Instead of this, those who provide statements like ‘Women should be cautious’, ‘When a leaf falls on a thorn, it is the leaf which will get damaged’, ‘Why should a woman go out at night?’, ‘They are fighting for their freedom to go to clubs’ – these people live in a time before Gandhi.

Among the concepts that Gandhi propounded for women’s rights, an important one is about the sexual identity of women. When one observes his writings keenly, one wonders ‘What is this? Does this old man want women to leave their sexual identities and desires completely?’

But we can see that Gandhi suggested sacrificing sexuality for men too. According to Gandhi, youth is a rare stage when one moves towards great ideals. Sexuality is an obstacle towards that goal. Winning it over is the foremost way to move towards one’s ideals. Hence Gandhi emphasizes this. [For those who shake their head when Gandhi says this – it is pertinent to note that most revolutionaries in the world have also said the same thing]

More importantly, Gandhi believes that the sexual identity is a burden for a woman. He also feels that for a woman who comes out of her home to participate in politics and other fields, it will be an opposing force. Hence he says that women should dress modestly and should not decorate themselves. They should be identified only through their intelligence and their service, he says.

Gandhi didn’t accept widow remarriage at first. When lakhs of women in India were unmarried, he felt that widow remarriage was unnecessary. When Dr. Sivaram Karanth speaks of widows’ remarriage to Gandhi, he rejects it.

But Gandhi didn’t say that widows should live without marriage and stay with their families. He says that they should come forward for political and social work. Actually, he says that they should work for the nation by walking the streets. To him, it signifies that they have broken free from the shackles of family. In his later days, Gandhi supports the remarriage of widows – if the couple were to engage in social work afterward.

An important occasion when Gandhi legitimizes violence in his own words is when he speaks of sexual violence. He says that the woman who is being raped should kill that man with her teeth and nails. He argues that whatever the woman does is just under the circumstances.

But Gandhi doesn’t consider it as ‘loss of virginity’. Because he says that a woman subject to such sexual violence has in reality lost nothing. He says that such women should be accepted by society as normal. Accepting Gandhi’s stance, people like Mridula Sarabhai worked hard for the remarriages of women subjected to sexual violence during the Indian Partition.

If so, then why did Gandhi consider sexual violence as something which deserved the death sentence? Because it sends the woman from her public place back to the darkness of a kitchen. Because it snatches everything that she has regained in the twentieth century.

Sexual violence is not just rape. Starting rumors about women, insulting them with sexual abuses, teasing them in public – all of these are sexual violence. The basis of all of the above is the hatred and fear of women being in public places. A male mind will invent a thousand reasons to do so. It will justify it in several thousand ways. All of them mean the same: உள்ள போடி’[‘Get inside, woman’] – this is what his innermost mind says.

Gandhi who asked them to come out has also described the ways to do so. According to him, freedom is a necessary condition in one’s path towards Truth and completeness. Hence all life has a right to freedom. Hence, to attain it, it also has a responsibility to face losses, patiently strive without compromise and to move forward.

Gandhi’s Dress

2 Nov

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:

Translated by: Gokul


Two events are widely known. Gandhi came to London in the summer of 1931 to attend the second Round Table Conference and secondly, he met the British emperor George V. There were strict dress codes and protocol for meeting the British Emperor. Gandhi had changed over to his traditional dress much before then. He had started wearing the simple dress of an India peasant. He never changed his dress code anywhere.

Before he left for London, an American journalist asked him ‘Would you change your attire before going to meet the British emperor?’ Gandhi replied ‘No, it would be disrespectful to meet him in any other dress. Because such dress would be inappropriate for me.’

After the meeting a reported asked Gandhi if he didn’t feel ashamed to stand in front of the Emperor in his simple dress. ‘Why should I feel ashamed? The Emperor was wearing enough clothes for the both of us.’ said Gandhi.

There are few political thinkers who understood the power of symbols in politics. The best symbol of what Gandhi stood for, was his dress and appearance. He appeared as one among the crores of half-starved farmers in India. Two possibilities opened up out of this. India’s poor people saw him as one of them. They judged him as one who understood their misery.

This understanding should be judged in the context of India’s historical background. Till then, we had a feudal societal setup;  monarchy. The rulers were born in royal lineage, army commanders and warriors. Later when the British rule took over, the authority of administrators rose. It was the authority of the educated classes. They too were largely separated from the common people and out of reach for them.

The early leaders of Congress came from the upper educated classes. They came from wealthy families. They were successful lawyers or traders. They were as distant from the commoners as the monarchs and rulers before them. The advent of Gandhi bridged this gaping chasm successfully. Through this alone did the Indian freedom struggle become truly a movement of the people.

When Gandhi came to the Calcutta Congress Conference fresh from his South African Satyagraha experience, he didn’t see common people there. The true citizens of India – poor farmers were not there. There were only educated upper and middle classes. All speeches were delivered in English. They were conducted very formally in accordance with British traditions. Gandhi has written very critically about these useless conferences.

In that conference, Gandhi got all of two minutes to speak. Before he delivered the first few sentences of his resolution, they passed it by clapping in agreement. Even in the small duration, Gandhi delivered his message. He placed his message deliberately before them by wearing his traditional Gujarati national turban. His shifting to a half dhoti and shawl later was the next step.

Through his dress, Gandhi told the poor people in India that the Congress was no longer the party of educated upper class people. He participated in political conferences in that dress. He conducted agitations that lead the nation. He went to meet the Viceroy. He signed historic political agreements. That somebody in a half-dhoti and shawl can do all these things was in itself inconceivable till then in Indian history. Gandhi’s half-dhoti is how Indian democracy was born.

In another way, his dress stood as a direct symbol of how India was exploited to outsiders. During Gandhi’s salt satyagraha, media from around the world keenly observed him. America’s Time magazine sported him on its cover twice within ten months. Through hundreds of photographs that were published of him in magazines, Gandhi reached the Europeans. He was in his ‘half-naked’ dress in all of them. There was no need for a campaign tool to illustrate that India was being exploited, other than his appearance. His appearance spoke more to the European conscience than Gandhi himself did.

Another fact to note is that throughout Europe, Christian organizations arranged campaigns against Gandhi’s struggle. Gandhi wanted to go to Rome and meet the Pope in 1931 when he went to the Round Table Conference. Even though he requested for an appointment, Pope Pius XI refused to meet him. The media wrote that Gandhi was refused an appointment since he refused to follow the dress code stipulated for meeting the Pope. It lead to criticism against the Pope from around the world.

But researchers going through the Vatican documents later found out that it was not the only reason why the Pope refused to meet Gandhi. A researcher, Peter Gonsalves has written extensively about this. The Pope was presented with some secret reports from his advisors. Cardinal Eugene Baselli (who later became the Pope) wrote a comment that is significant. There was a warning that Gandhi was against Roman Catholics’ interests in India.

[This Pope, Pius XII was accused of silence during Hitler’s genocide to protect his own interests in Germany and other European countries. A play ‘The Deputy’ based on him is famous. I have written an essay ‘Paava Mounam’ on it. ]

Gandhi always celebrated Christian spiritual values. He tried to make them part of his life. But he criticized religious conversion undertaken as a political campaign. He said that it was against spirituality. The catholic leadership saw this as indicative of Gandhi’s Hindu fundamentalist outlook. Archbishop Panirselvam, who attended the Round Table conference as a representative of the Catholics said that if India became independent, it would become a Hindu nation and the benefits and assistance that the Catholics receive under British rule will be stopped. The Pope accepted this observation. Hence he refused to meet Gandhi.

The most important reason for the success of Gandhi’s struggle was that he brought it to the attention of the world. He had won the support of the moderates in Europe and America. The American media hugely supported events like the Salt Satyagraha. To decimate that support, the British-aligned forces followed two methods. One, to show that Gandhi’s struggle was innately violent. His non-cooperation and breaking the law were widely portrayed as violent. Secondly, to show him as against Christianity.

Gandhi’s appearance stood up against both of this two forms of propaganda. It showed him as a supported of the poor people. Several Europeans even considered him an uneducated villager. Even magazines that supported him called him ‘naïve’. His appearance made him look like one of the Christian saints of former times. What needed several thousand words to convey, Gandhi said with his dress.

The two statements from Gandhi when he went to meet the British Emperor clearly show his mindset. Gandhi says that his dress is natural to him. He says that he is his dress. His next statement is subtler. Saying that the Emperor is wearing his dress too, made him the exploited India and the Emperor as the exploiting British empire. The photographs of him and the Emperor were alone sufficient to establish that India was being exploited by Britain. When they were published, they told the world what Gandhi and the Congress wanted to tell the world.

I was reading Gandhi’s ‘Experiments with Truth’. I noticed the starting point of Gandhi’s politics with dress in it. In the sixteenth chapter, under the heading ‘Lord Curzon’s Durbar’, Gandhi writes about the experience of meeting Indian princes who came for the government assembly under Lord Curzon, when he was staying in a lodge called the India Club in Calcutta. In his own style, he briefly narrates it and moves on.

Gandhis notices that maharajahs who normally wear dhotis and shirts, wear tall and shiny boots that come up to the knees and pants what fit into them, when they appear for the Durbar. As he studied in London, he knows that it is the uniform of the servants in the British royal palace. He speaks to the maharajahs. Then he realizes that they know it too.

Only we know our unfortunate state. The  dishonor we endure to protect our wealth and titles, only we know’ says a maharajah. ‘Even so, should you wear this pants and boots that only servants wear?’ asks Gandhi. ‘Do you see any difference between us and them?’ replies the maharajah sadly.

Yes, this was the starting point for the politics of attire. Gandhi’s dress was a revolt against the British colonial mindset which dressed up Indian maharajahs in servant’s attire and made them stand among them. Gandhi went to the Viceroy’s assembly dressed in a single cloth and a shawl. By then he had organized the entire Indian nation behind him. Through his dress, Gandhi told the British mindset, ‘You have to treat me an equal and hold talks with me. I dare you to refuse’. ‘You can dress up Indian princes as servants. But you have to treat the Indian peasant as your equal’.

 There arose a situation that the British Emperor had to meet Gandhi. He had to relax his protocol. Because Gandhi was not a person. He was a nation. Churchill was furious when he came to know that; that the British crown jewel was disrespected. The Emperor’s side said ‘In British history, never before was the dress protocol relaxed. Never will be again. This is an exception.’

It was a turning point in Britain’s colonial history. The Emperor was a symbol of the feudal setup. A symbol of monarchy. Gandhi was a symbol of the fledgling era of democracy. A symbol of the power of the people. One stood for hegemony, another for right. It was a historical moment in world history when Gandhi stood before the Emperor. It is a significant point in the history of democracy.

Gandhi didn’t stay in the special hotels that were arranged for the attendees of the Round Table Conference. From his ship, he went directly to the quarters of the washermen who came to welcome him at the port. In the harsh winter of Britain, he went in his half naked attire and stood in front of the British Emperor. He treated the Emperor as his equal. At that moment, India’s injured self-respect would have held its head high. In the dark rooms of palaces, several maharajahs would have smiled in tears.

Gandhi was not one who considered anyone below him. Hence he didn’t treat anyone as above him either. But at that moment, as a historical personage, he towered above others. Who is that George V? Where is that Pope Pius XI? They are mere pebbles that lie in the depths of history today. Gandhi is history; a towering peak.

There is a statute of the Buddha returning home after Enlightenment, in a museum in Mathura. Yashoda, Sudhodhana, elephants, the palace roof and the entire city would be below the knee level of Buddha. In the summer of 1931, Gandhi would have stooped low to speak to the Emperor who stood to the height of his feet – in his own gentle style.

Four Roles in a Play

31 Jul

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.
Translation from:


Dear J,
I have reached a state of quest. But I have complicated my work front. This, despite the fact that I am known as a skilled worker wherever I worked. Even after all these years, I couldn’t even decide whether to continue on in life in my profession. You have observed me, I request you to advise me on how to shape myself.

Dear J,
My mind is listless. How I will be at anytime is not in my control. Yesterday night I checked whether I received a reply on the internet. Then I deleted all my mails. Including the ones that I had written. I tried to attend to work this time without thinking about anything else. I also thought to stay away from literature for some time. When I return, I will be financially free (truly this is possible for me, just that I have not attended to it till now) and will have read world literature.
Your student
Dear R,
I wished to speak to you extensively about this. But now I feel it is better to write than talk.

Every man has to operate in this world on more than on front. Only great yogis can remain on a single platform. For everyone else, life progresses by separating and entwining into several strands. Even for ascetics!

One who does justice to all the strands, who carries out everything fully, only he can live life to the fullest. For that equanimity is required.

The issue here is lack of equanimity. You need not blame literature for it. It is enough if you analysed with brutal honesty how, before you started reading classical literature, you kept changing your jobs and how your relationships with your bosses were fleeting.

That turmoil and struggle are basic nature of your youth. Now literature comes to hand as a definite cause. That is all. Even if you give up literature, unless you change this nature, it will be of no use.

What are the facets of a man’s life? Since long they have been classified clearly as Dharmam, Kamam, Artham and Moksham. It is sufficient if we are able to think about them clearly. I am mentioning these words since what I say is not something new.

Righteousness, Wealth, Pleasure and Liberation – all four of these are important. None of these can be spared. This is because they are interdependent. One of life’s important rules is that without one, the other cannot attain fulfilment.

As a human, you have a right role to play in society. Subject to its rules, fulfilling its duties, you have to live. That is the meaning of Dharmam or righteousness.

Being born in a mother’s womb here and growing up enjoying the benefits given by family and living with the safety and conveniences offered by society – these make you indebted to this environment. You have to fulfill some of the commands of this time, this culture and this society.

Generally all the societal duties laid out to man are parts of this. From taking care of your parents to shaping up the lives of your children it extends and accompanies you throughout life. This is righteousness.

Wealth is necessary to fulfil the duty of righteousness. Hence you have to gain it. Please realize that gaining wealth is not for your personal life. It is for fulfilling your duties towards righteousness fully.

Externally, society functions completely through material activities. Your place in it is formed through your contribution to the material sphere of activity. Our general reply to somebody’s question ‘Who are you?’ itself indicates what we do as part of society’s material activities. I am a driver, I am a carpenter, I am a teacher etc.

Without fulfilling that part fully, one cannot live a complete life in this society. I.e. a person’s business is not something that provides his wages merely, it also creates a place for him in society. Through that, it provides him an identity. It provides him with an outlet for his creativity and gives him fulfilment.

After these two platforms, Kamam [Pleasure] is indicated. It is personal. It is to be attained through forming human relationships well. Within it not only love and family life, our relationships with parents and children too are included.

Only if a person performs well in righteousness and wealth can he reach true pleasure. Each of these is a prerequisite for the other. It is the evident truth that one who fails in one loses the other also.

Lastly comes Moksham [Liberation]. Generally in terms of religion it is explained as giving up family life and merging in God. But Nataraja Guru always explains this as internal liberation.

Being liberated internally has to be experienced subtly and extensively. It is to be free from the vicissitudes of life. We reach that only through the mental distance we achieve, from life and through it. Internally we don’t attach ourselves slowly and start observing it from outside. That view gives us a full perspective. The term ‘Gnanam’ or knowledge signifies this.

As we realize, we gain freedom. Every knowledge makes possible that much more freedom. Chitbavanandar gives a beautiful analogy in an essay: that as we start knowing about electricity we become free of our fear of electrical devices.

Literature is one of the activities for the fourth human characteristic, i.e. Moksham or Liberation. Fine arts, philosophy, spirituality are all its parts. They are learnt with the objective of attaining internal liberation.
Great literature opens us up and makes us cross the boundaries of our lives and expand through our imagination. It makes us live several lives within one. Through that we reach a full perspective of life. It makes us view life with more detachment and equanimity. That is the first step towards internal freedom. Arts, philosophy and spirituality are all its parallels.

In our culture, Liberation is mentioned as an extension of the three human characteristics of righteousness, wealth and pleasure. One who ignores them is not going to attain this. One who deserts his duty to society, righteousness has no claim over the other three.

There is another way in our culture. They call it Sannyasam as a fifth human characteristic. They are those who give up all the other three for the sake of liberation. It is not a way meant for everybody. It is meant for extraordinary people.

They usually possess these qualities from birth. They renounce the first three characteristics not due to their weakness but through their internal strength. In the beginning stages of life, in youth when we decide our own lives, all four characteristics stand before us at the same time. For us our social duties and its identities become necessary. For us, a profession which affords us economic stability and an identity becomes necessary. Along with that, our mind seeks relationships and its pleasures. For a few, the fourth characteristic appears before them with the same intensity. Along with experiencing life, it becomes necessary to understand it too. Along with winning in it, it also becomes necessary to stand aside.

At this time, a deep confusion prevails. Literature, philosophy, spirituality [politics and social service which possess spiritual qualities] attract us. We attempt to involve ourselves intensely in them and reject the other three. That is the condition you are in.

But the answer from our culture, the way our ancestors teach us after having lived and learnt, is very definite. Completeness in life will be for the one who considers all four equal and involves himself in all the four with his whole heart.

Those who view literature or the arts as mere entertainment consider it a natural part of material life. It doesn’t cause them turmoil. It stops at being a natural diversion or entertainment.

But those who approach it as knowledge and as a path to complete perspective of life are subject to deep turmoil. They lose their equanimity. They commit mistakes in their material duties. For intense writers like me, this is mentioned quite frequently as a grave sin. This reply is something that I have shared with several people several times.

The mistake that people like you commit is that when indulging in something intense like literature to start thinking that all others are insignificant. People like you have a habit of ignoring them and not involving in them with all your heart.

But at the same time, all the comforts and pleasures that they provide are necessary to you. That is, without sowing, without labor, you require the harvest. Societal position is required, social identity is required, family and comforts are required. But one cannot spare the attention for them, you claim.

Please ask yourselves brutally why? And you will understand. It is mere ego. You think of yourself as being one step above the commonplace material aspects of life. You think whether you should stoop to do these things, whether you should waste your attention on these things.

Hence whenever you perform a worldly activity, lack of attention and weariness occur. You are unable to direct your entire skills and act with complete attention. This is your problem.

You alone should decide whether it is the problem of literature or whether it is your own ego’s problem. Because just like you, there are lots of youth among us who gave themselves to politics and ignored everything else. Your mindset and theirs are similar.

I too suffered this ego and its weariness. But in those days I read the life history of Atmanandar. Atmanandar worked as a police officer in the Travancore government. He was married and lived with his wife and kids. But internally he ripened and matured in the knowledge of Advaita.

Everyday for an hour, in his front porch, Atmananda would take Advaita classes. Scholars and artists from all over the world would assemble there to listen to him. Aldous Huxley came. Paul Brunton came. Why, even Carl Jung came too. The maharaja of Travancore would come and sit. Everyone to him was his student.

At eight thirty, he would wear his uniform and go to work for the same maharaja as his servant. He investigated several of Travancore’s important crimes. He continued on this job till he retired.

This equanimity astounded me. I thought that I should follow at least a small part of this. A life can be divided naturally into four. One’s personality can also be divided into four accordingly.

When I wake up in the morning and go to work as a clerk, I am no writer. There is no place there for my turmoil and seeking. My objective there was how to complete that task successfully.

As part of the job in a small way, I got involved in trade union work. There I never spoke to anyone about literature. I never introduced myself to them as a literary man. My job was my righteousness and wealth. I performed just that there.

At home, I am father to my children and husband to my wife. Here I do not allow literature, philosophy or spirituality to come in my way. A person who washes the plates, washes clothes, cleans up the house and buys groceries; I am no writer at home.

My moksham, liberation is happening internally within me. I am sharing it with my readers alone. The successes I gain here take me forward.

In reality, by dividing like these, I was able to perform each of these well. Hence each one strengthened the other. I was never in economic distress. Hence even for a moment I didn’t have to spend my mental time for that worry. In my family till now there have been no mental conflicts or complications. Hence I never had to waste my attention towards it.

If it happened the opposite way, my seeking for internal liberation would have been destroyed by the other three. If you didn’t focus on your profession for the sake of literature, over time you will have professional problems and even literature will slip out of your hands. If you ignored family for the sake of literature, over a period of time, you would have to forget literature due to family issues.

Yes, the right way to internal liberation is to have proper righteousness, wealth and pleasure. The condition for it is the equanimity you possess in all four; giving each one the complete attention that is necessary for each. To organize oneself such that one doesn’t affect the other.

Some people will immediately ask how it is possible. There is nobody who hasn’t achieved this equilibrium at least to some extent. There are many people who have family problems and distance it from their profession and operate, isn’t it? When they do that, involvement in profession by itself makes them forget family issues. One of them plugs the shortcomings of the other.

Like this, we call divide these four perfectly. We can involve completely in all the four. Then all the four will help you out. If you drop even one, all four will sink. What is necessary is observation of the ego. If you make your qualification of literary readership as your identity, it is a big mistake. Because it is valid only in the spiritual platform. You cannot make use of it materially. There it has no worth. It will only lead you to disappointment.

Hence, keep it entirely personal. Use it for your spiritual flowering alone. Do not show it anywhere else. Do not provide a chance for unnecessary people to see it or comment upon it.

Please reach the social identities that are to be reached through profession and social relationships by performing successfully in your profession and social relationship. Submit yourself fully for that. Please yield the labor and attention that it requires. Please divide your mind and time in a right manner for this.

The human soul is an actor who acts in four roles. It appears simultaneously in all four roles. Since it acts completely in all four roles, these four characters do not recognize each other ever.


Translated by: Gokulakrishnan S


18 Jul

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:


Dear J, 

Read your essay about monsoon travel. A beautiful experience.

I think it is great to go to places of such natural beauty. I am not sure if it is okay to write about them.

Our youth have a different mindset. They will go to such places with beer bottles, drink and ruin the place with broken bottles.  I am reminded of the ‘Elephant Doctor’.

Till we get a generation with atleast a little bit of civic sense and sense of beauty, it is good for these places to remain hidden.



Dear Saravanan,

True. We saw it in Parunthuparai. There was a group of youth. They didn’t know what to do in such a place. They yelled, ran around here and there. They drank with the car stereos blaring film songs in the background. They removed their shirts and danced.

All over the valley, broken beer bottles thrown by people like them lay in heaps of shards extending till the forest below. The next day, Saturday, we saw policemen on the way using breathalysers to catch drunk drivers. This menace has grown to such an extent.

We were speaking about it. The youth really didn’t know the beauty and importance of that place. They didn’t understand how to be happy in that place. They were not used to such things. That is the problem.

In Ooty, one can see young lovers from villages act like couples in movies and get ‘romantic’. It would be funny. In our culture it is nearly impossible to see a man and a woman speak, get used to each other and court. Hence young couples do not know what to do. The only thing that teaches are movies. Hence they do that.

This gang is similar to that. They too do not know what to do in this place. what they know is Tamil cinema. They do what people do in such movies. They think that they are ‘having fun’. 

An important reason for this is the way our youth have been brought up. Appreciation, sense of beauty, civic sense, intellectual outlook – these things should come from the two institutions of family and educational institutions.

In how many of our families do we teach children to appreciate any art form? Do we teach the basics of an intellectual outlook? Or atleast teach them to behave with grace in public places?

Our families are mostly places to cook, eat and sleep in groups. Even relationships contain selfishness and violence. Our families only create the impetus to earn wealth in their children. Education is considered a path to earn this wealth.

Our parents continually speak to their children for the creation of this impetus. They do not teach anything else. Only if the child learns something on its own. That is very rare.

When I visit some families, a certain fear will creep into my heart. One cannot see a single trace of anything we consider culture. A few pictures of deities, textbooks, a TV – that is all. They do not have any cultural education at all.

All the cultural aspects we possessed as traditions have been discarded as useless for ‘development in life’. We worship Europe and America. But neither do we learn any cultural practice that a European or an American has.

There is nothing to say about educational institutions. They are like factories. They can only create machines that can work and earn money. There is no room for culture and art in them.

I have noticed an average American receives basic lessons in music and drawing in his family background itself. His educational setup trains him to read books and discuss them.

Think about it. Does our average youth have any contact with any medium? He has no familiarity with music, paintings or any such art. He cannot even read a book and understand it. He cannot even read a good open page article in a newspaper. He cannot even concentrate beyond a few paragraphs. If he observes any art form for even ten minutes, he will lose patience. He will conclude that it is ‘boring’.

He cannot go beyond textbook recitation. If he completes that phase, he will do his tasks properly. He will learn by rote whatever is required for that. All else has to remain within his small boundaries. Simple and ordinary.

Otherwise, he will attempt to simply reject or ridicule it. Since his friends and acquaintances are all similar to him, he feels that it is the ‘normal’ world. Everything else appears to him as unnessarily complex, crazy and dull things to him.

From his childhood, the only medium he has known is Tamil commercial cinema and TV that dips into the same to cook up its programs. His cultural education consists of seeing ‘Kadhal Pissaase Paruvayillai‘ on TV and dancing to it rotating his hips at the age of two. Even this movie business is only till the eighth standard. After that, a tough ‘tuition’-life. At twenty five when he completes all this and raises his head as a social being, his cultural standard will be the same as it was in his eighth standard. How can we blame him?

Here, ‘youth’ means not to have a lasting interest in anything, to lack a basic training in anything – in short, a shallow person. ‘To have fun’ means to be foolish, insensitive and lack public sense. If four or five ‘youth’ congregate in a public place it is almost like a monkey brigade.

These ‘youth’ remain like this even when they go to America or Europe. They do not learn any culture or public sense there. One can even say that they dont even live there. They create a small ‘youth’ society there and live within in. There too they know only cinema gossip and beer bottles.

Anybody who tours America or Europe once can notice youth enjoying nature subtly. They undertake various adventure trips. They trek to peaks. They cross rivers. They go to forests to stay without any conveniences. They cross long distances alone. Those methods of appreciation are very vast and beautiful.

I have not seen our youth do any of these. They are oblivious to such things. They think American culture means dancing to film songs with beer bottles in hand. 

Our youth do not learn anything from any medium including the Internet. Once when I was in K.P. Vinod’s home, I went into Facebook and Twitter through his account to see what our people speak about in them. The same cinema, the same politics, petty gossip. There too a ‘youth-circle’ has come up. They cannot take up anything else.

I have noticed the average American or European youth is diametrically opposite to this. They possess basic taste, reading and debating skills. Also, there will be a great interest in a particular field. I have see many who were listless. I even know youth who can be described as ‘hippies’. But I am yet to meet an American or European youngster without basic culture. It is not clear from which cultural background our ‘youth’ has sprung out of.

A few months ago, I had gone to a Chinese restaurant in Chennai called Mainland China. In that restaurant, around fifteen youth were giving a party to some among them. I was noticing what they were conversing. Unbearable foolery. Petty jokes. Petty cinema titbits. Loud laughter. Their body language mimicked America. The quality of conversations what one would encounter under a village bridge.

Atleast they could have spoken in Tamil. But unfortunately this was a techie crowd. Hence English. The person with me was a European young man. He was a film animation technician. I saw he was also listening. ‘I cannot bear these Indian youth. I dont wish to speak to any of them beyond a hello’, he said.

I was hurt. ‘These are humbugs who never learnt beyond their means to earn. But there are othe types of youth here too’, I said. With the extreme graciousness of the West, he said ‘I wish to meet them’.

I angrily said ‘We have started only now. These are youngsters brought up in the midst of fears about the future in an entirely materialist manner. They do not possess their families’ cultural background. Nor do they have their educational background. But the upcoming generation wont be like this’.

Its my belief. What else to say?


Anna Hazare, Talibanism?

1 Dec

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:


Respected Sir,

Greetings. Sorry for disturbing you. Again a question about Anna Hazare. You might have answered these questions before.  I didn’t notice. Now to my question. From the article that appeared in Tamil media… Is it true that there is no alcohol, movies, television (Cable TV), movie songs and Panchayat elections in Ralegaon Siddhi and if somebody uses them, Anna himself would tie them up and lash them with his belt?

With respectful regards,


Dear Jeyamohan,

The statements of Anna Hazare after the slapping incident involving Pawar have shaken the trust in someone who was believed to be a Gandhian.  Even as a quick retort or even in jest, he shouldn’t have spoken like that.  It’s comic that after that, he tried to make amends by claiming that he only sought information.  Had Gandhi spoken like that, he would have fasted in regret.  He would have also admitted the truth.

Should we still believe that he is a Gandhian? I am asking this question in the belief that your answer will provide clarity.

With regards,



Dear Friends,

These days, I receive many letters of this sort.  I see a commonality between them. Those who raised questions over Anna Hazare and opposed him at the height of his movement, are writing now that they have lost faith in him.

I had foreseen and written that the media and the Government will launch defamatory and personal attacks on Team Anna.  Because that is in our history.  The ‘medicine’ given to Vinobha, Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayanan in the past will be given to him as well.

People like Anna Hazare cannot be trapped in corruption and wrong-doing. But allegations can be stacked up against him.  Slowly, an image of him will be created by the continuous allegations appearing against him in the media.  Our media conducted a continuous attack like this on even Jayaprakash Narayanan, who lived and died without enough money for his day to day needs.

A more effective weapon is ridicule. People like Jayaprakash Narayanan and Anna Hazare are not skilled strategists.   Nor are they politicians.  Skilled strategists will measure every word they say.  Politicians will always stick to hackneyed clichés. The media cannot fox such people easily.

But true public servants arise from among the common people.  They would speak the common man’s language and reflect his emotions.  Their words would be spontaneous.  Our media can easily twist them, show contradictions in them; can depict them as nonsensical.

In the past, there are many such who have fallen to this trick and erased from history. The most important victim was Jayaprakash Narayanan. One can be enraged by reading the English media from the 1970’s in which Jayaprakash Narayanan’s concept of total revolution was ridiculed, derided and portrayed as a sort of madness.

Now I am reading the Lohia-J.P. Kriplani time period serially.  These are the people who realized in the 1950’s itself the massive failure to be of the economic model given by Jawaharlal Nehru to India.  They had realized that the triad of Five year plans-Green Revolution-Urbanization can only end in destruction of the village economy.

Jayaprakash Narayanan has mentioned farmers’ suicides in his speeches on several occasions in the 1960s itself.  Lohia said that the entire economic plan should be rebuilt with focus on the villages.  Jayaprakash Narayanan seconded this.  It is this total change that Jayaprakash Narayanan called as ‘total revolution’.  He also succeeded in making this into a grand people’s movement. The media supported this on the face of it in the beginning, since popular opinion was favorable towards it.

Basically, Jayaprakash Narayanan’s movement was against the large capitalists ofIndia.  Hence they slowly started making the movement an object of ridicule.  Every single one of his speeches was twisted.  He was portrayed as a old man given to contradictory blabber.  His speeches were quoted one random statement at a time to create a negative image of him.  Surprisingly, within five years Jayaprakash Narayanan, who called for total revolution and galvanized the entire of north India, was established as a sort of clown in the minds of the people.  That image of him continues till today.

Jayaprakash Narayanan was a man of emotion.  He was capable of speaking from his heart.  A Gandhian himself, his statements in colloquial Hindi like ‘thrash them’, ‘drive them out’ were again and again made headlines by the media to make him out as a man of violence.  The media showed that he was destroying Indian integrity, kindling anarchy and dragging youngsters into violence. The media, by provoking the distrust of the Indian middle class, completely decimated the grand effort of Jayaprakash Narayanan to draw the Indian Government’s attention to village economics.

There is a close synonymy between Jayaprakash Narayanan’s and Anna Hazare’s movements.  Anna Hazare’s movement too is against the triad of Large Industry-Urbanization-Corruption.  It emerges from the contemporary reality that farmers have been given up on and are facing death.  Like Jayaprakash Narayanan, Anna Hazare too is not a politician.  He is a public servant who was created and shaped from the masses.  Hence his language is not one of a politician or a skilled strategist.  His language naturally reflects the emotions of the people.  The media is very easily making it an object of ridicule.


It would be good if the people who now state that Anna Hazare is not entirely on the Gandhian path, accept that the Gandhian path is okay, that Anna Hazare is following most of it and that he has failed in just this issue.  But they are using this deception simply to destroy the current enemy in front of them.  They do not follow any honesty in this debate.

Just like they did to Jayaprakash Narayanan, our media is making serial statements out of random utterances of Anna Hazare and his team and subjecting them to ridicule and debate by a section of our middle class, which itself is steeped in corruption.  They too are gossiping now why Anna Hazare said this, why he didn’t say that and whether what he said is Gandhian etc.

Do you know why Gandhi was not awarded the Nobel Prize?  He stated that if the Pakistan Army didn’t provide protection to those refugees who wanted to come to India, then war might break out between the two countries.  The British media started a propaganda that this was meant as a threat to Pakistanand hence Gandhi was against world peace.  The Nobel Committee believed this. For over five years, this charge against Gandhi remained.  When an explanation was sought from Gandhi, he refused. He said he was not interested in giving explanations.

Gandhi was not moderately educated like Anna Hazare.  He was not from a simple background nor did he work among commoners. He was a leading barrister; a great strategist. He had enormous control over his words.  Even he faced a situation like this. Several times his words have been twisted. He has been portrayed by the English media on several occasions as a man of violence, racist and a religious fundamentalist. There is no surprise that Anna Hazare is being hounded thus.

All that we have to think about is this: There is a big diffence between Anna Hazare and his critics. Anna is not merely a commentator. He is not a media expert. He has not shown himself as a man of sharp words or rare insight. He is a public servant. After demonstrating his devotion, honesty and effectiveness on that front, he has entered public life.  There appeared before him a historic moment to speak as the voice of the people. He then spoke the words of the people naturally.

Why do the educated middle-classes like us fail to believe in Anna Hazare’s past, his achievements, why do we trust all the sundry half-baked columnists in the English media? What sort of brain washing is this?  In truth, we should be considering this question alone.

One argument is arising in all the debates on Anna Hazare.  Specifically five-star-hotel-writers who pen articles in the English media repeatedly state this.  Most of these journalists are in reality power brokers for capitalists – like Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai etc. Many are brokers for other interests as well.  They mention in all their articles that Anna Hazare is uneducated, that he cannot speak in English and that he is a simpleton.

The truth is that our thought processes and social interactions have been destroyed and frozen by the English, half-baked principles and translated philosophies that these educated intelligentsia have learnt in their institutions.  These people are unable to understand the crores of common people in this country. Our ‘educated’ intelligentsia continues to speak as the voice of the well-to-do classes who believe they have a right to exploit commoners.

Anna Hazare emerged from the commoners. He is one of them. We can call Anna as the response of the Indian commoners to Gandhi. He did not come to work for the people having learnt all the principles of Gandhism.  He started questioning the degradation around him and thereby arrived at Gandhi through his activities. He discovered Gandhi through his reconstruction programmes.

One can understand what Anna Hazare says only from this perspective. When he went to Ralegaon Siddhi, it was famous for illicit hooch. He attempted a change in the village through his moral strength alone.  He brought back the centuries-old village panchayat system. But he rid it of the casteist ascendancy present in it.  He created equal platforms and opportunities for every caste in it. He made them realize that without everyone participating, one cannot make reconstruction programmes work and then made them successful.  I have seen this personally in Ralegaon Siddhi. It is probably the only village in North India where dalits have a direct share of political authority in village administration.

Anna Hazare is only telling us how the clout of illicit liquor was defeated by the village panchayat system.  He didn’t get skilled in Gandhian techniques and then descend there to try them out by serving them. He went there as one among them and served them.  It is natural that he shares their beliefs.  Any balanced individual will admit that it is alcohol which is ruining village economy.  He might have tried through the village panchayat system to create a social isolation and punishment against this social evil.

The media systematically creates an image.  Anna Hazare is not the dictator of Ralegaon Siddhi.  He is not an omnipotent landlord like one sees in Tamil films.  He is a public servant who lives in the local village temple.  He has the moral authority that his simplicity brings. What he speaks about is not his authority, but the authority of the village panchayat.

There are village specific reasons for why Anna Hazare thought why there need not be political party based elections there.  He thought that if there was a split within the village due to party based elections, then the large scale development programmes might suffer.  He didn’t stop party based politics with his personal authority.  It is the village panchayat which decided that party based politics is not required.  Instead, the traditional method of discussing and arriving at a choice for the head position was followed.

One can decide whether this is correct or wrong only taking the situation into consideration.   It created very good results there.  Here our villages which have panchayats constituted through party politics are caught up in corruption and are rotting.  It is the practical truth that politics has split up people so much so that it is impossible for them to demand responsibility from somebody.  The media creates the image that he kept the political parties banned for selfish reasons.  Pushing aside his achievements and the dedication that went into it, they try to show him as a village landlord (pannaiyar) who is shown grinning ‘Ahhaaa…’, belt in hand.

Anna Hazare was performing his service in the 1980s. At that time, he didn’t have any vision or motives outside of his village.  He was known outside only after Gandhian organizations and environmental organizations took his achievements outside.  I visited Ralegaon Siddhi in 1987.  Even at that time, it appeared that he didn’t have any goals outside the village.  As an honest social activist, he stood up to the corruption and government persecution in Ralegaon Siddhi. That is how he arrived at the Maharashtrian and national political scene.

I do not believe anyone tried to portray Anna Hazare as a blemishless Gandhian.  He is a social activist who moved towards Gandhism through practical work.  Gandhism does not possess an integrity and purity like religion.  It has two aspects, a vision and a practical guidance towards the vision.  Every Gandhian moves towards that vision through this practical guidance each according to his ability.

What should one do to be completely faithful to the Gandhian ‘principles’?  One should merely keep speaking about it without doing anything.  Someone who seeks to achieve results on the ground can only operate by arriving at explanations to them, sometimes by staying away from them and rarely, by refuting some of them.  We call Anna Hazare a Gandhian since the economic reconstruction programme in his village as well as the anti-corruption movement at the national level are both based entirely on the Gandhian vision.

It is heartening to note that our middle class intellectuals have unwavering clarity on what is non-violence and righteousness.  The Gita calls these sort of people as ‘rooted-in –their-consciousness’ (Stitha Prajna).  Even Arjuna who heard the Gita till the end didn’t reach that state.  Gandhi too.  Till the end, Gandhi has doubts as to what was non-violence.  During the First World War, he called out to all Indians to join the army and fight for the British.  At the global level, he thought of the British as a just power and that they should not be defeated.  He thought that after Britain wins, they would give more democratic rights to the Indians and that India would gain practice as a modern democratic society.

But several of Gandhi’s own students felt that it was diametrically opposite to the non violence that Gandhi spoke about.  He couldn’t convince them by speaking to them.  He stopped by saying that he felt within himself that it was right.   When he went to the villages for drafting men for the war and started propaganda, the common people were shocked and confused. He requested them to believe in him.  It is the trust that most Indians had on his honesty and personality that made them follow him, not clarity of principles.

He had this doubts on right and wrong till the end.  He read the Gita again and again for this.  He requested that the army should take strong action and bring control in regions where poor people were getting killed in religious riots.  He didn’t think that it was against non-violence.  But he said that those affected by violence should abstain from hitting back.  He taught people to forgive enemies.  He explained it as the path of non-violence.  Intellectuals of his time as well as today have not understood that his non-violence means giving space to both idealism and practicality at the same time.

Gandhism doesn’t contain an absolute ideology or principle.  Laurie Baker who insisted on a liquor shop in his Gandhian village is also a Gandhian.  Lech Valesa, a complete alcoholic was called a Gandhian by his supporters.

Gandhism can be understood at several levels.

Firstly: The social vision of Gandhism. It can be delineated as having characteristics of distributed authority, decentralization, attempting to reach self sufficiency in smaller units and non-consumerism.

Secondly: Gandhian politics.  Seeking the way of unity instead of division.  Attempting to move forward through reconciliation.  Moving towards one’s rights through non violent struggle.

Thirdly:  Personal discipline of right and wrong. It is based on personal honesty, simplicity and abstinence.

Several of those who are called Gandhians today have tried to follow atleast one of these and succeeded.  M. F. Schumacher is a Gandhian.  He followed the first set of principles alone.  Martin Luther King was a Gandhian. But he adopted merely the second way in Gandhi.  Vinobha took only the third aspect from Gandhi.

Hence, it would be absurd to discard Martin Luther King based on his personal discipline.  Even Gandhi reached Gandhism only very late, almost towards the end.  In the beginning, Gandhi has supported wars.  To expect one to start from the heights reached by Gandhi and to travel forth from there is nothing but stupidity.

Anna Hazare has within the limits of his personality, believed in Gandhian economics and has achieved success.  As a believer in the principles of personal discipline of Gandhi, he has been unblemished in his personal life.  He has been active in taking up Gandhian politics.

It is not as if he is a Gandhian only if he completely accepts all the statements by Gandhi and lives entirely as Gandhi.  There might be places where Anna differs from Gandhi.  He might believe that in social setup, there is room for a certain level of violence. He might have learnt it from practical life.  Gandhi was also a practical man.

Viewing from a Gandhian perspective, we might argue that Anna Hazare’s belief in that is faulty.  We might discard him from that perspective.  But it is blatant defamation to call him a fascist, a clown and a fool and against Gandhi himself because of that.   The English media in India has always been indulging in character assassinations.  They gave the same poison to even Gandhi himself.

I have written extensively about Gram Swaraj that Gandhi proposed.  I have deep misgivings about it.  I have recorded them too.  I believe that against the shift in global economics, it is impossible to create in a village or in a province Gram Swaraj organizations. It cannot last.  It might last for a generation at best.  That village will have to continue struggling against the entire world.  It has to guard all its doors.  It can continue only through village restraints, isolation and similar punishments.  It is a short dream.  I had mentioned this in the article in Malayalam which I wrote after coming back from Ralegaon Siddhi.

Gandhi’s gram panchayat system and gram swaraj model of economics have to be adapted to contemporary situations and modernized.  Its my belief that this can best happen through the methods of J.C. Kumarappa and E. F. Schumacher.

We have only two kinds of people among us.  One, those who fear Anna Hazare.  Even a single reason is sufficient for them to discard Anna Hazare.  Instantly, they will start abuses and defamatory remarks against him.  But they will justify the monumental faults of leaders whom they believe in with hundreds and hundreds of words.

Secondly, the believers.  They need a prophet.  A blemishless complete man.  They are constantly seeking blemishes.  A relief when they finally spot one.  Ah- he too is like us, and a sneer.  Even if Gandhi arrives today, only blemishes will be spotted in him, no?  What newer allegations can come up against Anna that Gandhi hasn’t seen?

The one that is amongst us now is an activist who tries to implement Gandhism within his abilities, within his limitations, and in his practical situations.  Hence he is a Gandhian.  He is not a bigger Gandhi than Gandhi himself, nor is he a prophet.  His integrity has remained untarnished after being hunted by so many people seeking to defame him till date.  That is what is surprising to me. If we merely analyze for half an hour those who accuse Anna Hazare, or follow them for a week, we can see the rotten sleaze of their private lives.

Today from among the people, one of them has arisen as their voice.  He has a great contribution to make.  He emphasizes the probity of public life.  He advocates the common discipline of right and wrong which we have compromised long back.  No political party has the moral authority to do this today.   Everyone has compromised one way or the other.  One cannot face electoral politics here without such a compromise. Only somebody like Anna who stands apart from this can do this.

The hegemony of our capitalist system is steeped in the corruption of electoral politics.  It is through this hegemony that our media houses are conducted.  Most of those journalists are merely power brokers.  They are trying to get rid of Anna Hazare simply because he is a force against them.  They employ all the tricks of the media trade for it.

I have been shocked by a truth when I was at the height of a political movement once.  Several industrialists in Tamilnadu will offer funds to Naxalite-like groups to run their trade unions. This is because their real enemies are left-right communist parties’ trade unions. These extremist leftists will come in handy to defame and weaken those trade unions. Since these will never gain in strength, there is no fear from them.

This is the same thing that Indian capitalism is doing now.  The true threat is from activists who have people’s support like Anna Hazare.  It is possible to get rid of them by getting ‘ultra’- activists to defame them, who have not been able to gather people’s support. These paper tigers will never be able to gather people’s support.  It is the voices of these ultras that we keep hearing now.

Another front, hides within itself blatant religious fanaticism, anti-humanitarian attitudes while speaking a thousand legalities out in public.  Our media makes use of them as well.

Anna Hazare is a great opportunity for India.  One of the questions that will decide its future is whether India should win this opportunity or lose it like it lost Jayaprakash Narayanan.  We can answer this question only if we are capable of conversing with our conscience within.


‘Am I a Hindu?’ (Part II)

20 Oct

This is a translation of a blog post from noted Tamil writer Jeyamohan’s blog.

Translation from:

(Part 1)



Please examine this question from this background. ‘Am I a Hindu?’. Saivaites, Vaishnavites and Saktars could ask this question too, isn’t it?  Saivite and Vaishnavite forms of worship are different, aren’t they?  Then, who is a Hindu? One is ‘Hindu’ only if everyone stays together.  If they stand alone, they are merely Saivite, Vaishnavite or Saktar.

You have pointed out in your question a duality that is present in Hinduism.  It is the contradiction between theological religion and folk religion.  It is a sociological method developed by the British to study the forms of worship here.  But one cannot understand Hinduism using this.  The great godheads here were folk deities till a few years ago.  A folk deity of today will combine with an existing godhead and become one as well.

Shiva was a folk deity like your Karuppaswamy once.  Today Sudalaimadaswamy is turning into the the Graceful Lord Sivasudalaimadaswamy.  This evolution is constantly happening.  You can worship yesteraday’s Karuppaswamy or tomorrow’s Shiva.  You cannot add a chapter to the Bible about Karuppaswamy and make him a godhead. There is no place for him in the Bible and the Koran.  It’s possible in the Gita.  It is this nature which creates aggregate religions.

Now, the information which you share.  They mostly reveal your ignorance about your own heritage. You mostly do not know anything about your village, deities and forms of worship.  You would have grown up without interest in any of these like most other youth and would have come to the cities for work.  After this, you have imagined a village from what you have read or learnt here and there and are asking this question.

What do you know of Karuppaswamy or Sudalaimadan?  Have you attempted to learn something? I know local deities very well; the local deities and communal deities of Nellai and Kanyakumari districts in particular.  I am in touch with folklore researcher A. K. Perumal and have been discussing with him for over a decade. Only a few communal deities belong to your village alone. Karuppaswamy, Madaswamy, Kanniyamman, Maduraiveeran and Muthupattan are present all over the southern region.

Written histories are available for more than three hundred years for all these deities. In oral folklore, there are stories about these deities from even before this period.  The Sudalaimadaswamy folk song belongs to the 15th century. The Karuppaswamy villukathai (story narrated with a villu musical instrument) belongs to the 16th century. You can try reading them. Almost all of the southern folk deities belong to the Saivite tradition.  Shiva would have been mentioned as the god of these deities. Or they would have become deities having after receiving a boon from Shiva.  These stories are still being sung in the villu songs and kaniyan mudiyetru of these deities.

In our culture, gods continue to be created.  There are three ways through which a folk deity can be created.  One, symbolic deity.  That is, a small deity worshipped to cure a disease or to increase the harvest.  Worship of trees, rocks and rivers fall under this category.  Secondly, worshipping the deceased.  Making deities out of those who faced a violent death, killed in war, or childbirth for the sake of honoring their memory. Thirdly, worshipping elders – deifying one’s ancestors. Templesrise in places where saints are laid to rest.

In the beginning, deities created in this manner stay within the groups that created them.  When this community forms relationships with other communities, they mix with other gods and transform into larger godheads.  All the godheads that you see today were created in this manner.  Deities for a particular family alone continue to exist as their communal deities.

This process of relating would have started several generations ago.  To tell the truth, a local deity starts relating to the Shaivite tradition as soon as it is created.  For example, the temple of ‘Serman’ Arunachala Swamy.  It is in Eral. Arunachala Nadar was born on October 2nd 1880 at Melapudhukudi near Thiruchendur to Ramaswamy and Sivananaindha Ammai.  He took over as the Chairman of Eral Panchayat on 5th September, 1906. He undertook several good measures for the people.  He passed away on Adi Amavasya of 1908.  People established him as a deity and started worshipping him.

Slowly, the worship of ‘Serman’ Swamy started interacting with Saivism. ‘Serman Swamy’ turned into an incarnation of Siva.  Today Arunachala Swamy temple is an important spot of Saivite worship.  This is how Hindu religion takes birth and continues growing.  Any form of worship here starts a dialogue with Hinduism and over a period of a time merges with it.  Only by merging this like, Hinduism moves forward.  Like all streams of water in a particular region somehow going and merging with a large river in that region.

Hence your deities do not hang out of thin air without any relation whatsoever with the Hindu tradition like you think.  And you are not silent in the dialogue with the common structure of Hindu religion.  You are merely unaware of it.  Even communal deities will merge into the Hindu common traditional worship when the community expands and spreads a bit more.  All other deities will have a historical narrative which fits with the Hindu tradition.  Enquire this when you go visit next time.

As far as our smaller deities go, only a few in the village will have knowledge about them.   The others do not care. The reason is the cultural setback caused in the 19th century due to the great famines. Most of our families would have migrated during that time. The root of the community would be somewhere else. As a result, communal deities were given up and forgotten.  Traditional forms of worship were lost.  Traditional stories and wisdom was lost.  Only simple rituals survived in the places where ended up living.  Our fathers and grandfathers would have existed in a cultural vacuum and slowly gained roots in the new towns and villages. They would have known nothing.

Why this doubt as to what your religion is?  Which other religion does the word ‘Kaliraj’ belong to?  I believe that you atleast know that Kali is a Hindu god.  You mentioned Thiruchendur temple.  You can learn this easily.  Please see if your community has any right to any ritual like mandagappadi in the Thiruchendur festival.  If so, you are a member of a grand, temple based Hindu (Saivite) religious organization which has existed since the tenth century.   If your father or grandfather did not perform the communal worship meant for their community, it is their personal issue alone.

I too have communal deities.  Ittagaveli Neeli and Melaangodu Yatchi.  It is them that my ancestors worshipped.  At the same time, they were also a small part of a grand setup of the Thiruvattaru Adhikesavan temple.  All communities would have this dual religious belief.  Small deities would be their own unique deities.  They would have been attached to temples for larger godheads.

The Vedas were considered merely as books for rituals.  Hence only those who conducted rituals alone read them.  The Gita and the Vedanta were not spoken of as meant for everyone.  It was meant for those who crossed devotion and worship and searched for true knowledge. In all the communities, those who knew these were a miniscule number.

The puranas and epics belonged to all people of India in their respective forms.  For every community, there were different forms of the same stories from the puranas.  That lower class people had no introduction to the puranas and that they had no relation to it is simply a fraud perpetrated by the Folklore Center Palayamkottai and theMaduraiDivinityCollege.

Have you ever known that the puranas and the epics are the sole basis for all the folk arts of Tamilnadu?  There are around two hundred folk arts in the Nellai region like the Therukoothu, Tholpaavaikoothu, Pulluvan Paatu, Villupaatu etc.  All of them still narrate stories form the puranas and the epics.  Even today, over a hundred of them continue to be staged without facing extinction.  All the local deity festivals for the past two centuries have been conducting them only.  The people who act in them playing parts and those who watch them are all from the lower classes only.

When special dramas arrived, they staged dramas from the puranas.  When silent movies came, they were movies on the puranas as well.  Your village or your family is very surprising.  If they really do not know a little bit about all these things, they certainly live in an interesting illusory world.  Their special state should be separately studied.   One cannot examine Hindu religion or Tamil society on that basis.

You say that you and the Hindu form of worship do not have any relationship.  This is a statement made without any knowledge merely by believing in hearsay.  There are four ways of approaching divinity in the Hindu religion.  One, padayal (offerings) and sacrifice. Secondly, poojas  and prayers. Third are the Vedic rituals. Fourth, dhyana (meditation) and yoga. Any folk deity would be within the first two forms of worship only.

Do your offer prayers to your Karuppaswamy? Or a joint prayer session?  You would light a lamp or a torch.  You would deck it with flowers, offer food and worship it, wouldn’t you? And you would share the food as sacred prasadam. What is this but Hindu worship?  This what Hindus do in the Fiji Islands, South Africa and in Nepal.  This is what is done to Thiruchendur Murugan as well.  Its sacred ash (thiruneeru) that is smeared on Karuppaswamy and Sudalai.  You would know this if you went to a Karuppaswamy temple.

There would be life sacrifice and food from meat in a Karuppaswamy temple.  In a temple for a larger deity, vegetarian food would be offered.  There would be a few differences in the materials and in the words used, that is all.  This is because a few centuries ago, Thiruchendur Murugan became a god for a larger set of people.  Hence he moved towards a form of worship common to all the people.  Life sacrifice existed till around a hundred years ago in several of the great Hindu temples for major godheads.

Any small deity would continue to exist somewhere in the Hindu common tradition.  It will definitely not be completely outside of it; even the deities of the dalits and tribal people.  How far within it depends on how big the worshipping community is, how wealthy, how educated and how much social status it possesses.   The deity of a community gains as much importance within a larger tradition (and merges with it) as the extent to which the community gains stature in society.

That’s why Hindu religion is not thrust down your throat.  Who is there is to do so?  Does someone come door to door for religious conversion?  Do they distribute pamphlets or do they campaign with loudspeakers?  There are no evangelists for Hinduism.  Counter campaigns happen from all quarters with the utmost rigor.

It’s you who force yourself into the Hindu religion.  This is the history of the past five or six thousand years.  Every community jostles for social power.  It searches for its own place in society.  Once it reaches there, it establishes itself there.  Soon their deities gain prominence.  Convincing proof for this is the great prominence gained by Badrakaliamman temples of the Nadars and the importance being gained by Mariamman temples of the Vanniyars.

Watch the roadside when you go.  You will notice brand new Ammans and Karuppaswamys standing up out of the concrete.  A few people from the community that worships those deities would have earned money inDubai.  As they move up the social ladder and slowly gather authority, their deity will move towards the current core of Hindu religion.  If it has to move towards the centre, it should have a dialogue with the centre.  It should transform itself.  It should size the centre. That is what is continually happening.

This is what is happening in your village as well.  When smaller deities turn into larger godheads, their appearance and rituals get transformed.  When Karuppaswamy which seeks life sacrifice is worshipped as a the All Pervading ruler of the universe, it has to become a god which has compassion for all living beings.  After that, it is not possible to offer life sacrifice to it anymore.  It transforms into the Graceful Lord Karuppaswamy.

 There is no question as to whether this is right or wrong.  This has been the way culture has functioned in the Indian subcontinent for the past five thousand years.  This is how Hinduism was formed.  This society has grown and has progressed forward.  Our intellectuals who scream that this is cultural colonialism shamelessly dance to the tunes of proselytizing forces that uproot and destroy entirely the worship of local deities.

 Hence, if you ask if you are a Hindu, I would say that yes, you are a Hindu.   Hindu religion is not an ear-marked region.  It is an expanse in which several fronts continue to be in dialogue.  You and your deities are already a part of this vast Hindu expanse.  From what you have said, it appears that you continue to move towards the general way of life.  You are one among the group of people who are gaining ground within the Hindu religion and are making themselves the new core.