Wednesday, November 30, 2005
On analysing 425 responses, the psychologists found that artists and schizophrenics scored equally high on "unusual cognition", a trait which gives rise to a greater tendency to feel in between reality and a dream state, or to feel overwhelmed by one's own thoughts.
But the artists and schizophrenics scored very differently on another measure called introvertive anhedonia, which is characterised by social withdrawal and emotional emptiness. Unlike schizophrenics, artists, in line with the general population, scored very low.
According to Dr Nettle, a psychologist at Newcastle University who headed the survey, the results suggest that the creativity of some artists is fuelled by the unique world view mental illness can provide, but without the completely debilitating aspects of the condition. Instead, the artists are able to direct their creativity into artistic projects.
In the pic, Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, one of the classics of modern painting. A website dedicated to him details the demons that haunted this artistic genius towards the end of his life.
Towards the end of 1888 the first signs of Van Gogh's mental illness began to take hold. He suffered from various types of epilepsy, psychotic attacks, and delusions. One such episode entailed Gogh pursuing Gaugin with a knife and threatened him intensely. Later that day Gogh returned to their house and mutilated his ear, then offered it to a prostitute as a gift. Gogh was temporarily hospitalized and released to find Gaugin swiftly leaving Arles and his dream of an artistic community shattered.
As the year of 1888 came to an end Gogh traveled to Saint Remey where he committed himself to an asylum. Here his paintings became a torrent of activity. Although he could not draw and paint for long periods of time without suffering from an attack, he managed to create 'Starry Night' which resides as his most popular work and one of the most influential pieces in history. The swirling lines of the sky are a possible representation of his mental state. This same shaken style is visible in all of his work during his time in the asylum. Gogh left Saint Remey in 1890 and began contacting his brother Theo. Van Gogh continued working and created a number of pieces; nearly one painting day. Gogh viewed his life as horribly wasted, personally failed, and impossible. On 27 July 1890 Van Gogh attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He survived, but died two days later from the wound.
Gaugin- Paul Gaugin, was Gogh's lover.
Leaving everything else for later, I went looking for where her hair began and worked my way through its musky trails to where there was none. And having found her burning core, and having drunk of it, I left it, and wandered her body, only to keep circling back to it for sustenance.
We began to climb peaks and fall off them. We did old things in new ways. And new things in old ways. At times like these we were the work of surrealist masters. Any body part could be joined to any body part. And it would result in a masterpiece. Toe and tongue. Nipple and penis. Finger and the bud. Armpit and mouth. Nose and clitoris. Clavicle and gluteus maximus. Mons veneris and phallus indica.
The Last Tango of Labia Minora. Circa 1987. Vasant Kunj. By Salvador Dalí. Draughtsmen: Fizznme.
Fizz screamed silently through it all - through gritted teeth, through wide-open mouth - and only those who have known a woman screaming silently in orgasm know how loud it is. It ripped through the room and set me to pounding frenzies.
Paul Theroux and John Updike are perennial favourites for the award. They land up on the shortlist every other year. Longlisted passages here.
Turns out the award does manage to live up...uhm down to its name. Giles Coren has won it for this rather novel description of the mayhem that the male member can unleash :)
And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he'd ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.
What was that? A penis or a dead lizard suddenly sprung to life? You decide.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Uma has mass public support in the state, she is a fiery orator and also shares a good rapport with the RSS. She was also instrumental in Bihar. She might just land the presidency. If that were the case, however, the Sangh would have communicated to her not to raise the CM issue just now. Since that has not happened, it indicates that she might get trumped for the post by seasoned Machiavellis Jaitley and Mahajan. Ironical, considering it is Bharti who shares her birthday with the Italian genius (May 3). Only Govindacharya (another fine leader given a raw deal by the party) has come out in her support. What is surprising is that the holy trinity: Advani, Vajpayee and Sudershan are witnessing this drama without action or comment. Advani's silence may be attributed to his own weakened position in the party post-Jinnah, but what about the Sarsanghchalak?
Perhaps Bharti and Govindacharya should float their own outfit. MP will welcome this alliance hands down. It may also receive the blessings of that other disenchanted leader: Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi.
AS I walked down Boulevard Massena in the 13th district of Paris, on my way to a community get-together, I decided to drop in at a supermarket to buy some vanilla ice cream to complement the chocolate flavour I already had with me as my contribution to the party. I was late. I had barely stepped into the store when I decided to avoid the crowd and distractedly started walking out of the store with the pack of chocolate ice cream bought some days ago from another store. I was instantly, and rather aggressively, hauled up by two security guards.
I was first asked if I was Algerian. Being Indian did not help, as I discovered after they checked my papers. Passport, student card, stay permit, everything was in order. Since I had not kept the bill of the former purchase they were heatedly asking me for, I apologised for my mistake and nervously tried explaining the situation in my correct, though mildly accented, French.
While the ice cream pack was taken for scanning, I was put through the most humiliating interrogation possible. "We know the ways of kleptomaniacs like you," they snarled at me. "Don't act innocent. You may be able to get away with these things in your country; here you are in France. Go back to your country if you can't behave. Here, we are a civilised people." When the ice cream pack was finally deemed innocent of being stolen, I was let off with a warning and no apology.
Contrasts well with Shahid's angst in The Black Album, a book I am currently reading. At the start of this Hanif Kureishi novel, Shahid Hasan's curious dilemma is brought out in a coversation that he has with some of his college mates. Having grown up in Britain and identifying completely with the British life, Shahid feels ashamed of his Pakistani moorings. His reaction are typically extreme. He finds brown skin revolting (this considering he is brown himself) and longs to join the racist British National Front. "I began to turn into one of them," he says. "I was becoming a monster."
Goes to show racism is a state of the mind, and has little to do with colour.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Hopefuls who thought that this latest move on the part of the Vatican signals a change in its orthodox ways can delay popping the champagne a while. The Vatican has circulated a directive that deters gay men from joining the Order. Questions on why it is important to be heterosexual in orientation are being raised. Does God view gays differently? Can the Church, the fountainhead of love and equality, censure a community for its orientation? Such faith-based questions are bound to increase at a time when homosexuality is gaining wider social acceptance.
The problem lies also with the hierarchy. Pope Benedict XVI is a known hardliner with extreme views on abortion, women’s rights and homosexuality. If the Vatican intends to be relevant to the times, it must open a serious debate on its role in the current global order. This holds true as much for Christianity as for other faiths. The primary conflict of our age is one between tradition and modernity. Antediluvian mindsets garbed as cultural organizations must ask themselves if their so-called social concerns are not doing more harm than good.
The death penalty has been a bone of contention in the Indian judicial system for quite some time now, with opinion divided equally. Contemporary juristic thinking though is veering against it. CJI-designate Justice Y.K. Sabharwal is personally in favour of abolishing it. Despite the SC proclamation of awarding the capital punishment in the “rarest of rare” cases, the prospect of even a minor error in jurisdiction is terrifying. Here is an excerpt from an article written by former solicitor general of India Mr. Andhyarujina, illustrating this very facet:
This was dramatically demonstrated in a case in the Supreme Court itself in 1981. Jeeta Singh, Kashmira Singh and Harbans Singh had all played an equal part in the ghastly murder of a family. Because separate petitions were made to the Supreme Court by each of the convicts, one bench of judges of the Supreme Court rejected the first petition of Jeeta Singh who was later executed. Kashmira Singh’s petition was heard by a different bench of judges which commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. On the eve of his execution, Harbans Singh’s petition came before yet another bench of Supreme Court judges, who when coming to know of Kashmira Singh’s case, directed that the case should be sent back to the president for reconsideration of his clemency petition. As Justice Bhagwati has said “This is a classic case which illustrates the judicial vagaries in the imposition of death penalty.”
It may be argued that some crimes are particularly heinous and no amount of sympathy must be shown to their perpetrators. These may include gruesome killings or terrorist acts. But this raises the question: what is the purpose of any justice system? Does the State have the right to deprive another person of life as a means to mete out justice? How can the State administer a system that discards the possibility of reformation of a person mired by criminality? Human nature is not incapable of transformation. A case currently hogging media attention in the U.S. relates to one Stanley “Tookie” Williams (in the pic). A former street gangster and convicted killer, he is due to be executed this Dec 13. He was convicted in 1981 for the murders of 4 people and has been incarcerated in a small cell on the death row of San Francisco’s San Quentin prison since then. But since receiving his death sentence, Williams has renounced his gang past and authored children’s books. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Today he is a changed man whose anti-violence proclamations have won him wide public acclaim. Yet his chances of survival are slim. His clemency petition is likely to be shot down by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who since becoming governor has rejected two clemency requests from death row inmates. Latest reports claim that the governor has agreed to hold a private meeting with Tookie's lawyers to consider his plea for clemecy.
Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. A survey of research findings on the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the United Nations in 1988 and updated in 2002, failed to provide any proof that death penalty acted as a greater deterrent against crime compared to the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment. Around 124 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The membership of the EU is incumbent upon having no death penalty. Some countries are wary of signing extradition treaties with India for this very reason. This was brought into focus by the arrest of gangster Abu Salem in Portugal a few years ago, when India wanted him here for trial.
Thus, capital punishment as a means to award justice is not just futile but also barbaric, and serves no purpose save giving the State a brutal, bloody name.
Also read At life's noose.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Also read It's a war on the IE newsdesk.
(Boyt in the pic)
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
This however does not spell the end of troubles for the UPA. The SC's final verdict on the Bihar Assembly dissolution is expected any day now, and the Manmohan Singh government will find it hard to save face. It has to face the double humiliation of losing in the second round too, a chance to prevent which had been the reason for dissolving the earlier Assembly. The routing of Paswan in the polls will invite its own share of tribulations. Added to this is the winter session which convenes tomorrow. Amidst the deluge of news, the BJP has certainly not fogotten the Natwar-Volcker scandal, and will doubtless raise a hue-and-cry on it. All in all, a worrisome week for the government and an interesting one for our tribe.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Those who are forever arguing that we must search for the roots of terrorism and not search and destroy the perpetrators of terror forget, or don’t care, or don’t know, that the state’s moral and practical incapacity in the face of thugs-with-a-cause is symptomatic of a greater failing: The state doesn’t respect citizens, it doesn’t respect their liberties.
If the state that governs us doesn’t deeply care if we die because of a terrorist bomb, how can it care if in our lives so many rights are circumscribed. Think about the callousness you have encountered from so many representatives of the governing class. Think about the boorish cop, the arrogant bureaucrat and the venal politician. Almost none of them subscribe to the foundational principle of a civilised society — that every individual and his rights count. That is why a state that is soft in its response to terrorism is not liberal, if we take liberalism to principally mean the recognition of the individual.
That is also why the state’s responses to natural disasters are so horrendously ineffectual in India. We are not a sub-Saharan basket case with meagre resources and zero institutional capacity. The Indian state doesn’t do as much as it easily can because the people are on its radar screen as an undifferentiated mass. Two thousand killed in an earthquake, 20 killed in a terrorist bomb and two killed in a hell hole of a public hospital — they are all, in the most dreadfully apt meaning of the word, statistics.
Hard-hitting stuff there. The very next day, Nov 15, C. Rajamohan writes on the need to forge a brave diplomatic frontier and overlook the irritants to initiate a new era in the dialogue process, fully utilizing the rather meanly termed "earthquake diplomacy":
After that, it just took one brutal act of terrorism in the Capital to take the chutzpah out of India’s quake diplomacy with Pakistan. Although India held its peace and did not blame Pakistan for the bombings, and went ahead with the talks on opening the Line of Control in J&K, Delhi’s quake diplomacy has begun to lose steam.
Given the bitter past in Kashmir, the opening of five new points of contact between India and Pakistan along the LoC looks revolutionary on the face of it; at the functional level, however, it is in the danger becoming a trivial pursuit.
Concerns about terrorists taking advantage have prevented India from accepting an easy movement of people across the Line of Control. By insisting that lists of people have to exchanged and their bonafides verified before letting them cross the LoC, India has left desperate relatives on both sides of the divide deeply disappointed.
Worse still, quake diplomacy appears to be losing its strategic and tactical purpose — to affect a fundamental change in the ground reality in Kashmir over the longer term and win influence on the other side in the short term.
It was India which initiated the quake diplomacy. It compelled Musharraf under pressure at home for inept relief operations to respond. Yet when Musharraf finally came around to accepting the Indian proposals on making the LoC irrelevant, it is India that is holding back.
My predilection lies with Mr. Chakrabarti on this one. The Indian state has gone way too far in its magnanimity and must make its stance firmer. There can be no compromise on the security of the Indian citizen regardless of the movement on Pakistan. Let us not crawl when asked to bend. Crawling does come naturally to our political class, but on this issue, let there be no compromise.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Shourie's speech here.
This is in marked contrast to the US model, where immigrants are encouraged to retain their ethnic identity and add to the salad bowl their unique experiences. That is why phrases like Italian-American are common. But as Jonathan Freedland writes in The Guardian, this too is not a perfect model, as witnesed in the aftermath of Katrina.
France might like to look west and see how Britain copes with immigrants. Notwithstanding the hawkish undertones in polity post- 7/7, Britain has evolved a unique way of integrating its society. It's called multiculturalism, and recognizes differences. It even celebrates those differences by providing avenues for the Browns and Whites to share and relish one another's cultures. One example of this is the popularity of chicken tikka masala in Britain. This perhaps, more than the US and French models, is the way forward. Because it promotes the meeting of hearts and minds in a common milieu, it has the most chances of success in western soceities grappling with immigrant fury.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
I participate in debates on the death penalty. In the context of modern-day terrorism, I tend to argue for the death penalty. The hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar comes to mind always. The argument for the death penalty runs thus: Imagine if one of the militants released in exchange for the hostages returns to kill another few innocents. What can we say to those bereaved? If we had executed the terrorists we had to release, we wouldn’t have had to face this question at all.
The counter runs thus: Each time you execute a terrorist, you create a martyr who inspires a hundred others. How would you face those bereaved by these hundred others?
There are other arguments, of course, and counter-arguments. The debate rages on. Every time I think of it, though, my mind returns to Murugan. Eventually, I ask myself this: If I had to put a noose around Murugan’s neck and pull the lever on the trapdoor beneath the gibbet to execute him, would I be able to do it? The answer comes with surprising ease: No, I wouldn’t. What if he killed someone dear to me? Many people dear to me? This time the answer comes slowly, and with difficulty, but it’s the same: No, I wouldn’t.
And I wonder, if Janardhanan Pillai thought about it and had to do it over again, would he? I think I hear his ghost answer: ‘‘No, I wouldn’t!’’
British PM Tony Blair has, meanwhile, failed to get his terror law cleared by the parliament. Blair had made this bill a test of his leadership which has been going downhill since the Iraq misadventure. One of the more controversial provisions in the bill pertains to the rule that would have allowed police to detain terrorist suspects for upto 90 days without filing charges. The knifes are out not just in the Opposition camp, but within his own Labour Party, that has been gunning for Gordon Brown to take over.
After days of being utter nomads, shifting places quicker than one can imagine, my sis and I have finally found our own cosy nook to settle in. It would have been lovely to find one in Gurgaon (the place is fab, beginning with my serendipitous discovery of Carol Shields's Unless at a Cafe Coffee Day bookshop (have been looking for it for ages, from Bombay to Goa, Kolkata to Indore, Delhi to everywhere- yes Anamika, we have shared that misery)) but we are happy enough with our current accomodation. Plan to shift in the latest by Sunday, and now the reason why I am mentionng this gaatha: will finally install my comp and start blogging from home. And then you can expect to be bored more frequently than these erratic jabberings.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Newly anointed James Bond- Daniel Craig has begun signing into hotels as Jimmy Bond to get into the groove of playing the world's most famous spy. Good thinking, Daniel.
After years of indecisiveness from the proprietors of the James Bond franchise, it's nice to come across a lead who is just so devoted to playing the part. It kinda brings the charm back into the magic of James Bond. And Mr. Brosnan, please stop whining. You had your day. Let Daniel have his.
Volcker had notified Natwar of his inclusion in the list. That can only mean that the latter conferred with the Congress leadership and behind closed doors & in hushed tones, they decided that it was best to keep the issue under wraps, until it came in the open, and then behave scandalized and disbelieving. This takes the cake in l'affaire Singh. The planning, the scheming. As mentioned earlier, packing him off will only be the beginning. Scams come and go, and people in this country have developed a "devil-may-care" attitude to them. It's sad but true; it is impossible to keep getting agitated about something that you see in its different avatars every other day. There have been Natwars in the past and there will be others in future. One Singh doesn't a crusade make.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Hindu gets it better, but you can't really appreciate them for this. They cover all of Entertainment drearily. Gimme masala any day, but not on IE, please. Rediff gets you all of it without killing you with editorial u-turns.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Outgoing CJI Justice Lahoti has lambasted the country's political setup for lacking the will to fight terror. He deemed terrorism "a crime that needed an altogether new kind of investigation". Justice Lahoti also favours retaining capital punishment in the statute book, in sharp contrast to the views held by his successor Justice Sabharwal who was sworn in today. In a snide reference to POTA, he chided the UPA Govt. for repealing the anti-terror law.
What drew me to the streets of
A Turkish novelist who fails to imagine the Kurds and other minorities, and who neglects to illuminate the black-spots in his country's unspoken history, will, in my view, produce work that has a hole at its centre.
Pamuk’s problems don’t restrict themselves to a writer’s need for looking grim realities in the face. He must also be a keeper of truth and conscience. His country
Pamuk says it’s a novelist’s task to imagine other realities, to delve into the minds of the silenced, the oppressed, the victimized, and give them a voice. Empathy: a singular quality that every writer must possess. Vikram Seth had shared similar sentiments in an interview a few days back, saying that half the world’s problems would vanish if we only learnt to put ourselves in others’ shoes. For Pamuk, the larger political implication of the trial is only a distant addendum to his solitary fight for the soul of the novelist.
The political tone of the article doesn’t take from some of the thrills of reading that Pamuk outlines for us. He also delves into how the act of reading is as transforming as that of writing:
We have all known the thrill of going down the path that leads into someone else's world, and engaging with that world, and longing to change it, as we engross ourselves in the hero's culture, in his relationship with the objects that make up his world, in the words the author uses, in the decisions he makes and the things he notices as the story unfolds.
Sometimes I try to conjure up, one by one, a multitude of readers hidden away in corners and nestled in their armchairs; I try also to imagine the geography of their everyday lives. Then, before my eyes, thousands, tens of thousands of readers will take shape, stretching far and wide across the streets of the city, and as they read, they dream the author's dreams, and imagine his heroes into being, and see his world. So now these readers, like the author himself, are trying to imagine the other; they, too, are putting themselves in another's place.
Even if we have picked up a novel hoping only to divert ourselves, and relax, and escape the boredom of everyday life, we begin, without realising, to conjure up the collectivity, the nation, the society to which we belong.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Good going, TOI.
Right next to this edit is the news item of Pak-based LeT operative Mohammed Arif alias Ashfaq receiving the death penalty in the Red Fort attack case. Two of his Indian accomplices, Nazir Ahmed Qasid and his son Farooq Ahmed Qasid were awarded life for waging war against the State. This case was the ostensible precipitation behind Saturday’s blasts.
It is a sad comment on our times that I am writing such a post today. Our world is rampaged by tragedy and grief. Sadness peeks at us from every nook and corner. Hopefully tonight’s rituals will introduce a semblance of normalcy in the dreariness that marks these days. Happy Diwali!
The Little Magazine has two of her stories online:
Sahiban in exile
This tragic news comes within a week of the demise of noted Hindi litterateur Nirmal Verma.
The PM's immediate response should be the packing off of Natwar Singh. Knowing the public persona that is Manmohan Singh, I am sure he finds himself lost in this murky world of underhand dealings and blatant hypocrisies. There is unfortunately no magic solution to wipe this taint. Only some drastic political shakeup at the Centre can remedy it. The least the government can do is establish an independent inquiry to clarify the extent of dirty money which changed hands.
There was a glint of madness in their eyes and murder etched across their faces. Ominous shouts and cries of "Koi Sardar hai? Goli se maar dalenge" (Is there any Sikh? We will shoot him) followed.
Not one anticipated the disaster that awaited us at
It is an impactful piece which brings the terror of those days alive. What makes one shudder is the thought that these crazy mobs, so bloodthirsty, still manage the level of discernment to choose their prey. How they come to exercise that discretion when they are baying for blood is something that confounds me no end.
Full text here.
Worldwide, the phenomenon of hydrogen fuel cars is gaining currency. These cars produce zero-pollution, because the fuel i.e. hydrogen combines with oxygen to release the energy that propels the car. The by-product of this process is, of course, water, which surprisingly, is clean enough to drink.
On a lighter note, my use of hopefully in the above paragraph is considered incorrect by linguistic standards. But since this usage is so common, let me err.
(Report from the print edition of Times of India)