Saturday, January 24, 2015

What's objectionable and what not?

There has been a recent case where a girl and boy both studying in a reputed school in tenth standard in Bangalore were rusticated for a day for public display of affection. What exactly happened is not known. But then the girl committed suicide. Fingers are being pointed to the school and also to the parents for incorrect handling of the situation. It may not be ever known correctly what prompted the young life to come to such a drastic end, but it does raise some very basic questions about what's objectionable and what not, particularly with reference to kids in schools.

Are holding hands, hugging or kissing objectionable? What about teen sex in schools? What's the limit? What is good and what's bad? Holding hands and hugging may pass the censor board, but kissing? Well, may get a nod with some cuts. And teen sex in school? Are you crazy? Don't you have any sense? What will become of our country if we allow such things to pollute the young minds of our kids? The schools have every right to protect kids from obscenities and hence, take actions against such acts which may have perverse effects on other kids. 

Now there are barrage of fuzzy things. Has there been any scientific survey done by any credible agency to prove that teen sex is actually a social menace? On the contrary I know my grandmother (and may be most of others too) had teen sex. I can't say that my grandmother's all the six children had any perverse influence in their lives because their mother had teen sex. Rabindranath's wife had teen sex. So did Mahatha Gandhi's wife. So did most women in India till some time back. 

I didn't have teen sex. Does that mean that I've imbibed something more positive than my grandmother. I don't think so. So in the absence of any modern day survey and based on the historical data I have, I can't say teen sex is a menace. 

Well, now you can say my grandmother was married. So the question is not about teen sex being bad, but whether pre-marital sex is. Again, in the absence of any survey on what basis would I believe that? Who came up with this verdict? 

Most of our mythological heroes or Gods had premarital sex. How was Karna born? Is Kunti a fallen woman - she actually had teen pre marital sex. What about Vidyapati's depiction of Krishna's love for Radha something which we worship? 

So neither teen sex nor pre marital sex can be condemned, without any data. And so this very argument that teen sex in schools is bad falls flat. So what are we talking about? We are actually talking about something which I find has no basis, at least in Indian context, again, in the absence of any data corroborating such claims. 

Obscenity is a very fragile concept, at least for a country like India where there are lots of dichotomy. When we say, O Goddess of learning, Thy breasts adorned with pearls, (kucha yuga shobhita muktaa haare)  I bow to Thee in obeisance, there's no problem. But then depicting Saraswati, the Goddess of learning, in such a way, showing her bare breasts adorned only in pearls, would be objectionable. 

We don't mind rubbing our hands symbolically, dipped in milk, on a quite authentic symbol of a phallus, inserted into the vagina of a woman, (and seen from the top from within the woman's vagina). A little thought will tell us the symbolism of the milk. Very logically young women doing this act publicly is meant to get them good (productive) husbands. Nothing of this is objectionable to anyone.

So what is objectionable? Who decides? What is right and what is wrong?

My friend Atanu puts is very well. "The deep and unsettling sexual hypocrisy", he sayd, "is embedded in Indian mindset, and in our institutions, in our families and in the society at large. The rapid progress in the external liberalization of life and its pleasures has not at all been matched by a deeper introspection of our own psychology, or opening up of what is essentially a regressive, prejudiced culture (rich in content, lacking in dynamism or evolution). This is not a question of right or wrong, but acceptance of behavioral diversity. We still think the best way of raising children is to straighten them into these rigid frames of "culturally safe" archetypes."

There's a serious dichotomy in our society. In a school program boys and girls dancing to "Chikni Chameli" is fine, but then hugging and kissing become such a great issue. All so called popular kids' cartoons always have some level of PDA and those are rampantly viewed by all kids. We're absolutely fine with that. Yes, they are actually fine as there's some innocence in it and the same needs to be retained among the kids. But then, you can't allow certain degree of something somewhere and then demonize something else somewhere in the name of good moralities and culture.

We're absolutely fine taking our kids to movies where sexually explicit scenes are rampant and then we complain when a boy and girl getting "objectionably" close in the the bus, thinking it will impact our kids adversely. 

Hypocrisy and dichotomy is what I would call Talibanism. And it's not that just because one unfortunate young life is lost that I'm calling the system Taliban, it's because of the inherent hypocrisies we already have. Ours is a society with dismal regards for women and girls. We don't allow women to enter into some temples and we are bothered about the perverse impact of kids hugging and kissing in schools. 

What's needed is not the change in the mindset of just the schools, but also in us, who all constitute the society.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

If your sentiments, religious or otherwise, are hurt, that's your problem

I can't comment about others, but if you go by the Indian way of life, you can't actually hurt your sentiments, religious or otherwise. Let me cut the diamond with a diamond itself.

For a country like India, religion is at her core. We are held together by religion. We're torn apart by religion. Our culture, heritage, history, everything, is religion. The first book written in our country - the Rig Veda - is among the holiest scriptures. The first song we sang was a hymn, perhaps from the Rig Veda or its predecessor. Our rituals, our festivals, our society, everything, is governed by religion.

Our definition of religion itself is different from that of everyone else. The Monier Williams Sanskrit dictionary gives the following meanings for the word dharma:

that which is established or firm, steadfast decree, statute, ordinance, law, usage, practice, customary observance or prescribed conduct, duty, right, justice, virtue, morality

So our religion is actually the justice, virtue, morality, law, duty, which is imbibed in our society, which we practice in our day to day lives, which is firm and steadfast. In other words, dharma is actually the soul.

Now let's see what has been told about the soul.


We've heard it many times. But it's important to reiterate it again.

Weapons can never cut to pieces, chindanti, nor can fire burn, dahati, nor can water moisten, kledayanti, nor can wind dry, shoshayati.
The soul is unbreakable, acchyedya, and can be neither moistened, akledya, burned, adahya, nor dried, ashoshya. He is everlasting, present everywhere, unchangeable, sthanu, immovable, achala, and eternally the same, sanatana.
The soul is inexpressible, avyakta, inconceivable, achintya, and immutable, avikarya.
Knowing this, you should never grieve.

The last line is very important. Knowing this, you should never grieve. Such is the idea of our dharma, the soul. So why do we fear that someone can ever do any harm to our soul? The very idea of blasphemy doesn't exist in our culture. Whatever you may say, whatever you may do, I know for sure that the soul is ever lasting, eternal, unchangeable, immutable. The very thought that someone can do any harm to my soul is so stupid. So the very elements in the society who at slightest flutter think that our religion or culture is at stake or being hurt, dishonored, actually don't even understand the true essence of our religion.

I strongly feel the laws around blasphemy, or hurting religious sentiments, etc. should be just scrapped. It's meaningless. Anything that doesn't hurt the sovereignty of the nation, and/or her people physically and/or economically should be just ignored.

We say veer bhogya vasundhara, the brave, veer, enjoy the world, vasundhara. A veer is she who is wise and who knows that no one can hurt her soul. Anyone else is a coward and has fear in her mind. Just a law can't save her, protect her. Something or the other will engulf her and kill her one day. So philosophically too any blasphemy law is a meaningless thing, at least in our country.

Why did I write a book?

Let me first talk about why I took to writing a book. Well, it's not exactly a book I had always wanted to write. When I was a child, and my brother even younger, we both had a dream to become a composer duo, something like Shankar-Jaikishan. 

In those days we would listen to Vividha Bharati a lot. Both our parents were working and we had to spend a part of the day alone at home, under the supervision of an old aunt, who barely had a sight by the time we could widely see things around. We had come up with a game to keep us entertained. One of us would listen to the names of the singer, composer and lyricist when it would be announced before a song and the other one had to identify them. Very soon we both could identify the singers - there was not much choice anyway. But little later we could also identify the composers from their style. The duo that we always identified was Shankar-Jaikishan. We felt his music stood apart. That made them someone very sought after, special, unique. 

We grew up and those days became distant memories of our childhood. But somewhere, whenever I would dream of doing something big, the thoughts of Shankar-Jaikishan would always pop up in my mind. By that time I'd shifted loyalty to RD Burman. I had also realized that becoming a composer was no longer a viable option for me and my brother. But I also realized that the thought of Shankar Jaikishan was just an epithet, a symbol. What actually I wanted to do in life was stand apart, like the music of Shankar-Jaikishan, which we could always identify among all others. So simplistically I just wanted to do something which would make me identifiable in the crowd. Isn't that we all aspire in our lives? To stand apart? To leave our marks in the world so that we may live beyond we live?

Something happened in 2008, when I was actually thinking of doing something in life, different, unique, which would make me stand apart, in the crowd. I was travelling on the Outer Ring Road in Bangalore, the locus of lot of IT companies and also a very deadly road for dogs and humans who cross it anywhere. Many a day a dog lying dead in the middle of the road would be a common sight. But that particular day I saw a dog being hit by a car and die in front of me. It put me off totally. My friend, sitting beside me, stared away from the dog and said, "So now you've seen a dog's death, what we call kutta ka maut, isn't it?". I kept quiet, not understanding what he was hinting at. "Don't worry," he continued, "we all will die a dog's death." I was stunned. "No one will remember us and our existence would be totally erased from this earth, very much like that of a dog. Your absence won't make any difference to anyone. But," he paused. "If you leave something behind, say a song, a book, or anything, however insignificant it could be, may be, somewhere someone would still listen to that song, somewhere your book may lie at the corner of a library..."

Soon I started working on my book.

Whether it's your profession or home or passion, I think you should always strive to do something unique, something that only you can do, something that will have your marks, that will be your signature, your identity. 

Being involved with a startup for the past seven years, I've realized what makes or breaks a business. It's always that same thing, whether you're doing something unique for the customers. In the corporate lingo there's a jargon called Barrier to Entry. Simplistically it's again the same thing. Do you stand apart? Do you do something that only you can do? If not, then your business is at risk.

Coming to the Barrier to Entry, let me talk about the topic of my book. It's a historical thriller, dealing with some interesting aspects of Ancient Indian history, something that connects India with the rest of the world, something that's controversial, explosive. The story deals with things like racial supremacy, the Aryan history, Nazism and other forms of racial and religions fanaticism. The main mystery in the novel is solved with something called Linguistic Paleontology. Robert Langdon had Symbology, Indiana Jones had Archaeology and I have Linguistic Paleontology. Why did I choose such a topic? Again the same principles - Barrier to Entry. I figured out this particular topic, especially Linguistic Paleontology was never used in any fiction.

Reviews of The Ekkos Clan
"A promising debut in the growing realm of modern Indian fiction", said Jug Suraiya, a senior columnist with Times of India, about the book.
"Sudipto Das’ debut novel combines ancient history, linguistic palaeontology, mathematics, music and a mystery story," said The Hindu.[24]
"Application of linguistic palaeontology amidst a mystery novel marked with glimpses of mythology and historical narrative is unique in an Indian setting, and places both the author and the novel at a space currently occupied by a very few," commented a critic.[1]
Sunday Guardian reviewed The Ekkos Clan on 17 August 2013:[25]
"For a novel whose setting stretches from the Partition-affected villages of NoakhaliBangladesh to Arkaim in the Southern Urals, The Ekkos Clan is a daring novel. The scope of the narrative is magnanimous and deftly handled…. The Ekkos Clan should be read for its sheer aspiration and the intelligent handling of historical material."
The Telegraph reviewed it on 27 November 2013:[26][27]
"An Indian thriller inspired by Dan Brown & Harrison Ford! For a debut novel The Ekkos Clan is quite promising, with echoes of Dan Brown in the storytelling... [It] is like any fast-paced thriller, replete with murder and miraculous escapes."
Bangalore Mirror said it's "an interesting read for an afternoon.[28] One feisty woman’s partition story..., The Ekkos Clan combines the struggle for survival with Kubha's determination to safeguard her lineage in turbulent times..."[29]
The New Indian Express extolled its "unflinching look at communal carnage." [30] A review was published on 26 November 2013:[31][32]
"A tale of the Indian civilization and culture, The Ekkos Clan written by debutant author Sudipto Das takes you on a roller coaster ride, telling the mystery behind the Aryan race as well as delving into the origin of stories behind mankind’s greatest book, The Rig Veda..."
Deccan Chronicle called Sudipto "Bin'das' writer..., a multi-talented personality."[33]
More about Sudipto Das & The Ekkos Clan at