The Joy Plant

The  Joy Plant

sea of poppies

Addiction menace is an ongoing issue world over  .Opiates  had always been the center piece of it .Millions have been poured  to eradicate this malady but it is still thriving world over . Now gradually , rules are being bent to accommodate this problem by making it legal but the devastation caused by it is real .

Opiates had  been used in ancient cultures .It was in prominence not only because of its medicinal values but it was an equally potent recreational tool .Neolithic man was growing poppy 30,000 years ago and there is a historical documentation of Sumerian culture growing it about 6,000 years ago .

” ibis” trilogy  written by Author, Amitava Ghosh, is a historical fiction set in the nineteenth century ,where the back drop is opium trade .Trilogy comprises of  three books ,Sea of Poppies [2008] [ Man Booker Prize Finalist of the year ], River of Smoke and Flood Of Fire .Author who  was an anthropologist in his earlier life , had taken up this ambitious project, where he painstakingly built up his characters from meager facts of those times .Plantation workers from rural India were transported to work in sugar cane fields to the countries like Mauritius , Fiji and Trinidad . The surge was seen  when the opium trade was at its peak .They were indentured workers who were escaping their home country from Societal pressures or their present living conditions.These workers paid by their labor the cost of their passage and eventually settled in those countries .We do not know much about those times or places as most of these workers were unlettered ,hence there is very little documentations available .

In the book , Sea Of Poppies , his characters begin their journey from  the Eastern part of India, Ghazipur ,in a ship called “Ibis”.In the story ,this ship was a former slave ship which was reconstructed to function as a trade ship .Interestingly ,Ghazipur, is the oldest opium factory, which was established by British East India Company in 1820 in eastern India  and is still the biggest legal opium factory in the world producing the drug for Global pharmaceutical industry .

The picture of rural India painted in the book , of so many years back ,is surprisingly the same as of Modern India .The trials and tribulations faced by a widowed rural illiterate woman would not be very different even in today’s India .In the story ,to escape it all she takes the help of a lower caste man and decides to go an unknown land for a better future .

They are joined by  other very interesting characters during their journey .A Landowner, a moneyed person , who was cheated of his dues,  because of his being a native in British India .An unscrupulous British merchant , a young french woman whose dad was a Botanist and a hypnotized Bengali agent to name a few .

Author has recreated a splendid language, spoken by his characters ,which is  a mixture of Indian languages , pidgin and creole .If we visit these island countries today , they are pretty much the same languages used by the population there .

India was the largest exporter of opium for centuries in British India .Opium was one of the commodities which was financing the Empire . After the Opium trade crashed ,it is said that the subcontinent was more of a liability .

Opium has  always wreaked havoc on human kind but sheen of money seems to have overpowered human values from times immemorial till today

 

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Mirror of our World

Mirror of our World

god of small

One of my favorite authors ,Arundhuti Roy , has once more ventured into the fiction world .Her upcoming novel  “Ministry of Utmost Happiness ” is eagerly awaited .Her last fiction ” The God of small things “was published more than two decades ago .It had won   “The Man Booker Prize” in 1997 and I feel , it is still one of the masterpieces in the world of English literature .It still enthralls me when I re read it after so many years .

In “God Of small things “, the story weaves around a set of twins ,aged seven , Astha and Rahel , who had to be displaced from their own home to their maternal grandparent’s home as their mother had to break away from her abusive and alcoholic  husband .The back drop is a small town of one of the southern states of Kerala .

They are happy and adjusted in their own world and have accepted the quirks of adults around them but every thing changes with the visit of their beautiful young cousin , Sophie .They grudgingly admit her to their own circle but life changes forever for them .

We get a sad glimpse into the world of  children .Their dependent and fragile world is always hanging by a delicate thread from the adult world on which they have no control whatsoever .Life makes them do somersaults  when their surrounding adult world succumbs to circumstances , greed , ambition ,lust or any other wrong choices of life .They just hold on to their own being as best as they can and wait for the storm to pass.

We also witness the struggle of a single woman who made unconventional choices and faced its failures .She belonged to the higher echelon of the society but that made no difference to her not being accepted and facing its aftermath .The family support system which is Indian society’s stronghold can abandon you when you need them the most .Superiority and priority of family value system takes precedence and you are ready to sacrifice your most near and dear ones on its altar .

Her book gave us a vivid picture of the cast system and its role .Cast system is another societal blight   which still holds relevance in today’s  world .Destiny plays its unwanted hand and one has to bear the cross all their life .Politicians in India rely heavily on cast system as their vote bank is dependent on them .Rather than enlightening and educating the masses about redundancy of  cast system they thrive on fueling the divisiveness .

Author Roy’s brilliant and multilayered interpretation of each character , each situation and each turn of events is par excellence .She has worn many hats and has many non fictions to her credit .This book , though written many years ago , still ,sadly mirrors even our today’s society .

 

The Raj Times – A Revisit

The Raj  Times – A Revisit

RAJ

Author ,Shashi Tharoor’s  latest addition to his list of publications ,An Era of Darkness :The British Empire in India, is a collection of an eye opening analysis of how in the garb of up lifting  an  inferior and incapable race [Indians], a multinational company [East India Company ] systematically leached a vulnerable country .

Author Shashi Tharoor needs no introduction .He is an acclaimed writer and a charismatic speaker .

Colonial history of India  is well known but the book tries to bring forth the facts that contradicts the prevalent notions associated with the history of Raj.

Author mentions that India had known unification under various rulers in the past .At the beginning of the times of Empire , India had one of the highest GDP s in the world.It had its own industry ,trade and rule of law . India was an ancient land with its own brilliant history of science ,art and culture .

But at some point ,what it lacked ,was a total loss of perspective .No wonder a handful of foreigners with a promise of improved weaponry could subjugate the continent to such a pathetic state.

Author argues  that infighting and apathy of the local rulers was cited as a cause for the downfall but its also important to remember that indigenous rulers always had a more humane approach to the ruled class.The inhuman brutality of the superior race towards the Indians for so long a time is still unmatched in history .

The modernization and industrialization that was offered to India by the foreign rulers only hastened  dis empowerment and  deindustrialization  of the economy .By the end of the British era ,the subcontinent was predominantly agrarian and eventually high taxation ,natural calamities and British apathy robbed them of their lands too.

Author mentions that its not that the British media or the conscientious of the Empire saw no wrong in the whole process but the gains were so immense that each wrong was justified for its end .

Equally surprising was that it took two hundred years for  a vision of political unity ,patriotism and nationalism to take shape as somewhere down the road with the economic depression India must have experienced a moral decompensation

Its almost 70 years since India gained Independence but we are still struggling with the degradation of our moral fabric.

Its a must read for our millennials as freedom is not something that can be frittered away

History always has relevance if we decide to pay heed to it .When we loose sight of common goals and common good ,the decay sets in .Complacency and silence paves way for a conditioning and  we take our first step towards the shackles.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high …………….Let my country awake”  Rabindra Nath Tagore .

 

Love , in its Diversity

Love , in its Diversity

equal-music
Last week was Valentine’s day week .Commercialization has brought this day more  into our awareness.There are various versions in the history of this day but the most popular version being that Saint Valentine was a martyr, who was beheaded by the then Roman Emperor in around 4th century BC,for getting Christian couples married .

Love, as an emotion , has multitude of definitions .As per science , there are definitely some chemical interactions going on in the brain that brings about this constant state of elation, when one is in love.

Parental love is unconditional as parents accept their offspring holistically .This is the highest and purest form of love which can be compared to divine love .

But true and equal love between two adult people sometimes become all consuming .

In the same context , I would like to recommend a book , ” An Equal Music ” by author Vikram Seth .Though the first edition was published almost twenty years ago , it is an evergreen read .I read it for the second time and I would not mind reading it again .Author Vikram Seth has many best sellers to his credit and this is surely one .

In the novel , author weaves his story around two music students in Vienna , where they t are training themselves in Western Classical music .They find true love in each other but on account of some rash and unwise decision , he decides to leave Vienna and her .

For the next ten years , he tries to find her but always reaches a wall .Eventually , he traces her in London ,but some life changing events had  happened  to her by then .They reignite their love but she cannot handle the guilt that accompanies with the changed circumstances.

Author Vikram Seth is beautiful in his art , as always .In the novel , we not only appreciate beautiful vistas of Europe but also the intricate realms of Western classical music world.Like all artists , musicians have a sensitive and fragile world of their own .Our real world is incongruous and unfathomable to them .However , hard they try to ens con  themselves from it , it subsequently over powers them .

Similarly , in love , people have their own beautiful world away from every thing else .Love is one of the strongest emotion and it can make or break a person .Not every body in this world is lucky enough to experience it and one is doubly lucky if it is reciprocated .

Love also faces the most restrictions , some self inflicted and some societal .For love to be ongoing , it needs to happen at the right time  and a right place and preferably with a right person .

In Love , joy of togetherness is immense and mundanity of  life can be overcome .If right chords are struck then wisdom says try to continue  the music for as long as it lasts .

 

Election season

Election season

election

India is currently witnessing another election season with its own distinct flavor .India would be going to polls for  State Legislative assembly seats in seven states in these coming months.The attraction of power and its accessory is so great that one gets to see all kind of gimmicks year after year .We see the predictable party hopping , incredulous coalitions ,false election promises etc ,etc. Politicians normally do not like to carry any ethical baggage so they keep themselves free from any contract of credibility with their electorate .Electorate is also well conditioned ,so the drill can be played year after year .

One of the recent books that I have read, is very relevant to the present scenario.Author Manju Kapur, in her latest release ” BROTHERS” takes us on a journey of a political novice from the hinterlands of a northern state of India , Rajasthan .He dreams of a future above and beyond that is destined for him .He defies the traditional laws of the land ,denies the relationships that binds him to his land and seeks opportunity in the adjacent city .As he makes the right moves and goes up in the ladder of success ,so does the feeling of entitlement in the younger brother .Unfortunately ,these expectations are not met with.

Her novel also depicted a very realistic treatment of the women from the pre independent era to the present times .The story  has a rural backdrop and over the time we see that as the milieu of the country changes so the female characters .Women become more emancipated and empowered.Men of the household who are used to complete subjugation from their women folk ,find it very difficult to deal with these new age women who are ready to shoulder responsibility as equal.

As evident in today’s world ,the novel gives us a picture of the inner mechanics of the political world.The devious route to the top is full of road bumps specially if its not your family business.Opportunism , cunning ,sycophancy ,deceit are some of the qualities that are needed to survive in these terrains .It is a very interesting read , as are her other novels.

There is no yard stick to assess these people who vie for the highest offices in the country .Their falsehood and lack of credibility is never detrimental .Each is busy blowing their own trumpet and berating the other .

Gone are the days when people sacrificed everything for their motherland .We live in the times when everything and everybody is sacrificed who prove to be an obstacle in the paths of our great leaders.

A Delve in history

A Delve in history

east

Blind greed and power  has been the reason of  human miseries since time immemorial .In human history we have witnessed time and again when means to an end is ruthless  , the outcome is most unfortunate.

I am digressing a bit from my usual blog topics as I am unintentionally drawing comparisons of  the current scenarios with the happenings in the past .I am a history buff and had been a great fan of  William Dalrymple. His books prove his unadulterated love for history and India time and again .After all these years in India ,he does not betray a single emotion which states otherwise .He has contributed immensely to the art and culture scene of India .

I had the opportunity to read his latest addition to the list of  already existing best sellers , Kohinoor , The story of infamous diamond ;He undertook this project with his co author , Anita Anand .This book is about journey of one of the most famous diamonds of the world.As the diamond changed its physical location , so did the history of the subcontinent .Its the story of how a British business concern , set its foot in India as businessmen and then spread their tentacles all over India through sheer greed , cunning and conquests .

The diamond traveled its bloody journey from the eye of an idol in one of the temples of south India , through various dynasties ruling  the then India , The Tuglaq,Lodhis,Mughals Afghans and then the last reigning king of Punjab ,Raja  Ranjit Singh.

When East India company first came to India ,India’s  GDP was almost 23% of the  world GDP .Diamonds were not preferred as precious stones but Ruby and other precious stones were. Till the  18th century , India was one of the very few countries where  most of the world diamonds came from.Various myths associated with Kohinoor was cleared along the way as till  date most of the references  are not very authentic .

The journey of the diamond ends with the annexation of Kingdom of Punjab , from its ten  year old king , Raja Duleep Singh and the ultimate destination of the diamond , in the museum of Tower of London . Like most of his books it’s an unstoppable read with multiple interesting anecdotes .

Human history is unfair and it’s not a mythological journey where good always wins over the bad .But when we step into the web with our eyes and ears open that’s when the feeling of the helplessness creeps in .

Societal scums

In Bengaluru, certain miscreants molested women during the  New Year revelry .Bengaluru is a southern city in India . It is also an   IT  hub  and is considered an emancipated city .It is unlike its capital sister city where such occurrences are common ongoing events.No amount of public education ,legal threats or women empowerment is  causing its natural death .So instead of containment , it’s  growing its National growth .

The triggers for such behaviors are not known .On an unknown cue certain individual behave in an obsessive manner and their neurosis is relieved once these beastly acts are performed .National conscience is awakened and  and there is an introspection on a large scale but  it has been found that these maladies are very difficult to  eradicate.

Though women have outperformed men at different levels . the truth is as far as bodily strength is concerned they are the weaker sex .This is a sad , unfortunate and harsh fact .This primitive truth and trait raises its ugly  head time and again .

Genesis of this behavior is multi factorial .Sexism starts at home .Equality just does not happen nor is it accepted .Males are treated as superior race and women are objectified .Unsaid rules of dress code ,physical location of a place or the time of the day are needed to be followed as safety precautions .

India is a traditional country and this kind of medieval mindset has taken deep roots . Every body is at their wits end that  road to recovery is so long .

Cure can begin at home . Sons  need to be raised too.Moms have a greater role to play in social engineering as they are in a better position to do so .They have a greater impact on their offspring and hence on societal building blocks .

Excellent educational coating has no use without a moral filling .