Archive for February, 2010

An open letter to M.F.Husain

Mr. Maqbool Fida Husain,

It has been a week of great relief for many of us here in India as we believed that with the conferment of Qatar nationality for you, the controversy surrounding you would at least subside, if not end. But then it was not to be so. The media is now on an overdrive projecting you as a victim of a malicious campaign and that your blasphemous depictions of the venerated mother and other deities are nothing more than an artist’s freedom for creative expressions. Some call it a sad day for India while a few other headlines yell it as a national shame. As a lay Indian but nevertheless a proud Indian, I will try to explain to you why I feel terribly hurt, nay, deeply humiliated, by your artistic profanity, a sense of outrage that a large section of my countrymen share with me.

In one of the beautiful compositions found in the puranas, the sages invoke the mother as ” Shrimata Shrimaharagyi Shrimatsimha Saneshvari…”  ” The one divine mother of all, the great empress of the whole universe, great sovereign enthroned on the lion” thus capturing the extolled stature and the enthralling magnificence of Shakti, the feminine aspect of the Divine. The great seers goes on to describe her as “Nirlepa Nirmala Nitya Nirakara Nirakula ” “one who is free from all affectations of external contacts,  free from all impurities, who is eternal, who is not limited to and by any form and is never agitated”. She is “Nishkalanka”, the one without a blemish. And if you portray such a pristine purity in vulgar nudity and in disparaging union with a lion, will we not be hurt?

The Vedas describe Goddess Lakshmi as an embodiment of absolute bliss and the bestower of all prosperity and who is supreme over all created beings. “The Shri Suktam” glorifies her as “Chandra Prabhasyam Yashesham Jwalantim”  “who is beautiful like the moon, who shines bright, blazing with renown”.  And if such a one whose grace can confer all happiness, wealth and joy is depicted in derogatory nudity sitting over Ganesha’s head, will we not be hurt?

And when you paint Sita Maa, who is worshipped as the epitome of chastity, “Pathivritha Shiromani”, as sitting on the lap of Ravana, again in nudity, will we not be hurt? And when you trample upon and demean the most sacred relationship between her and Hanuman, will we not be hurt?

Your cursed brush has not even spared the motherland and your besmirched representation of her not only smacks of a vulgarity of the most debasing variety but also of a certain mischievousness. Does this also come under artistic freedom? We appreciate you for the honourable and the fully decked up representations of your mother, your daughter, Faiz and Ghalib in your paintings. But when this courtesy is not extended to our goddesses, will we not be hurt? Maybe you meant it to be so.

What Duryodhana could not do to Draupadi, you, Mr. Husain, though figuratively, did it to our goddesses and to our motherland.

A gross transgression!


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February 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm 8 comments

Holi-The wellspring of joy

The golden sun beam piercing the morning haze spreads a cosy warmth on the pristine earth.  The gentle northerly breeze wafts the fragrance of a thousand flowers as its countless hues carpet the ground till the horizons. The sweet chirping of the cuckoo birds strike a lingering melodious note of a bygone era. And the scented countryside is bustling with the harvest of many a bountiful crop spilling the granaries with lustrous grains. The days are getting longer and brighter and it’s that time of the year when nature decks up to unravel her beauty, most grandeur!  Rejoice, the celestial season of  Basant, the Spring, is here yet again, filling every heart with unfathomable joy and glorious bliss!

The season of Basant also enlivens the mystical and divine romance, enacted by the Lord, through colourful dance set to rapturous music. The Rasa Leela captures the myriad shades of  love that the Gopis nurtured towards their beloved and the pangs and agonies caused by their separation from him, that invariably follow.  They long to hold the Lord closest to their hearts but the playful One gives them a slip, everytime And Radha embodies the eternal quest for that nectarine sweetness of supreme love and the human predicament that prevents the final merger. Basant, in many ways, is also a celebration of unadulterated love, victorious of its many trials, victorious of, to borrow a phrase,  the “Ishaq Ka Imtihan”.

The natural adjunct to the season of colours is the festival of colours, the “Holi”.  With a riot of dazzling shades, deafening music and unrestrained revelry,  Holi is one occasion when man lets go his self-imposed importance and indulges in joyful inter-mingling without inhibitions. The colour on the faces is a great leveller that erases the distinction between the boss and the subordinate, between the ruler and the ruled, and, between the prosperous and the dispossessed.  And herein lay the egalitarian message of the festival and its loud affirmation on the essential and underlying unity of all creations that is beyond the multiplicity of the manifested world.

Oh, what a season, what an occasion, what a festival and what a message…. I am getting my “Pichkari” ready, what about you?



February 21, 2010 at 7:11 pm 16 comments

Don’t ask me, I am a Specialist

The pursuit of knowledge in any discipline, in the ancient traditions, had a holistic approach to it, with its various branches inextricably inter-woven that presented the subject of study as a complete whole. And a keen practitioner of knowledge such acquired always exhibited an intuitive awareness of the larger ramifications of the problem presented before him and could, therefore, come up with solutions that are precise, non-obstructive and most appropriate. In his analysis, diagnosis and in the final treatment, the fullness of his wisdom found ample expression.

But in an age where knowledge is compartmentalized into chunks of unrelated information, where years of study does not necessarily guarantee a firm understanding of the basics, the application of such truncated knowledge has only resulted in ad-hocism, quick fixes and partial remedies that are most often the causes for a more virulent manifestation of the problem, later on.  While half-physicians are positively dangerous and detrimental to the health of the patients, with a very narrow band of knowledge base, specialists could also contribute to the compounding of their woes.

Specialization might have had  its origin in the need to develop a knowledge corpus that are detailed and mapped to a specific sub-branch, but it is the mindless dependence on specialists for even the most common and mundane occurrences that baffles many. Specialization has come to mean a very high level of competency in an increasingly shrinking field of study to the total ignorance of all other allied branches and more so, even of the basic fundamentals on which the specialization “super-structure” rests. A specialist in hydro-electric turbines cannot fix a home motor pump, an M.Tech in Electronics and Digital Communication cannot identify a faulty IC in his blacked out TV and a Neuro-surgeon cannot possibly offer a treatment for congested nasal.  Either you could have a broad and firm grasp of your subject or else you could be a specialist. You cannot be both!

Contrast to the specialization is the interdisciplinary approach which seeks to apply ideas, theories and postulates of one branch of study to a totally unrelated field and come up with solutions that are novel, unique and truly out-of-the- box. At the heart of such a methodology is the belief that knowledge, in its purest form, is un-differentiated and as such have applications in realms that are previously not cognised. The understanding of the life-cycle of a living species is applied in the field of market research to predict the growth-stagnation-decay of a product, the biological characteristics of an organism is transplanted in the study of library sciences and the statistical theory of probability is applied in medicine to mark the progression of a genetic disorder. These are but a few random glimpses of how beneficial such an approach could be in the building of our knowledge pool.

Our ancients have always lavishly dipped their hands across disciplines to augment their understanding of their chosen subject. The knowledge of the constellations that found application in temple architecture is a case in point while analogies were drawn from diverse fields to drive home profound philosophical ideas.

 The future holds great promise for the inter-disciplinary(ist) and not for the specialist.



February 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm 2 comments

Pasta for breakfast, Chowmein for lunch

Globalization has presented India with myriad opportunities, the most tangible among them being the mushrooming  BPO services that provide employment to our millions. With the advantage of cost, geographical position and a vast English speaking population, it has been a virtual flight of jobs, from Boston to Bangalore and from Glasgow to Gurgaon.

But Globalization, by its very nature and implication, cannot remain a one way flow of advantages. As you mow down jobs abroad, you are also battered in a variety of other ways in your home turf. The flooding of the Chinese goods, from  mobile phones to auto accessories, from staple pins to pen drives, have been so complete and devastating that it has already lead to the sickening of many of the home grown industries. The sweet chirping calling bells in most Indian homes have a Chinese origin, the locks that secure them come from China and the glittering, multi-hued lights that decorate these homes during Deepawali have an invariable Chinese stamp to it. Even the little crystal “Ganesha” idol before whom we bow every morning has a  “Made in China” tag under his belly. The Dragon has entered our living rooms, the bed rooms, the bath rooms and even our pooja rooms! 

But it has been its entry into our kitchen that has been the most profound and yet most silent, a bloodless coup, with the Chinese having the company of the Italians in this invasion. Indian palates are now treated to a host of Chinese and Italian cuisines on a daily basis that are rolled out straight from their kitchens. The two-minute noodles, the pastas, the macaronis, the pizzas and the chowmeins have all become part of our gastronomical regimen that they have effectively replaced many of our traditional delicacies.

The ease and the convenience in the preparation of these menus have largely influenced our preferences and the neat “ready-to-cook” packs have only helped in their popularity. Aided by tantalizing commercials and star endorsements, these foods have influenced our children the most. The contents of the school tiffin boxes are a telling story of this tectonic shift in our eating choices and the alien foods that our children are now relishing. When did we last pack “Pulliodarai” with “Vettal” for lunch to our little ones?

While these foods just tickle our taste buds, Indian spreads have a wholesome nutritional value about them that factors in the demands of the climate and the genetic orientations of the population. The increasing numbers of obesity, malnutrition, sluggishness  and other attendant health issues that plague our kids can directly be attributed to the abandoning of our time-tested eating habits and instead lapping up a food culture that is most damaging.

I could easily spot a dozen places where I could have  Szechuan Noodles or  cheese Pizzas with Veggie toppings in my own colony. But where could I find a plateful of mouth-watering “Puttu” with ” Kaddala”? 

Perhaps in Shanghai or maybe in Milan….



PS: For tips on Indian recipes, visit

February 9, 2010 at 5:42 pm 6 comments

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